Snarkism, smarmism and hucksterism won’t help resolution of voc. ed. & training issues

snark

How scathingly brilliant [not]! You snarked me! [Bruce D. Watson]

When people talk about debates in the media today, they’re often referring to trivial Twitter spats that flare out as quickly as they came.  DYLAN BYERS

An anti-intellectual worldview in which there is no room for critical thinking.  DYLAN BYERS

But the Bambi Rule evangelism — the “no haters” mentality, the finger-wagging at criticism — is intolerable. It marginalizes and even demonizes critical thought, the one thing that is essential for separating the wheat from the chaff. It allows for the proliferation of hucksterism. And it promotes the idea that …. “questions of truth, meaning, goodness, justice and beauty” don’t matter. Of course, if hawking chaff is your trade, I can understand why the Bambi Rule appeals. DYLAN BYERS

Case study (at end of Post) – many other examples available in LinkedIn threads!

The essence of snark in …. is to hurt someone through bitter words.

Snark can be used for different purposes. However, mostly it is utilized as a mask. Others might use it as a defensive device. When bitterness is not easy to express in an agreeable way…

smarm: behave in an ingratiating way in order to gain favour.

huckster: someone who sells or advertises something in an aggressive, dishonest, or annoying way.

Source: Literary Devices, http://bit.ly/1evgJ9W

Snark is a combination of two words; “snide” and “remark”, which means a sarcastic comment. It is a literary device which is meant to be a sarcastic speech. Depending on the subject, the audience and the speaker, snark can be taken as sophisticated, witty or asinine.

Snark is defined as making sharp and critical comments and a wonderfully witty blending of cynicism and sarcasm. There are many examples of snark from Shakespeare’s works such as, “Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral bak’d meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables…” (Hamlet). The major character, Hamlet, makes sarcastic remarks on the affair of his mother and uncle and regarding their marriage ceremony.

Characteristics of Snark

Snark is a witty and sarcastic comment used in writing or speech. Hate speeches pointed towards large groups of people cannot be considered as snark examples. It is a rug-pulling and teasing type of insult that is used to steal somebody’s charm and annihilate his effectiveness. Snark can appeal to the shrewd audience at large who can understand the derision of the snarker and his references.

Examples of Snark from Literature

Example #1

Good fences make good neighbors.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head.

(Mending Walls by Robert Frost)

Frost makes snarky remarks by pointing out that although two neighbors have made a wall between their countries, every winter the wall falls apart and neighbors meet to mend the wall. Therefore, they spend a lot of time together while mending the wall.

Example #2

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

(Road Not Taken by Robert Frost)

The poet talks about the two roads; most people select one road while the other is less traveled. The poet has chosen the less traveled one. Since he feels regret for his choice of path, he makes a snarky and sarcastic comment that it made a difference.

Example #3

A FRERE ther was, a wantown and a merye,
A limitour, a ful solempne man,
So muche of daliaunce and fair langage.
He hadde maad ful many a mariage
Of yonge wommen, at his owne cost.
Ful wel biloved and famulier was he
With frankeleyns over-al in his contree,
He wiste that a man was repentaunt.
For many a man so hard is of his herte.

(Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer)

Chaucer depicts the character Friar in a bitter speech because the said character is a priest who accepts bribes from rich people. He does not take interest in his duties and he spends money from confessions of sinners on women and merry- making. .

Example #4

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet….

(Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare)

Here, Juliet makes a sarcastic comment and asks Romeo his name, asking why his name is Romeo. It is because their families are enemies, and they could never be united. She tells him to change his name or she will change her.

Example #5

Friends, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honorable man.
So are they all, all honorable men.

(Julius Caesar by Shakespeare)

Here, Mark Antony recurrently uses a specific phrase, “an honorable man”. He calls Brutus an honorable man who has killed Caesar. His persistent use of this phrase reverses the real meaning of this phrase and hence it is a sarcastic use of this phrase.

Function of Snark

Snark can be used for different purposes. However, mostly it is utilized as a mask. Others might use it as a defensive device. When bitterness is not easy to express in an agreeable way, snark is used without hurting anyone directly.

The major purpose of snark in literary works is to create a special flavor just to make the piece of work real. However, the essence of snark in literary works is to hurt someone through bitter words.

Case study

Source: ‘Snark vs. smarm’ goes mainstream, Dylan Byers,  http://politi.co/ITPk1F

So it’s not exactly the Dreyfus Affair, but the argument over “snark” and “smarm” that Gawker’s Tom Scocca launched two weeks ago has turned into a divisive intellectual debate on which the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, Maureen Dowd and Leon Wieseltier have all weighed in.

