Being snarky (a MeFi homecourt advantage)
January 5, 2009 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Snarky indeed: An interesting review of New Yorker magazine writer David Denby's book, Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation, from New York Magazine. MeFites might feel right at home.
posted by Seekerofsplendor (53 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Insulting us will NOT make for a better FPP...
posted by HuronBob at 10:44 AM on January 5, 2009

Has anyone registered yet? *runs to GoDaddy*
posted by Parannoyed at 10:46 AM on January 5, 2009

I have an idea for an animated TV show. It's called The Snarks. It's sarcastic underwater Smurfs.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2009 [7 favorites]

Denby's book sounds terrible, but this review is idiotic.
And here's my opportunity to point out that Denby is one of the worst mainstream film critics writing today - it's amazing how consistently he misses the point of good films, and how often he lauds terrible ones.
posted by ghastlyfop at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2009

You can have my snark when you pry it out of my cold, dead keyboard.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:54 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by Muddler at 10:55 AM on January 5, 2009

To me, this quote points to the questionable nature of the article's premise:

Now, you could calmly point out Denby’s lazy generalization as he reimagines a time of widespread inequality as an idyllic epoch of snappy-pattered togetherness. Or you could respond, “Denby, you dumbass, not only were we not all in the same boat, we weren’t even at the same water fountains.” Sometimes the snarky response is the correct response.

Is the snarky response better in this case? If so, why? These are honest questions, not snark. Or are they?!?
posted by nosila at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2009

posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2009

posted by GuyZero at 10:57 AM on January 5, 2009

...given the fact that Denby has a track record of authoring some of the most blisteringly snarky film reviews I've ever read (honestly, he devotes more column space to movies he hates, just out of the sheer joy of eviscerating them)....he's an interesting one to be writing this.
posted by availablelight at 10:57 AM on January 5, 2009

The first difficulty of writing about snark is that you have to define snark. This proves consistently tricky, no less so for Denby. His definition is a tap dance on hot coals, as he mostly tells us what snark is not. It’s not irreverence or spoof or satire. It’s not Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or Keith Olbermann. It’s not irony, at least not irony as exemplified by “the sharpened blade of Swift.” “Snark is like a schoolyard taunt without the schoolyard,” he writes. “Snark is hazing on the page.” Basically, Denby argues that snark is humor as a vehicle for cruelty.

I think he's confusing snark with lulz.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:57 AM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


is that snark? is it? is it?
posted by lunit at 10:59 AM on January 5, 2009

I think he's confusing snark with lulz.

I need some sort of Venn diagram or taxonomy to keep irreverence, spoof, satire, irony, taunts, hazing, humour, snark and lulz straight. This is very confusing and is totally harshing my snark buzz.
posted by GuyZero at 11:09 AM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

MetaFilter: the best fans a culture could hope to produce
posted by furtive at 11:16 AM on January 5, 2009

I recall David Denby screaming that Batman and Robin would mark the end of Western Civilization. [And since he's read the Great Books - which I know because he told us so - that was obviously an important matter to him.] This was a few years after he had screamed that Cobra would mark the end of Western Civilization.

[checks on Western Civilization]

Hmm. Still there.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2009

Whenever I see one of these articles, written by people who effectively exist outside the communities where these phenomena occur, I'm reminded of a Terry Pratchett quote from "The Truth":
Mr. Pin hated the sight of Charlie trying to be clever. It was like watching a dog try to play the trombone.
Seeing David Denby (one of the most thoroughly cloistered of the Inviolate Order Of New York Times Aesthetes) try to write about snark is a quintessential dog-trombone moment: he's like a particularly bad amateur lepidopterist squinting at a butterfly while fumbling with his book and magnifying glass.
posted by scrump at 11:26 AM on January 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

Here's a counterpoint: In defense of David Denby.
posted by aldurtregi at 11:27 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hmm. Still there.

Only a facade, Sylvester Stallone has eaten away the foundations.
posted by JHarris at 11:28 AM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Denby on snark is like Cicero on the best values at Macy's.

I hate David Denby. How's that for snark?

This would be the guy who wrote an ode to the great books and the mistaken premise that all college students must read the same canon of Western Snivelization Meisterwerks, and even went through Great Books bootcamp (the Columbia University core curriculum, such as it is).

