Posted December 13th, 2002 @ 11:51am by Erik J. Barzeski
In Hackass, John Gruber writes about Leander Kahney, the Apple beat writer for Wired "News." At the end, after a fairly brief but accurate disassembly of what I would agree to be the work of a "Hackass," Gruber proposes that we "simply ignore" comments like this.
I wrote an article some time ago - when my skills as a writer left a lot to be desired (not that they still do… it's just that I'm sometimes apalled at what I allowed to be printed by way of my keyboard) - discussing another such "Hackass." Some of you may recall him… he goes by the name "John Dvorak." The article was entitled "Pimpin for the Profit" and can be found here.
Perhaps I was a bit subtle in my opening in quoting the word "journalists." It was not to imply that I think of Dvorak or Kahney as a journalist, but that they simply call themselves that. Thus, they're "journalists" the way a woman with PMS is "rational." Gruber and I both recognize a trait between these two journalists: and it's not that difficult. After all, it's pretty obvious what separates good, actual journalism (unquoted) from sensationalist, crappy "journalism" (quoted).
There are two things that I don't understand. The first is those that think that this is new. For as long as there have been journalists, there have been "journalists." We've had tabloids for years. The UK from what I've heard has them far worse (and not just from the movie "Notting Hill"). We've had eccentrics and crazy people who happened to author content - be it in a periodical or in a book - since the days of Gutenberg. "The Church" isn't even innocent of disseminating sensationalist texts meant to rile up a group of "persecuted" people. This is not new, and bitching and whining about it as if it was won't get us anywhere.
The second thing I don't get is why people get so riled up about this sort of thing. And I assure you, I am no different. I am as much incensed by the things I read as the next guy. Thankfully, I'm usually too busy to respond, or give a whit, and rarely I am too smart to do so. Sometimes, however, I can't resist. Witness my one post here. Witness the fact that I'm writing this or have written about "journalists" in the past.
There's a mailing list I won't mention, with two people… let's call them "Jason Murphy" and "Chris Kamen." Jason and Chris both share some of these "journalist" traits. However, Jason is so ridiculously stupid and so obviously incendiary (for no other reason than to be incendiary) to so many people that he's simply ridiculed or played with until the player grows tired or finds something better to do with his time. However, some people cannot seem to resist replying to his every post, multiple times. It's frustrating. As Gruber states, the antagonist seems to exhibit "childish attention whore" behavior.
Murphy, however, is someone I fully admit to having trouble ignoring. He pushes my buttons. Not knowingly - when he tries, he fails, because it's obvious. The other times, he makes comments that are so blasphemously wrong that I can't resist the urge to "set it right." The guy may be a great guy in the real world - I don't extend my opinion of someone's behavior on a mailing list to include any of their other activities in a day, because I know I behave differently - but on the list he's just a moron. He's been accused of everything from changing his position or target (goalpost shifting) to being as illogical as the aforementioned PMSing female. He's just a dolt, and when he says something so insurmountably wrong, it's tough to resist the urge to set it right. It's tougher still to respond without pointing out how stupid his statement is, which, if you've ever been on a mailing list, leads to the predictable results.
So what leads us weak little humans to not ignore this kind of crap? In the case of Chris, he could probably write something stating much of the same things and be accurate in his representation of that writing as a picture of his thoughts. I doubt, however, that Dvorak or Kahney could do so. After all, they're another breed. They're the "I speak the truth." Rarely can anyone engage them in a conversation and point out these actual faults. Rarely can someone "get into it with them" and show the world how truly ignorant they really are. And heck, as I have said before, I don't think they're ignorant at all. They're smart in a way we all grasp but usually fail to exploit (for moral or other reasons). They're smart enough to know that they can get click-throughs to their articles by pissing people off.
John Dvorak might really like the Mac. He might use it at home - I can't say for sure. Who knows? But I do know that he's made a good deal of money over the years by writing "stupid" shit that pisses a bunch of people off. Generates links. Generates readers. Generates cash.
But then again, But what do I know. I'm just a "blogger."