Snark Kills.
March 3, 2008 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Snark Kills.
posted by mosch (59 comments total)
I blame Bill Hicks.
posted by Artw at 11:51 AM on March 3, 2008 [15 favorites]

"These hateful advertising blogs seem to be written by people who are bitter about the business," DiSesa wrote on AgenCySpy.

No shit, Sherlock. No wonder the advertising business is so fucking out of touch with modern culture. Can we get a few more of these Rhodes scholars to make the jump?
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 11:55 AM on March 3, 2008

It'll kill this thread yet.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:56 AM on March 3, 2008

If snark does indeed kill, then you better watch out because you are soon to be getting a hefty heaping of it.
posted by Falconetti at 11:56 AM on March 3, 2008

Artw beat me to the Bill Hicks reference.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:59 AM on March 3, 2008

the times weighs in, somehow turning it into a question on comment-poster anonymity. i am reminded of that splendidly nutty gifthub kerfuffle.
posted by Hat Maui at 12:03 PM on March 3, 2008

the pressure-cooker atmosphere in the ad industry.

Wait a minute, I think I feel a tear coming wait, I think it's just an eyelash in my eye.

If you can't stand the pressure, get a job that contributes to society.
posted by DU at 12:04 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

The guy was forty years old. On the staggeringly slim chance that it was indeed Meanies With Keyboards who drove him to jump off a roof, it's probably just because The Rude People On The Subway, The Vending Machine That Takes Your Money But Doesn't Give You Your Drink, or The Sample Size Deodorant In His Mailbox didn't get to him first.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:05 PM on March 3, 2008 [9 favorites]

It's spelled s-h-a-r-k. Shark kills.

Snark merely annoys.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:07 PM on March 3, 2008

I used to live in Snark Hills. The neighbors were really annoying.
posted by brain_drain at 12:08 PM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Lets forget about the ones and zeros for a minute.

This man was getting criticized, in deep and personal ways. People were going around the confidentiality of his workplace, leaking internal memos, to make this criticism. The criticism was made in a way that he couldn't usefully respond to or influence. (c.f. Holden - even people who respond to the critics rarely change their minds).

Furthermore, these people (as a collective) had MORE POWER than this advertising executive. Their damage to his reputation could cost him his career.

Killing himself was one of the few ways that this man could wrest back some sense of control - one of the few ways that he could meaningfully communicate with his critics in a way that might get through to a few of them.

Now, leaking internal NSA memos is well and good. Posting the address of the puppy-thrower, same. That's speaking truth to power. But maybe think twice next time you criticise someone in your job, family or on the internets with less power than you. Have forbearance.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:09 PM on March 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

But were it not for the snak gap generator, we wouldn't have modern radio.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:12 PM on March 3, 2008

He could have benefited from reading this.
posted by Doohickie at 12:13 PM on March 3, 2008

Why are people surprised that words have an emotional impact? Nevermind the Internet; hundreds of years of literature wouldn't otherwise exist. Some people are just more sensitive to the impact, and we frequently have no way of knowing who they are before they take drastic action.
posted by desjardins at 12:14 PM on March 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Good grief - this place would be a veritable holocaust, then.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:19 PM on March 3, 2008

Waitaminute, waitaminute, waitaminute...

If the New York Post says snark is a bad thing, a dangerous thing, that it hates our freedom, where does that leave king of the teevee snarkdoucherists, Mr Glenn Beck? Do I smell a shift in format?

(Speaking of CNN snarkdouchery: Hey, remember when Nancy Grace totally hounded that one woman until she eventually killed herself? That was a million, zillion times worse than this.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:21 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

If the New York Post says snark is a bad thing

Then all those poor celebs on Page 6 would have dropped dead years ago.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:26 PM on March 3, 2008

Snark kills? If only it were so, eventually snark would become unnecessary...
posted by wendell at 12:26 PM on March 3, 2008

Farkalicious FPP
posted by psmealey at 12:32 PM on March 3, 2008

Both blogs drew on internal memos Tilley had sent around the agency to critique his management style, with one calling him "demoralizing" and suggesting he take lessons in motivational speaking.

Yeah, because that cause the average joe to top themselves.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:34 PM on March 3, 2008

as regards celebrities - I think that the image-conscious and intensely personal nature of celebrity certainly fuels the common drug abuse and mental breakdowns.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:41 PM on March 3, 2008

Damn, and I was proud of myself for hurting feelings. Those guys managed to take out an advertising executive!

