I’m Matt Bellamy founding partner of Puck news and I’m covering the inside conversation about money and power in Hollywood, with my new show, the town I’m going to take you inside Hollywood with exclusive inside on what people in Show, Business are actually talking about multiple times a week.
I’ll talk to some of the smartest people I know journalists insiders, all of whom can break down the hottest topics and entertainment.
Tell you what’s really going on.
Listen now, There’s something I’ve been thinking for a long time that I’ve wanted to talk about on this show.
It’s the idea that modern culture is becoming more pessimistic, more cynical about both celebrity and Technology, more negative about Authority institutions, and the future in short, it’s high status these days to hate something.
You see this in politics, obviously, with the rise of so-called negative polarization, that’s the idea that Voters today are more likely to identify themselves as being against their political enemy rather than for some positive agenda.
You see it with other institutions to since the 1970s trust has plummeted for churches Public Schools, unions Banks businesses Congress, the presidency, the Supreme Court, I personally see this a lot in my own profession, the media, I’m very amused, for example, when polls show that trust has plummeted, Added in the media, capital T, capital M.
The media, when people often seem to come to the opinion that the media sucks because the media that they like, and consume is telling them that everybody else sucks, more negativity as individual new sources, jockey for attention.
And finally, I’ve noticed this online when I Snoop around the internet and social media in particular, it seems to me that one of the surest ways to build a Following is to position yourself against something.
Now, let me make a confession at this point.
I don’t think I can easily prove the rise of cultural negativity with numbers and that’s why four months.
I’ve been kind of stuck on this topic because a lot of the best episodes that we do here on inflation or climate change, start with evidence, right?
We know for certain when temperatures in Europe, break records, but there’s not like a national Vibes thermostat that can tell us what the positive versus negative temperature of Is every day.
So, for months and months, I just waited on this topic.
I waited for the perfect guest, somebody who could bat around theories, with me, someone who sees the cultural landscape more clearly than me, someone who could just tell me where I’m wrong, and where I’m only half Ron today, we have him.
Today’s guest is Chuck Klosterman.
Chuck is a best-selling author of several books.
Including most recently, an incredible history of the 1990s called simply the 90s and his truck explains something more subtle might be going on here.
Something perhaps more complicated than my pet theory of the mere rise of negativity.
The internet has flattened three groups that used to exist on separate planes, Elite institutions at the top critics in the middle and audiences at the bottom decades ago, these groups were layered as if on tears but today, their mush together in a single scrum, on a single platform, jockeying for attention in a way, that’s fascinating, and strange and important.
In this episode, we talked about how the real world changed our relationship to celebrity how television changes our relationship to reality how social media turns us all into anti-fans.
What’s so special about the year 2003, and why cultural historians of the future should care about Nick Lachey, I’m Derrick Thompson.
This is plain English.
Chuck Klosterman, welcome to the podcast.
It’s great to be here.
You are here because I well I wanted to have you on the show for a long time but I wanted to wait until I had what seemed like a perfect question for us to talk about something that seemed to live at the intersection of culture and sociology and politics and I was listening to you on a podcast recently.
I think it was calling coward and you were making a point about the 50 or 60 year history of celebrity In America and he made this comment where you said in the middle of the 20th century celebrities used to be very simply beloved and somewhere along the way the concept of these simply and universally.
Beloved celebrity seemed to wither and it became cooler to hate famous people than to like them.
And I was like, press pause open computer.
You have to come on my podcast to talk about the sociology of hating people because I think This is a really, really deep subject.
So the question on the table for listeners as we wind our way through, this is something like when did it become so cool to hate things?
The way we do and what does it mean to live in a society, where negativity has become High status?
So maybe let’s first establish that there is a there, there that this shift is real.
How do you observe it happening?
Well, you know, it is a slow process.
I mean, everything about culture of course involves changes over time and it’s always sort of risky to be like, well, okay, you know, this is the moment, everything shifted because it’s rare that that’s the case, but, okay.
So let’s just look the last half of the twentieth century there.
Right now, there’s that Ethan, Hawke documentary, you know, the last movie stars.
And in some ways that seems odd to someone, there are many movie stars now.
But what he’s talking about is the last kind of movie star, which is that this period of Time when it was almost as though, anybody who was really famous was seen as completely separate from the consumer.
You know, they often talk about how like, in the Middle Ages during like, you know, when the, when there was, you know, we were the feudal system that that like a, The Peasants were sort of sitting like, socialized, to believe that like the king and the queen were morally Superior people, because how else could they justify one family, having everything, and nobody having anything at all.
