If you were self-obsessed enough to launch a website about yourself, and then had someone obsessed enough with you to launch their own website based entirely on you, would you be flattered or creeped-out? Julia Allison faces such a predicament.
We here at Gawker are certainly guilty of creating, perpetuating, and meta-reveling in the whole Julia Allison rise-to-power and near-immediate backlash. But these days it's less Allison herself that intrigues and startles us and more the haze of buzzy, insane rancor that constantly surrounds her. We understand the need for a town finger-pointer, someone who pulls our attention to the ridiculous machine and says "No clothes! That fool's not wearing any clothes!" as these strange empress creatures like Allison parade down the street. But at this point, doesn't everyone already know people like JA are mostly naked? She knows she's naked. And yet an entire network of "rebloggers" haven taken to the cause of chanting it over and over, like an army of zombies stomping along to the same monotonous, vaguely threatening beat. As long as Julia is living her life on the internet, they will keep trying to destroy it. (Or do they secretly love it?) Would they stop if Julia Allison ever stopped (hah), or would they find someone else? That's a mystery we've yet to solve.
We're speaking of the wildly weird Reblogging NonSociety, a website that responds, in exhausting detail, to every single internet movement of our greatest living fameball. NonSociety is Allison's pastiche-as-business-model lifestyle site, composed mainly of cobbled-together Tweets and corporate-sponsored brand posts. Nothing about NonSociety or Allison's public persona are terribly noteworthy on a minute-by-minute basis — they're only worth a post every coupla weeks (like we do it! sigh). And yet this Reblogging blog just keeps posting away with alarming frequency. They manage to find at least one snidely analytical or throwaway thing to say about her every day, seemingly in possession of a never-ending supply of jabs about her looks or talent (lack thereof, etc.) or whatever else annoys people about Allison.
On Tuesday alone, Reblogging NonSociety ran six posts about Ms. Allison, repeatedly calling her a 'donkey', running a little 'photo essay' called "Donkey In Heat", and reposting some Vimeo videos. One post's title read "Proof that Julia Allison Is Not Hot." They do at least seem aware of how very weird it is that they exist at all. Though we shouldn't let small moments of self-reflection dilute the fact that, most of the time, these people are somewhat horrible — with comments that are even worse.
Look at a post about Toph Eggers, writer-hero Dave's famous-ish younger brother, who Julia was dating this fall. Watch as people who hate Julia hate her enough to post 174 comments about her, and then watch as they do a follow-up post about some anonymous commenter tipster who uses the kicky screenname Beth, which is the name of Eggers' sister who killed herself. Yay humor! And yay perspective.
What the rebloggers don't seem to be conscious of, or are at least unwilling to acknowledge, is that, aside from the particularly cruel stuff, constantly reposting videos and random NonSociety musings is only helping Julia. They are raising her Googleability, they are making her more powerful by constantly trying to strike her down in this creepy, obsessive way. Maybe the rebloggers are keenly and sadly aware that they have to tend to their chief crop, must nurture it and help it grow strong, in order to have enough to eat. Or, maybe they really think they can take her down. It's hard to tell.
There was also this troubling project, another (the original?) Julia Allison reblogging site that mysteriously shut down the gristle mill last spring. (The Allison nemesis may have felt unwelcome: Tumblr founder David Karp temporarily closed the site, along with one other, before reversing his decision.) Were the two related? Continuations of the same thing? Who knows. But either way, that's TWO sites that existed this year that were entirely devoted to responding to what Julia Allison says. Why, that's more sites than Julia Allison has! (Well, OK, that's probably not true.) Just who are these people who spend so many precious waking hours of their lives delving into the nether reaches of one solitary stranger, whom they will likely never meet and who has no measurable effect on their own lives?
'juliaspublicist', Reblogging's main, uh, reblogger, chooses to maintain his or her (likely her, right?) anonymity, as do the rest of the contributors. We could make cracks about the cowardice of anonymity and all that, but we've all said mean things about folks we don't know while protected behind the whirring veil of a laptop. Just not to this extent.
We asked Julia what she thinks of these sites and she was understandably reluctant to say anything; on one hand she'd like to describe the troubles these sites have caused, on the other she doesn't want to give them that satisfaction. "The whole thing is so ... out of control," she wrote via IM. "And I don't know what I can possibly do to stop it."
It's such a strange internet phenomenon, this splintering and reducing down of a blog's focus to one solitary, hated subject. As this seems to just be a hobby, these cultural critics could, if they wanted to, keep their hands clean of all this awful blog blood that taints so many of us. Because, presumably, they, unlike us (oh helpless, helpless us!), have other means with which to feed themselves and their pets/families. And yet they sally forth still, every day, as if compelled by some oblivious higher calling. The rebloggers' tenacity, if not their substance or style, is oddly admirable.
Their endeavor truly takes commitment. Somewhat frightening, utterly befuddling commitment.
Update: Looks as though something about this hand-wringing has struck a chord over there. The Reblogging site has posted a surprisingly thoughtful and somewhat guilty-seeming response. Dialogue! Channels opened! Change!