The  last 24 hours must have been fun day to be a headline writer for major newspapers in America. Just look at these juicy headlines:


The New York Times:

The Boston Globe:

The Washington Post:

Look at that image placement! I have a hard time imagining a design editor of the Washington Post not audibly laughing when deciding exactly where to crop Marc Zuckerberg’s chin.

It’s only natural that the tone of the coverage from national newspapers, whose influence has been decimated by social media in the past 15 years, would implicitly, and in some cases not-so-implicitly (that chin!), turn to snarkiness. Snarkiness is the route the powerless tend to take when their influence is small and their voice has been marginalized. As NYMag’s Adam Sternbergh put it in 2008, when we first started the debate over online snarkiness:

Snark, irony’s brat, flourishes in an age of doublespeak and idiocy that’s too rarely called out elsewhere. Snark is not a honk of blasé detachment; it’s a clarion call of frustrated outrage.

The major newspapers listed above, which honored that doublespeak and idiocy for far too long, were some of the subject of snarkiness.

The difference is that these major newspapers aren’t powerless here, or blameless. For decades, their coverage has transformed into a desperate attempt to play towards being “factual” and “fair”, despite the fact that one side has completely abandoned the factual and fair. There are now over 15 cycles of college graduates who are intelligent enough to see that, for instance, normalizing Nazi sympathizers, being owned by the tycoons you’re supposed to be covering critically, giving credence to human rights abuses, and exploiting your own labor in the process, aren’t exactly good faith behaviors.

I’m old enough to remember how news coverage was handled right before social media emerged. I was an editor of my college newspaper from 2006-2007, just as social media’s influence was skyrocketing. I didn’t know at the time just how awful a dirge on society social media would become. But I had a front row view of where mainstream media coverage was failing, and where social media and new media was able to fill the gaps (remember the coverage cycle of the John Edwards scandal? I sure do).

So yes, the past 48 hours are a huge loss for Facebook in particular and social media in general. But let’s not pretend there are any winners here.

One persistent theme I see on social media from people of my age range is the idea that the world won’t exist in the next 10-20 years. This is actually a standard trope of left-wing thinking and joke material. The logic seems to be that the environment has gotten so bad, political strife has gotten so turbulent, and white supremacy is so rampant, that there’s simply no way society as we know it will exist by 2050 or so.

To some extent, they are right. Society will not exist the same way in 2050 as it will in 2021. The same way society in 2021 does not exist the same way it did in 1981, the same way society in 1981 did not exist the same way as 1951, or 1951 to 1921.

The environment is seen as the bleakest threat, and let’s not sugar coat it, it’s bleak. Mass population clusters and major cities will cease to exist. The economy as we know it is not equipped to handle this level of economic disaster. Los Angeles is likely to see thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands displaced due to an earthquake within the next 20-30 years. New Orleans could be completely underwater within the next 50 years.

As bleak as the environment and political strife is, no scientists are, at the moment, arguing that human beings will be extinct within the next 50 years. Even today, as the UN warned of catastrophic climate change by the end of the century, extinction was not discussed as a possibility. We absolutely need immediate and mass action on global warming, which we likely will not get. Even if the U.S. was to change its policies drastically, China will be an even bigger problem. But even the worst case scenario will not be the end of humanity.

Apocalyptic thinking is not new to my generation. The prospect of nuclear apocalypse, which is still a non-zero possibility, led people to believe that extinction was inevitable in the 50s and 60s. In the previous generations, fascism and Nazism were so prevalent that it was assumed the tides were already turned, and that it was too late. We have mounds of art, journalism, and academic research that argued as such. If you think if the mass deaths associated with a major city being destroyed are the end of humanity, consider Konigsburg, Dresden, and Tokyo. They were devastating losses of life and the cities were completely demolished. But humanity continued.

What I hate about doomsday thinking is that it leads to apathy, self-destructive behavior, and mental health issues. People are legitimately arguing that people under the age of 40 shouldn’t save for retirement, because humanity is doomed. Combine that with the prospect of slashing social security, this could lead to a nightmare scenario caused by our own nihilism.

Doomsday thinking also is linked to conspiracy theory thinking, which can actually enable the white supremacist forces that many on the left are actively trying to curb. It can also lead those who are legitimately suffering from mental health issues to feel validated, as opposed to seeking care.