Well, it would almost the same way in like you were seeing in the 50s and Is this idea that that these celebrities were completely separate things and they wouldn’t be famous unless she did like them and, you know.
But of course, the idea of, of hating certain people and that being sort of the center of who they are, as a famous person that is always existed.
I mean, like, you know, you get the clearest example, probably like the late 70s and early 80’s of Howard Cosell, okay?
So Howard Cosell is the color guy for Monday Night Football.
He’s the third guy in the booth and He is famous for being this hated figure bars at the time.
Would have these like specials on Monday night where you could all come in and there’d be a raffle.
And then the winner of the raffle was able to throw a brick through a TV showing Howard.
Could sell on Monday Night Football, okay?
So like like he was like his whole identity was based around the fact that he was just hated figure but within that context, he was still very respected.
Like he like many people perceived.
Sort of its kind of like the Apex of sports broadcasting and and you know, he was a even the people who despise them very often, the reason they despised him is because he seemed like too intellectual believe that he was so much better than that.
You know, you move into the 80s, if you pick up a TV guide and it’s got like the most hated man on television.
It’s probably j.r., Ewing from Dallas, okay?
But this is a character, Larry Hagman.
The man who betrays him is beloved Like it was still, we’re still living in a completely fictional world.
So if you hate someone, you’re almost saying I hate this person and I’m giving them credit for being so good at being unlikable, but the ship seems to kind of happen in the nineties and and it’s there’s this rise and reality television.
The idea of memoir writing kind of replaces the autobiography as this like, the center of nonfiction writing where people who are oftentimes unfamous essentially writing about their Life, you know, and there was this kind of this recognition somehow that a lot of what someone felt about a character from Survivor.
They’re interested in TV show like Survivor had to do with the people that they find most problematic, the most troubling people, you know and then you get the 2003 and that to me seems like a key year because that show the newlyweds came out with like Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.
And then later that year, the simple life with perils Paris, Hilton, and Nicole, Richie, and those seem to be examples where the entire idea of the program.
Every part of it, the marketing, the assumed audience, the conversation about it was built on this idea that these are terrible people like we don’t like these people like you even if in fact, if you said that you loved one of these individuals or you love these to this television show It was almost like you were positioning yourself as being sort of transgressive.
Like I’m supporting this thing that I understand is kind of like socially irresponsible, and gross, and sort of only for a rich people and all these things.
And after that point, then you kind of move into the social media age and that thinking, that kind of thinking from 2003 kind of up through, like, say, Jersey Shore.
You know, where it’s very easy to imagine.
Like the producers of the show being like, they’re gonna hate these kids, people are going to lose their fucking shit when they see how much they hate these guy.
Like, you know, that that sort of became like a real viable way, like a way to kind of come modify this and now that seems to be sort of how it is for many things.
Although the other thing is that there’s also more sort of over-the-top adoration and love for people.
It’s like there’s just no middle class of feeling.
That, yeah, see the rise of negativity, the rise of hate watching that you just described the rise of the anti-fan in culture.
All of this strikes.
Me is completely obvious and true about the 21st century.
I see it on Instagram, I see it on Tick-Tock.
I see it on subreddits, it’s remarkable to me how many fan pages are de facto anti-fan pages.
But if I’m putting myself in a mind of a skeptical listener here, I think one easy objection that I might have is that it’s possible.
The celebrities were always hated as such as they are now, but the internet gives the public inability to mass publish these.
Their private thoughts that previously were just expressed at a dinner table, like maybe everyone always hated celebrities the 1950s, like, everyone always sort of, you know, bitched about Marilyn Monroe to their wives and husbands, but we didn’t necessarily see that in mass culture.
So, I wanted to make sure that listeners came away with at least one data point that they could hold onto to say aha.
This isn’t just Vibes.
We have statistical evidence.
We have numbers to put to the Case that as you just said, we have this death of the middle class of feeling or this rise of cultural negativity.
So I thought who’s a celebrity that we have a lot of really good survey data about and I was like, of course, it’s the president, the president is the commander-in-chief, but he’s also the celebrity in Chief.
So you look at presidential polling since World War Two, and it turns out that practically every single post were President Eisenhower JFK LBJ Nixon Carter.
Reagan, George h.w.
Bush, Bill Clinton, all of them had several years with approval ratings over 55 percent since 2003, since the Klosterman line was drawn in the sands of time.
Do you know how many presidents had a full 365?
Consecutive days with 55 percent approval rating or higher?
I’m sure it’s none zero.
It is 0.
