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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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44 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    Don’t you mean TPM?

    Not really sure that piece qualifies for what you are aiming at. In any case Marcotte usually provokes lots of heat.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      No, the “TMZ” thing was me making a crack at TPM for fobbing off celebrity gossip as a think piece. I’d say the goal was to provoke lots of page views.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        All of the internet news sites seem to be getting more and more click-baity every day. Even CNN changed their website dramatically, and made their headlines and many of their actual stories more click-baity. It really is obnoxious, and I can’t imagine it’s a good thing for journalism long-term.

        I’d blame buzzfeed, but buzzfeed is just a symptom.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          That’s my issue exactly. It’s about left-wing sites that might post long-form journalism about social structures and systems and how to change them, but instead find that celebrity gossip, recaps of last night’s television shows, and short pieces making fun of a politician’s recent gaffe generate more hits.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            I think you are dealing with the age old problem of audience v. seriousness.

            Jacobin and N plus One in their on-line formats stick very much to the “little magazine” world view of the Partisan Review and The Nation. The number of people who read Jacobin is always going to be very small. They were called “little magazines” for a reason.

            Going for a broader audience is going to demand clickbait and bills need to be paid.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              I would agree with all of this. I just think that it’s fairly evident at this point that the Internet journalism business model is seriously broken and these sort of articles are attempts at workarounds.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                That implies it was ever good to begin with. I think people (especially media) are still trying to work out how to make money from the whole internet thing and largely failing. Advertising on the net costs pennies as compared to advertising in Newspapers or TV. Certainly not enough to generate revenue unless one as clicks, clicks, and more clicks.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                One of the problems may be that it is really difficult to keep producing a quality product over the long haul.

                There was a point where The Atlantic had a really good lineup of bloggers on their masthead that were producing good posts pretty regularly. People get poached, people blog less, people move on to other endeavors. If you look at the folks regularly posting at The Atlantic today, they are a pale shadow of what they had a few years ago.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Certainly that is true, but I would say it is more an issue of demographics.
                In the US, it is reliably a rough 20% of the population who are actually politically sophisticated enough to understand the issues, and these tend to be the most reliable voters.
                Beyond that 20%, it’s mostly about branding.

                The other prominent ongoing effect is that second wave progressivism (and I place its beginning at the Port Huron Statement) is founded on interest group politics, later nationalized, resulting in heavy investment in the collective representation model; which is truly recognized as “polarization,” requiring our representatives bear oaths of fealty to the greater party– in this case, purely a collection of interest groups, removed from any unifying principles (though some were cobbled together later, simply as a matter of mitigating the cognitive dissonance).

                Add it together, and view it from a stream of revenue perspective, and what appears is a delicate balancing act: How to be taken seriously by the oh-so-serious people, and yet maintain enough of the reality TV / sitcom / professional wrestling aspect of it to appeal those solely concerned with branding? And how to do it while not exposing the artificial base on which rests the collective of sometimes competing interest groups?

                I respectfully submit that, were the politically uninvolved truly cognizant of that delicate balancing act being acted out, it may well prove more of a draw for the reality TV crowd.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:


                Hoooold up!
                “a rough 20% of the population who are actually politically sophisticated enough to understand the issues, and these tend to be the most reliable voters.” You want to square that statement to “but democracy” tone that’s all over this site? ‘Cause if you truly believe that, then why the hell would you support democracy when “those rubes” don’t have the sophistication to understand the issues?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                @damon :
                You want to square that statement to “but democracy” tone that’s all over this site?

                I’m not offering opinion here.
                I’m stating a fact.

                Beyond that 18 to 23% (depending on the election being held), the majority of voters cast their ballots by means of heuristics, which falls into two main camps: partisanship, and ideology.
                That too is fact.

                Low voter turnout is generally beneficial to American democracy.
                That is an inference drawn from the previous facts stated.

                I’m not attempting to square anything with the truth.
                I’m simply speaking the truth, and saying it plainly.
                I really have no concern for whether it is a popular view or not.
                I’m more of a “Deal with it” kind of guy.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:


                Will, frankly, I can’t see how anyone could be a supporter of “democracy” with those facts. You’re basically say that 80+ percent of the voters have no clue. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that they shouldn’t be voting as they just muck it up for the 20% that know what they are doing.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                No, not at all.
                I think you’re imposing your own preferences on the system as a whole there.

                I prefer to consider it as a part of the overall phenomenon– spectacle in politics.
                It’s part of the landscape.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          Don’t spend much time at CNN, the site or the channel. I just went over there to do a comparison between their home page and the BBC’s. Depressing doesn’t quite cover it.

