Quotulatiousness

November 20, 2016

Canada’s new “national bird”

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Apparently we needed a new national symbol so we’ve been given the “Grey Jay” as our new national bird. I’ve never seen one, as far as I can tell, and its normal range doesn’t extend into southern Ontario. Blue Jays are quite common around here, but I didn’t even know there was a Grey Jay until now. They’re apparently also known as “Whiskey Jacks” in the west and I’ve at least heard of that term from a Stan Rogers song. Colby Cosh is, as you’d expect, unimpressed:

Congratulations to the grey jay, Canada’s new national bird! Canadian Geographic magazine made the big announcement on Wednesday, having completed a two-year search for a suitable representative avian. The big news was greeted with a national chorus of… well, to be honest, it did sound suspiciously like a “meh.” For my part, I needed a minute or two to establish that the grey jay is what I was raised to call a “whiskey jack”.

But I did recognize it. I fear many Canadians, perhaps most, will not. I grew up north of Edmonton, adjacent to the boreal forest, and my nature-loving father made a point of bundling me into snow pants and dragging me into the woods from time to time, usually on some slender pretext. The whiskey jack is a northern bird — one of the characteristics that recommended it to Canadian Geographic is that it lives in Canada almost exclusively. On a map of Canada, the range of the whiskey jack is a band that covers almost the entire surface, with gaps where all the people happen to live.

That a species is seen only in the bush is probably no reason not to choose it as the national bird. The magazine wanted a bird that is not already the official avian emblem of a particular province, and this all but eliminated more obvious, popular, and attractive choices, such as the loon, the snowy owl, and the black-capped chickadee. The rather plain and uninspiring whiskey jack thus seems to have been the bird of destiny from the outset of the selection process, which involved an online vote and an expert panel.

But wait. Where does Canadian Geographic actually get the authority to choose a national bird for Canada? If you read carefully, you find that it doesn’t claim to have any. It made its choice, and says it is going to ask the federal government to endorse that choice formally.

Well, any other magazine or newspaper might do as much. The real answer to the question is that some sly editor cooked up the whole rigmarole in order to sell magazines.

November 18, 2016

Scott Alexander – “You are still crying wolf”

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Donald Trump is President-elect, but he didn’t get there by pandering to white supremacist and racist voters, but you’d never know that by how his campaign was reported in the media. Scott Alexander says that the media still hasn’t learned its lesson and is still crying wolf:

Back in October 2015, I wrote that the media narrative of Trump as “the white power candidate” and “the first openly white supremacist candidate to have a shot at the Presidency in the modern era” were being fabricated out of thin air. I said that “the media narrative that Trump is doing some kind of special appeal-to-white-voters voodoo is unsupported by any polling data”, and predicted that:

    If Trump were the Republican nominee, he could probably count on equal or greater support from minorities as Romney or McCain before him.

Well, guess what? The votes are in, and Trump got greater support from minorities than Romney or McCain before him. You can read the Washington Post article, Trump Got More Votes From People Of Color Than Romney Did, or look at the raw data (source)

We see that of every racial group, the one where Trump made the smallest gains over Romney was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population.

Nor was there some surge in white turnout. I don’t see official numbers yet, but by eyeballing what data we have it looks very much like whites turned out in lower numbers to vote in 2016 than they did in 2012, 2010, and so on.

Of course, the media quickly responded to all of this undeniable and freely available data with articles like White Flight From Reality: Inside The Racist Panic That Fueled Donald Trump’s Victory and Make No Mistake: Donald Trump’s Win Represents A Racist “Whitelash”.

I stick to my thesis from October 2015. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is more racist than any past Republican candidate (or any other 70 year old white guy, for that matter). All this stuff about how he’s “the candidate of the KKK” and “the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement” is made up. It’s a catastrophic distraction from the dozens of other undeniable problems with Trump that could have convinced voters to abandon him. That it came to dominate the election cycle should be considered a horrifying indictment of our political discourse, in the same way that it would be a horrifying indictment of our political discourse if the entire Republican campaign had been based around the theory that Hillary Clinton was a secret Satanist. Yes, calling Romney a racist was crying wolf. But you are still crying wolf.