So for the first time in history in the history of public polling, we have Next year to straight Decades of historically, and popular presidents.
And what I think is so fascinating about this is that it’s like you could have two writers.
One person writing exclusively about presidents and polarization and Gallup polling.
And another reading exclusively about attitudes toward TV celebrities.
And each of them could write the Book 2003, the birth of the modern hate Fest.
So just first, how did you nail 2003?
I mean, firms.
The 2003 thing that’s like that would, that’s dope.
I can’t say.
That’s really that just chance.
I just when I, I know, I remember those television shows happening and how it seemed that there was no one who seemed to really like, like, Nick Lachey.
Even though, he seemed even though his Fame kept increasing, like he became more and more famous, he wasn’t that was, it wasn’t like he was being pushed to fame.
He was being dragged into Fame by people who felt like he didn’t deserve it.
I mean, that’s another I mean like, you know what, I like I talked about the 90s or whatever silly takes Courtney Cox, okay?
So Courtney Cox is not friends but you know before that, you know, she’s in commercials, she’s in a Bruce Springsteen video, you know, she’s like plays Alex Keaton’s, love interest for like two seasons on Family Ties, she does all these things finally gets into position to be on this television.
Show the show is huge, it’s almost like well for lack of, I like a better term, like she paid her dudes, you know, But then one like the real world Kim involved, and you could just send a tape in.
I’ve yourself saying, like, I want to be on TV, I think would be fun for people.
Here’s why people were both compelled to watch that but completely validated and saying this person did nothing to deserve.
So you know, it’s like a that their view of That Celebrity, I don’t think consciously but maybe unconsciously was, they’re not they don’t they didn’t Deserve this.
They got it but they didn’t really deserve it.
So therefore, it’s okay for me not to feel any sort of I guess admiration at all.
It did not seem remote.
Like it’s not like Courtney Cox was just super admirable character but it but but compared to Puck from Real World, three, or whatever.
It’s like, well, at least, she like, she had a goal.
She accomplish this, she did all, you know, she she looks different than me, she looks.
You know, it’s like all these things that That go into making someone seem like what we used to consider a star that kind of got changed by the fact that the way to become a star, became the in the eyes of many much easier.
And now, and now it’s much much easier because someone can be a star just like just unlike a on a platform because social media platform that many people don’t even know, like, I’m not on, I do not Tick Tock, right?
So there are people who are stars on tick.
That I would have no idea that they had who they are, we unless someone pushes them into a different realm.
That’s so interesting that in reality TV, you see this collapsing gap between the audience and celebrities, and this gives rise to a collapse in admiration.
It gives rise to the sense of, you’re, no better than I am.
And it’s interesting because I’ve seen a totally similar shift in political culture as well, where it’s almost as, if the more access that we have to various, Options the president Congress, the Supreme Court, the more, we learn to distrust them and to see their incompetence.
And sometimes that’s because with more access, we get more knowledge and we’re like, wow, CDC, you’re really incompetent.
But finally, I just really clearly see this online generally in this reflexive cynicism, and negativity and anti fandom.
And I don’t have good data here, but this cultural wave of negative Vibes.
Just seems really real to me.
I know it.
I see it.
And just the key to what you were describing there is when you said like, you know, I see this, I see this and that that is the key seeing like, okay, when I was in high school, for example, I love Motley Crue and I hated r.e.m.
Yeah, I love REM now, but I hated them.
I hated REM in high school, right.
And I would buy a Motley Crew t-shirt but there was no way I was going to have any kind of outlet for disliking re-entry, like I wasn’t I wasn’t going to buy an REM t-shirt to destroy it or whatever it.
We just be something, I would think.
And something I would say, now, if I had been a high school kid with access to social media, what is the likelihood that I would have written about how much I hated REM much higher than the likelihood of me talking about how great Motley Crue was.
I just wanted that.
That’s just a natural.
Sort of, you know, that if you give someone a free publishing device that they’re probably going to use it as an outlet to position themselves as against something as opposed to just sort of being a fan of, Okay, I think maybe you’ve been tweeting about this.
Somebody has is sort of about the kind of like the ironies about the perception of the economy right now.
And one of the things that’s intriguing is the many people seem to say that like, the economy is bad, although, my personal economy is okay, hmm.
I call it, the, I call it, the, everything sucks, but I’m fine principal, and it’s just just to jump in really quickly.
It’s just this idea that, if you You look at public polling about the economy.
People say the economy overall is worse than it’s been in 70 years.
But if you ask them individually about their finances, they tend to say that they’re actually doing mostly.
