Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Dery defeated by the internet

It seems likely that Dery is aware that, in the contemporary context, he’s “doing it wrong.” But rather than adjust to the milieu tonally, he often becomes overtly defensive and tries to establish that he still gets it by dumping in huffy long-hyphenated-string-of-words adjectives plus what he takes to be relevant cultural references to an imagined straw-man audience. That strategy in itself feels dated, a holdover from the time when the Quentin Tarantino approach to discourse was ascendent and writers tried to bully readers with the unexpected breadth of their allusions. Riddling readers with references, in that cultural moment, conveyed a gangsterish toughness rather than pretension. But the reactive immediacy of online cultural critique, and the ease of information access, has depleted that tactic’s sting. You don’t drop a reference and leave people feeling dumb anymore; instead you link a reference and everyone can feel smart. Or instead, there are increasingly customized “trending topics” that everyone in a niche responds to, which earns one more attention and cultural capital than trying to invoke something unusual and obscure.
-- Rob Horning works his magic