Wednesday, November 05, 2008

whence the snark?

One of my students today observed that she has felt, already, a lessening of the snarky tone she's heard and read all around her pretty much all her conscious life. I think she believes that tone will be at an end, that sincerity, rhetorical calm, un-irony will wash over the language. My guess - still plenty of the snark in me, I suppose - is that it will last a few months. Snark is here to stay.

I want to ponder this. Eight years of an awful presidency has generated the super-skepticism - the hypersatirical state of public political (and to some significant extent cultural) commentary - and that, in the most general way, makes sense. Harding and Coolidge certainly created, or at least contributed to, Roaring Twenties ironic hilarity, flapperistic farce.

But this era of snark happened to coincide with the emergence of the web, the proliferation of voices, the radical democratization of the commentariat, 1000 blogs blooming, social networking in which your "Friends" are your ready audience for daily expressions of your "status," podcasts made in the breakfast room recorded on a Radio Shack microphone plugged into a $600 computer. Bush + web 2.0 = snark.

Obama in part succeeded because of this interactive social revolution, and his movement would by no means want to put it all back in the bottle. But can the tone change? Can sincerity coexist with the ubiquity of these voices?