I feel inadequate now.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:47 PM on March 3, 2008

I think you've got the cart before the horse, BTGoG. I think that many of the people who are so desperately driven by their insecurities as to desire celebrity badly enough to give up a real life and put the necessary Herculean effort in to get there, are also likely to be self-medicating their anxieties and lack of psychic equilibrium prior to becoming famous. Though I'm sure that doesn't help either.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:48 PM on March 3, 2008

One of the accused blogs indicated there was a problem at DBB that led to the suicide.
posted by mecran01 at 12:49 PM on March 3, 2008

can't be true. otherwise the entire metafilter empire would be dead with a little deadness on the side.
posted by cogneuro at 12:51 PM on March 3, 2008

" 'But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
And never be met with again!'
posted by MrVisible at 12:59 PM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

The guy was forty years old.

...and with a wife and kids. TBH If he did jump off a building and leave them behind because of a few blog comments my contempt couldn't be greater.
posted by Artw at 1:05 PM on March 3, 2008

This snark, it does requests?
posted by ryoshu at 1:06 PM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Artw, maybe he felt his family was better off without him.

Depression is a huge pit that warps your priorities. Have mercy and pity (remember it was Mercy and Pity that stayed Frodo's hand from killing Gollum! :))
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:07 PM on March 3, 2008

Fuck the (successfully) suicidal. I have nothing but contempt for the dead. Every Mefite should know that if you kill yourself because of Mefi, I will be the first to pee on your e-grave.
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:10 PM on March 3, 2008

Frodo was wrong.
posted by Artw at 1:11 PM on March 3, 2008

I hope you folks with the contempt for the suicidal will take some time to give some support to the mentally ill and depressed, to help them on the road to recovery.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:13 PM on March 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

remember it was Mercy and Pity that stayed Frodo's hand from killing Gollum!

Yeah, but Gollum bit off Frodo's goddam finger and then died screaming in the fires of Mt. Doom. And we don't know for sure that Frodo's blog wasn't a contributing factor to that.
posted by cortex at 1:18 PM on March 3, 2008 [6 favorites]

well i was trying not to spoiler it! :P But since you brought it up:

Frodo wasnt able to throw the ring into the fire! Gollum ripped his finger off and threw the ring into the fire for him!
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:20 PM on March 3, 2008

By The Grace of God - Wel, yes I do actually. Tedious fuckers that they often are.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I suppose calling them tedious is a healthy way of distancing yourself from the way that they are feeling, so I won't take any offence at it. I'm sure that wiping shit off the incontinent dementia sufferer is tedious and unpleasant as well, but it's a necessary and important act for their dignity and survival. Thanks for supporting the mentally ill.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:25 PM on March 3, 2008

Wow. I hate when I hear something like this about somoene I knew. I haven't worked with Paul in a few years, but knew him as an affable guy who could the king of snark. I don't know the circumstances of why he decided to off himself, but I'm almost positive it wasn't because some ad bloggers weren't saying nice things about him or his management style.
posted by birdherder at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Snark kills, and well. Whenever rats decide to nest near my garden, I just print out a 200+ comment LOLXTIAN thread and leave it between the tomatoes and the cucumbers. It' s the post 9-11 version of the old "spray nicotine on the petunias to kill pests" trick.
posted by bunnytricks at 1:36 PM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I saw this story in several places, but as always, major news outlets just gloss over the details. Has anyone seen the posts by these ad blogs that were calling this executive out directly? I looked around and didn't see much, but then I didn't even know there were blogs about advertising agency news.
posted by mathowie at 1:36 PM on March 3, 2008

I am sad that this guy committed suicide. I'm sad anybody commits suicide. Depression does mess with your head in the fiercest ways, making anything negative seem far bigger and more powerful than it may be. I hope his family finds peace and that he's at rest, somewhere, somehow.

But the internet didn't kill him. He must have been in a vulnerable state, he must have despaired, and he must have been losing perspective, and some bad things happened in his life. Along with or because of these, he must have been suffering from a (perhaps temporary, perhaps not) mental illness. Suicide is rarely a completely rational act; it's something people do when they're not well. Snarking on a blog does not cause suicide.

I felt the same about the very sad New Yorker story about the MySpace-influenced suicide and about a recent PBS show on 'wired teens,' or something like that, that explored the stories of some teenagers who comitted suicide and had been active on the internet, in some cases even discussing their plans. Another girl had fairly established anorexia, and was discussing that on the internet with friends, to the detriment of her health. Another was posting highly sexualized pictures of herself.

In no case was what the kids were involved in, or talking about, new. In no case was it something that never happened before the internet. Teens have been bullied and have encouraged one another in anorexia and have posed for sexy pictures and had icky interactions with adults and bullied others and, yes, killed themselves for a long time. I grew up mostly before the internet; I remember. For quite a long time, people in public life - politicians, celebrities, business leaders - have been the targets of rude, hate-filled, repulsive invective from all sorts of directions and through all sorts of technologies. There's been graffiti insinuating that perfectly nice people have done perfectly repulsive things. There have been character assassination cases in the courts going back to the beginning of the US.

There's nothing new about a decent person becoming the target of criticism or even unwarranted abuse.

