The Age of Assholism

This piece was originally written and published on my previous blog, Knowledge and Valor, on the 12th of April, 2007.

And, now, for something completely different…

After a couple of posts of venting about the insane factions within the community of those affected by autism, I’m going to move onto something else that’s been occupying my thoughts: the emergence of the age of “snark,” or, more appropriately, the age of assholism.

What is the epitome of “cool”? In the world spawned by Internet message boards and obsession with pop culture, hatefulness is the very embodiment of all things hip and stylish. Mocking appearance, dress, socioeconomic status…all of these are the badges of cool worn by the soulless denizens that flock to websites and blogs devoted to television and celebrities. Shallowness is the hallmark of this crowd, largely made up of a segment of upper-middle-class, college-educated straight women and gay men. (Update: Here, I meant to add another link. The most unfortunate feature of this site is that when they attack a woman, they frequently call her a “cunt.” At least these gay men can find comfort in the fact that they’ve joined their straight brethren in associating vileness with females and their genitalia. After all, there’s nothing more repulsive and offensive than female genitals, right? Keep it up, boys! You’re doing a fine job of establishing the same kind of hypocrisy exercised by black men who decry racism while calling their own women “bitches” and “hos”.) Their straight male counterparts bring the same sense of cool–y’know, that combination of hatefulness and and undeserved sense of superiority–to sports-related blogs.

The targets of the televison-and celebrity-obsessed crowd consist primarily of other women. Putting a woman down for the way she dresses or because she isn’t a size 2 is great fun! Who needs patriarchy, right? There are women out there willing to belittle and degrade other women for the sense of superiority it affords them.

Nearly as worthy of their derision is anyone who is actually committed to doing something to improve the world. Commitment, integrity and the drive to devote yourself to improving the lives of others is so passe. Isn’t it more fun to talk about how you decorated your house or your newest designer frock? Or, even better, why your neighbor’s home or wardrobe is so hopelessly out-of-style–the ultimate badge of shame? They wear their shallowness as a badge of honor, taking the position that this very shallowness is actually a sign of depth. Their derision is turned on those who exhibit some actual individuality, whom they accuse of pretense. Revel in that ’80s love of greed or vapid top 40 pop–it’s a sign that you’re cool enough to adopt a total lack of taste and be adored for it!

I don’t know how or when this became the mark of intellect and style. Perhaps it’s due to the very nature of the Internet. The anonymous forums allow these individuals to behave in a way that would get them labelled assholes in real life. They can hide behind their screen-names and IP addresses that change with regularity, spewing their shallow, mean-spirited tripe. Instead of getting off their asses and doing something to help someone else, they can sit in their houses and heap their ridicule on anyone who does get off his or her ass, anyone who is passionate about things that affect the lives of real people.

What’s it going to take for these losers to crawl back into the holes from whence they came? I guess we can hope that enough of them lose their Internet connections or their servers die. If I never heard the imbecilic word “snarky” again in my life, it would be too soon.