And then in 2005 he published *American Sucker,* in which we learn that after writing *Great Books,* he descended into an addiction to internet pornography, gambling problems and debts, stock speculation that cost him every cent, and the end of his marriage.

So much for the moral value of the Great Books, huh Denby?

Now THAT'S snark.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:31 AM on January 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Snark is preferable to sarcasm, although there is a lot of crossover.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:31 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: "a nasty, knowing strain of abuse spreading like pinkeye through the national conversation."
posted by applemeat at 11:32 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

The first difficulty of writing about snark is that you have to define snark.

That occurred to me some time back, and though I believe I better understand what "snark" is, I tend to avoid using the word. I find it kind of like the term "cool", which is a great word, except that its meaning is hazy and very much dependent on the outlook of the person saying it.

Years ago, I remember tittering when I read A.J. Ayer refer to terms that appear to be genuinely meaningful yet are really just emotional expressions as "ejaculations"...
posted by Tube at 11:36 AM on January 5, 2009

He may be right, because we don't know what the effects of snark might be. Nobody in all of human history was ever pithily sarcastic prior to circa 2005. We only have about 3 years worth of data. What could we be dumping into the noosphere?
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whatever happened to just being a dick?
posted by The Straightener at 11:45 AM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

we learn that after writing *Great Books,* he descended into an addiction to internet pornography, gambling problems and debts, stock speculation that cost him every cent

The royalties from Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation should put him back on his feet. Amirite?
posted by Joe Beese at 11:51 AM on January 5, 2009

I agree with Eminem when he says that all he is doing is giving the entire world what we would joke about in our living rooms. People have always said crass or rude things, but now they say them where everyone can see them, both on their own on the internet and through corporate sponsored mass media, which has to compete with individuals on the internet for attention. It used to be that Eminem would never have been allowed to say what he says on MTV; but that was before MTV decided to compete with underground skate videos of burnouts doing semi-illegal things by buying them out and packaging them as Jackass.

The attitude that allows someone to treat the entire world as if it was their living room represents a huge shift in our culture. As the individual's ability to reach huge crowds of people grows exponentially faster our world gets harder and harder to censor. I'm not saying this is a good or a bad thing. All I'm doing is trying to connect the dots: people's everyday lives on youtube. People's sex lives on porntube. Eminem slurring gay people. People on the internet being sarcastic. People have always had boring conversations and cats have always done cute photogenic things and people have always had sex and there have always been people willing to say extreme things to get attention and there are always going to class-clowns who tear down instead of build up. Whats new is that it seems more and more that these people expect these actions to be put in a pedastel or be rewarded for their efforts. But there's no simple conclusion you can draw from that fact, however, because in the deluge of attention seekers some will reward you with entertaining works.

I kind of wish this article had seen the forest for the trees: the rise of snark is as much as anything a byproduct of us all moving into glass houses. After all, your computer is in your living room and you can sit in your underwear in front of it if you want, but its also a portal to the world where you can speak out or let people sneak a peek in. I've always said bitchy things - its just now I let random strangers hear them without first knowing whether or not they'll understand my sense of humor.

But then again, if this article had seen the forest for the trees, it would have just been another "Boy youtube sure is making wacky waves!" article, and who needs another one of those?
posted by Kiablokirk at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2009 [7 favorites]

Well, apparently it's not ruining our conversation. Not altogether at least.
posted by thebergfather at 11:58 AM on January 5, 2009

@HuronBob: Insulting us will NOT make for a better FPP....

My post has quickly generated some good and creatively realized points and give-and-take regarding Denby (known mostly as a film critic), his concept of snark (or non-concept) and a few good links. That was the point of it. It was not "insulting" in the least, was definitely not meant that way -- and as one can easily see on this page, MeFites did not take it that way either. They're good folks.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 12:00 PM on January 5, 2009

Meh = off-handed dismissal; apathy
Lulz = more personal definition than snark, it seems
being a dick = frat / jock territory (little or no humor included)
snark = when done well, it can be a biting critique. Or it can be a bit above being a dick, depending on how it's done (and how it's received)

MetaFilter: Snark²
posted by filthy light thief at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

The attitude that allows someone to treat the entire world as if it was their living room represents a huge shift in our culture.

I don't agree. You're basing this assumption on an (incorrect, in my mind) earlier one - all [Eminem] is doing is giving the entire world what we would joke about in our living rooms.

