The week begins, and I glance at my phone in bed as the day dawns hoping to see that there is not to see the latest strain of insanity in which people force themselves--with the aid of their ignorance and self-loathing--to create outrage. Today I saw that a reviewer is in trouble because of a review of a Debby Harry memoir that appeared in The Washington Post. I think very little of Debby Harry's music or Blondie's. I think nothing of it. I think it's highly plasticized. Commodity. Not art. It's all surface. There is nothing there emotionally, there is nothing there technically. If a slab of plastic had a sound, it would be this sound. The opening of the review was benign. It echoed these thoughts, expressing them in a less demonstrative, authoritative way. The tone fell back on qualifiers--you might not think this, but there's no denying that, etc.
Out came the outrage from truly sick people. One pinpoints who these sick people are. They are the fake intellectuals of society. People with some education, so much self-hatred, who are so fragile in their sense of self, that a criticism, or, more likely, a failure to be completely fawning, to speak in ridiculous histrionics of worshiping praise, to drool out a fan note and then coat the note in ejaculate or squirt--depending upon one's respective capabilities there--is cause for attacks of full-on hate, endless grandstanding, lecturing, complaints that are so arrogant where people pretend to know how anything works--or should--saying it was a "miss" to assign the piece to someone who was not a fan. And, of course, most people derided the fact--the assumed fact, because these people are lazier than cows sitting on their rears chewing cud--that the reviewer was a man. Obviously. As anyone could tell. That arrogance. Unfunny comment after unfunny comment--what they would call "snark," the lingua franca of of passive aggressive people everywhere--about how obvious it was that a man wrote this.
I couldn't tell. Then again, I'm not ignorant, and I don't hate myself. It doesn't matter if the reviewer is a man or a woman. It doesn't matter if the reviewer is a fan. A fan. What are you, seven? What matters is they are thinking through something without bias. At the minimum. What ought to also matter is the reviewer has an expertise. After that what matters--it's a totem pole--is the people who are the great writers--of which there are basically none now--will have ideas beyond the scope of the putative subject, they will work in language that is at the level of art, which will also communicate directly for various demos, different swaths and strains of audience, that will be ripe fruit for people who think themselves long-versed in that given subject, and just as interesting for people who know nothing about it, or people who dislike it.
The comments bemoan the fact that Harry is an icon. To whom? And so? What does that have to do with appraisal of her book? People in publishing pretend that Joyce Carol Oates is an icon, and she is awful at writing. She is the kind of writer that makes people giggle over how bad she is. But no one says it aloud, or even lets themselves giggle if they are one of the system people, which is the same as being a machine but with a soul, of sorts, of the evil variety. The comments bemoan that she took care of a sick relative or band member or some such. So? Absolutely irrelevant. The comments bemoan that Debby Harry helped someone in the 1970s when they were an insecure girl. So? Absolutely meaningless in this context. That's your stuff. That's not appraisal stuff. That's not "let's evaluate the quality of this prospective reading experience" stuff. That is sickness on your part that you think the one has to do with the other.
We are so arrogant now, because of how unwell we are, that we want to destroy people who don't worship what we want them to worship? Even when they have sound reason for not doing so? When they don't have bias, unlike us? When they have expertise? And the sexism. Who is more hated right now than a man? Of course, the review was written by a woman. These people are so lazy--they only rally to hate, all of their effort in life is in the service of hate--that they couldn't even do a Google search, or think, from the obviously female name, that this was a female. Which, again, doesn't matter.
The person who self-identifies as simple doesn't do this kind of hate. They stay out of these things. Intelligent people do the same. It's the faux-intellectuals. The people who hate their lives because of their shortcomings. Not because they're being held back, not because they're blackballed, not because they deal with real discrimination. They were the people in college you didn't like, who would hold court in the freshman dorm, in their room, putting down what you liked in music, elevating themselves, acting like they were an expert on good beer, putting you down for not knowing Newcastle Brown Ale, which swill. They got older, they stayed the same, they were never anything, they were never going to be anything, and this is what they can be. They can be judge and jury on Twitter. They are impotent in life, and this is what they see as their chance get hard. They pose as experts on everything, but they know nothing about anything. They are fiefdom people. They need to rule a world. It's a tiny world. A tiny world of their own-making. This is all publishing is, for instance. They make the Blondie people look like a collective of Joan of Arcs in their tolerance. And that's why nobody reads. Tiny, ignorant, terrified people need their rings kissed. Any artist with anything to say, is dead on arrival with them. You're just dead. You have no chance with them before the game starts. They hate you. They literally want you dead if you are not like them and have more ability. You have to find a way around them. The more you can impact the world to the good, the more this kind of person is going to need you to be stopped, because as much as they hate themselves, your greatness makes them hate themselves infinitely more.
