Why We Can't All Just Get Along

The parallels between those taking sides in the battle over the merit of Grand Theft Auto and the battle over the merit of blogs as journalistic devices are striking.

It's no secret that Grand Theft Auto IV is, at this point, an utter phenomenon, not just a gaming entity but a media entity that is currently, in the few days following its release, destroying every other form of entertainment in terms of popularity, interest, and commentary. On one hand, we have the side of 99% of the gamers who have bought it: basically, that it's the best damn thing since San Andreas came out. Then, there are those who are utterly and unequivocally against its release, suggesting that it should be locked behind counters or banned outright. There is very little in-between to be found, which makes for a dearth of common ground from which intelligent discussion of the merits and flaws in the game can appear.

Buzz vs. Will, Round 1...FIGHT
(Image courtesy of AOL Fanhouse)

Interestingly, this particular split is happening just as another such split is popping up and threatening to consume the media: blogs vs. the mainstream (read: print) media. It's a split that had been brewing for some time, but it all seems to have come to a head now that Buzz Bissinger, the author of Friday Night Lights himself, relentlessly browbeat Deadspin.com progenitor Will Leitch all over Bob Costas' HBO show the other night. The divide is framed as such: those who have spent their life cutting their teeth on print media can't stand the brash, brazenly amateur tone favored by the majority of blogs (and have no trouble saying so via endlessly trotting out the tired "living in their moms' basements" line), and blogs are dismissing those criticisms as baseless and completely without merit (often by indulging in exactly the sort of bottom-feeding that the "old guard" is criticizing). Much like the split inspired by Grand Theft Auto, sanity can only be found somewhere in between those two arguments, but let's face it: arguments that try to reconcile two sides of a very tall fence are a) difficult to present, and b) bound to be slammed to death by both sides of that fence.

Something that Leitch said before he got mauled Tuesday night was striking, however, in that it sheds some light on both of these debates. In responding to charges of the lack of accountability of blogs in general, Leitch mentioned that "There are many things that we might say in an e-mail or might say in a comment section...that we would not say in real life." One could presume that he would expand that to blog posts as well. The point is that the anonymity afforded to us by the internet allows us a sort of freedom to speak without consequence; the web allows people, who would never dream of acting this way in any sort of "real life" venue, the freedom to be racist, sexist, and just plain mean in a place where the ultimate punishment is merely to be banned or ignored.

Such freedom comes with a price, and the price that we pay for that freedom is to be presented with a series of difficult decisions every time we indulge in this new sort of journalism. Specifically, we are forced to either accept that with most of the new voices we choose to read there may well be some modicum of disagreeable behavior attached, or we severely limit the scope of the points of view that we allow ourselves to partake in. There are a lot of merits to the most popular sports and gaming blogs on the internet, but by patronizing a Kotaku or a Deadspin, even if we choose to ignore those articles that we find troubling, we are passively supporting a community that contains commenters (and sometimes writers) who espouse sexist, racist, and even classist ideals.

I tend to find that there are enough good bits to many of these blogs and websites, especially the ones mentioned, to more than mitigate the detriment that certain users and attitudes in the communities built by them happen to have. Still, the mere fact that the dross can be published -- and, often, celebrated -- understandably scares the hell out of people who have been protected by editors for their entire working lives.

In examining the parallel divide presented by Grand Theft Auto, we find that we are faced with many of the same sorts of decisions. There are, obviously, many positives to be gleaned from the Grand Theft Auto experience, not least of which is the ability to explore something new, a fully-realized world that you simply can't get to by hopping in your car and driving there. You can interact with the population however you like, you can drive pretty much whatever kind of car you want, and you can evoke new experience after new experience in a way that will far exceed anything else that $60 will buy you.

Still, in order to partake in this new, beautifully rendered world, you must accept that it will contain elements that are sexist, racist, and incredibly, unforgivably violent. You must also accept that in order to play the game as it is intended, you must in fact take part in many of the worst elements of this virtual world. What scares people about this particular mechanic is that it seems to confirm many of our worst fears about people and how they function in society; that, left to their own devices, people choose to be evil. Even this, however, is a jump in logic -- Grand Theft Auto actually rewards for much of the evil we choose to do as part of its world, so it's not necessarily an indictment or a window into much of anything other than what Rockstar developers assume we want out of a game. A medium that was once protected by the famous Nintendo Seal of Quality is no longer "safe", and this is a scary concept.

In both the Grand Theft Auto divide and the journalism divide, the fear is predominantly that of a generation used to functioning in a certain way, not ready to adapt to the new way. This group of people is battling against a new generation, largely unwilling to accept that anything could possibly be wrong with the way things are now developing.

Millions of people love pop music, despite the fact that much of it glamorizes hedonism and excess. No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood won Academy Awards despite the fact that the most memorable characters in both were morally reprehensible men. Many blogs will continue to cater to a largely *ist (and sometimes proud of it) constituency (where '*' could be 'sex', 'rac', or any of the other "ists", a designation which changes or disappears depending on the blog), and Grand Theft Auto, currently projected to be the biggest selling game of the year, is quite obviously here to stay. The thing is, despite the completely valid point that each of these things portrays and often glamorizes attitudes and ideas that, quite frankly, we should be trying to avoid, each of them also have merit, sometimes in ways that goes far beyond anything that preceded them in their respective mediums. The opposing sides will never agree on who's right and who's wrong; what we should strive for, however, is measured and intelligent discussion, and perhaps we can at least gain an understanding of and respect for viewpoints that don't necessarily agree with our own. From there...well, maybe we'll just have to agree to disagree.

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.