This week's Longreads Member pick is "The American Nonconformist in the Age of the Commercialization of Dissent,"
a 1992 essay by Thomas Frank
from The Baffler
, the magazine he cofounded with Keith White in 1988.
"In republishing this bit of juvenilia from 1992—my very first exploration of an idea that I reworked and reconsidered a number of times over the years that followed—it is worth remembering some of the context. This was before the web, for the most part; it was right about when 'alternative' was beginning to hit the culture, and a lot of the stuff I describe here was new and surprising at the time. Today, of course, most of it seems utterly unremarkable, so far has what I used to call the commercialization of dissent advanced. It's not something I really even think about anymore, except for the most outrageous iterations—like the ski helmet I bought last week, a model called 'Mutiny' by 'R.E.D.' And even then I'm too exhausted to bother belaboring the ironic contrast of this bragging rebelliousness with the millionairiest sport there is. I'm off to even more ironic fields. See you there."
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PUBLISHED: Jan. 4, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2897 words)
A critical look at the political newspaper and website Politico:
"One classic method of unleashing irresistible Drudge bait on the Internet is to boil another outlet’s story down to a couple salacious-sounding excerpts, or (failing an effective condensing strategy) to simply reinterpret the material to fit a Drudge-friendly narrative. This past May, for example, Vanity Fair published an excerpt from Maraniss’s biography of Barack Obama. (The liberal media vetting blackout continued apace, in other words.) Politico’s Dylan Byers took the excerpt and turned it into a little micro-news story: Obama admitted to Maraniss that certain figures in his first memoir were 'compressions'—i.e., composite characters. Byers completely missed that Obama explicitly said at the outset of his own book that some characters were composites, but Drudge didn’t care. 'Obama Admits Fabricating Girlfriend in Memoir,' went his headline, with a link to Politico instead of Vanity Fair—and another false right-wing meme got its wings."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 5, 2012
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6530 words)
Why the sudden proliferation of "vibrant" communities in the United States? And what does it even mean?
"Is Rockford, Illinois, vibrant? Oh my god yes: according to a local news outlet, the city’s 'Mayor’s Arts Award nominees make Rockford vibrant.' The Quad Cities? Check: As their tourism website explains, the four hamlets are 'a vibrant community of cities sharing the Mississippi River in both Iowa and Illinois.' Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? Need you even ask? Pittsburgh is a sort of Athens of the vibrant; a city where dance parties and rock concerts enjoy the vigorous boosting of an outfit called 'Vibrant Pittsburgh'; a place that draws young people from across the nation to frolic in its 'numerous hip and vibrant neighborhoods,' according to a blog maintained by a consortium of Pittsburgh business organizations.
"The vibrations are just as stimulating in the component parts of this exciting new civilization. The people of creative-land use vibrant apps to check their bank accounts, chew on vegetarian 'vibrancy bars,' talk to one another on vibrant cellphones, and drive around in cars painted 'vibrant white.'"
PUBLISHED: July 16, 2012
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4121 words)