Bootlickers and the Civility Police Won
November 18, 2019 12:54 AM   Subscribe

This is not a story about the private equity vampires ruining this specific company. It is about the implications of the fact that Splinter was not allowed to live, and Deadspin is not allowed to be political. Rude media, for lack of a better term, is dying. From The Death of the Rude Press by Alex Pareene in The New Republic
posted by chavenet (40 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for posting this. Though I never read Deadspin, I've been fascinated by its demise at the hands of private equity. Would love to be pointed in the direction of more stories, books or documentaries about the rise of this private equity model. I've been going through a lot of the work by Rana Foroohar, Grace Blakely and Yancey Strickler lately as they all seem to be popular authors pulling on similar threads. Haven't really read a definitive, detailed analysis on the history of private equity actors that execute disasters like what happened with Toys R Us or Deadspin etc. Would love to really read deep on this sort of thing.

If anyone hasn't listened to the Chapo interview with David J Roth of Deadspin, it is juicy. The first 20+ odd minutes of Elizabeth Warren bashing might turn some mefites off, but the interview has interesting insider details.

This model seems untenable. Something is going to snap if we keep this up.
posted by Telf at 2:07 AM on November 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


This probably deserves its own FPP, but Adam Serwer's piece in the Atlantic is a powerful indictment of the civility scolds and their rise: Civility Is Overrated: The gravest danger to American democracy isn’t an excess of vitriol—it’s the false promise of civility.
There are two definitions of civility. The first is not being an asshole. The second is “I can do what I want and you can shut up.” The latter definition currently dominates American political discourse.

The country is indeed divided today, and there is nothing wrong with wishing that Americans could all get along. But while nonviolence is essential to democracy, civility is optional, and today’s preoccupation with politesse both exaggerates the country’s divisions and papers over the fundamental issues that are causing the divisions in the first place. The idea that we’re currently experiencing something like the nadir of American civility ignores the turmoil that has traditionally characterized the nation’s politics, and the comparatively low level of political violence today despite the animosity of the moment.

Paeans to a more civil past also ignore the price of that civility. It’s not an unfortunate coincidence that the men Joe Biden worked with so amicably were segregationists. The civility he longs for was the result of excluding historically marginalized groups from the polity, which allowed men like James Eastland to wield tremendous power in Congress without regard for the rights or dignity of their disenfranchised constituents.
[...]
The end of polarization in America matters less than the terms on which it ends. It is possible that, in the aftermath of a Trump defeat in 2020, Republicans will move to the political center. But it is also possible that Trump will win a second term, and the devastation of the defeat will lead the Democrats to court conservative white people, whose geographic distribution grants them a disproportionate influence over American politics. Like the Republicans during Reconstruction, the Democrats may bargain away the rights of their other constituencies in the process.

The true threat to America is not an excess of vitriol, but that elites will come together in a consensus that cripples democracy and acquiesces to the dictatorship of a shrinking number of Americans who treat this nation as their exclusive birthright because of their race and religion. This is the false peace of dominance, not the true peace of justice. Until Americans’ current dispute over the nature of our republic is settled in favor of the latter, the dispute must continue.

In the aftermath of a terrible war, Americans once purchased an illusion of reconciliation, peace, and civility through a restoration of white rule. They should never again make such a bargain.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:51 AM on November 18, 2019 [31 favorites]


The article diagnoses the squeeze from the top, but as Amanda Petrusich points out, yelling as a rhetorical technique doesn't feel effective these days. As a reader, bluster has been so co-opted by conservative forces, it's hard to make it feel like righteous anger rather than a tantrum.
posted by bendybendy at 4:54 AM on November 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


bluster has been so co-opted by conservative forces, it's hard to make it feel like righteous anger rather than a tantrum.


Only if you have a sense of shame.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:01 AM on November 18, 2019 [8 favorites]


The thing I liked about Deadspin wasn't so much that it was rude or even political but that it was silly and irreverent. They had no access to the players, owner, the league management or anything. So they didn't have to suck up to anybody. I enjoy watching sports but am so conflicted by engaging with the mega-structures behind sports like censoring ESPN, the brain bruising NFL, or racist collusion NFL Teams and the Deadspin writers seemed to be the same way.