I avoided pushing this point any more since last October because I didn’t want to look like I was supporting Trump, or accidentally convince anyone else to support Trump. But since we’re past the point where that matters anymore, I want to present exactly why I think this is true.

I realize that all of this is going to make me sound like a crazy person and put me completely at odds with every respectable thinker in the media, but luckily, being a crazy person at odds with every respectable thinker in the media has been a pretty good ticket to predictive accuracy lately, so whatever.

(more…)

November 16, 2016

QotD: Foodie self-righteousness

Filed under: Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… asking people to “eat local” who live in northern climes where “local” means “nothing green” for six or seven months out of the year, and do not get to spend a few months each winter in Sicily teaching a cooking class, is pretty rich. A food writer who is telling other people how they could eat, if they wanted to, is doing a great public service. A food writer who is telling other people how they should eat (just like me, except without my access to ingredients) is just obnoxious. You can’t possibly know how they should eat, unless you have spent some time living their lives.

It is well to remember that people who spend time professionally writing about food have quite a bit more time in their day for acquiring and cooking food than most people. They also have more resources and recipes at their disposal. And you know, they can move to California to enjoy the produce.

Nor is it just the tyranny of localism; it is the list of ingredients that you ought to like, and the list of ingredients that you shouldn’t, and what the hell is wrong with you troglodytes and your Twinkies? Now, personally, I hated Twinkies before Hostess went bankrupt, and I’m sure I’d hate them now, along with Hostess cupcakes, Ho Hos, Devil Dogs, Snowballs, and whatever other tasteless cake substance they’ve filled with that disgusting white goo that tastes like rubberized confectioner’s sugar. I also despise anything made with canned cream-of-whatever soup, detest marshmallows in any form, and would rather eat paste than Cool Whip. You know what these are? Personal preferences. They are not signs that I have achieved a higher level of food consciousness. There is no such thing as a higher level of food consciousness. There is stuff you like to eat, and stuff you do not like to eat.

Megan McArdle, “Dinner, With a Side of Self-Righteousness”, Bloomberg View, 2015-03-27.

November 8, 2016

QotD: Media bias

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The strongest bias in American politics is not a liberal bias or a conservative bias; it is a confirmation bias, or the urge to believe only things that confirm what you already believe to be true.

Emma Roller, “Your Facts or Mine?”, New York Times, 2016-10-25.

November 7, 2016

Rolling Stone and the Nicole Eramo lawsuit

Filed under: Law, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The jury decided that Rolling Stone magazine and the writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely did defame University of Virginia associate dean Nicole Eramo. Tim Newman comments on the (to him, satisfying) outcome of the case:

As soon as that story was published it got torn apart on the internet. Crucially, those tearing it apart were not just the red pill/manosphere/PUA sites either. Plenty of moderate, mainstream sites cast serious doubts on the story and I read a few of them.

Common sense would have told you there was something seriously amiss. From memory, “Jackie” recounts being thrown onto a glass-topped coffee table so hard that it shattered beneath her and then raped where she lay. You don’t need to be a practicing rapist to know that any guy who did that would be risking serious injury to himself: there are arguments over the involuntary circumcision of males, but I don’t think they cover rapists going about their business in lakes of shattered glass. She would also have sustained major damage had she been subject to those levels of violence: lacerations, fractures, bruising which she could have shown to the police and would have needed hospital treatment.

It was bullshit, but that wasn’t what made people angry. Lots of stories in the media are bullshit and nobody cares. So what made this one different? It was because those who supposedly supported “Jackie’s” version of events and abused those who questioned it wanted it to be true. For them, it was a better outcome that she had really been raped than for the story to have been fabricated.

[…]

So have they learned their lesson? It would appear not:

    In a statement, the magazine added: “It is our deep hope that our failings do not deflect from the pervasive issues discussed in the piece, and that reporting on sexual assault cases ultimately results in campus policies that better protect our students.”

Those “pervasive issues” being complete fabrications which exist only in the minds of a handful of mentally disturbed students who were cynically exploited by some of the worst people ever to infest academia and journalism anywhere.

I hope the lawsuits keep coming and they are sued out of existence.