The problem is not the internet; in most of these cases, it's isolation and disconnection; the inadequacy of relationships and the social safety net. Parents out of touch with children, their activities, and their friends. Homes in which people don't communicate. Estranged spouses, adults with no appropriate outlets for their feelings. Frustrated dreams and low-self image which isn't getting corrected. Coping skills not addressed. Mental illness which no one notices, or everyone dismisses.

There's no 'brain condom' you can put on when you use the internet -- (or take a job, or walk into the world) -- that will protect you from nasty words. Fortunately for most of us, there is more to people's lives than the internet, and perspective can return when we step away and offset random communications from near-strangers with concrete, longstanding, and meaningful relationships and activities. Parents can counsel wise use, and can cut the connection if need be. Adults can spend time with friends, exercise, engage in hobbies, limit their own exposure to stressful information. Perhaps in this age where online communication is new to many people and they aren't sure how to handle it, teaching interpersonal relationship building, communication skills which apply on and off-line, and better physical and mental self-care will become increasingly necessary.

As desjardins says, words do hurt. They hurt before the internet too, and we have all, always, needed skills for handling the opinions of others. On the one hand, this is the same old social stress as ever. In the past, if all this guy's friends, co-workers, industry pundits, and clients decided to be snarky about him, they'd have done it amongst themselves, in person, and in spoken words, and we would never have the written record of the conversation to see and read so we'd never know how heavily and harshly they spoke. Yet it happened before the internet. It happened to high school students too.

On the other hand, the transgeographic nature of the groups that converse on the internet means that criticism is coming from different quarters, maybe even from people who are less invested and kind of doing a drive-by pile-on. The fact that criticism doesn't have to be delivered face-to-face may encourage people to be harsher.

I'm looking forward to reading a new book called Here Comes Everybody, regarding social communication in the internet age. I caught this interview on On The Media the other day, and thought that this author was really insightful in some ways. But I'm still frustrated at the way we think of the internet as somehow the exception to regular life, rather than becoming one more communications medium through which we live our lives

I'd be curious to look for historical parallels, the introduction of other new technologies, to see what social ills they were thought to have created. What were the accusatory news stories about the telephone? Movies, television? The telegraph? How did people fear they were changing communication, and were their fears borne out? How did society adapt to accommodate the changes? What norms evolved to meet the challenges posed by new versions of communications technology?
posted by Miko at 1:40 PM on March 3, 2008 [14 favorites]

wiping shit off the incontinent dementia sufferer is tedious and unpleasant as well

That's why I'm offing myself if dementia's on the way.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:40 PM on March 3, 2008

Metafilter: Frodo was wrong.
posted by Doohickie at 1:51 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by shmegegge at 2:33 PM on March 3, 2008


I know, there's a lot of irony in them calling out other people for unecessary meanness.
posted by Miko at 3:02 PM on March 3, 2008

They always said that the Snarfs were incapable of evil, that they had escaped with the Thundercats, and their ability to resist mind control was their greatest asset. But ever since I first saw one, I knew that it was just a matter of time before they finally drew blood.

Snarf Snarf indeed...

Oh, wait... you said snark. Shit, never mind.
posted by quin at 3:22 PM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know, there's a lot of irony in them calling out other people for unecessary meanness.

True dat. Also the fact that it's an overpriced rag even though the current street vendor's asking price is a smile and a promise to think kindly of the vendor as you read it.
posted by shmegegge at 3:31 PM on March 3, 2008

If you can't stand the pressure, get a job that contributes to society.

Oooohh. T-shirt material.
posted by eclectist at 3:41 PM on March 3, 2008

JANE HANSEN: So all weekend, it was promo'd and then the Monday night it was on and a few days later, a producer walked in and said that this man had hung himself, and I was speechless. It still really upsets me. It's been 10 years. I think what gutted me the most was that two children were without a father and a wife was without a husband. I didn't feel as though I had a right to talk about how I felt about the story because I wasn't the victim. In everyone's mind, I was the perpetrator.

(Excerpt from "Media Watch", ABC TV- August 1997):
STUART LITTLEMORE: One sordid little entrapment too many and another unremarkable example of "A Current Affair's" mindless succession of bullying righteousness, yields a result they will say they never foresaw. A little man, caught by a cheap deception far worse than anything he was accused of doing, despairs of ever living down the shame and takes his own life.
(End of excerpt)

PETER MEAKIN, FORMER CHANNEL 9 NEWS DIRECTOR: And you can understand the opprobrium that it attracted because it is a big media organisation, with Kerry Packer at the top and one little punter who's running a business, maybe he's cutting a few corners. But it seems like an unequal contest.