Also they were not Barstool Sports.
posted by srboisvert at 6:12 AM on November 18, 2019 [15 favorites]


With both of them gone, there is a huge hole in my daily web-routines. I honestly have no idea about what's happening in sports because most other sites are pretty lousy, poorly written, and clickbaity.

As time goes on, it's honestly harder not to succumb to conspiracy theories about Splinter and Deadspin. If GMG was bought by Great Hill because it thought it had value, they've clearly fucked up. Shuttering Splinter when they did, ahead of likely (now actual) impeachment hearings and the democratic primaries seems unthinkable, unless they were acquired with the intent of shutting them up, which has almost got to be the case.

And Deadspin, which had a strong, loyal readership, as badly as they fucked up, there should still be some attempt at keeping the site going, but last I checked, there hadn't been a new story since November 4th. If Deadspin was thought to have value, the only way this level of mismanagement seems likely is that Great Hill, or someone they owe favors to, wanted the staff to shut up.

I mean, the only other likely possibility would be that incredibly rich failsons would be incompetent, and if we've learned nothing else, the wealthy are only able to buy and gut independent media because they're really, really talented and intelligent people.

On second thought, Spanfeller just being a total incompetent is just as likely as a grand conspiracy.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:15 AM on November 18, 2019 [10 favorites]


Let's make 2020 the Year of the Zine's Return, y'all. I believe in us.
posted by sugar and confetti at 6:33 AM on November 18, 2019 [13 favorites]


[CW: Satire]
The failure of fact based media and analysis is one of concentration of resources. As the conservative and alt-right outlets have demonstrated resources are best spent on recruiting and nurturing the personalities that can most connect with an audience and convey a compelling message. The relationship of that message to things like facts is much less important than the ability to stimulate a visceral response in the audience. Wasting time, money, and charisma on journalists who think that their purpose is to create a well informed public rather than a mass of seething resentment that will slit its own throat in an effort to exorcise the angst and agita which has been, indeed needs to be, nurtured and guided to the ends not of self interest or of national prosperity but to the true purpose of keeping the taxes and expectations of the wealthy as close to non-existent as possible is obviously ludicrous. Humans respond to emotional conditioning, which can take decades to steer to the right stimulus-response patterns.

If there had been any wisdom on the left they would have formed concentrations of wealth that would have been able to fund the think-tanks and lobbying efforts necessary to bring about the kind of long-term attitude and knee-jerk reactions that the Koch brothers invested in starting in the early 1980's. Certainly the need for that kind of social influence would have been worth the sacrifices that poor communities and struggling families would need to have made, through good times and bad. After all if you are hungry you should recognize that that hunger will persist until the social and economic conditions change in your favor. And the only way to do that is to condition the mass of uncritical thinkers to respond to the proper dog whistles.

If you think things like fact based analysis and human compassion matter you should have been clear-headed enough to see that only through cynical manipulation and targeted political influence would you have had a chance. If you wanted these things you should have just had the wherewithal to be born rich.

[End satire.]

I have never been a sports carer. I have appreciated the odd article on Deadspin over the years that dealt with some political issues. So given that there is now a niche in the market who wants to lose their mind trying to raise some capitol to start a replacement. I could probably scrape together a $100. If we can find 100,000 more people willing to chip in a $100 to start something it might just be a spectacular failure or something worth getting off the ground.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 6:35 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Telf posted this in the Doom/Romero thread, I think they meant it to show up here;

Worth re-reading the final Gawker post from over 3 years ago. Even the silver linings pointed to in that post, have fallen apart.
posted by Molesome at 6:39 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


With both of them gone, there is a huge hole in my daily web-routines. I honestly have no idea about what's happening in sports because most other sites are pretty lousy, poorly written, and clickbaity.

Even though it's subscription based, I am really liking The Athletic. The Carolina Hurricanes writer, Sara Civian, is quickly turning into a national treasure.