When people talk about debates in the media today, they’re often referring to trivial Twitter spats that flare out as quickly as they came. So it’s nice to see marquee writers engaging in a media debate that matters. As Dowd wrote in her New York Times column on Sunday, “All quarrels are not petty. Sometimes quarrels are about big things, and it’s an actual privilege to take a side in them.”

Dowd doesn’t exactly explain why the “snark” vs. “smarm” debate matters, but it does. It’s not just about niceness vs. meanness, nor is it only about the obligations of intellectual criticism (a worthwhile subject in its own right); it’s about journalism, and its interests and obligations.

To bring you up to speed: In early November, Isaac Fitzgerald, the first-ever Books editor for BuzzFeed, a site unapologetically driven by the quest for clicks, told Poynter that the site wouldn’t be publishing negative reviews: “Why waste breath talking smack about something?” he said. “You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip.” Instead, Fitzgerald would follow the advice of Thumper, the rabbit from “Bambi”: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

One month later, Scocca responded with an extraordinarily long castigation of Fitzgerald’s “smarm,” which he defined thusly: “What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance — an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves. … Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can’t everyone just be nicer?”

The piece wasn’t just an attack on what Dowd today described as “the pompous and often vapid niceness brigade,” it was also an attack on BuzzFeed. At BuzzFeed, Scocca wrote, “agreeability is popularity, and popularity is value” — people want to share agreeable things, nice things, hence agreeable content goes viral. In an introduction to Scocca’s piece, Gawker founder Nick Denton called that a “collective delusion” and hit BuzzFeed for trafficking in “the hollow exchange of insincerity between people who don’t really know each other or trust each other.”

The debate might have died there, but then Malcolm Gladwell, a popular writer flying under the flag of public intellectual, picked it up in a blog post for The New Yorker titled “Being Nice Isn’t Really So Awful.” In true Gladwellian fashion, he turned a handful of disparate and selective examples into evidence for general truths, urging the reader along to an “a-ha!” conclusion that was rendered utterly nonsensical and irrelevant once you actually took the time to think about it. His point: That satire (are we still talking about snark?) is not a revolt against smarm because it has been institutionalized and therefore rendered ineffective at challenging the status quo.

Several others weighed in — at Esquire, the author Stephen Marche argued that snark and smarm are two sides of the same coin, that coin being a writer’s desire to make a buck: “People do not write hate-pieces for the improvement of society. They write hate-pieces in order to get noticed and to make a little money. The logic of the market has one primary feature: Nobody escapes it.”

And finally, today, Dowd dedicated her column to the debate, not offering perspective so much as serving as a vehicle for Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, to offer perspective, which she endorsed: “If one feels that a value or a belief or a form that one cherishes has been traduced, one should rise to its defense,” Wieseltier told Dowd. “In intellectual and literary life, where the stakes may be quite high, manners must never be the primary consideration. People who advance controversial notions should be prepared for controversy. Questions of truth, meaning, goodness, justice and beauty are bigger than Bambi. I never thought I’d utter a sentence like this, but I stand with Gawker against BuzzFeed.”

Which brings us back to Fitzgerald’s remark, his “Bambi Rule,” an anti-intellectual worldview in which there is no room for critical thinking. Fitzgerald admittedly has no interest in literary criticism. As such, “BuzzFeed Books” is more of a marketing platform, both intended  — there is the usual sponsored content — and otherwise. The top three items on BuzzFeed Books as I write this are: “Which Middle Earth Character Are You?” (Go see the new Hobbit film!), “Harry Potter Emojis Are What Your Phone Needs Immediately” (How great is Harry Potter! Am I right?) and “The 14 Greatest Science Fiction Books Of The Year.”

That this suffocating, Generation-X Hallmark sensibility exists is fine; BuzzFeed can do whatever it wants, and its founders are likely not-paying-attention-to-this-debate all the way to the bank. It’s a smart business strategy, appealing as it does to the lowest common denominator, and so, like daytime television and top 40 radio before it, it has become increasingly omnipresent. Indeed, it’s often heralded as the next iteration of digital journalism (see Upworthy, the year-old site that bills itself as “the place to find awesome, meaningful, visual things to share”).

But the Bambi Rule evangelism — the “no haters” mentality, the finger-wagging at criticism — is intolerable. It marginalizes and even demonizes critical thought, the one thing that is essential for separating the wheat from the chaff. It allows for the proliferation of hucksterism. And it promotes the idea that Wieseltier’s “questions of truth, meaning, goodness, justice and beauty” don’t matter.

Of course, if hawking chaff is your trade, I can understand why the Bambi Rule appeals.

 

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