Buzzfeed started a new vertical two days ago called “Ideas.” The introduction is not very promising. It reads like someone who does not have any ideas trying to have one. At first I thought it was an April Fools joke, but no. First sentence:
There’s no other time in history I envy compared with the present.
I am tired of reading pieces that begin with personal preference or feeling (and I’m not contradicting myself when I say that), but it is particularly out of place here. Who cares what you envy, like, loathe, distrust. Let’s focus on ideas, shall we?
“Mass communication” has finally become more practice than product, and the confrontation between those who once directed the mainstream and those disserved by it has never been more possible.
Not mass communication but “mass communication,” and what does it mean that the “confrontation”—is that the right word?—between mainstream media and those “disserved by it” (conservatives?) has “never been more possible”? I understand what I’m supposed to feel here—Buzzfeed is doing something new and it’s going to be interesting (process over product!)—I’m just not sure what this sentence means.
The public sphere now means a larger, more empowered public, and no new venture will survive without appreciating that fact. I’m proud to helm a project that isn’t suspicious of this shift.
Since this is going to be an ideas section, let’s investigate this one: Is the “public sphere” now “larger” and “more empowered”? What is “the public sphere”? Are people on Twitter and with individual blogs part of “the public sphere”? And are people—all people or just Americans?—generally more “empowered”? Or does the ability to readily share our opinions on Twitter and Facebook simply make us feel more empowered?
The category of writing broadly referred to as criticism was once just how a select few determined canon. It’s now a genre revitalized by a cultural shift toward conversation. And the angle with the most longevity on any topic is always the one that aims beyond the last word. That’s the difference between Ideas and the next cycle of think pieces: a valuation of inquiry that builds — not just reacts.
Let’s start with a false distinction borrowed from a local undergraduate literary theory class (once “a select few determined canon” but now the canon is determined by a wide variety of identity theorists), followed by another vaguely hopeful assertion (criticism is “a genre revitalized”!) and a muddled take home: Buzzfeed “Ideas” is going to publish angles that aim “beyond the last word” (and in language!) because these pieces last the longest. So, ideas and traffic, but mostly traffic.
This is a rather harsh reading of the introduction, and I considered toning it down, but I decided not to because good ideas that are clearly expressed are important, though they are rarely popular, at least initially. Perhaps it will surprise me, but based on its introduction, Buzzfeed’s new section looks to be more interested in the simulacrum of thought and in the polishing of dull clichés than in actual thinking.