And this is also true if you ask CEOs, u.s.
CEOs, how’s the economy?
They say worst in decades.
Oh, how’s your industry?
How is your company doing?
You expect Revenue to increase the next two quarters.
Oh yeah, of course.
Yes, we do.
So it’s just very interesting that at this very moment, you have this everything sucks but I’m fine phenomenon, blooming across culture, sorry back Well, because people can see that for other people.
There are problems because people who are having problems or expressing them constantly.
If you ask someone in 1974 about the economy, they’re going to use their own economy is basically, they only gauge unless they’re in some kind of weird specified field where they have the ability to see other people and who are struggling, as they sort of, you know, paradoxically accelerate for the most part, people would use their own experience.
Sort of to understand the world and And that’s less and less.
Now that people sort of are almost, in fact, told to sort of, don’t just think about your experience, you know, that’s your, that’s your bias, you know, that you sort of need to think of things inside of you.
So it’s when people are asked about the approval rating of buying, they’re not necessarily saying that they approve or disapprove.
It is almost as though.
They are gauging it against every other opinion, they here.
And they’re like, well and they’re like well there’s a certain kind of person who who loves him and I don’t like this person so their approval pushes me in the opposite way.
There are so many interesting ideas that you’ve touched on that.
I want to do something that might initially seem a little bit odd.
I want to try to summarize and synthesize your theories just like read them back to you as I understand them.
And then you can tell me if I’m wrong or if you want to go deeper into any of them.
One is that the used to be this relationship between Fame and positivity, but that sometime in the last 20, 30 years, Fame became more synonymous with familiarity.
And there were two Routes to high familiarity.
You could become highly familiar by being successful and say the normal way or you could achieve familiarity through this new kind of - notoriety the Nick Lachey path rather than the Marilyn Monroe path and that that is fundamentally a modern phenomenon.
This sort of - path to fame.
The second thing that I’m hearing you say is that our experience of the world is increasingly mediated by this Bizarre understanding of let’s call it the discourse.
They went when we’re commenting on something, like the new Netflix movie or the president.
We are more aware of what everyone is saying than we used to be and that, that might change our relationship to our own opinions because we constantly feel like we have to react against this sort of ethereal discourse that were always aware of.
And then number three is Related to, to something very fundamentally strange happened.
When we democratize the means of publishing, when we allowed, everyone to become a publisher.
And we said, you’re all your own publicists, we waved a wand over every American.
We said you were all your own publicist.
They seem to have figured out person-to-person that the fastest route to publicity in the internet age is not just by praising things but by Finding the right way to be critical finding the right niche in which to be an anti fan and sort of - appraiser of what’s happening.
So I don’t know if you, if I got any of that, just utterly wrong that you can comment on it or you can go deeper on any one of those little areas.
Well, I lot there, I mean like, okay, the see if I can get the first of all, the third point.
You make that actually, I think this part of them figuring this out.
That’s I think an extension of human nature.
That there’s more interest in - information than positive information.
If someone came to you in your real life and said like hey I got two bits of Gossip, one of your friends is getting married, who your friends are getting divorced.
What do you want to know first?
I mean, the thing is, people are more interested in bad news.
I mean, because it’s just that, you know, it is.
So, so that’s goes for dos.
Bad news is more interesting than good news.
Those four dose and it always has been you’re totally right.
So the the second point you were making The second point was about about discourse, the fact that if you’re straight away, this people the 40’s wouldn’t understand.
We understand we know what everyone else is thinking in a weird way.
Well, I’ve said this a few other places but I’m going to say it again.
It’s like one thing that I feel somewhat complicit in this because I was definitely part of it, is there was a period in the 90s when it was just obsessed with the idea of post-modernism, right?
Because post-modernism seemed like kind of a Interesting new way to look at the world.
Sort of just this idea that like, well, there’s this hard reality.
Then there’s also this sort of subjective reality, that sort of understands that, that art understands that it’s art and all of these things.
Well, that’s sort of everything.
That that like like as it turns out all, the critics of post-modernism were kind of, right, because that what has become is of it, completely postmodern world.
Now, where our experience Sense of reality, is mostly mediated.
I mean, the, like, if I say to you, like, imagine a basketball game right now, when you’re hit, like imagine a basketball game, I could be wrong, but I’m guessing you’re imagining a basketball game, as it is seen on television.
Even though you’ve probably played a basketball game, you’ve certainly went to basketball games at some point.
If nothing else, junior high, but the first image you have is the television image.
Most people are like this that if you just solicitors, no, yeah, I am not.