It's a much more simple, classic case of people emulating their idols. If you think he's just riffing and we're all on an equivalent footing and nobody idolizes Eminem, you're sorely mistaken. Youth, especially, are taking their cues from people in positions of power and authority. What's actually changed is that this inappropriate behaviour and/or viewpoint has been given more voice and has been legitimized, to some extent, by its presence in the mainstream media.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:03 PM on January 5, 2009

I should add to the above that Eminem ≠ random Joe on YouTube. You're referring to two different (and opposing) concepts in media - that of the mainstream corporate-driven Eminem vs the user-driven YouTube stuff.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:14 PM on January 5, 2009

Fatuous, vain, and full of malarkey
Denby is dull as he can be
Better an army of soldiers of snark
Than a priesthood of namby pamby
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:20 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

snark is a style on the runway of life
snark is unAmerican
to snark is your patriotic duty
don't suck on my puppy and tell me it's snark
posted by binturong at 12:31 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Kiablokirk, well said. It's not just The Greater Internet F**kwad Theory, but lessened self-censorship in general. Internet handles serve to remove most real-world repercussions, but your actions can still be tracked back to you by possible employers who care to look.

jimmythefish - I think Kiablokirk's Eminem reference meant that Eminem is doing nothing more than public saying what we're privately thinking. He is idolized by some, and maybe those idol worshipers are being more vocal with their thoughts now, but it's a lot easier to call someone "teh gayzor" on the internet than to their face.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:37 PM on January 5, 2009

regarding Denby (known mostly as a film critic)...

Known mostly - by me at least - as a film critic for the same New York magazine that's panning his book. [He didn't "move uptown" until the mid-90s.]

That New York didn't disclose this former relationship - one that could easily sour them on him - is Not Very Nice.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:42 PM on January 5, 2009

One aspect that I didn't see in the thread on snark's definition is the apparent desire of the snark-er to appear witty. This may not necessarily be a part of the definition, but seems to have been a present in every person I've heard described as 'snarky'.

It seems to be an important addendum, as it undermines Sternbergh's notion that snark is merely just another response to a world of ever-increasing bullshit. To point out that someone is being nonsensical through a witty or ironic remark, even if it is (somewhat?) biting, seems fine, and even laudable; but to do so, in an effort to be 'cool' or perform for an audience, at another's expense, is a dick move.

I should also point out that tone is kind of important in communication channels - if, in the public sphere, there's generally a tone of charitable attribution, people are more willing to communicate. Without the fear of (unjustifiably, maliciously) being made to look like a jerk.
posted by furious_george at 12:44 PM on January 5, 2009

Here's a counterpoint: In defense of David Denby.

And a mighty fine counterpoint it is. To quote liberally:

Denby does not, contrary to Sternbergh’s claims, argue that snark is “humor as a vehicle for cruelty.” Denby states at the beginning that he’s “all in favor of nasty comedy, incessant profanity, trash talk, any kind of satire, and certain kinds of invective.” [and] believes that good satire involves praising “some corresponding set of virtues, even if only by implication.” And in Sternbergh’s view, it is the “acid-tongued readers” who constantly complain that present “the best fans a culture could hope to produce.” While sarcasm and vituperation certainly have their place, and can be exceptionally potent qualities when a writer wishes to pursue a larger truth, I must again side with Denby here. Is it really “passion” that drives a writer or a commentator who is always sour? Or is there really nothing more than bitter resentment? What is the point of nothing more than nimble flayings if you are not fighting for something better?

Sternbergh was once part of Fametracker and Television Without Pity, two sites that you could argue forged the current mode of snark. It's not surprising that he wouldn't agree. It's not even surprising that he can't mount a good argument. There's nothing wrong with satire or skepticism, but much of what passes for "snark" is just an ever present cynicism, where argument or analysis is replaced by a lazy anomie. It's a striving for coolness: I'm too smart to like any of this, and here's a cutting remark to show how above this I am. Zing!

