The Internet is apparently becoming sincere. We have to stop it. Is it too late? What can we do? If no one answers me I'll see you in hell.
Okay, team, I think we really solved something here! Good Branch.
I've found myself really struggling in my work recently with my latent twin impulses towards sincerity and earnestness. Unchecked, my urge to sincerity turns quickly into hectoring, and even Greenwaldism. I feel that all that I can do is be vigilant—and judicious with the DELETE button. Freedom from sincerity starts with each of us.
I do feel like it speaks volumes about our moment though that for every cultural commentary celebrating the rise of a New Sincerity an equal and opposite missive hits the internet bemoaning the pervasive scorge of irony. As if dialectic no longer happens in a temporal sequence but now unfolds simultaneously with the occasion of its own sublation. (Or something.)
Leave Hitch alone. What we have to do is to go back to Sunday, December 27, 1997 and stop a certain weblog author from injecting sincerity into the heretofore snark & research only Internet. Blogger wrote:
"My months and days are waves of emotions. When they interact with the waves of other people, they harmonize or dissonate. I filter frequencies out of certain waves and allow others to resonate. I'm even planning a musical composition where I graph my moods on a scale, for one year, and use those graphs as sound waves that make up instruments. In my life, I aim for a low frequency and moderate amplitude"
Am I right? My dear Paul Ford we learned it by watching YOU!
As Choire rightly links, thoughtcatalog.com is sort of an ur-text of "Internet Sincere." A lot (not all) of the writing is bad; even the about page is pretty bad. ("7. Our content is always vetted and [most of the time] edited.") And yet I feel TERRIBLE about making fun of it.
I do wonder if we could judge the sincerity of a text by the quality of its markup. Per Wikipedia: 'According to one popular explanation, dishonest sculptors in Rome or Greece would cover flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer; therefore, a sculpture "without wax" would mean honesty in its perfection.' In Latin sine = without, cera = wax.
Using HTML entities rather than proper encoding is the wax of today. Choire. you're in the clear. Paul, the hole grows deeper.
Sorry I'm on a phone and I keep accidentally the whole thing.
Anyway sincerity is bad because sincere people are fanatics and bullies and we fear to tell them anything that contradicts their beliefs not because we'd feel bad hurting their feelings but because they are scary. We fear what they might do if challenged.
Whereas an ironic view includes the recognition that things might be different, that what you say might not be what you mean, what you mean might not be right, and it's probably not so important anyway. Irony is humanism.
Which probably doesn't have that much to do with what the question at hand but I've wanted to write that down somewhere for a while so there it is, suckers.
It also occurs to me that if David Foster Wallace was one of the finest ironists of any age but is today best known for questioning irony as a mode and rhetorical approach, then Paul Ford might be the anti-Wallace. Aren't you just fundamentally a sincere guy, Paul, who is secretly concerned that one day you're going to snap and send millions of your countrymen the the killing fields? Isn't THAT really the root of all your pearl-clutching about excess niceness?
Katie, not to burst any bubbles, but that's exactly what I intend to do.
The fact is, none of us will ever really make it in this strange new hellrealm of sincere weirdos. Our best bet is retreating to the internet, where we can find like-minded misanthropes to perform ritualistic Meta Trolls™ with.
More tips like this can be found in my limited run Dessication Cookbook (look for the aisle flooded with vomit at your local Barnes & Noble).
WOAH WOAH WOAH. I'm the one doing the trolling here! But, please do that.
Meanwhile, I've been googling all day looking for a poststructuralist takedown of Homeland. There isn't one. But I think the fact that it so closely mimics 24 undermines any feminist value that is earned by Claire Danes' characters. And to be frank I think she's a pretty flimsy character.
I'm sincerely troubled that I enjoy that show as much as I do, even though it's so obviously the product of a neoconservative worldview. N+1 calls it political escapism, but I'm not sure that's going far enough.
Searching "Gayatri Spivak twitter" offers me only feminist hulk results.
The Paula Pell/Alec Baldwin podcast is wonderful.
To eliminate sincerity, we first need to truly understand it. So perhaps it would be educational to hear from somebody (me) that achieved sincerity many years ago, when I moved to Brooklyn. It didn't seem like a sacrifice or a risk at the time, I just asked myself: do I want to do something that makes me happy to wake up? Culturally, it was draining. It's challenging to talk about these deep, existential things without sounding clichéd, but at the end of the day, clichés exist because they're true. That's how we contribute to the world. I think you need to be a little in love with the reality of your own life in order to produce beautiful and meaningful and sincere things. The other thing is that I love books
Is anyone else having trouble with this conversation on what appears to be a deeply sincere platform? I mean this fucking text area is quoting Freeman Dyson at me, and right below it's asking if I know anyone who can "add a unique perspective." To the right I'm told to "Be casual." I feel like I should be wearing chinos at a technology marketing conference here.
On the question of what we can do to stop sincerity, I've always tried to practice what I would call Radical Not Giving a Shit or "The New Whatever." Basically as Paul said we're all secretly a little sincere deep down (or less deep if you're very shallow, Choire) and that's ok. But if you find yourself getting offended by things it's probably time to restate your assumptions and start planning the trepanation. When dealing with other people, it's vitally important to simply not care what they think, whether you're being sincere (which is ok because it's you) or they are and you hate it because sincere people suck when they aren't you. Also every rose has its thorn and its so important to stop GMOs.
"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original." — Walter Benjamin
(no wax in my emdash!)