I had vigorous the yes, I was imagining basketball as seen on TV or whatever.
It’s hard not to, like, like I played basketball with my whole life, but if you ask me that question, I immediately think of a specific basketball game.
I saw on television in 1984.
That’s the first thing I said, I think of is this not me in a basketball game, but me watching this one on television.
So that’s how it is for all things now.
So, when you say that, you talk to someone about the president, they’re not thinking about the president as as a, as a person.
Or as a even a politician that impacts their life, it is almost the same way.
They would think about a president on a television show like The West Wing or the construct of a president in a fictional movie.
And that all the ideas you have about, the president are sort of pushed through this idea that well this like maybe we’re not in a simulation, but we’re going to behave as if we are like, like the president is a simulation of what a president is like.
So that’s that’s all It also changes the way, you know, people feel about what they can say about someone, you know, if they if they fundamentally believe the person is unreal, even though they’re conscious mind, tells them, this is a real person.
If they’re sort of general feeling, they’re, they’re unconscious mind is like, well, this is this is like a television show, they’re going to feel differently.
The first point you made was about I think what again the Nick Lachey versus Marilyn Monroe pasta?
Well, that and that’s sort of, I think, kind of like, where they’re people who like despised Marilyn Monroe.
I guess there probably were.
There must have been.
Yeah, put the outlet for that was different.
I mean, it was like, okay, here’s an example.
I am queen with a guy who used to be the editor of Slam Magazine, okay?
The basketball magazine that, you know it’s like and and he was doing an interview with Kobe Bryant.
This is a while This is like before the Colorado stuff, the early part of Kobe Bryant’s career when he was kind of trying to Fashion himself as kind of like a Grand Hill dr.
J person like, you know, maybe I can be all things to all people or whatever and as a consequence of people kind of saw him as soft.
And at the end of the interview, this guy Ryan Jones says to him.
Like how do you feel about this idea that like, you know, kids don’t see you the way.
They see Allen Iverson.
They think of you is this different kind of thing.
Like not like you know, softer whatever.
And he was like, what?
That’s what, that’s what people think, that’s what people like, you know, and they kind of was like, yeah.
And then after the interview, Kobe Bryant calls him back and says, like, can you tell me what, like, what, what’s going on out there?
It’s like Kobe Bryant was still able to exist in a world where he could only sort of understand how he’s perceived to the experience.
He was having, which is people cheering for the idea that there was this secondary world.
You could completely avoid that Like when I made this comment about Howard Cosell one of the jokes.
People always make about Howard Cosell.
If they were, like, worked with him is that he come into the office?
Need believe, can you believe what?
This guy of the Des Moines Register said, they’d be like, Howard.
Why are you reading the Des Moines Register to see what the TV critic things of you.
It’s like he was kind of seeking it out an average person could just go through their life and only kind of understand what they say.
So even in like the early 21st century, somebody like, Kobe Bryant could almost be immune to that.
And now no, His immune to that it is I mean there was there was so much there and I’m glad I asked you about all those three things because you went as deeply as I wanted you to go.
I want to try to connect this conversation to another phenomenon, that is clearly happening, which is the the demise of mainstream culture, the demise of the monoculture, and the 90s are an interesting, it’s good to have an expert on the 90s in this conversation because clearly something happened in between The 1990s and the 2000s that seemed to spell, maybe the final inning of the illusion of the American monoculture.
Like, 1997 Titanic sells more tickets in any American film in history 1998. 76, million Americans watched the Seinfeld finale the latter in particular is just obviously not going to ever happen again.
And this is clearly true in news that people have this illusion.
Like when are we going to get back to the Walter Cronkite days?
Where there was Like a really true objective mainstream you know voice in news and the answer is never never ever, ever that was in a period of manufactured scarcity.
There were only three or four television channels.
He was the most famous voice on the number one of those television channels were not going to go back to it, there’s just there’s simply too many channels.
How do you feel about the way that the, the sort of explosion the sort of this big bang that ended the monoculture forever intersects with this phenomenon that Of rising negativity.
Well, that’s interesting because what you’re saying kind of happened twice because people thought that happened in the 80s to with the proliferation of cable television and stuff, you know, and like you would hear people say in 1990, for example, they would say there’s never going to be an episode of television as big as the finale of mash and there never has, right?
But it has never happened to get, okay?
So that’s it.
Felt like, you know that that happened once.
Okay, it feels like it happened.
To a much higher degree at the end of the nineties, okay?
Does the splintering of culture, make it more plausible for someone to be hated?
I don’t know if that is the case.
