What Killed the Great Snark Attack of the Past 30 (or Maybe 2,000) Years?

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David Denby

Over at Splice Today, Russ Smith rummaged through a forgotten copy of Snark by David Denby (a 9 "on the tool meter") and suggests that Denby has come very late to a party that broke up quite some time ago:

[In the Los Angeles Times,] David L. Ulin was more charitable to the sexagenarian New Yorker film critic…than Denby deserved, I thought, but the reviewer did his duty and noted the mass of contradictions in the insufferably pretentious 128-page essay. (Denby traces "snark"-a word that seems as anachronistic today as, say Tina Brown or flipping condos in South Florida-back to Juvenal and Jonathan Swift, which simply confuses his vengeful thesis.)

In truth, the descent of "snark" may be traced to last February when the onetime hero of the airwaves Jon Stewart turned in a lackluster performance as emcee of the Oscars. In 2009, the everyday sadness and pressure of extraordinarily difficult economic conditions-now and ahead-has increasingly caused readers to eschew gratuitous nastiness. Making fun of others isn't so funny anymore: to a certain extent, everyone's in the same slowly sinking boat, and wise-guy talk isn't endearing under somber circumstances.

Whole bit here.

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  1. Making fun of others isn’t so funny anymore

    Humbug!

  2. The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

  3. When they came for irony, I said nothing, because I was merely sarcastic.

  4. Fuck that shit. Making fun of assholes will always be fun, especially if they’re retards or joe.

  5. In 2009, the everyday sadness and pressure of extraordinarily difficult economic conditions-now and ahead-has increasingly caused readers to eschew gratuitous nastiness.

    Au contraire. As the boat sinks, the passengers turn on each other like starving rats. If anything, taking the trouble to make your vicious remarks amusing, thus, snarky, is a virtue.

  6. Snark can never die, for it is ageless, timeless, and immortal. And Warty: they all want cake.

  7. Anyone who uses an animated GIF as their bio picture deserves a wedgie. [OK, it’s clever if you loop it 3 times and it stops; the infinite loop has all the class of the ransom-note style of someone using desktop publishing for the first time.]

  8. I think has more to do with the fact that the people who have been mocking power and espousing cynicism the past eight years now all of a sudden find themselves in power. The conservatives still haven’t found their footing, so that leaves we libertarians as the only people left with any kind of dark-humor perspective. Combine that with the standard perennial “death of sarcasm” talk (I distinctly remember similar articles from after Bush’s election, 9/11, and at the start of the Iraq War) and you get the current wave of angst over American’s sincerity. This too shall pass.

  9. Epi, the cake is a lie.

    Snark will never go out of fashion as long as we have politicians who spend a trillion dollars one week and claim to be concerned about the deficit the next. Mocking people like that in the most savagely amusing manner possible might actually get the point across.

  10. Warty, fat people are evil. If you weren’t so fat, you’d understand that. God damn, fat weddings are a horror.

  11. Epi, did you say cake?

    Warty, you bastard!

    Ughh; I don’t feel so good.

  12. If snark is dead, where does that leave the H&R commenters? Fingerpainting in the void, I guess (gag courtesy Mose Allison).

    But snark, I am sure, will never die. Russ Smith, while proclaiming the death of snark, neatly shoves the shiv in first David Denby (“sexagenarian New Yorker film critic” Ow!) and then America’s snarkmaster general himself, Jon Stewart, for turning in “a lackluster performance as emcee of the Oscars.” Double Ow!

  13. What is it about some phrases that makes them so painful to hear once the fad of their use has faded?
    Some tools in the world of tech still use the term ‘killer app’. You ‘spose they’re still running Lotus 1-2-3 on their IBM PCs at home?

  14. David Denby was on TV last month basically saying that being snarky to Bush was OK but being snarky to Obama was wrong.

  15. When our snark becomes unacceptable as everything else about libertarians becomes unacceptable to the ObamaHorde, I predict that once silenced we will all degenerate into homicidal, necrophiliacs.

    Not Safe For Anywhere

  16. re: “David Denby was on TV last month basically saying that being snarky to Bush was OK but being snarky to Obama was wrong.”

    Was he referring to some Obama other than President Obama? Because President Obama just signed an $800 spending bill THEN called for a conference on getting the Federal budget under control; and that’s pretty damned snark-worthy.

  17. It’s a boo…

  18. When they came for the droll metaphors, and I didn’t speak up….

  19. Haven’t snark, irony, apathy and a host of related syndromes been pronounced cured repeatedly in the ten years since Jedediah Purdy’s For Common Things made us all hope again? I mean, if the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the rise of Generation Y, the election of President Obama, and our nation’s love affair with a certain cockney gecko who saves us a lot on our car insurance have all failed to banish loathed snark, is the recession really going to do the trick?

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