"'Self Portrait With Dog' is a self portrait of myself walking with my dog. It uses Google Maps Street View, or better, Google Maps Street View is 'using' me. The project can be seen connecting to selfportraitwithdog.com. 'Self Portrait With Dog' faces many contemporary issues like privacy and security among others, and it 'quotes' in a way, a very important piece by futurist painter Giacomo Balla,"
These things ebb and flow, though. You can't stop the inherent instability of language, but you also can't stop the cooperative principle or drift towards communicative reason. Sometimes it feels like one or the other is winning out or coming back, but it mostly just means our attention's shifted or has been blinkered one way or the other.
A subtweet is like one of those 3-D 'magic eye' puzzles where you have to relax your eyes in such a way that the distorted mess turns into a gigantic dick (mine) that leaps from the page and rams you in the eyeball, but some of your friends are incapable of pulling off the trick and never see what you see.
Maria was right, I was being self-centered! So no harm no foul. Sorry.
But when you say "You can't stop the inherent instability of language," I'm not sure that's something that everyone reads the same way. It's a broad comment masquerading as a specific one, so it does your argument no service. And then "... you also can't stop the cooperative principle or drift towards communicative reason." I think I know what you mean, but I'm not sure a broad audience would. Your closing comment is clear, and it's one I agree with, if indeed we're on the same side of a vocabulary fault-line.
I guess I'm assuming facts not in evidence, because the Wittgenstein jokes led me astray!
"Inherent instability of language" = language is always open to unintentional meaning, whether ironic, figurative, metonymic, psychobiographical -- you name it. Language always means more than what we mean. Metaphysically or practically, Derrida or Davidson, you can't pin it down, unless like St Augustine, you've got a loving God as the ultimate guarantor of meaning.
BUT the basis of language is also in shared norms of intelligibility, including something called the cooperative principle (en.wikipedia.org)...
... -- we assume that people aren't willfully untruthful, that they aren't just screwing around with us, that most people are speaking with basically good intentions, and so forth.
So language itself is always oscillating between figurative potential and practical efficacy. And I think what we're calling irony (which I think, as I said above, is working as a grab-bag of ideas being used to mean a lot of different things besides the strictly ironic) and sincerity (ditto) are both being made to bear too much weight. And also that the weight between the two shifts backwards and forwards, but they're both always there.
So (as I told Paul when I asked to join this Branch [be grafted on? whatever]) I blame the Millennials for The New Sincerity. Now that I'm over forty, I feel that I get to blame the younguns for everything, but aside from that knee-jerk reaction I think that GenXers were told "oh hey the world is probably going to explode in nuclear fire and/or AIDS, good luck with getting a job, nevermind your hopes and dreams" but the Millennials were told "everything you do (you special person, you) has to Really Matter, so make 100% sure no one ever makes you photocopy anything. Oh, and here, have this trophy."
Oh and as long as I am killing the thread (lopping off the Branch? whatever) I suppose my real problem with sincerity is a philosophical one. As a practicing Absurdist (en.wikipedia.org), I truly believe that we are always caught between our desire to find meaning and our inability to find any, and too much sincerity seems to ignore the "inability to find any" part.
Erin I want to say you didn't kill it, as you seem to make things more fun as far as I can tell from my interactions with you, personal and professional, but there we go, I'M BEING SINCERE ON THE INTERNET.
I've been thinking about this the past few days. This is why I'm a terrible blogger, by the way: I spend more time thinking about what to say rather than writing a thing and then there's a new topic to think about. But this isn't therapy, and I'm running out of characters.
So: I like liking things. I like telling people I like their things (uh). For me the line starts at: No more cocooning everyone in sycophantic swaddles of OMG THE BEST PHOTO/ARTICLE I HAVE EVER SEEN/READ IN MY LIFE. Because that's not about sincerity at all, is it?
As Paul mentioned, I co-created The Listserve. And I'm actually flattered that you think The Listserve is sincere. I think sincere is a good thing; it means exploring *real* doubts and fears, which requires a deconstruction of thought.
I think there are three types of people who have written to The Listserve. 1) People who construct a self-narrative -- beginning, middle, conclusion -- and are masterful at pretending to be sincere. 2) People who are hilariously bad at putting up that front, and are accidentally revealing. 3) My favorite: People who wrestle with their thoughts, and have no conclusion but: "Well, that's where I'm at."
It may be that the worst thing we learned in school is to force a conclusion.
Alvin, I really like your definition of sincerity. It dovetails well with what Rusty and I talked about on Twitter (we joked about it here, but we were pretty serious there, which is a funny little snapshot of the heart of the matter).
Rusty noted that sincerity has been something of a shibboleth here in this branch, and I worried that dumping on sincerity denigrates the kind of sincerity you're talking about.
I told Choire and Clay this separately, but I rarely read Listserve messages anymore. The reason? My aunt Barb forwards me them all. I think she *sincerely* doesn't get the internet, and I love her for that. If the cheesiness of the Listserve went away, my inbox would be less full. But I wouldn't have the pleasure of seeing my aunt's writing style evolve.
For example, Barb never sends holiday messages. But this year she did. It ended in true Listservian fashion:
"Most importantly, tell the important people in your life that you love them. We can't ever do that too often."
And sometimes I can't stand it. But I'm getting to know her in a way I otherwise wouldn't.
Okay, team, I think we really solved something here! Good Branch.
Thanks for your feedback! Team Branch