There’s still a brief moment when reading a profile like this about a contemporary that I shiver with fear, loathing, and jealousy.
He’s made HOW much pushing plagiarized “feel good” stuff on the Internet? He actually thinks this crap is going to change the world?
And then the moment passes and my thoughts change to pity for the techno-inevitabilist, 27-year-old Emerson Spartz, who’s been selected as the New Yorker Babbitt0Philistino of the week. Why, the man doesn’t even stop to appreciate Art after giving what he admits to be his only speech, which is on “making things go viral.”
Here’s a graph containing a particularly fine vintage of New Yorker disdain:
Spartz left the stage and walked to his office, a mile away, without stopping to see the Isa Genzken retrospective upstairs. “People have hoity-toity reasons for preferring one kind of entertainment to another,” he said later. “To me, it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at cat photos that inspire you or so-called ‘high art’ that inspires you.”
This is a story that traces its roots in American magazine writing back at least to Mencken’s disdain for most people: “Look at this capitalist who lacks any and all Taste!”
Writer Andrew Marantz says Spartz has “the saucer eyes and cuspidated chin of a cartoon fawn.” Spartz has a father who “speaks in passionate bursts that sound like unrelated fortune-cookie aphorisms spliced together,” whom also homeschooled two sons on a curriculum of life lessons culled from Investor’s Business Daily and Tony Robbins books-on-tape. A father who says his daughter-in-law, Spartz’s partner-in-virology, can’t intellectually keep up with Emerson. Right in front of her, at the dining table.
The Philistines still exist; and the Upholders-of-Culture who keep them at bay must be occasionally reminded that lots of people once read Horatio Alger and now listen to Tony Robbins (or, worse, Joel Osteen). The survival of aesthetic refinement depends on continued donations to the Arts; read this article and shake your head hard that Spartz is so foolish to equate quality with the number of shares an article gets.
Obviously Spartz’s belief that total viewers reached somehow equates to “power” or an ability to Change the World is folly. All of a sudden the same 100,000 people who click on your site through Facebook for “20 People Who Will Probably Depend To Give Up On Life By Lunchtime” will suddenly decide to take time from their online distractions to be Educated on the Issues, sure. Good luck.
Now, if you believe that some of those people might be convinced to give $5 via Paypal to the cause du jour, sure, that’s a form of impact. You’ll be right alongside the NFL and Dancing with the Stars in running little reminders there was recently tornadoes in Kansas and the Red Cross needs cash. Or, as Spartz says, if he were running a more news-heavy operation, to draw attention to an issue he’d put together a touching three-minute video full of “(s)hort, declarative sentences” and a way for folks to help out at the end. To make them feel like they’re doing something.