Their insecurity is perpetual. They cannot see the difference between honest, well-thought out thinking, and an attack against them personally. They attack themselves constantly, ironically. They know what they are. Aren't. They don't think that through on the conscious level. It's worse--it eats them from the inside out on the subconscious level. It's the truth they cannot shut off. They know. They always know. And that they know deep down--not on the surface--is what kills them as they live, which they barely do. They have the words they use--from the modicum of education they scraped together (and education has absolutely nothing to do with college; it is often the opposite of college; it's the effort you put forth, without ceasing, to grow, to put the time in with books, films, music, dance, art, architecture, human bloody nature, thousands and thousands of hours, of your choosing, time, energy, that you max out with the intelligence you were born with, abet with eidetic recall)--that they can roll out the buzz terms, they know the "talking points" style of argument, which means no depth, no insight, no separation of emotion and thought. It means projection, it means "I am going to attack you with my fear because please, God, help me, I am so so so so broken and I can't deal with it, so you deal with this, take this, sucker."
Conversely, what they do want, as they destroy culture and sanity, which is their way of creating a playing field on which they might be "successful"--because they take merit and talent out of the discussion--is an insipid, giant face plant on someone else's rump of a review that is not a review but just a "remember this, oh wow that was so great" and "and this is other thing was so great" and "OMG this was great" and "remember that time when and wasn't that great." That should offend you. Pandering and insipidity should offend you. Because that's usually what you get, and we are such a stupid society now partly as a result. In the history of humanity, we have never thought with less efficacy than at this point. We cannot even handle having a thought, or someone else having one. The very idea of thought offends us, that is how broken we are. Then again, I can see how plastic people like this would be into Blondie. They're never that into it, though. Never that into anything. People like this have no actual interests in life. They are not on Guitars101.com searching for Blondie bootlegs and listening to them on Saturday night and ranking them. They don't care. They never actually care. Ironically, they probably care a lot less than the person who wrote the review. Even if that person is not a fan. And that person could be a huge fan. How the hell would you know?
Have you ever once read anything I've written and thought you knew I was a fan? First of all, I'm not a fan of any other artist. They are people who create work, and I know their work, I might learn things from it, I might become closer to God through it, or whatever one wishes to call something beyond us, but they are my competition. I stopped being a fan a long, long time ago, of any artist. I'm a Red Sox fan. Sports are not consequential. That's diversionary. I would imagine that ninety percent of these people who bust out the digital torches, have not partook of the subject they are puling about in years. I think they are exemplars of vapidity who stare at their phones, binge what they feel they need to binge on Netflix, and always cut intellectual corners. I think they subsist on headlines and Twitter. I think that is as rigorous as their thinking ever gets. I don't think they think, "Shit, I can't believe I haven't read Shelby Foote's Civil War histories, I'll start that this weekend," or "man, it's messed up I don't know Billie Holiday's Decca sides, time to remedy that." I think their entire lives are predicated on hunting for things to pretend to be offended by so they can feel some relief from their self-hate. Cue the buzz words, cue the talking points style of argument, cue the projection, cue the death of thought, culture, sanity, society, decency, civil behavior.
If you are intelligent, and you write a review saying that Blondie, or Debby Harry, the record the band made, the book the singer wrote, is an all-time work of art, I would love to read it. I want to see your art. I don't have to agree with it. Maybe I would. But if I didn't, and if your words pushed me even further away from your subject, I could still enjoy what you wrote for what it was. That's not limiting--it could be the best thing I've ever read. I could reread it annually. But that's about the exchange of art and ideas, not about what these people do.