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First POST: Snark vs. Smarm

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, December 6 2013

Snark vs Smarm

  • Don't miss Tom Scocca's long and brilliant essay "On Smarm" that was published yesterday on Gawker. It's not primarily about tech or politics, but it gets at both in a really interesting way. Some of windiest windbags of our time--Ari Fleischer, Joe Lieberman, Dave Eggers, Jedediah Purdy, Barack Obama, Mike Bloomberg, Niall Ferguson, Malcolm Gladwell, Upworthy--get skewered. And it's also a brilliant defense of snark, swarm's antithesis. Here are two of his gems:

    "The old systems of prestige—the literary inner circles, the top-ranking daily newspapers, the party leadership—are rickety and insecure. Everyone has a publishing platform and no one has a career. Smarm offers a quick schema of superiority. The authority that smarm invokes is an ersatz one, but the appearance of authority is usually enough to get by with."
    "Smarm…is never a force for good. A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all. It is a civilization that says "Don't Be Evil," rather than making sure it does not do evil."

  • Speaking of which, Upworthy takes a moment to crow about the 87 million people who visited its site in November, and to argue that its success isn't rooted in clickbaity headlines, but in actually finding high quality content that people want to share.

  • Glenn Greenwald and Stefania Maurizi report for L'Espresso "How the NSA Targets Italy." Citing documents from Edward Snowden, they reveal spying on the country's leadership, diplomats and millions of phone records daily.

  • President Obama told MSNBC's Chris Matthews yesterday that he is going to be "proposing some self-restraint on the NSA" and "to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence." He added, "The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA"s more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws."

  • WikiLeaks staffer Sarah Harrison, who accompanied Edward Snowden to Moscow, has harsh words for Pierre Omidyar, who is backing Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and others in a new journalism venture. Referring to Omidyar's position on PayPal's board of directors and the company's suspension of WikiLeaks payment account back in 2010, Harrison says, ""If you set up a new media organisation which claims to do everything for press freedom, but you are part of a blockade against another media organisation, then that's hard for us to take it seriously. But I hope that they stick to their promises."

  • If London's tech scene is starting to take off, it's in large degree because of government support, The New York Times reports.

  • The Republican party in California is distributing flyers telling people they have to buy insurance under Obamacare, and then directing them to a website that looks like the official state site, but isn't, reports Aaron Sankin of the Daily Dot.

  • On the Knight Foundation's blog, Sean Gourley of Quid explains the methodology behind his organization's mapping of the civic tech sphere.

  • Bohemian Rhapsody: Star Wars Edition. This exists. (h/t Chris McCleary)