It’s been awhile since I’ve taken pot shots at the poor old Oregon Daily Emerald. Hell, it’s been awhile since I’ve even bothered to pick up an issue. Sitting in the storied old Cafe Siena this afternoon, however, I made the mistake of taking a glance at the “opinion” page for this week’s issue.
Now, it’s no secret that the quality of the ODE’s opinion writers, never stellar to begin with, has witnessed in the last half-decade or so a steady decline into what can only be called “pedestrian sub-mediocrity.” Each year, one subjects oneself to another round of banal “first post!” essays by the new pack of commentators in the vain hope that — just maybe! — one of them will claw their way out of the scum and the muck, take a few gasping breaths, and say something moderately interesting. Or at least hilariously stupid. Each year, alas, one is inevitably disappointed.
So it was today, reading Ian McKivor’s “inaugural column” — a rather lofty way of referring to what is is essence a fairly uninteresting blog post, which is ironic, since the gist of his piece is that blogs are like… bad, and stuff. And not just bad, but dangerous. No, really:
People are idiots, and people who read blogs and take their word for it are dangerous idiots. They aren’t just a danger to themselves, but to those around them and society at large. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that they are a major source of societal regression.
“Societal regression.” Got that?
Unfortunately, after dropping that bombshell on his readers, the esteemed author has nowhere left to go but straight back to 1995, making the staggeringly fresh case that you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet:
Any schmuck with an opinion can get on the web, set up a WordPress account and go to town spewing out whatever vapid crap happens to get into his head. [“Vapid crap” you say? Perish the thought. -ed] A blogger doesn’t have to have any experience in the field in which they write, nor do they have to adhere to the most basic tenants [sic] of journalistic professionalism or integrity.
So, in effect, they can pass off filth as fact while remaining anonymous. And oh, by the way, people will believe them en masse for the same reasons people believe everything they see on TV. Brilliant.
“Brilliant.” Took the words right out of my mouth, he did. Ahem.
McKivor then launches into a clumsy philippic against Tom Macmaster, the cybernetic crossdresser who got his thrills masquerading as a Syrian lesbian on websites before it came out (no pun intended) that he was neither Syrian nor a woman, to say nothing of a lesbian. While it’s hard to take issue with the spirit of his condemnation of Macmaster, McKivor’s amateurish prose effectively blunts whatever power the one and only example backing up his thesis might’ve had. Example:
MacMaster never had to face the looming threat of imprisonment, intense torture and eventual death at the hands of some demented regime. He was safe in Scotland, probably writing at a Starbucks with an Exxon Valdez-sized Latte [sic] in hand without even contemplating the harm he was doing.
“Probably writing at a Starbucks with an Exxon Valdez-sized latte?” From whence does our intrepid reporter come by these details? Or maybe he’s just engaging in a sly performative joke intended to illustrate why we can’t believe everything we read. Yeah… maybe that’s it.
One could go on, of course — the expected, sneering reference to “blind sheep” (what, no “sheeple?”) comes in toward the end, as does an unintentionally funny suggestion to go watch a documentary called “Talhotblond” if you’re not already convinced by McKivor’s dazzling rhetoric about how dangerous online anonymity can be. Finally, we’re assured that we can trust the things we read in the mainstream media — because it’s fact checked, you see.
The problem is that, as monumentally hollow and paralyzingly routine as McKivor’s piece is, it nevertheless serves as a powerful example of how far standards have fallen. Is the sort of err.. “incisive criticism” and “sterling prose” — to say nothing of the lunk-headed Luddism — that they’re peddling over in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism these days? Why would anyone pay for such a self-evidently worthless degree? And is this drooling scribbler really the best the Emerald could dredge up for next year?
Alas, McKivor himself gives away the answer in his very first sentence:
Because this is my inaugural column for the Oregon Daily Emerald, I feel I should start things off by making my stance clear, just so all of you know what to expect from my weekly opinion column.
Ah. So puerile rubbish, then. Wonderful.
Glad I won’t be around to read it.