I’m gonna give you my theory.
Ivan Ivan theory.
That kind of connects the end of the monoculture to the rise of negativity and I’ll admit it’s like it’s a little Malcolm Gladwell e.
I’m not gonna go full Gladwell here but I’ll probably Police say it’s like two-thirds Gladwell.
He, so, there’s this idea in ecology called Niche partitioning and the idea with Niche partitioning is that if you have an environment where a lot of species are competing over, finite, resources, the species evolved to coexist in a way that sometimes antagonistic toward each other.
They have to develop their own niches because otherwise, they’re going to die.
They’re going to starve to death.
So, when I think about this happening in the world of me, Idea where there are scarce resources, there’s only so much attention.
There’s only so many hours in a day, there’s only so many eyeballs and ears the best way to develop your Niche to partition yourself is to position yourself antagonistically against your competition.
So, for example, you know, I you’re writing a book about the 1990s.
Let’s say you’re publishing this book about the 1990s, into an environment where there were seven famous histories of the 1990s, published in the previous two years.
What do you have to tell your publisher?
What do you have to tell?
CBS MPR, when you’re doing a book interviews, you have to tell them how your book is different.
Same thing for me, in my podcast, I’m doing a general News podcast.
There’s 10 trillion, General News podcast, I have to consistently try to remind people.
How am I different?
And often the best way to do that is to explain my everyone else sucks.
All right, these 1990s histories, they don’t know what the fuck they were talking about.
I do these other General news podcast, they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.
I do and so in environments.
Of abundant actors and finite resources.
It makes sense to have heightened antagonism within the system and heightened antagonism within the system.
Means you have more negativity.
That’s a good theory, it’s possible.
I don’t know necessarily if the why you believe that the resources are finite the resources.
Can you be expanding?
Resources are expanding but they’re still not infinite, right?
I mean that’s still only so many hours that people can listen to news podcast.
There’s only so many 1990s history tomes that people are going to read within a given period.
You’re absolutely right.
Like the the demand can be increasing but can also be zero some enough that you need.
And I need to argue for our difference to argue for our specialness in order to win that next marginal reader or listener.
I mean it’s it makes complete rational sense.
You are those sort of I feel talking about a pretty kind of rarefied level of source like you’re talking almost like like, although maybe you’re not mad, are you sort of arguing that the average person on Twitter now is sort of perceiving themselves as a media entity?
Yes, yes I did not connect it to the average.
But I the the next bridge that I would build is to say you and I have a clear self conceptualization of ourselves as media makers, right?
And with I think increasing regularity Ordinary People are having that same awareness there in these media, markets of Twitter and Instagram and Tick-Tock and Facebook where they’re publishing and recognizing with very quick, feedback loops how many people are responding to what they say.
A and they’re doing this as you pointed out in an environment where they’re increasingly aware of what everyone else is saying.
And I think that you’re seeing this rise in especially online negativity in part because they are learning very quickly, the same lessons that media makers have known forever and publicist have known forever.
The best way to distinguish your product is to point out how it is different from everybody else.
And so, in that environment, I think you have a lot of people who are finding clever ways to to to distinguish themselves.
And the best way to do that often is by being negative toward one mainstream.
Most people think this but I think that the other me there are a couple things.
I mean it’s like okay first of all We perceive something like Twitter as this dislike this waterfall of negativity and yet if you’re a famous person or a semi-famous person, however, you look at it, if you actually kept track of what is written about you, it’s generally much more positive than negative.
It’s just that the negative things because this is how people think seem real and all the positive things seem completely fake and meaningless.
I mean, Yeah, yeah.
I I interviewed Stephen malkmus from pavement and I was talking to him about, you know, like, did the kind of the constantly being well reviewed in the way, he was that, that changed the way he looked at his own art.
Constantly having people tell you, you’re a genius and he was like, well, it’s never as good as you want it to be.
And that’s true that if you get a very positive book review, I’m sure this happened to you and they said 19 positive things and three negative things in your mind, that’s a mixed review because Just how it naturally is.
The other thing is, is I feel and this is like, okay, I this is gonna be one of these things where people are going to be like you how prove this or whatever.
This is just kind of my conjecture, but I think in a, there has been a kind of a wholesale swapping of the role media used to play with celebrities and that the public used to play with celebrities.
I mean, if you said, you go back to this, you know, in time and it’s like Rolling Stone, gives terrible reviews, to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, but the fans know the truth.
These bands are great.
Or whatever you or like or okay, Grill Marcus reviews, The Bob Dylan album, self portrait and the first line is like, what is this shit?
