Notes on Notes on “Notes on Hype”
April 22, 2012

Rob Horning in The New Inquiry:

Hype already presumes that no one completely buys into it; the passive dope who just responds to hype with naive enthusiasm is obviously a straw man, the creation of which is hype’s chief achievement. Hype creates this stooge that makes us feel smart in being jaded about hype. Advertising generally works by trying to make audiences feel smart and insecure at the same time; it flatters us but makes us know that the flattery is conditional. Hype says: yeah, you are probably smarter than to fall unreservedly for this obviously overhyped thing, but still you better know about it so you know just why you haven’t fallen for it. As Powers notes, Through our engagement with hype “we are at once too savvy and not savvy enough.”

Rob’s talking about the private sector here, but is there any better way to describe avid campaign trail watchers than, “at once too savvy and not savvy enough?” It’s amazing, for example, just how closely Rob’s account of the life of a hyped product maps onto the arc of the “Obama ate a dog” meme. That meme doubtless enjoyed such a long time in the sun because the people who first hyped it wanted everyone else to buy it — but the savvy onlookers who mocked its insignificance and wove increasingly elaborate dog-eating puns surely extended the meme’s lifespan. In their hurry to show how smart they were for not falling for such a dumb story, they hyped it up some more.

But in that case, what’s actually being hyped? I would argue that what’s actually being sold — unbeknownst to the people doing most of the selling — is not one particular campaign meme, but a general assertion about the value of that genus of campaign memes. When Democratic pundit X tweets, “This Obama eats a dog story is really stupid and trivial” as if that’s news, they’re reinforcing the implicit assumption that it could have ever been anything but stupid and trivial. The dog-eating story is trivial, but Romney putting the dog kennel on top of the car is significant. George W. Bush clearing brush is trivial, but Hillary Clinton in sunglasses is an important reminder of how cool she is. And so it goes. When you hype a particular team, you’re also hyping the whole sport.

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Live From Denver
August 25, 2008

No, not me. NYU Localite and minor Internet celebrity Jess Roy has road-tripped to Denver and says of the convention:

This whole thing has made me realize how much I hate Hillary. She can “release” her superdelegates to my boy Barack, but it’s quite obvious that she wants her supporters to refuse to default to Obama, and in a party that is notorious for splintering violently, it is only causing damage.

Really? It’s not all that obvious to me. I didn’t see Clinton’s speech, but I did see her concession speech at the end of the primaries, and this doesn’t sound very much like deliberate party-splintering to me. If anything, it’s just a few overzealous Clinton supporters and staffers, like Howard Wolfson, who are trying to convince Obama to “heal” the party by paying fealty to the Clinton legacy in all sorts of gratuitous ways. Not to mention the McCain campaign, who are flogging this like it’s their only shot at the presidency.

Just let it go
August 13, 2008

Jonathan Martin has a post up today called “MoDo on fire,” but don’t get too excited – it turns out he’s just speaking metaphorically. Her latest column, which, as Martin can tell you, is so awesome turns out to be another extended riff on an old theme that I thought was finally dead.

Now they’ve made Barry’s convention all about them — their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the Clintons muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can’t win! He can’t close the deal! We told you so!

Say what you will about Maureen Dowd, but make note of this – she’s not about to let a silly thing like Hillary Clinton losing the election and whole-heartedly endorsing Obama stop her from going off the deep end in another anti-Clinton screed. But that’s the fun thing about writers like Dowd – her columns are pretty much entirely disconnected from current events, facts and logic, and instead are simply projections of her own raging narcissism. A Maureen Dowd column tells you a lot more about the psyche of Maureen Dowd than anything else.

And there’s a fun example of that buried at the end of the post: Dowd sneers at suggestions that sexism in the media had anything at all to do with Clinton’s loss. Which is funny, because the language she’s used to describe Clinton over and over again is so thoroughly misogynistic that even her paper’s own public editor scolded her.

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