Here’s another question it raises: isn’t BP.org just an affiliate marketing site in sheep’s clothing? To me, the knowledge of P’s past schemes explain BP completely. Remember when it came out that The Oatmeal used to be an SEO spammer, and uses that knowledge to great financial gain in his current “legitimate” and remarkably unfunny ventures? I would suggest to you that the same thing is happening here.

Many are angry with Nostrich for his serial criticisms of BP and its founder; in particular, much has been made of his obviously inadvertent posting of her address when he screengrabbed a WHOIS record. No one who uses the Internet is unfamiliar with this sort of mistake, but the imputation of bad faith —I gather someone even suggested he wanted her to come to physical harm, and sexualized this absurd suggestion for maximum PR indignation— is an outstanding example of why no one takes insular academic and literary cultures seriously.

I was corresponding with someone who made some good points about the tone of the discussion or whatever it is —another ruined word, Internet entrepreneurs; thank you— and while I agreed that personal vitriol is regrettable, avoidable, irrelevant, I also am surprised at how automatically the wagons circled. To be clear: Nostrich shouldn’t have posted the address, and wishes he hadn’t; there is no need to personalize criticisms, and I won’t do so; but neither of those facts alters this one:

BP is consumerized “intellectual culture” for people who don’t want to read or work at thinking, understanding, appreciating; it is a coffee table book of ostensibly provocative photography on the low glass slab before a rich man’s sofa; it is a content farm for the liberal arts, an expertly-run exploitation of culture for cash and credibility. It is not a personal website, an expression of individual creativity, or a harbor into which Nostrich has chased a fleeing artist who only wants safety. It is a commercial endeavor, at scale; 262,000 people follow it on Twitter alone! It solicits money from its readers; it seeks communion with the higher levels of culture.

So someone has perfected the Pinterest Library, the Demand Media University. What’s wrong with that? Why should anyone begrudge anyone anything in this age of gestural aspiration? If people want to look at a photo of Picasso and dimly recall some old Apple ad and savor an ersatz feeling of education, so what? Isn’t this just snobbery? Isn’t BP just “serving a market”?

Yeah, sure. Of course. Are we all down with that now? That’s the new culture-class: “Let her have her vertical!” But BP doesn’t seem to think in these terms: in its “About” statement, and in the related “Curator’s Code” text, one sees an astonishing assertion made implicitly and overtly: finding things which the Internet in one of its fickle moods considers ‘interesting’ and posting that is a crucially creative part of how human progress occurs. The LOLs about “Curator’s Code” should never have stopped:

While we have systems in place for literary citation, image attribution, and scientific reference, we don’t yet have a system that codifies the attribution of discovery in curation as a currency of the information economy, a system that treats discovery as the creative labor that it is. 

All of this noise about the importance of “curation” online —remember online? where search means you don’t need to remember where you found something?— makes more sense when one considers that BP is trying to protect a competitive advantage; middle men always worry. The web is a graveyard of efforts to mediate how people relate to what interests them; I can hardly remember every Very Short List, digest, email, site, feed, post of “interesting” things to see that has come and gone. And then consider the way a site like Tumblr or FFFound threatens a curator: neither the owner of the work nor the owner of the audience experience, the curator is in a no-man’s-land sprinting back and forth, hoping not to be cut down by directly-communicating creators or cut-out by an audience that’s moved on.

But who even cares about that? Those are business problems; I am only here because of this:

Since time immemorial, mankind’s greatest questions — what is reality, what does it mean to be human, what is time, is there God — have endured as a pervasive frontier of intellectual inquiry through which we try to explain and make sense of the world, the pursuit of these elusive answers having germinated disciplines as diverse as philosophy and physics. 

You may wish to read that sentence out loud a few times. It is a pretty rad combo of overblown words reaching for “headiness” and straight catastrophe: our questions have endured as a frontier? We try to explain and make sense through a frontier? A pervasive frontier made of enduring questions? (Also: “is there God” isn’t a question I hear a lot).

I loved the book she is mauling there, which I struggle to believe she read based on her writing about it and her writing in general; she saw the author in person at TED, which I would have liked to do had I thousands of spare dollars or connections in the “ideator scene”; I mean, I wouldn’t go to TED if every empty utopian pronouncement came with a free HJ, but my point is that to some of us, these things actually matter. Seeing it all turned into a game for profit is upsetting. Seeing the bastardization of art hurts; seeing the dilution of ideas grates; seeing a circle-jerk of unserious people who only like ideas and books and art because of what it says about them, because of how it sets up the rest of their identity schtick: this is something that infuriates.

(It infuriates because it reminds me that I am doing precisely that and have only done that, that my own dumb blog is not different than BP: reading my book, seeing some quote, thinking: “Whoa, this would be good to write about.” I am just cagier, WASPier: I don’t like naked exploitation, don’t like poor execution, awkwardly enacted strategies for attention, moral advantage, money, whatever the legitimizing aura we seek is. I guess I mean: goddamnit, BP, quit reminding me of all I detest in myself!

Serious question: do any of you know the way out of the morass I’m in re: criticism? Is criticism always symmetrical? If so, isn’t all criticism hypocritical? And if so, isn’t this why hypocrisy is the universal crime, especially in fights: because we are all guilty and so all hate it?).

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