Harvard alums Simon Rich, Bridie Clark and Keith Gessen sat down with the Crimson recently to talk about their lives as literary figures making a living in the harsh marketplace that is life after Harvard. As the interviewer puts it: "You all write in very different styles. Simon, you chose humor, Bridie, chick lit, and Keith, well, I guess you're more of an intellectual voice." I guess! But all is not fun and games in the life of an intellectual voice. Keith, who is the most doable of the editors of n+1, which is the most important literary journal of our time, warns Simon "Frank Rich's son" Rich about the horrors of the criticism and conversation. "Wait 'til Gawker gets its filthy mitts on you," he says. "It's just strange, you know we live in a time when people can say whatever they want about you on the Internet and take no responsibility for it." Okay, Mr. Lit Theory, let's unpack that!
How can one statement be such a fantastic pineapple upside-down cake of fallacies? It's like some crazy mash-up of an appeal to pity and spite, capped with the world's most anti-democratic and most anti-intellectual irrelevant conclusion. People can say whatever they want about you on the Internet—but it doesn't mean anything, because speech so free is apparently reckless. It's irresponsible to print whatever one believes! Oh, I get it! He means it's not true, somehow, because he deems it irresponsible.
Oh, by the way—you know what my favorite part of n+1 is? The unsigned front-of-book items! Where an anonymous editor, or friend of editor, or someone, can weigh in on whomever and whatever however he wishes. Those are great.
Keith Gessen has a friend in David Blum, our favorite former Village Voice editor, writing in today's NY Sun about the horrors of the internet. (He saved himself some money, by the way, and attended the University of Chicago!)
Eventually, someone's career will be ruined, needlessly and unfairly, by a reckless Web site. Who arbitrates the limits of Internet exposure, or the level of celebrity required to justify it? As it gets easier for Web sites and reporters to pick apart the private behavior of our public figures, what greater public good is being served by these floggings? Meanwhile, we could all probably benefit from ratcheting up our fear of exposure, too—even the best behaved among us. The Internet is out there, and it's an equal-opportunity destroyer.
Clearly we live in a terrifying age when anyone can say anything idiotic or even actually inaccurate in the pages of a Zionist daily rag or irregular literary journal or in a Q&A with a college newspaper. What a horrible time this is! How will our society survive with speech both so free and so stupid?