Gawker media’s commenting system
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: this is untrammeled bullshit. Gawker media’s tiered commenting system, bannings and faux-exclusivity have nothing to do with maintaining decorum, or keeping the quality of the blogs high, or preserving a certain tone. (The idea that the tiered commenting system is designed to preserve spelling/grammar/punctuation is particularly laughable, given the near constant failures in that regard on the actual blogs.) You don’t need to look further than the absolutely rampant (and proud) misogyny of Deadspin’s comments to know that all of that is a smokescreen.
The reason for the hoops they make commenters jump through is another of Nick Denton’s despicable but highly effective innovations into blogging. Gawker blogs create a false sense of exclusivity which Gawker can then market as a kind of intangible commodity to be doled out to the credulous and needy commenters. It’s a velvet rope effect, a way for people to feel a little bit of privilege and to have an opportunity to look down at the proles, which I’m sure is almost always something denied to them in their real lives. It’s very transparent, and rather sad, and it says something terrible about the human condition both that someone could dream it up and that so many people could fall for it. But there it is.
It’s actually appropriate, given what Gawker once was– a place to vent the juvenile rage of the permanently envious, people altogether comfortable in the material ways of the world but denied the kind of celebrity, access and recognition that their upbringing has conditioned them to lust after. There was, as that n+1 piece pointed out, something noble in the openness of that jealousy and frank admission of anger in the face of a community that was not recognizing the genius of those who thought they deserved it. Those days are long gone, of course, and instead stands the relentless bullying and cruelty that Gawker now stands for. But the commenting system has become a kind of microcosm of the Manhattan that Gawker once looked on, where people strive for the ultimately worthless but in context invaluable chits of social recognition and the prized commodity of being able to look down on those who look up.