mister gotcha trend-lord douchebag

Trends Discourse is a genre unto itself, I have discovered lately, as I try to sustain some sort of engagement with what is arguably an adjacent profession to my own. But the self-satisfaction of its leading pundits, and the lack of reflexivity thereby implied, can make for some serious eyeroll material.

Exhibit A is this Matt Klein interview with one Julia Dixon. First of all, it’s a slightly weird look to do guest interviews with what you’re saying are the most insightful people in the field, and then to devote more screen-inches to your own opinions, which largely seem intended to undermine or nay-say theirs?

But secondly, just being flat-out fucking wrong, as in incorrect, and doing it in a manner so utterly confident that it almost beggars belief.

You can see this most plainly in the middle section of the piece, where Dixon begins by noting the emergence of “Neo-Luddism”, and of content and products to serve people feeling that vibe; good solid trends observation, though perhaps not news to anyone who reads this blog.

But now in comes Klein to explain it all away… and I’m gonna quote at length (because that’s how we do analysis in my sector, sunshine):

Change is a threat. And we’re threatened.

Start by identifying with a general public—a sound strategy, Matt! But then:

It’s important to make the distinction between true Neo-Luddism and my coffee table stacked with friends’ printed writing projects. I wouldn’t call the latter Neo-Luddism.

I feel a bit bad about making assumptions about the demography of people whose printed projects might be found on Klein’s coffee table… but not too bad, because making assumptions about demographics is Klein’s core business.

But anyway, it turns out that we aren’t threatened at all; the coffee-table print-projects people aren’t threatened, Klein’s not threatened! It’s those other people who are threatened.

After all, no one is making their analog works without technology.

No one! No one at all. If you’re not online, if you’re not using tech, you don’t exist. Or might as well not exist, which amounts to the same thing.

In many “Neo-Luddite” cases, we’re not truly pushing against technology as much as we are peacocking that we want to exist without it… yet by using it.

This is no different than the nauseating, “So long, I’m deleting my social media” post. Yup. See you back here next month.

(Note the return of the “we”, after the earlier othering aside.)

Now, performative quitting is definitely a thing—but it’s been Definitely A Thing for a decade or more. And that “see you back here next month” has real big “drunks at closing time” energy, don’t you think? Mash that up with the old favourite “look at the anticapitalists with their Starbucks and their iPhones” riff, and… look, for someone who’s apparently amaaaazingly plugged in to modern culture and all, it’s genuinely impressive how pitch-perfect your impersonation is of this guy on the right:

But now comes the massive factual error, confidently put forward as the crux of the argument:

Whereas traditional Luddites were concerned with the economic implications of technology and opposed all of it, today’s Neo-Luddism distinguishes itself by only opposing tech deemed “destructive or otherwise detrimental to society.”

I mean, this is just categorically incorrect. The “traditional” Luddites—perhaps you meant “original”, Matt?—were concerned with all aspects of technology, particularly the economic, but did not oppose all technology on principle.

Admittedly, this is a common misconception, based on a very successful two-century-long slander of the Luddites… but if you’ve been canny enough to notice the Neo-Luddites, you’d perhaps also be canny enough to be reading some of the books that the Neo-Luddites themselves are reading, and getting yourself a fucking clue, hmmm?

But anyway, here are our Neo-Luddites, “only opposing tech deemed destructive or otherwise detrimental to society”. Tell us why they’re saps and suckers, Matt!

First: This reveals there is no escaping the pervasiveness of digital tech today.

BAM. The insight, it burns! Hit ’em again, Matty!

Second: “Detrimental” is wholly subjective, making this is an ethical and therefore subjective and debatable concept.

Raaaargh—with this sort of raw reasoning power, no freshly inducted grad-school student will ever be safe again!

(Though failing to point out that the notion of “society” is itself a social construct seems like a bit of a missed opportunity… )

Now, deliver unto us the conclusive take, oh mighty seer!

And third: Therefore, Neo-Luddism can now be seen as more of a social signal and peacock than a marker of grave social concern in that picking a fight with media or tech is like picking a fight with air.

I mean, sure—it can be seen that way, certainly. But it’s taken a totally false starting premise for you to do so, and it’s all wrapped up at the end here with a very determinist “well, it’s inevitable, isn’t it” shrug-off. And all this in the context of a larger piece wherein you mansplain away the insights of your invited guest, and consistently imply that there’s definitely nothing wrong with the tech that underpins the behaviours she’s chosen to highlight, only with the people engaged in those behaviours, who are all sorts of people, but who definitely aren’t the sorts of people who make the printed projects that we’d find on your coffee table, Matt.

The fights you pick reveal your character.

They really do, don’t they? Which is why, Matt, after your only having been there for a couple of months, you’re getting kicked right out of my OPML file of RSS feeds, because I don’t intend to further waste my time arguing with your cocky Neo-Mad-Men trend-lord bullshit.

(Dear readers, if you ever feel I’m turning into this guy, or even something vaguely like him, please do me the favour of telling me so before sending my writings to the kill-file.)



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