I encourage you to build an emergency preparedness bag with as many supplies as you think are necessary. I encourage you to fight for politicians to enact policies for radically curbing climate change, and make changes to your own life to both prepare for and help prevent a truly horrific series of events. We are already seeing the devastating effects of the choices of our species. It will only get more extreme in the coming years. But defaulting into “humanity is doomed” thinking is short-sighted, harmful to the very causes we worry about, and, scientifically, just plain wrong.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to stop the cycle of doomscrolling on social media. I spent less than five minutes on Facebook today, and hoo boy, do I not regret this decision.

The news about Texas’s abortion law is devastating. To women, to people of color, to medical professionals, and to anyone who cares about basic human rights. Yet instead of coming up with solutions, those addicted to social media are fighting the exact same fight I’ve seen played out all my life: should we be madder at the Democrats for their inability to boldly stand up to the extremist forces behind the Republican party, or should we be mad at those progressives who sacrificed pragmatism for principles and didn’t vote for the centrist Democratic candidate for President.

First, the answer is quite simple. We should be mad at both. How we prioritize who to be mad at is a moot point. Both situations are frustrating. Mature adults can compartmentalize that both are a problem.

The bigger problem, though is what are we going to do now.

Are we going to do everything we can to primary in leftist Democrats who have the conviction to fight Republican extremists with the same fury they fight the left? Are we calling our representatives? Are we talking to our moderate relatives who can be pushed to the left? Are we giving whatever money we can to Planned Parenthood? Are we putting our bodies on the line? If you’re fighting on Facebook before doing any of this, might I recommend adjusting your priorities.

All those actions are more valuable uses of time and resources than fighting on Facebook. I understand that it feels overwhelming to fight the right wing, and that we’re powerless to stop it. This makes Facebook an easy place to vent. But fighting on social media is such a waste of time and energy and we all know it. It’s time to realize we’re not powerless. We just have to do the work.

You don’t spend a decade in the comedy community without picking up a few war stories and battle wounds. Comedians call non-comedians “civilians” sarcastically, but there is a similar theme: people outside this world don’t understand and will never understand what it’s like to be in this world.

I don’t make the comparison of comedians to soldiers lightly. In fact, it highlights the point I’m trying to drive home: comedian infighting and machinations are such low stakes, so meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It’s taught me something fairly depressing but useful: all the squabbling we traditionally associate with power players in society –  abusive machinations of power, ruthlessly crushing those who threaten your authority, picking fights over petty issues, and using it to advance your agenda – have nothing to do with the source of the power or the substance. The power itself is the drug in its own right.

I constantly think of Guy Branum‘s breathtaking analysis of the power brokers of comedy:

At the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village, there’s a table where the comics sit. It’s where they joke, debate, goof off, and ridicule their friends. As depicted on the FX series Louie, it’s the most fun place to be with the smartest, coolest comics in America. Every club has one, but the Comedy Cellar is the best club, and the table Louis C.K. sat at was the best table, occupied by the likes of Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Marc Maron. That table is the most important force in comedy. There are rarely women or gay men at that table. There are never trans people….

We don’t need a female comic with provisional status at the table. We don’t need the table to find the trans comic who’s least offensive to them and kind of learn his name. It will still perpetuate a system that privileges and protects the perspective of straight cis men. The table is the problem. Burn the table down.

This may be the best analysis of the power structure in comedy. The infrastructure of comedy is built around being part of a closed system that’s difficult to gain entry. It doesn’t hold the alt-right and white supremacy accountable and spends excessive energy punishing or abusing those who question their inability to hold it accountable. It has nothing to do with being funny or joke writing. It has to do with power.

The problem with all of this is that you can’t burn the table down. If it’s not the Comedy Cellar table, it will be a green room, email thread, or hell, Discord server. Whatever future form comedy takes, there will still be an abuse of power.

It’s important to remember what this power struggle is about throughout it all: the ability to be successful in delivering dirty jokes and generic observations about Tinder and sandwiches.

I know this because I’ve seen it at all levels of comedy, not just the most successful level. In a decade of comedy, my life has been primarily in unpaid comedy shows at semi-prominent comedy theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Many people who ended up having enormously successful careers got their start at UCB, the PIT or iO West (RIP to all those theaters, btw). None ever achieved financial success at those theaters themselves.