I found a half off coupon online somewhere and it brought the annual price down to something like $25 and it's been worth every penny thus far.
posted by NoMich at 7:11 AM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


On second thought, Spanfeller just being a total incompetent is just as likely as a grand conspiracy.

The real conspiracy is what keeps the world firmly under the control of incompetents and their legions of middle managers and boot lickers.
posted by Reyturner at 7:25 AM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


If anyone hasn't listened to the Chapo interview with David J Roth of Deadspin, it is juicy. The first 20+ odd minutes of Elizabeth Warren bashing might turn some mefites off

Possibly the least surprising thing ever.

A lot of times when people on the left complain about the “civility police” they mean “don’t point out my virulent misogyny.” They don’t appear to be even a little aware of how similar they are to the racists on the right who make the same complaint.

Fucking pass.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:34 AM on November 18, 2019 [29 favorites]


What I remember of deadspin was during the 2016 election all the writers of deadspin wrote a little blurb of who they were voting for- and while there were no trump voters there were more then a couple of (male) abstainers and the (male) ones who would admit to voting for Clinton wrote paragraphs agonizing over it and bashing her even as they admitted they'd vote for her. The Jezebel Post was more succinct. While I always loved deadspin, that day I lost a lot of respect for their male writers.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:45 AM on November 18, 2019 [8 favorites]


A lot of times when people on the left complain about the “civility police” they mean “don’t point out my virulent misogyny.”

FWIW, the article I posted from Serwer says the exact opposite: that the centrist civility police, much like the White Moderates of MLK's Letters, are the ones shutting down the people pointing out misogyny/racism/etc. That it's the Joe Bidens and the Bret Stephens of the world (who have huge blindspots re:white supremacy and intersectional justice) keep telling the left that they're being too loud about basic human and civil rights and it's their fault that we can't reach out to actual Nazis and the "undecided" NYT interviewees with framed pictures of Lee next to their Confederate flags and "All Lives Matter" stickers.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:03 AM on November 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


Virulent misogyny is when you joke about Elizabeth Warren syncing with a giant inflatable version of her dog Bailey in the context of discussing Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the more you joke about Warren syncing with Bailey the more virulently misogynist it is.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 8:18 AM on November 18, 2019 [13 favorites]


We're going to see a lot of irritating hot takes about civility when the Mr. Rogers movie comes out. Be ready to push back.
posted by puddledork at 8:24 AM on November 18, 2019 [10 favorites]


Even Mister Rogers sent a Cease & Desist letter when the Klan used his likeness and a voice impersonator to spread hatred.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:29 AM on November 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


Fred Rogers went nuclear when the KKK started imitating him. In his own words, from an interview in TV Guide:
TV Guide: When do you get angry? Where does Mr. Rogers draw the line?

Mr. Rogers: I was incensed by what the Ku Klux Klan did recently. I am hardly a suing person, and yet that just got my goat. Members of the Ku Klux Klan were giving out a telephone number in the schoolyard, and these kids were calling the number. There was a Mister Rogers sound-alike voice on it with terribly racist messages. I just saw red. And so we sued them and we won. Maybe it's strange, but the only thing that really angers me is something that's demeaning to somebody else.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:30 AM on November 18, 2019 [37 favorites]


Mr. Rogers understood the paradox of tolerance.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2019 [39 favorites]


(Psst--it's always "Mister" Rogers, never "Mr." This was drummed into me when I interned one summer at Maryland Public Television.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:33 AM on November 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


Why We Need A Working Class Media (Dissent)

Interview: Ana Kasparian on Independent Media and More (Current Affairs)
posted by The Whelk at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


Molesome,

Thanks for drawing attention to the post. Just thought it was eaten by the internet gods. Hopefully the Romero thread people aren't too confused by the Gawker link.
posted by Telf at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Somewhat OT, but why did they insist on "Mister" rather than "Mr" at MPT, Faint of Butt?
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 9:30 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Somewhat OT, but why did they insist on "Mister" rather than "Mr" at MPT, Faint of Butt?