H/T to Jeff Scarbrough for the link.

November 5, 2016

Media madness

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Vanity Fair, Ken Stern peers into the murky depths of the right-wing media bubble:

Virtually every day during the past year, I’ve digested a daily dose of Breitbart, the alt-right Web site that many journalists, including myself, have described as “Trump Pravda.” A typical day on Breitbart includes any number of articles extolling the rise of Donald Trump, including the massive size of his rallies and (on and off) his fast-rising poll numbers. There are also several pieces attacking the “mainstream media,” usually CNN, The New York Times or The Washington Post. Recently, there have been a slew of pieces from the Clinton WikiLeaks cache, which are part of a larger set of articles showcasing the couple’s venality, arrogance, and sexual peccadillos. The reporting, such as it is, is generally factually accurate, but mean-spirited and fantastically one-sided. If Breitbart were your primary news source, you would receive a view of the election that would be largely distorted and wholly unrecognizable to swaths of the American public.

When I checked the news the other day, it was more of the same. I counted some 20 articles about the presidential race, each espousing the unequivocal view that one candidate is collapsing due to moral failings, financial improprieties, and complete and utter lack of judgment and ethics. Notably, I was not reading Breitbart. Instead, I was reading The Washington Post, delivered to my doorstep, and the attacks were squarely waged not against the Clintons but rather against Trump.

In the Front Section, there was an incredible array of Trump-phobia, ranging from attacks on his business acuity to his ethics (“How Trump got a personal tax break by defaulting on loans”), to his personal knowledge (“Trump’s map of black America needs an update”), to stupid opinions about Trump (“Nader predicts fastest impeachment in history for a President Trump”), to smart opinions about Trump (“A contemptible candidate — and the party to blame for it”).

If you think this is limited to the National News portion of the paper, you would be mistaken. The Metro section, which typically reports on the Washington, D.C. area, was headlined by a news article describing the dysfunction at the Trump campaign in Virginia and a column arguing that Trump watching should be rated R for children. The top article in the Style section sported a massive feature on the Trump meltdown, supplemented by a column attacking Steve Bannon, the C.E.O. of the Trump campaign and the former head honcho at Breitbart. The sports section featured a column attacking Trump and defending, of all things, locker-room culture. Only the Health section lacked a Trump hook. (Trump, as you may recall, temporarily banned WaPo reporters from his campaign events.)

Rather remarkably, there was virtually no mention of Clinton or any other candidate running for president on this particular day. And so I repeated this little thought experiment again last week and the results were largely the same. The Post should not be blamed for criticizing a candidate who has demonstrated xenophobic, racist, and sexually predatory behavior. But even at the end of perhaps the worst stretch of weeks for a candidate in modern American electoral history, perhaps 45 percent of the electorate, some 55 million voters or so, still will vote for Trump. And some of them may wonder if the Post put their fat thumbs on the electoral scales.

September 1, 2016

If David Warren was the editor of Sports Illustrated

Filed under: Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

… he’d have a brief but glorious career of getting the magazine a lot of media attention:

It is well that I am not the editor of Sports Illustrated; for were I so, I might commission a special burqini swimwear issue, just to provoke … everybody. All my lithe supermodels would be wearing burqini and veilkini variants, some with Marianne liberty caps and so forth. In the shoots, I would have them all posed on beaches surrounded by French policemen in their various uniforms, striking extravagant dance poses. There’d be a dwarf traffic cop in the traditional Paris “aubergine” raincoat, who’d turn up in set after set, blowing on a whistle. Perhaps one model in a wetsuit, with oxygen tanks, made to resemble a suicide vest; and other subtle topical allusions. In the background there’d be men and women in Edwardian beach attire, of extreme modesty, expressing shock. An old bathing machine would be lying on its side, with a sea turtle crawling out, mounted by an avatar of Vishnu, to extend the multicultural range.

Of course, I wouldn’t last long at “SI” — the only question, whether I’d be fired or assassinated first. But in the interim I might have the pleasure of being denounced by world leaders, and getting the company account banned by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, &c. With luck, an outrageously goading defence, and the help of Drudge and Breitbart, I might be able to stretch my fifteen minutes of infamy to twenty or twenty-five.

