Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Name of our Age, an Attempt at Cultural Criticism

An Osceola county, Florida man was recently arrested for impersonating a police office. Incidents of this odd crime are rising all over the country. It seems every other week there is such a story here in Colorado. In a bizarre twist on this theme a Fort Collins woman who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a police officer imposter, was, herself, fabricating the story. What is striking about the Florida man, however, is that he previously was arrested for impersonating a physicians assistant in a hospital emergency room. A serial impersonator putting the public at danger, how scary is that ?!? This strange bit of news actually helped me clarify something, however. I have been asking myself, what is a good name for our age? A couple of common names are the Internet Age, New Gilded Age and Age of Terror. Thomas Friedman has talked about how technology has made the world flat. All this technology constantly interrupts us, hence he calls this the Age of Interruption. Opting for my own name, I originally dubbed out times the Age of Snark. Snark, which often erroneously masquerades as wit, has become an overused rhetorical tool to the point where it is derailing our dialogue and thoughts. It generally involves ad hominem attacks designed to belittle one’s opponent. This in itself would not be noteworthy, except for the fact that it has invaded and poisoned every realm of public discussion. Let’s take politics for example. Television and radio personalities on each side (right and left) deploy snarky commentary to completely dismiss their opponents. Instead of an exchange of ideas, both sides have created straw men and women to attack. This reduction of all ideas to their most buffoonish and cartoonish element has just about killed any serious exchange on ideas. If the Democrats are all secular socialists and the Republicans all apologists for the 1%, as the reasoning goes, where can we find any common ground? One sure sign of snark is the f-bomb. It is indeed the only adjective available for the smart, snarky set in the blogosphere. I have to say that not all snark is bad, it certainly can be funny and genuine satire is a great tool for commentary. I cite Anthony Bourdain as a great practicioner of snark at its best. The problem is when it becomes a worldview. I wavered a little on this generalization after hearing the story of the Florida man. Snark just doesn't cover the police impersonators, fakers, pretenders, or, for that matter, the vulture economy, way overpaid professional athletes, super bowl hype, $200 concert tickets, Lady Gaga, Facebook stalking, students texting in class, salads at McDonald's, deposed Nigerian princes who want me to give them my bank account and meet them in Rome, computer viruses, North Korea, or many other trends in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Therefore, I re-name our age to include all of these trends. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Age of Bullshit!

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