*Crooked repair man
*Crooked repair man gets exposed on national teev
*Crooked repair man tops himself

It's a gawd awful show, and I obsoletely loathe the mainstream media 95% of the time, but I really couldn't understand why this woman (the reporter) was hung out to dry.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:47 PM on March 3, 2008

I read AdScam regularly, but I don't read AgencySpy. George Parker (AdScam) goes after everyone, and reading that blog for more than 5 minutes would prove that. If his blog caused suicide, Julie Roehm would be dead 20 times over.

Moving up the agency ladder - especially in creative and account services - requires the ability to ignore/not care about insults tossed your way. Such is life in a soulless industry. There would be plenty of places on the web where people tore apart the campaigns he was responsible for. DDB Chicago was revving up for some serious layoffs, according to AdScam. Could have also been a cause, as Tilley was relatively new to his position and noone wants to be the company hatchet man.

I'm not surprised that there is a campaign afoot to blame it all on the blogs. Makes it easier than examining his life and any possible medical conditions. Things, possibly including the blogs, added up to something in his mind where he saw only one way out. I think for me the sad part of this is that now his family has a permanent record of people insulting someone they cared for and loved (I don't advocate blog censorship, just noting the fact).
posted by Salmonberry at 4:37 PM on March 3, 2008

metafilter:I think that our minds don't easily make the jump to determine the external rareness of a quality or situation if we are immersed in examples of it, because our minds aren't entirely used to the exposure to mass thought and trends which the Internet has introduced into our lives. And, because Google makes it very easy to find many examples of these qualities or situations, it's then easy to assume that those things are far more common than they are. I don't think we were sociologically equipped to be hooked up to each other's beliefs and to handle the combined weight of Internet-scale movements and politically biased memes. The Internet allows that intrinsic incivility -- that Hatred of the Other -- to be both concatenated and ring-led with no lag time or delay.

If I might borrow another net acronym: QFT
posted by Sparx at 4:58 PM on March 3, 2008

"The rich kid becomes a junkie, the poor kid an advertiser. What a tragic waste of potential! (Being a junkie's not so good, either.)"

-- Ron Hitler-Barassi, Humphrey B. Flaubert & company *
posted by maxwelton at 5:25 PM on March 3, 2008

It's weird to think that a few critical postings could force someone to commit suicide. Are we all agreeing that maybe he was mentally ill and should have had treatment/better treatment? Because that's usually what people say when a creative person who is an adult kills himself. A teen committing suicide because of mean blogs and online harassment is understandable because teens who are depressed aren't gifted with a rational mind. They've gone all meta and can literally die of embarrassment because of their myopia (generally because of their lack of experience/exposure to other environments.)

This ad exec just seemed to have been depressed. I heard his dad died a year ago in some tragic way. And who knows if he wasn't experiencing some kind of carefully hidden schizophrenia? He could have been on drugs. People typically don't commit suicide because of a few anonymous posters or an online blog.
posted by onepapertiger at 7:13 PM on March 3, 2008

Also, I kind of think it would be a shame if there wasn't any criticism available for exec level ppl online. I know in PR, these dudes are pretty self-congratulatory, even though they really don't do anything or know anything, especially about their own industry. Someone has to keep them in line and if their posters could have gotten a rational exec to think, "Hmmm...maybe I need to change the way I motivate people" then it would have served a good purpose. This kind of thing doesn't kill normal, rational people. This guy had problems beyond the comments of a few posters and maybe he just couldn't handle it.
posted by onepapertiger at 7:19 PM on March 3, 2008

The controversy reached the upper echelons of the ad agency world, when Nina DiSesa, the chairman of McCann Erickson New York, jumped in to complain about the blogs.

What a great choice of words.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 7:20 PM on March 3, 2008

I want to see some of the offending blog posts.
posted by jayder at 8:22 PM on March 3, 2008

the times weighs in

Here's the New York Times article to which the comments refer in Hat Maui's link above: After Suicide, Blog Insults Are Debated.
posted by ericb at 10:15 PM on March 3, 2008

From ericb's link:

But a colleague and friend of Mr. Tilley’s, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “There’s no way you or I will know why he did this, but it’s certainly not because of blogs.”

“I know it bothered him,” the colleague said, referring to the public criticism. “However, he was very intelligent, with lots of talents and skills, and this was not his whole life. Pointing to blogging and the media just trivializes a man whose life was not trivial.”

posted by Miko at 10:21 PM on March 3, 2008

I felt the same about the very sad New Yorker story about the MySpace-influenced suicide and about a recent PBS show on 'wired teens,' or something like that, that explored the stories of some teenagers who comitted suicide and had been active on the internet...

PBS | Frontline: Growing Up Online [previous MeFi thread]. The MySpace suicide highlighted in the television program (and mentioned in the NYT's article in my previous comment): 13 y.o. Megan Meier [previous MeFi thread].
posted by ericb at 10:24 PM on March 3, 2008

Watched the first episode of Mad Men last night...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:01 AM on March 5, 2008

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