No one is saying that every comment or review has to be insightful or try to find something positive. (That way lies over-analysis.) But when you see reviewers or forums (e.g. TWoP, as above) that continually try to top themselves with each layer of hyperbolic invective ("My eyes! My eyes!"), with each rhetorical call to the crowd ("Why do I keep watching this crap?"), each lazy catch-phrase ("Worst. Show. Ever."), you have to conclude that either the subjects are deeply ill (for who would keep subjecting themselves repeatedly to something they so disliked?) or that they are simply lying. Actually, they are fascinated by television. Actually, they are deeply envious of celebrities. Actually, they have no arguments, no analysis, only insults. To cite again:

[...] one is likewise struck by Sternbergh’s unwillingness to give Tom Cruise the benefit of the doubt. I’m certainly no Tom Cruise fan, but I’m not such a jaded bastard to view Cruise as a total enemy incarnate ... Cruise has certainly made an ass of himself jumping on Oprah’s couch and the like. But like Denby, I’ve never met the guy. And I probably never will. For all I know, we might get along. What I can address is Tom Cruise’s strengths and failings as an actor. That is within the legitimate realm of public discourse, because that is my relationship with Tom Cruise. [...] But what contribution does describing Cruise as “a smaller, yappy version of Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator” make to public discourse? How does it help us to understand Tom Cruise? [...] But what merit or thought do such descriptions have when we are considering thoughts and ideas? None whatsoever.

And here's the problem - when snark masquerades as something else. As insightful comment, as analysis, as review, even as humour. There's a lot of it about. It's not new, but the internet has made it worse, and we could do with less of it.

(And buried in the comments is another gem: Thanks for furthering my premise that much of the new use of communications only serve a narcissistic function.)
posted by outlier at 12:49 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

People have always snarked. But now, instead of mumbling to themselves or perhaps shouting at the television set, they can have their words out there for all to read. What some people think was "polite conversation" was really just lack of a communications channel.
posted by tommasz at 1:16 PM on January 5, 2009

Ed Champion is a blowhard. Who the fuck is he to tell "public discourse" what's "legitimate" or not? Public discourse does its thing whatever you try to tell it, and, as you can see, it's not Denby's thing. All his appeals to communitarianism or whatever are just make-believe ideals, empty words that translate into precisely nothing in reality. Snark is necessary as a prophylaxis against posturing idiots.

As for Juvenal and the distinction between good satire and snark, it is clear the former's chief qualifying characteristic is that it's old. How appropriate for an armchair-rocking, finger-wagging old poseur. Read the London Spy (1709) for some real snark.
posted by nasreddin at 1:39 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Jimmythefish: I'm not denying that Eminem's a celebrity; that would clearly be facetious. Nor am I denying that he should be a celebrity; that's a completely unrelated debate which I have no particular interest in. No, I'm actually using the quote in the context in which Eminem used it: he wasn't saying "hey, I'm just a regular joe", he was saying "I've gotten a lot of flack for using words like "faggot", but that's crazy because everybody says "faggot", and I'm just the guy whose willing to say it publically."

The reason why I think that's relevant is that I think that quote exemplifies the way that people have started to treat the whole world like its their living room. On the face of it, Eminem's quote is absurd because he knows he's not in someone's living room - he's making a cd, which his record company intends to publicize as much as it can, and he's making a video for mtv, etc. etc. But he made the decision to pretend as if recording that cd was no different than standing around and goofing with his friends, where there would be no reason to expect a backlash. Although in one sense its the opposite of youtube, it's of the same spirit: people in youtube are in their living room, pretending they're on the world's stage; Eminem is on the world stage, trying to get people to think he's in their living room. Either way, the boundry between what should be said publically and what should be said privately is being conflated and possibly even erased. It doesn't matter whether I'm putting a home sex tape out there or making a commercial sex tape for people to watch in their homes, I'm still inviting people to observe and partake in something that is generally thought to be very private.

And its that boundry between public polite speech and private speech which is, for me, at the heart of a discussion about snark. One of the biggest things about snark is that, before the internet, a lot of the time when people talked shit behind someones back, it didn't necessarily get back to them because it was done behind closed doors. Or if it did get back to them, there was at least a little bit of a chance to save face, because while its bad to have someone talk trash about you, having disrespectful things said directly to your face is a far greater insult. But the internet doesn't have closed doors. Even if what I'm saying is basically meant just for you, everyone on the internet can read it. Everyone can google themselves. Privacy lines are being redrawn. What troubles me about snark, then, is the way that so often it comes in the Eminem variety: people said something quite publically that, quite frankly, would have been better left in private. I have no problem, for example, with individuals insulting Britney Spears in private, or discussing which celebrities they want to have sex with, but when you start floating through the internet and see all the hatred Britney gets or the sheer amount of sleazy comments made about female celebrities, I start to feel pretty sickened by the overt misogyny of the average American.

