Yesterday Canelli went around reddit promoting the podcast (our plan is to trick people into our white pedo-van of social consciousness with promises of novel interpretations of their favorite cartoons), and then this happened. A neckbeard asked, “Why should I listen to this when the hosts can’t even remember all the bad guys from a video game he hasn’t seriously played in 25 years?” To which Canelli replied, “Fair criticism.” And then to which I replied, “Cool fedora, bro, but you weren’t even alive when The Challenger Disaster happened.” I was pretty upset when I saw this–more upset than I should admit. But after spending the next three hours going about life like a goddamned adult with a job, financial responsibilities, and racist HOA members who think I’m a freeloader (and if you don’t think that’s racist, you haven’t been listening), things came back into focus for me. Here’s what happened.
The neckbeard used a very common technique–sorry, don’t know the name of it…maybe some weak-ass type of character assassination?–that’s been liberally used during the past 5,000 years of recorded academic and political discourse. It’s the ol’ attempt-to-discredit-the-originator-of-an-idea-we-don’t-like-instead-of-the-idea-itself ploy. Here it’s in the form of “Oh, these assholes don’t know all the bosses from a 30-year-old video game that nobody remembers? Why the fuck should I listen to them?” This motherfucker thinks that there’s some sort of exclusivity built into mass pop culture and that he’s got the keys to the Mega Man car (a car that, over the past 28 years, has sold on the order of 30,000,000 units). Look, I’m not going to begrudge someone for having a specialized interest in something, but the weak otakus argument, popularized by Patton Oswalt and to which the person making the comment seems to be wholly committed to, is paradoxical and some feigned pop cultural elitist bullshit. And when you’re going to attempt to be completely dismissive about something, you’ve got to come stronger than that. (Canelli, the first 40 pages of my copy of Taleb’s The Black Swan is littered with margin notes, so don’t even.)
So that was the thing that really riled me up. And afterwards I felt shame for letting neckbeard do that to me.
But then there was this second thing that started to get to me a bit, amplifying my shame: Canelli’s response of “Fair criticism. The hosts claim no expertise on any of the topics they discuss. They just present ways of thinking about them, guided by a spirit of exploration.” Oh, Canelli, you sweet, gentle, and naive creature. That’s just not how things are done on the Internet, my friend. That’s not how you effectively respond to trolls, trolls who call into question your art for the most vacuous, insipid, and cowardly reasons. But this is my fault. I was so excited over the weekend about us promoting the website, setting up a Facebook page, twitter feed, maybe Instagram, and posting to various subreddits. I just wasn’t listening when you said you never read reddit. Of course you don’t. Sometimes reddit is the smelly jock-strap of the internet, and other times it’s the New Jersey of the internet. Why would you have ever sullied yourself with that?
I should’ve warned you. I should’ve said something. Things might’ve turned out different–better. But now it’s too late. I’m sorry, Canelli. Can you ever find it in your heart to forgive me?