It’s basically impossible to imagine that happening.
Still like Taylor Swift now.
Like, I can’t, I can’t foresee.
There’s a guy like yours.
Like, like it seems as though used to be the idea that the media was - and the population of the, you know, the average consumer had sort of, the more positive view of the person than that, kind of created this balance.
But like okay, I’m just using an example because it’s so recent.
So new Beyoncé record comes up and Renaissance the New York Times Like writes a piece that’s coming out and then like a review of the record and then I also like all the critics go through her entire catalog.
What was the best?
You know, moment, Beyonce’s career, they have Michelangelo mottos.
Talk about all the samples that are used on this record.
When was the Morris writes?
This big piece in the magazine about sort of her relationship.
Do you like black queerness?
And then like there’s a podcast that the times puts out that sort of like a combination of all these things.
Now every one of those pieces by themselves it’s pretty good.
I mean like if your Wesley Morris right about the relation between Beyonce and like black queerness like it’s going to be great if you have mottos right about like what samples are used on Beyonce’s album.
It’s going to be complete.
The people there are talented, well, written well edited, but taken together. weather, when you have all of those stories from one Outlet about this one person, There’s a sense from some people that this is kind of like institutionally sycophantic like they almost they seem to be doing something for Beyonce that she could never pay for, like she could buy a Super Bowl ad and it wouldn’t be that kind of publicity.
Because if it was a Super Bowl ad, people would still be.
Well, this is a commercial.
She’s telling us.
This is a, you know, like the arguably the best paper in the country.
It’s also kind of validating her justifying everything, it’s the best, kind of publicity and I think there is a certain kind of person who sees that And they’re like this is weird and they push back against it.
In fact if you read the comments on a lot of those New York Times stories their much sort of more like this, he’s almost be a heavier element of like real kind of critical thinking about the value of this in the comments and in the piece like here again, every individual piece is good.
It’s just that this idea that is to somehow it’s like the papers working for her or something.
And I think that now it’s People who feel like we got to push back against this.
It’s really interesting because in a way boiling that down, you’re saying the role of the media and the public have swapped in a way, the media used to be the enemy and the public was with the was, was the friend, and now it’s all scrambled.
Sometimes the media is the friend in the public, is the enemy and sometimes it’s vice versa.
It’s as if like the audience has stormed the stage and they’re all sort of Interacting together.
And it makes me think of one of your first comments that in reality TV.
You saw this collapse between celebrity and consumer, but you’ve also seen this boundary collapse between critic and consumer because now the consumers are also critics and they’re jumping on stage and messing with the critics as well and lifting up a bit.
I think you’ve taken my initial thesis in a really interesting in a more interesting Direction because I initially wanted you to explain very narrowly, why It seemed like modern culture and the internet.
In particular have fostered, such a Negative anti-fan environment.
But you’ve also made the point that there’s this bizarrely rapturous fandom that can bubble up as well like to use your amazing phrase.
Again, it’s the death of the middle class of feeling, I wonder if you think this sort of thing has gotten worse since the pandemic.
So like When you look at things that were sort of critically beloved or got a lot of media attention during the pandemic.
So you’re looking at like okay so you got like like Tiger King and Fiona Apple fetch the bolt cutters and White Lotus and I guess you know, to addict kind of in a different way but to a degree like the the top gun Maverick movie, okay?
When you go back like I think in 25 years when we go back and we read the coverage of these things, at the time that they happened and all those things I mentioned are pretty good.
I like tall, okay, but the response was so rapturous that it was almost like this thing has changed everything in a way that if that was true they should still be in the culture more than they are.
And I think it was because into a stance like the pandemic affected everyone But in a weird way like it mentally affected journalist more.
Where’s where’s where’s?
The average person was sort of like well I’m stuck in my house now and this sucks and I’m worried about this illness.
The media had to be like well but what does this really mean though?
And like will we ever go back to the way it was?
And are its culture.
You like they have to ask all these kind of secondary questions that sort of make these things that are good in to by default?
Transcendent and that, you know, and there it’s just it doesn’t.
It doesn’t seem as though that there is going to be.
It’s like The media is more influential now and yet taken much less seriously.
So you need, yes, you need like it’s like the times and the Washington Post and LA Times The Wall Street Journal to me.
They seem more influential now than they have ever been in my life and yet, people seem to care about the content much less and they take It much less seriously.
It’s now like there’s so it’s there’s a limited space for things that have real legitimate reach to all people that you have to consider those things more.