          There is a bit of a death-spiral at work here. Lots of outlets come to the conclusion that no one is going to pay for news and analysis so they go for viral content. And people seem to love viral, click-bait-ey content, but no one is going to pay for it, so you get a bunch of sites trying to out-bait each other for page views and ad revenues. The quality of the content goes down and down as the need to generate more of it, and worse, goes up.

          You get some attempts by individual outlets to pull out of that spiral, the Atlantic and Vox come to mind, but they invariably end up right back in it.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            I used to use CNN a lot on my phone for instant news, because their site was pretty navigable, but a couple months ago they completely changed their online model, both desktop and mobile, and it became what it is now. It was quite literally an over-night conversion.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            I’d like to note that the Atlantic backslid horribly with their site revamp. Hideous picture focused layout.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

              I’m uh gunna havta take another look at it… struck me at first as pretty solid contemporary design – if a bit generic.

              (The emphasis on BIG PHOTOS is common these days. A number of so-called beautiful designs are really just nicely rendered full-width images with a title treatment superimposed…)Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        The piece, for better or worse, seems like a standard Marcotte article.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Yeah. Who’d a thunk I’d be longing for the day when they did Palin-family hit pieces for click bait?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Though it’s less about TPM and more about Marcotte, who is her own brand. (and who is still trying to recover from her previous brand damaging incident from using Tom Smykowski’s marvelous invention)Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The quality of content in Amanda Marcotte’s writing seems to have declined significantly since she became more prominent.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Ah, I feel bad about starting a conversation on Amanda Marcotte. Most freelancers write this stuff now. Or, at least, that’s what gets published. It’s determined largely by Internet journalism having an extremely bad business model. That’s what I was griping about.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Also there seems to be a fight between the left that still really wants to care about what gets labeled as “high culture” and the newer generations of liberals and leftists which don’t seem to care about high-culture at are.

        For better and for worse, I think both of us belong to the liberals and leftists who really care about “high culture” and feel a certain (and probably over-romanticized) kinship to the days of the Partisan Review. One thing that I liked about TNR is that they were unrepentantly willing to give coverage to books and other cultural stuff that were not mainstream or popular. They did think that the culture pages were meant for reviewing art exhibitions and foreign movies and not the latest blockbuster or TV show.

        A newer generation doesn’t seem to care about this stuff and might be openly hostile to it. You are supposed to be on Jennifer Weiner’s side, not Franzen’s side. You are supposed to care about CGI Franchises and not the upcoming Turner exhibition at the De Young because really how many people are going to that? Plus liking Turner is totally being a tool of the .1 percent.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Yeah, I agree. And the right already had this fight back in the 90s. I just think that they made the wrong choice by trading intellectuals for shock jocks.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          Isn’t this debate centuries old? Working class radicals always fought with the more intellectual ones. It’s just what they fought about culturally changed.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    You know, I think Marcotte wrote this for some very good reasons. ETA: and those reasons don’t have anything to do with celebrity gossip.

    Just sayin’Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Of course. Again, I don’t mean this as a comment on Amanda Marcotte’s writing or slut shaming or society’s double standards for men and women. I mean it more as a comment on an internet journalism business model that says you can write about subjects like that provided you make them “relevant” or, at least, likely to “attract eyeballs” by tying them into celebrity gossip, mass media products, or political bloopers.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        That is more about editors putting exciting titles on articles. That is what editors do. Many a person has freaked about a piece based on its title instead of the substance.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @rufus , two things.

        First, this is older than internet journalism. Convincing an editor to publish something without a “why it’s timely” trigger is next to impossible. Just about every time I pitched a story to editors I worked with regularly, I expected the “Why is this timely” question, and I I was not prepared to answer that the pitch was nearly always rejected. And those few times they weren’t, my pitch evoked some thing that the editor wanted me to tie into the story; and often, that totally ruined it from my perspective. What’s more, when I submitted queries to unknown-to-me editors, my acceptance rate rapidly increased once I’d internalized working the timeliness angle into my query pitch.

        Second, Marcotte points out shaming that’s usually taken as an okay, non-controversial thing to do because it’s not man shaming, and men react with what’s she upset about now instead of taking the matter into serious consideration. This is just a variation of the woman who sleeps with everyone in the band; and I’ve seen that happen, including the ensuing slut shaming stemming from the hot hot hot girl they all want to fuck when she isn’t in the room, and tempers and competition are rising because you know, she’s hot hot hot. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen some variation of this. Calling her a slut is the safe alternative to dealing with the fact that there are several people competing for her attention who have a bond (THE BAND) that that competition could easily destroy.