But I as much as I find this unwieldy and often distasteful, it is what it is. I'm not going to stand here and say that I've never enjoyed pornography, or never laughed at a youtube video, or said disrespectful and snarky things on the internet myself, but I'm also not going to deny that 90% of everything, especially 90% of the internet, is crap. All I wanted to do was to point out that underneath the subject matter of this particular article was a central philosophical issue which had been basically ignored by the author.
posted by Kiablokirk at 1:51 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have no problem, for example, with individuals insulting Britney Spears in private, or discussing which celebrities they want to have sex with, but when you start floating through the internet and see all the hatred Britney gets or the sheer amount of sleazy comments made about female celebrities, I start to feel pretty sickened by the overt misogyny of the average American.

Oh, are your sensibilities offended, you poor man? Here, let me get you some smelling salts.

Public vulgarity is a tradition as old as prostitution. Pompeii graffiti. You just think history was full of genteel Jane Austen characters who fainted at the mention of underwear, because your past has been sanitized by paternalistic communitarians. You'd be honestly surprised at how much vulgarity the average person in, say, eighteenth-century France had to put up with. One of the most popular pamphlets of the pre-revolutionary period, for instance, dealt with how an aristocratic lady obtained a precious heirloom scepter and used it "for playing with her cat." (i.e. as a dildo). The rest were on a similar level.
posted by nasreddin at 1:57 PM on January 5, 2009

People who look solely at the words, and not the intent behind them, will forever be chasing their tails.
posted by Dark Messiah at 2:18 PM on January 5, 2009

It seems the New York Mag reviewer is saying if Snark is used correctly it is okay.
However, I rarely see it being used 'correctly'.
I often just see a lot of smart ass responses from people who enjoy being ironic and above it all without engaging in real conversation

[Note I don't see snark at MeFi much. But on YouTube it's bad and Politco is unreadable].

The real problem, I believe, comes from the way comments are so impersonal that they can be used in an amazingly mean, nasty and offensive way. Many offending or snarky commenters forget there are actual people on the receiving end of internet comment insults. And so all too often commenters on blogs are tearing into one another in ways they never would in real life face to face.

So while I agree that public vs. private speech is an interesting issue [it can be refreshing to hear what people really think] there is also - appendended to that - this other monster out there that is indeed mean spirited in ways that spoil the conversation.

So far, I side with Denby a bit. Although I guess we have to agree on what snark really is, first.
posted by Rashomon at 2:44 PM on January 5, 2009

snark is one of the stupidest neologisms in recent history. Sure, it's a portmanteau of "snide remark," but it's grown way past that. Now it represents any kind of sarcasm, cynicism, or cutting wit. It's getting like the frickin Smurfs in here. "You snarky snarked my snark, snarkly!" Christ, give it a rest, people. We get it, you discovered this site called "urbandictionary" and it has shown you the way to instant internet cred. Now do us all a favor and look into finding an urbanthesaurus.
posted by Eideteker at 3:30 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thank you for the constructive feedback, Eideteker. Though some might say you've just helped prove a point, by basically ignoring all of the discussion re: the nuances involved (that 'snarky' is used only for a certain subset of sarcastic / ironic / cynical remarks) in order to make a semi-witty, but mostly just insulting, comment.
posted by furious_george at 4:08 PM on January 5, 2009

Snarkasm - pretending to care enough about David Denby to damn him with faint praise.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:57 PM on January 5, 2009

Snark is the bastard child of Snidely Whiplash and Oscar Wilde. It is not vulgar, mean, and ruining conversation. It is post-modern self-referential deconstructionist ironic commentary with literary allusions. And it feels good.
posted by binturong at 6:41 PM on January 5, 2009

I use snark a lot. I love it. But at some point, really, I loathe snark. I feel it keeps us from being able to express genuine things. We want to go for the quick joke, to get that feel of satisfaction from it, at the expense of perhaps listening more carefully, or trying to understand more deeply.

Think of various (I don't have any citations here, bear with me) FFPs here where the first or second comment is snark about the topic (I've been guilty of that myself). Often, the snark snowballs, until the post, which could have sparked some kind of interesting conversation, turns into a long list of snarkier than thouisms. Or, other posts where the snark doesn't gain a foothold, and people manage to create that discussion.

