An epic battle for control of the Internet was waged Friday night under the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. n+1 editor and novelist Keith Gessen threw a party to "Take Back the Internet." He basically invited everyone who has ever been mean to him online, as well as readers of his Tumblr, which is mostly aimed at hostile blog commenters. And so Hamilton, Pareene, and I had no choice but to head over to DUMBO and fight for the Internet.
Lest you get your hopes up—honestly, no battle was fought that night, unless one counts the collective, epic consumption of Brooklyn Lagers. Cruelly, the task of dispensing the beer had been assigned to n+1's young, nubile interns (both men and women.) Apparently this is a time-honored tradition. A plastic cup pleaded for a $1 donation per beer for these poor foot-soldiers of culture.
N+1's office was fairly small, sweltering, and full of people who kept inadvertently poking each other—much like the Internet itself. Who was crammed inside? We saw journalist Wesley Yang, Brian Stelter (formerly of TVNewser, currently of the NYT), and Harper's/n+1 contributor Christian Lorentzen (who we hear is dating an intern) and Harper's Miriam Markowitz. The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell was there, and someone showed him a cell-phone photo of themselves dressed up as him for Halloween, complete with an oversized curly wig. Luckily, Gladwell was amused.
The party was something of a minefield: people who live in glass Internets will eventually have a beery, slightly awkward conversation with somebody they threw an e-brick at. For example, I met Keith, who had not forgotten my declaring n+1 as not, in fact, the most important literary magazine of our time.
"Got any other suggestions?" he asked shortly after shaking my hand. (Meanwhile, I silently pondered his online remark referring to us as "card-carrying enemies of culture." Should I update my business card?)
Jessica Wakeman, formerly of the HuffPo and now stringing for the Observer, wandered the crowd looking for Pareene. "He wrote about me!" she said. She was no doubt referring to his "earnest feminism" remark. An introduction was made.
Near the end of the evening-I am told-Gessen made a speech. Ever single person from Gawker was drunk (except for Hamilton) in the hallway at the time and missed it. However, eyewitness reports describe the novelist standing on a piece of furniture, waving his arms around in a mostly-futile call for silence:
He had spent the last two weeks on the Internet! he shouted over the din of the crowd. And during that time, he learned that the Internet was a place where people expressed their pain! ("Isn't that what literature is?" somebody shouted back.) He would continue to express his pain via the Internet, he declared! Eventually, he got off the table.
A commenter for this website admitted to Gessen afterwards that he had been the one who had told him, online, to "suck his balls." They embraced.
Meanwhile, there was no more beer. And so, the card-carrying enemies of culture headed down the rainy street to an empty bar, unsure of whether or not the battle had been won-or even fought. No matter. We continued to drink, expressing our pain long into the night.