John Lee

Blogging While Anti-Black

Imagine if there were a website where you could vicariously cruise the halls of power in New York and DC via deliciously campy witticisms about the gossip and gaffes that plague powerful media moguls, real estate barons, and politicos that delight the reader in ways that can only be described with overused nihilistic German words.

Enter Nick Denton. Denton, a former journalist with dot-com money, owns two website blogs called Gawker and Wonkette that serve just that purpose. Gawker and Wonkette have become the sine qua non of the New York and DC cultural elite, or at least those wishing to be a part of it. They chronicle the intricacies of the media power structure, the players and their sycophants in all their hubris. Their succinct invectives come from snippets found in established gossip columns, newspaper articles, wire copy, email tips, and an occasional instant messenger-inspired epiphany.

Denton has mapped out a route for monetizing the blog world in short order. It is a strategy to provoke outrage and publicity by taking the piss out of celebrities and luminaries of New York and DC. And I don't have any problem with that. It's just that these sites have decided that one way to telegraph their supreme coolness is to continually joke about non-whites as marginalized second-class citizens. It's this casual, damaging disregard that is hard to quantify, and yet, Gawker and Wonkette exemplify the growing phenomenon of white hipsters adopting a casual racism. Is it any wonder so many still feel blogging's a white man's sport?

Soi-Distant Solipsism

Gawker is run by a New York Observer contributor named Choire Sicha, whose vibe is that of a young Rex Reed -- a man riffing on the superficialities of life with the highly self-referential banter one expects of a Lower East Side scenester who turns to writing when his dream of being discovered as an underwear model at a gallery opening in SoHo has evaporated. Sicha's writing style is composed of a bitchy stream of consciousness peppered with metaphoric comparisons to viscous fluids, queer malapropisms, and three-part neologisms such as "man-f*cking-hattan."

In an article covering the New Yorker Magazine Festival, Sicha reports that, "around me the audience is white," although he also says that he sees people like ZZ Packer and Edwidge Danticat (of whom he says "Edwidge is also adorable -- you want to drive around with her in a giant Haitian-mobile and smoke a little weed"). Both of these women writers appear, at least to casual inspection, not to be white. In truth, there were several people at the three-day event who aren't white, despite his claims, and whom he characterizes suspiciously by ethnicity. Sicha's descriptions of non-whites seem to fall into the usual pattern of one part paternalism and two parts Maplethorpeian admiration.

Ana Marie Cox, a.k.a. Wonkette, is Sicha's DC counterpart. Her mission: to plumb the DC gossip scene for any signs of life in a town where getting invited to a Beltway power party is harder than getting a reservation at Nobu during a Mad Cow Disease scare. For a city that arguably controls the fate of the known world, DC has a social scene that is only slightly more interesting than life on an Alaskan oil field -- this city's idea of a velvet rope is ten secret service guys standing in a row. Cox's current main source of stories seems to be blog-refusnik Matt Drudge (oddly, she's simultaneously constantly plugging rumors that Drudge is gay). She also has a penchant for reminding everyone on the Internet that Wes Clark, Jr. seems to be within six degrees of her via his past conquests, while boosting his Google entries high enough so that he can sell his scripts. In exchange for that, she is hoping to prime his pump as a gossip leak, as she missed a golden opportunity to slam his father, former Democratic Candidate Clark, for admitting that he knows what a metrosexual is. Who said a bug doesn't know it's a bug? Unfortunately, she missed the scoop of Clark retiring from the race, Clark's endorsement of Kerry, and Clark's knowledge of Kerry's alleged affair.

Like Sicha, Cox injects ethnicity into even the most mundane occurrences. After a VH-1 Pop Quiz given to Democratic candidates about various music, sports and film icons, she declares "Wes Clark: The whitest candidate in a very, very white field." Evidently, not knowing who starred in Total Recall or who wrote the Harry Potter books makes you white. Both sites seem obsessed with the eugenics of not just people, but ideas. But you don't have to take my word for it, let's examine some actual entries from the websites:

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