Even though the actual content does not seem as significant, the very last thing that I want to throw at you, I have you read or heard of Martin?
Gary’s book, The Revolt of the public know, okay?
So, Martin gurry was a former CIA agent turned like Intellectual Nostradamus type and he wrote this book called The Revolt of the public.
And the story is he was a CIA analyst, looking at the increase in Communications all over the world, just like the total sum of messages and data being created all over the planet.
And he saw this wave growing and growing and it was the digital Communications Revolution, sweeping the globe, and at the same time, as a CIA analyst, he was seeing more unrest all over the world, More protest movements but also importantly More failed protest movements, and he developed this theory that connected these two observations.
He said maybe there’s something about social media specifically.
That makes it an extraordinary instrument for generating Mass protest, but a terrible instrument for creating successful mass movements, like it creates all of this negative energy and then it just dissipates and no solution is created.
And look, Martin Gary definitely wasn’t writing about tiger Or the new Beyonce album but your comment maybe think of it weird connection here that cultural movements seemed to Peak in fade in a way that is unnervingly fast.
It’s like the half-life of cultural movements is getting shorter and shorter and I wonder what you think about that connection.
Well, I thought was one response would be that if you think of the internet and social media as an extension of like the acceleration of culture, then that would stand to reason that everything that normally would have happened in culture is going to happen in a smaller window, okay?
That that, you know, someone’s sort of rise to notoriety, and they’re sort of evaporation from that it’s going to happen like in a faster and faster and will only keep increasing that there will be a period, you know, where it’s like the Andy Warhol.
Will be 15 minutes is too much that people will literally be famous for 15 seconds or whatever, you know.
I also, I mean, I I am sort of of the opinion that in a lot of ways.
The the most surprising thing about the internet is that in many ways, it is decelerated, the culture and made things more, static and made it harder for us to sort of move forward in a linear way, which then if you put those two things together, that the process of this experience is accelerating but the the The stuff that we are processing is not changing.
Well, that’s that’s going to be that’s going to cause a lot of of like a, I don’t know, I’m just Comfort is the right word but it’s going to be like if the culture isn’t changing, but the way that we cycle through it increases, its you’re going to start seeing like, you know, like the strange repetition of experience and maybe that’s what I’m talking about.
Is this idea?
Unit, like, you know, the the idea of what happened with like a like with Tiger King or Fiona Apple or whatever.
It’s like, that just going to keep happening with different things that we’re going to keep having the same experience over and over again.
The thing itself will change, but the way it is, received the way people feel about it and the fact that it will, suddenly then seem as if we’d somehow made a mistake.
At this thing, that we said was the most important piece of art of The decade is gone.
That’s just going to happen over and over and over again.
We have to go in a second but I just want to put a pin in three of your ideas that I’m not going to forget.
Anytime soon idea.
Number one is what I’m going to try to think of as the Rotten Tomatoes effect, like with Rotten Tomatoes when you know what the rating of a movie is, it’s very difficult to have an opinion of that movie in a way that is separate from like the discourse, no look, you know what the discourse thinks.
It’s right there in the number and in the same way I think.
Are like hyper awareness of what everyone else thinks around us is is truly bizarre in a way that I think we don’t maybe quite realize how bizarre it is in a weird way.
It’s like it’s harder to have your thoughts that are truly your own because you’re always positioning your opinion relative to the discourse.
I think there’s something pretty profound to your observation that these once feudal hierarchies, between institution at the top and then critic in the middle.
And It’s at the bottom that feudal hierarchy has been totally collapsed and a lot of what we think of as Internet culture.
I think comes from this collapsed space where audiences and critics and institutions are jockeying for status, that such a fascinating just visual image for me.
A number three.
This is your Beyonce point and I know we didn’t talk about it as much and I didn’t anticipate talking about it at all but I think there’s something very interesting about this need of media makers like the New York Times or you know just someone on line two Create events events with a capital E.
Like when we do like something and when we want to go to bat for it it’s not sufficient to say this thing is pretty good.
Like in to Wrangle the attention of the crowd, we have to elevate it but when everyone feels this way, when everyone is trying to create capital E events out of so many different things, it leads to this sense of hyper movements in culture, such that maybe fewer things.
Truly stand the test of time and that as a result of one, two and three, I think you can say that.
Culture is becoming faster more democratized in ways that are often good but also I think more negative on balance.
So who anyway that was a blast.
I hope he made some sense and Chuck.
Thank you so, so much.
It was my pleasure to be here, Derek.
I’m Jerry Thompson.
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Thanks very much to our producer, Devon man.
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