        Slut is one of those words like thug. And Marcotte’s point that most people won’t define how many people it takes to turn you into a slut is spot on — most would say more than one; and many would say one out of wedlock. But that’s not, I think, the real definition; the real definition is woman who isn’t afraid to show she has sexual appetite.

        What a freakin’ sorry place this world would be if women didn’t actually have sexual appetite, too. If they weren’t ‘sluts.’

        (And I’m sorry if this sounds like a rant, it isn’t intended to be one, but there’s no non-ranty-sounding way to talk about this shit; as the constant belittling Marcotte receives reveals.)Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      Yes. That reason can be summed up by the old cliche about what the world looks like when your only tool is a hammer.

      ETA: As much as I am not fond of her, I will say this for Marcotte: what she does is generally not click-bait. That is to say, she doesn’t promise some fuzzy universal message to lure you into a piece that is completely inane or a non-story. She’s guns blazing from the get go.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Nah, it’s terrible on merits.

      Calling men “sluts” isn’t a thing. The only time it ever comes up is when someone wants to rationalize labeling women with that word. Stop pretending otherwise.

      Actually, just the other day I called Howard Stark a “man-slut”. And we were talking specifically about Starks and their callous behavior towards women, and neither I nor anyone else in the convo was labeling women with that term at all.

      See, here’s the thing – if I told you I’ve slept with 4 women, you probably wouldn’t think me slutty at all.

      But, if all 4 women I’ve slept with, were your colleagues in your 6-person office…well, you’d likely start to joke about whether I was even CAPABLE of keeping it in my pants.

      (And here is where I must point out, again, that this is an actor, making a stupid joke about a fictional character; and I have NO IDEA how much fictional sex that fictional character has had with their fictional colleagues. I just hope everybody used fictional protection, because fictional STDs and fictional pregnancies are no joke.)Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Glyph, doesn’t the existence of the term “man-slut” indicate by itself that women are the default targets of the word “slut”?Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Eh, probably…or, I could have just said “Howard Stark is a big ol’ slut” and everyone would have understood me just fine, and no one would have been confused into thinking that I meant that the character of Howard Stark had suddenly become a woman. The word may have started out with a gendered meaning, but it now gets applied outside that original meaning. Marcotte is simply in my experience incorrect that it is always a gendered term.

          And anyway, I see the word choice as kind of irrelevant to the fundamental point – like I said, if I slept with 4 of the 6 people at your job, you might not use the word “slut”; but you’d probably have *something* to say about me. I doubt this latest kerfuffle would have been avoided had Renner instead joked “boy, somebody sure gets around Avengers HQ” without actually using the word “slut”.

          To be clear, I’m not saying it’s a great or hilarious joke…but assuming Renner is telling the truth about what he meant, it doesn’t seem worth a thousand thinkpieces either.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            We could argue over how gendered it is semantically, but I dint think there’s any arguing over how gendered it is in its evaluative component.

            I couldn’t make it through the Marcotte piece, because it was poorly structured and written, but if she means that we judge male sluts and female sluts differently, she’s obviously correct.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

              My wife called up the people to washing by four o’clock in the morning; and our little girl Susan is a most admirable slut, and pleases us mightily, doing more service than both the others, and deserves wages better. [Pepys, diary, Feb. 21, 1664]

              (as to how meanings change)Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              if she means that we judge male sluts and female sluts differently, she’s obviously correct.

              Well, I could quibble slightly over that “we”; speaking personally I’ve known both males and females who were seemingly indiscriminately-promiscuous to a fault and it caused them and others problems (and others who were either just discriminating-enough, or otherwise capable of handling it just fine), so I try not to judge sexual behavior based on gender, aside from certain practicalities when it comes to risk factors (I’m slightly less worried that a male who has a drunken one-night stand with a female he just met at the bar last night is going to be raped and murdered, than the reverse scenario. The simple fact of the matter is that I see the female as engaging in slightly-riskier behavior here; ditto with regards to unsafe sex practices – reality being what it is, she’s more likely to get the short end of the stick if things go wrong).

              But I agree that modern society does generally judge males and females differently for similar behaviors – it’s just that I don’t think going the other direction and continuing to apply different standards helps. I have a hard time imagining anyone getting bent out of shape about Howard Stark being called a slut (or, some roughly-equivalent term like horndog or whatever) – why, maybe we shouldn’t be shaming that (sigh…fictional) man for having a sexual desire for near-infinite variety and acting upon it regardless of any problems it causes him or others!