Like I said, I use snark, a lot. I enjoy it. At the same time, I miss being able to be earnest without mockery. In some ways, I'll go along with the Eminem sentiment, though just a bit differently. It's true, the things we now feel inclined to say in public are the things we used to say in our living rooms, our dorm rooms. Now we feel we can say it in public, online, wherever. And the problem with that is that the things we are saying, quite often, are things assholes and dicks would say. Twenty years ago, likely the response to some of the things we joke about would have been stunned silence (yes, in 18th century France, people were vulgar, I'm talking about living memory). Now, it's a race towards oneupsmanship.

Snark has allowed us, and the culture as a whole, to be assholes in public. It's not always awful, sometimes there's wit to the comment. Other times, it's crap you read on Gawker. The problem is, there's a lot more of the crap than there is of the wit.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:34 PM on January 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

There might not be much to Denby's book, I'm certainly not planning on picking up a copy. But Sternbergh doesn't make any kind of a case.

"Snark is not a honk of blasé detachment; it’s a clarion call of frustrated outrage."

Who is he kidding? This doesn't match my experience at all. The vast majority of the snark I've read can be best described as someone seizing the opportunity to be an asshole. Rarely do I think that some wounded idealist is shouting truth to power with a little extra pizzazz.


"...any visitor to Television Without Pity, or similar snarky fan sites, can see that its acid-tongued readers are the best fans a culture could hope to produce— informed, demanding, passionate."

Does he actually believe this? If the rest of the review wasn't such a mediocrity, I'd take "best fans a culture could hope to produce" as a signal that it was parody.

And Denby's Hall of Shame is on the money.
posted by BigSky at 8:57 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I remember when I was around 14, I decided that the New Yorker was maybe the greatest magazine ever. I read every single word, in every single issue, and did my best to store to memory all the references I didn't get, and places I had never been.

After the better part of a year, I finally admitted to myself that, while it was a pretty great magazine, the film reviews were, without a doubt, un-great. After another few weeks, I bunched up my courage, and mentioned this to my dad. It was a heavy subject, speaking out to question something which I had previously placed in high regard, both vocally and numerously. I was setting myself up to admit failure if I was right *or* if I was wrong. But I pressed on, and broached this weighty of subjects.

My dad laughed, and said that they had been terrible for as long as he could remember. His first date with my mom, he said, was to a movie that had been highly reviewed in the New Yorker, and turned out to be so disturbingly gruesome and brutal and pornographic, that they almost never had a second date.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:39 PM on January 5, 2009

Oh, why not? I can cut up with the best of 'em, but have for some time thought that the snarkification of America is not a great thing.

People above have been thoughtful and articulate in relating/capturing some of the feelings that have been rattling around in my head.

Can too often feel like too many people have seen [insert your favorite comedian's name here] and decide to pepper their speech/Internet writings with what they perceive to be clever comments, to be just like [favorite comedian].

Beyond individuals, things like the TWOP examples, guy-like as it might be to relate a sports-related example, it long-ago seemed like ESPN had relatively few snarky sportscasters. Chris Berman was one of 'em and he was good at it in terms of what he said, how often he had a go at it. As one might expect, more people tried to do it, more people tried to do it more often, more people tried to be even snarkier.

To each their own and maybe I've aged outta their primary-target demographic, woulda adored it when I was 25 or so, but I used to catch SportsCenter often enough and enjoy it. These days, it strikes me as snarked out to a point of being darn near unwatchable.
posted by ambient2 at 1:38 AM on January 6, 2009

Or you could respond, “Denby, you dumbass, not only were we not all in the same boat, we weren’t even at the same water fountains.” Sometimes the snarky response is the correct response.

If the first three words of this response were removed, it would be far more potent than inflammatory. As it is, I can practically hear Sternbergh shrieking OH SNAP! and see him high-fiving himself.

I don't know how anyone can make a case that snark is not mean and not personal by prefacing his counterargument with "Denby, you dumbass." As soon as you start calling your opponent a dumbass/dipshit/etc. you're clearly no longer trying to make a statement that's more "correct" than his; you're trying to prove you're better than the guy you're putting down. Which, ironically, makes you look insecure in your own truth, and makes me tend to listen harder to the other guy.
posted by cirocco at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2009

The Hunting of the Snark. Been done before.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:07 PM on January 6, 2009

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