I’ve been in several feuds in the comedy world. There are too many to get into now, with too many moving parts. Here’s a fun one from last year. When UCB NY closed its doors at the beginning of the pandemic, a Facebook group called the “UCB Bad Memory Box” started. Members of the New York UCB community came in to reflect upon the dirt they acquired during their years associated with the theater. To quote my friend, a seasoned veteran of the free comedy theater circuit and with his own share of dirt on several of those theaters, “nothing I’ve ever been involved in has been anywhere near the level of what I saw in that UCBNY group.”

I was in that group for all of three hours. I got kicked out of the group by a moderator, who messaged me accusing me of leaking posts outside the group to my sketch team. Never mind that that categorically wasn’t true. Never mind that this person had a reputation as a leaker themselves. This person was an admin of that Facebook group. And this person wanted to control the power of the people in it.

Not only did this person call out people for potentially leaking in their private Facebook group, they later retaliated against a member of the group in a separate thread, months later, with wildly inappropriate and manfuctured accusations of saying offensive things. This accusation and the incident they used to justify it had absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever, and it was more or less quickly dismissed by the comedy community at large.

I’m being intentionally vague here. If this seems petty and pathetic, you’re right. The important thing to remember here is that none of this Facebook group drama story has anything to do with comedy. It doesn’t even have anything to do with success in the comedy industry. It has to do with maintaining the power to be a moderator of a Facebook group full of comedians.

When this person saw their authority as moderator of the Facebook group being challenged (to be clear, it wasn’t), they tried to dish out real-world consequences in the comedy community.  All over a Facebook group sharing memories about a community of unpaid comedians at a comedy club in the basement of a comedy club under a supermarket in Chelsea. The stakes could not have been lower, yet the abuse of power maintained the same structure.

This incident, and countless others like it, have taught me that power in comedy is not defined by a seat at the table at a comedy club. It’s not about being able to control who posts what in a Facebook group. It’s not about a writing job or being passed at a comedy club, or getting in the good graces of a producer. It’s not even about capitalism’s power over comedy because really, no one who’s ever wanted success in a capitalist system would, in their right mind, go into comedy.

It’s about power, pure and simple. While there’s a lot of good that can be done with power, there’s arguably no morality to the pursuit of power in and of itself. It’s why although marginalized voices desperately need power, the people who tend to seek it, even in traditionally marginalized groups, tend to care very little about morality and more about maintaining the power they’ve already acquired. Power is the punchline, not the setup. This is a human thing that’s impossible to fix. At the very least, it’s possible to anticipate.

Recently, I was discussing the recent Joss Whedon revelations with my weekly writing group. While we were universally outraged at his behavior (but not exactly surprised), we differed on how much we could still appreciate, watch and consider his work a part of our lives. One friend said he will absolutely not watch any work of art made by anyone who was accused of bullying or abusive behavior, in addition to not supported art made blatantly by people committing heinous crimes. This included Hitchcock, David O. Russell, and Tarantino.

I made the point that everyone sets different standards for what they consider acceptable and that acceptability is a complex, nuanced issue. My friend rejected that notion, saying that there was no room for nuance until we reset our standards for acceptability.

I am completely on board with resetting the goalposts for what constitutes acceptable behavior in the entertainment industry. Yet, the concept of there being “no room for nuance” still haunts me. Taken out of that context and applied to how we communicate as a culture, I can see this permeate communication across the board. Social media has reduced our thinking (at least in my circles) to curt oversimplifications, clickbait-y headlines to articles no one actually reads, and an emphasis on being loud over being right.

None of this is new information to anyone who spends as much time on social media as I have over the past decade-plus. But no one has really thought of a solution.

One of my resolutions for 2021 was to spend less time on social media. I’ve more or less accomplished that goal. But good lord, I miss the healthy conversations that online communication could garner when it wasn’t overrun by trolls and edgelords.

So this blog, a relaunch of a blog with the same dumb name that I launched in 2007 and abandoned around 2010, attempts to return to the kind of long-form, detailed analysis of pop culture, politics, cultural ethics, and how all those areas relate. I aim to use this blog to replace my snarky Tweets and status updates, no matter how witty and “well-branded” they may be.

Feel free to fire away with thoughts, comments, disagreements, and any kind of non-toxic communication in replies to wherever this article is posted. I will attempt to foster a culture of nuance and detail while maintaining my passion for treating people humanely. I hope you do too.