              Either it’s wrong to make any value judgements at all about someone’s sexual choices (even for comedic purposes), or it’s not (or, as I believe, it depends – but it shouldn’t depend on whether they are male or female. Renner made the argument that he wasn’t hinging his stupid joke upon the character’s femaleness, and unlike Marcotte, I see that as a valid argument).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                With that I largely agree. I assume Marcotte would like to remove the word from the vernacular. I’d be fine with it being divested of its evaluative component.

                On a related note longer posts/articles are just not her thing. I think her writing abilities max out at somewhere around 250 words. I finally read that whole thing and it was just not very good.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Actually, she’s got two problems as a writer; one is that her topic is so baked in, she’s saying the same stuff over and over (because there’s a lot of sexism and judgement about ladies and their sex lives in the world) that it’s got to be really difficult to have any sort of freshness to the sentences, let alone the paragraphs.

                Second, she’s writing a lot; publishing in a bunch of places; I recognize that work load; putting out 8 to 10 pieces a week to pay the bills is not easy. You get sloppy, and don’t do enough rewriting and editing.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        (And here is where I must point out, again, that this is an actor, making a stupid joke about a fictional character; and I have NO IDEA how much fictional sex that fictional character has had with their fictional colleagues. I just hope everybody used fictional protection, because fictional STDs and fictional pregnancies are no joke.)

        The answer to this question is, in fact, none. Romanova has not slept her way through the Avengers, as far as anyone can tell. Eventually spoilers for Avengers 2:

        Stark? Nope. Stark arguable hired her in Iron Man 2 because she was undercover as an attractive woman and he’s an ass, but there doesn’t seem to any point that could have happened before he ended up with Pepper.

        Thor? No. Thor is completely Foster’s, and has always been since before meeting Romanova.

        Barton? It was possible to argue, before Avengers 2, that him and Romanova were friends-with-benefits, or were even hiding some sort of romantic relationship. That pretty much fell apart with Avengers 2 with the revelation he’s married and she’s friends with his family.

        Of course, any of those three might be having an affair with Romanova…but, uh, that sorta makes them look a lot worse than she does. And there’s no textual support for that. (OT3 pairings of her, Barton, and Barton’s wife aside.) Continuing:

        Rogers? Nope. Their interaction in Captain America 2 says otherwise…I guess it’s possible that it happened *after* that, but it’s hard to see how, or even *when* there was time. And Rogers in Avengers 2 would be pretty out of character if he was just ignoring that.

        This leaves Banner, the only Avenger that Romanova *could* have slept with. And, they *are* in a relationship, so, okay. Except, assuming the Edward Norton Hulk movie is still canon-ish, Banner *can’t* have sex, or at least couldn’t then. So whether or not that has happened is unknown…but it’s worth noticing that this supposedly sexual character has ended up in a relationship where sex, at the very least, presents real danger. (Not like, ‘sexy danger’, but actual real danger. God only knows how the Hulk would react if he came out during sex…he’s really only controllable to the extent you can point him at things to bash, and then try to calm him back down.) And even if Banner *can*, in theory, have sex without the Hulk showing up, would he risk it?

        So that’s…*maybe* one Avenger she’s ever had sex with. Or probably not. That she’s in a relationship with. That’s it. For that, she gets called a slut, apparently.

        Hell, this version of Black Widow doesn’t even use sex as a weapon, when I really think about it. She uses her *attractiveness* as a weapon, but it’s never any sort of overt sexual thing, it’s just ‘attractive and friendly women’. Maybe, barely, some slightly flirting. She certainly shows less skin than in the comic book.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:


    I might or might not make this a separate post but I think another issue is that the audience for very serious and long-form journalism does not overlap much with audiences that can be sold fancy or fancyish consumer products or potentially any consumer product. I might be a bit of an overlapping Venn Diagram here by I feel like the overlap is pretty small.

    My anecdotal evidence for this is based on the type of articles that people post on facebook. The kind of people who are willing to post from N plus One and Jacobin or other in-depth magazines also tend to have the most anti-consumerist views. The ones who post “lighter” news stories or Buzzfeed stuff are also likely to post stuff about new products, restaurants, breweries, and other stuff you can buy with cash and a little line like “wanna buy” “shut up and take my money”, “this looks fun”, etc.

    In short, intellectuals are cheap and often proudly so. They also stereotypically are known for being at best negligent and at worst probably antagonistic to material pleasures and things. They don’t even think “cool” for a 20 dollar t-shirt with some clever or cute joke.Report

    • Avatar aaron david says:

      I would say that almost any magazine that thinks itself a”leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture” would be at least mildly anti consumerist. And given that N+1 tends to favor Critical Theory most heavily, its probably not too far off.Report