I don't know, but they were very insistent upon it. I didn't ask for clarification; I was just an intern.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:32 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Branding.
posted by valkane at 9:53 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Telf, while it's probably a bit dated now, Applebaum's Private Equity at Work is probably a book you're looking for.
posted by praemunire at 10:23 AM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


You know what's uncivil? Refusing to argue in good faith is uncivil. Circulating a memo instructing your caucus to always refer to Democrats with disparaging adjectives is uncivil. Getting a Federalist Society hack accused of sexual assault appointed to the SCOTUS by running the exact same he-said-she-said playbook as in the Anita Hill hearings is uncivil. And being able to tip the balance of the SCOTUS because Mitch McConnell refused to even consider a nominee is uncivil. To say nothing of nominating and then voting for the obviously unfit Donald Trump for President.

In the face of all that, telling Republicans they can get bent hardly seems uncivil at all.
posted by Gelatin at 10:24 AM on November 18, 2019 [21 favorites]


Rude Right-wing Media doesn't seem to be having any problems. Weird.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:34 AM on November 18, 2019 [7 favorites]


Civility is only ever used as a cudgel against the Left. If you dare complain about rudeness coming from conservatives and fascists, you're being "politically correct." Another cudgel that only seems to work when wielded from the Right hand.
posted by xigxag at 11:41 AM on November 18, 2019 [17 favorites]


Remember, part of Trump's appeal to the right is how uncivil he's willing to be -- a fact so obvious the media needed to write a million articles about "economic anxiety" to try to hide it.
posted by Gelatin at 11:47 AM on November 18, 2019 [11 favorites]


I do not watch or follow professional sports at all. Zero interest. I still read Deadspin articles on a regular basis.

"stick to sports" lol
posted by bradbane at 11:50 AM on November 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Abehammerb Lincoln, they mentioned in the article that rude RW media is going to more readily appreciate and embrace being used as the irreverent branding for corporate interests, ex: Murdoch buying the NY Post.
posted by Selena777 at 12:01 PM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yeah, on the right it's "irreverent," on the left it's "uncivil." Note how the syntax implies that objecting to the right's "irreverent" attacks makes one a humorless prig. Feh.
posted by Gelatin at 12:15 PM on November 18, 2019 [10 favorites]


The article diagnoses the squeeze from the top, but as Amanda Petrusich points out, yelling as a rhetorical technique doesn't feel effective these days. As a reader, bluster has been so co-opted by conservative forces, it's hard to make it feel like righteous anger rather than a tantrum.

From that very article, though:

It’s not so much that anger itself has gone out of style but that the socially acceptable ways of channelling and expressing rage have radically changed.

It's primarily about the physical/oral demonstration of anger, not being angry. To allow the Right to claim being angry would be one of the worst mistakes the Left could make.
posted by atoxyl at 3:13 PM on November 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


A lot of times when people on the left complain about the “civility police” they mean “don’t point out my virulent misogyny.” They don’t appear to be even a little aware of how similar they are to the racists on the right who make the same complaint.

It's, um, mostly a fairly incomprehensible bit mapping Democratic candidates onto Evangelion characters, also featuring the video with the inflatable likeness of Liz Warren's dog. It is not a clip that highly recommends the podcast as a listenable podcast, but so far it's not particularly virulently anything.
posted by atoxyl at 3:30 PM on November 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


To allow the Right to claim being angry would be one of the worst mistakes the Left could make.

This is a good summation.
posted by PMdixon at 4:11 PM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I mostly took it as a sign of how ruined my brain is that I followed that Eva riff pretty much start to finish.
posted by Reyturner at 4:29 PM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


On second thought, Spanfeller just being a total incompetent is just as likely as a grand conspiracy.

Not incompetent per se. He is just a herb.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:54 PM on November 18, 2019 [4 favorites]


Missed edit window. Link appears to keep going down. Here is more from Slate with additional background.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:01 PM on November 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


a non mouse, a cow herd, thank you for the correct. I was aware that Herb Spanherber is indeed a Herb, and should have referred to him as such, out of respect for the Dead(spin).
posted by Ghidorah at 7:57 PM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


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