It’s my intent, for better or worse, to jot out a missive each Monday with a purpose that is two-fold. 1) To let you know what’s coming up for the week at Atticus Review and 2) To occasionally express a little of what’s on my mind in terms of literature, the media, words, art, music. I will aim to keep these to about 800 words, which I believe is a number of words that holds special magical powers when it comes to electronic missives, children’s books, or recipes for guacamole.
First off, I’m happy to be at Atticus Review and I want to thank Dan Cafaro for bringing me on board. There is so much talent published on this site and there is such great talent bringing that talent to this site and I feel very lucky to be within such short sight of those great talents. I look forward to carrying on with more of the same, in addition to more of the non-same or new, including a (new!) weekly publishing schedule, several (new!) social media accounts, and a (new!) reading series which will at first be local to Northern New Jersey, but which could expand to other (new!) areas (some of which don’t even necessarily have to have “new” in the name.)
Here’s what you can expect in the coming week: Be ready for an amazing poetry feature of Amber Shockley brought to you by our fantastic Poetry Editor, Michael Meyerhofer. There will be a new Family Life column from contributor Susan Gelles about moving and the complexities of being a nomad with loved ones who are non-nomads. And finally, we’ll have a Special Theme Issue on the topic of “Violence,” which we seem to be in no short supply of lately.
Speaking of violence, here’s the thing that’s been on my mind the past week as I’ve been thinking about my new role as Editor-in-Chief at this journal and the responsibility of publishing things in today’s world. Did you read the Vox piece by Dara Lind last week? The one about how the current Republican Nominee for President (RNFP) tweeted the following about how “all press is good press!” and how that perfectly explained his entire campaign strategy (and possibly his entire life.)
In her piece, Lind writes: “Despite his whining on his Twitter account about “unfair” coverage from certain news outlets, it’s clear that the worst thing for [the RNFP] is not to be written about at all.”
This has been nagging at me for a while now. When I pull up my Twitter or my Facebook, or turn on the TV or open a magazine, I am 100% guaranteed to see a story about the RNFP. And while I am not likely to see (because of the media I normally follow) a positive story about the RNFP, I will most certainly see mention of him, either in the form of a negative article or just a sarcastic tweet or Facebook post.
The RNFP is always trending.
The RNFP is constantly in the news.
And we are all facilitating this. The media, of course. But also: each of us on our own.
This is what the RNFP wants. This is all that the RNFP has ever wanted.
The worst thing that could happen to the RNFP is people stop talking about him. The worst thing that could happen to the RNFP is that people stop using his billion-dollar name
Let me suggest the following: Every time we tweet/post/write an online piece about the RNFP we are helping him win social media.
It doesn’t matter if the tweet/post is positive or negative. The RNFP is Teflon. None of it sticks to him. But here’s what it does do: It fuels the Big Algorithm that tells all the media everywhere what people want to hear about. And according to that Big Algorithm, we want to hear about the RNFP.
What did you think about this morning when you woke up? I mean, after coffee. After breakfast tacos. I’ll tell you one of the things I thought about: I wonder what ridiculous thing the RNFP will do/say today?
It’s an addiction. And like all addictions, it’s a sickness. It’s a terrible, terrible sickness. And it’s spread through the media. And here’s the big irony today: we are the media. Each of us with our tweets and our Facebook posts.
So what can we do? Well, here’s one thing I would propose: Instead of calling him by name, what if we referred to him simply as the “Republican Nominee for President” or RNFP, as I’ve done in this post. What if this was taken to an extreme and he was only referred to him as that, even in interviews and on the debate stage.
Doing this would have two effects:
1) It would separate this vile individual from his name. His name, essentially, is all he has. People pay him for his name. They pay him to put his name on their buildings. And guess what? We pay him, too. We pay him when we use his name. We pay him by giving him free media.
2) Naming him the “Republican Nominee for President” would be an ongoing indictment of the Republican Party, this supposed “mainstream” political party in our country who, in fact, nominated somebody to represent them who is the archetype of a dangerous narcissistic dictator and has no political experience. (That members of this party have actually alluded to our current president with similar language shows the extent of The Sickness.)
The media knows what were interested in. It knows what we wake up thinking about and what we’re hungry for. And make no mistake, the RNFP’s name is inserted into headlines and articles to both fuel and satisfy that hunger.
Listen, I’m not suggesting that we stop writing about the danger that is happening with the RNFP’s disconcerting rise. Here at the Atticus Review, we just this weekend published a stunning piece by Jared Yates Sexton, and his first-hand reporting from the Republican National Convention serves as a great wake-up call to everybody. We need to know what is going on. We need to know this stuff that is happening in our world. What I am suggesting is that editors at media outlets everywhere, small ones, large ones, and even individual twitter accounts and your (yes yours!) Facebook timeline, should be cognizant of when and how often and most importantly why and to what effect we are using the RNFP’s name. How often we are tweeting it. How often we are putting his image in front of our friends.
We all need to understand that we are feeding the Big Algorithm, and we run in danger of making ourselves complicit in this man’s rise by enabling him to continue doing what he has always done: win at media.
My friend David posted a quote from HL Mencken recently. As he points out, you have to be careful quoting Mencken as you’re bound to find something that, as either somebody on the Right or the Left, you’re going to disagree with. But I thought this quote was perfect for the predicament we’re finding ourselves in today, and I feel it’s a good one to end on:
“In America it is [the media] that is [the citizen’s] boss. From it he gets support for his elemental illusions. In it he sees a visible embodiment of his own wisdom and consequence. Out of it he draws fuel for his simple moral passion, his congenital suspicion of heresy, his dread of the unknown. And behind [the media] stands the plutocracy, ignorant, unimaginative and timorous.”
Ok, so for my first Monday Missive, I violated my own 800-word rule.
Here’s to rule-breaking. I look forward to more of the same.
Have a good week. Make good things. Begin anyway.