July 27, 2016

Journalists and “civilians”

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh says that the media really is a world unto itself and it’s difficult for denizens of that world to pretend to be part of our mundane world:

Why are the news media so disliked? On Sunday, New York Magazine published some results from a “navel-gazing questionnaire” it sent to about a hundred reporters, editors, and broadcasters. (Is there a term for gazing at someone else’s navel-gazing?) About half the answers it printed acknowledged that journalism is practised by a particular class whose members all have similar life histories, and that this class is vulnerable to urban liberal groupthink. Half the respondents, by contrast, preferred the “corporate/Republican Satan running amok in the world” theory. At least one person apparently thought it was all the fault of the Broadway hit Hamilton. And, obviously, there is some truth to all three of these explanations.

But perhaps the best one, which nobody gave, might be that we in “the media” spend a lot of time encouraging ourselves to be hated.

[…]

The word “profession” is defined here as a job in which a practitioner might sometimes speak of outsiders, or “civilians,” as being of a different order of humanity. When you take up journalism as a career, you agree to accept ethical and behavioural responsibilities that do not pertain to the general public. Like a priest or therapist, some things are forbidden to you that are not forbidden to others. You are also unofficially licensed to do some unusual things — ask intrusive questions, barge into certain settings. Sometimes you may be asked to quiz the grieving, interrogate athletes or politicians in the aftermath of public humiliation, photograph the wounded and dead. The journalism trade also has a large bundle of legends, jargon, and traditions. All of this was equally true a hundred years ago, before there were “J-schools.”

This serves to create a real, unspoken bond between practising journalists. There are the folk who have deadlines, and there are the Others. And the Others will never totally understand. Any professional journalist who denies having this habit of mind is lying.

But you cannot think of yourself as set apart from the world without having it show through in your writing and speech, affecting your preferences and interests. Journalists are constantly making self-deprecating, incoherent apologies for being part of a priesthood, yet most of them clearly think the existence of some such thing necessary to a liberal democracy. Well, we would, wouldn’t we? But it is hard to like, or even bear, someone who thinks that way. And that goes double if the thought is factually true.

July 24, 2016

QotD: Literally every Republican presidential candidate (so far)

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Every 4 years the GOP nominee is literally Hitler. A few years later — sometimes, as in Mitt Romney’s case, as few as 4 years after he was accused of giving a woman cancer — that formerly-Hitler nominee becomes the standard of once-great GOP nominees to which the current nominee fall short.

Glenn Reynolds, “LIZ CROKIN: Trump Does The Unthinkable”, Instapundit, 2016-07-11.

January 28, 2016

QotD: George Orwell on American fashion magazines of the 1940s

Filed under: History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Someone has just sent me a copy of an American fashion magazine which shall be nameless. It consists of 325 large quarto pages, of which no less than 15 are given up to articles on world politics, literature, etc. The rest consists entirely of pictures with a little letterpress creeping round their edges: pictures of ball dresses, mink coats, step-ins, panties, brassières, silk stockings, slippers, perfumes, lipsticks, nail polish — and, of course, of the women, unrelievedly beautiful, who wear them or make use of them.

One striking thing when one looks at these pictures is the overbred, exhausted, even decadent style of beauty that now seems to be striven after. Nearly all of these women are immensely elongated. A thin-boned, ancient-Egyptian type of face seems to predominate: narrow hips are general, and slender, non-prehensile hands like those of a lizard are quite universal. Evidently it is a real physical type, for it occurs as much in the photographs as in the drawings. Another striking thing is the prose style of the advertisements, an extraordinary mixture of sheer lushness with clipped and sometimes very expensive technical jargon. Words like suave-mannered, custom-finished, contour-conforming, mitt-back, inner-sole, backdip, midriff, swoosh, swash, curvaceous, slenderize and pet-smooth are flung about with evident full expectation that the reader will understand them at a glance. Here are a few sample sentences taken at random:

“A new Shimmer Sheen color that sets your hands and his head in a whirl.” “Bared and beautifully bosomy.” “Feathery-light Milliken Fleece to keep her kitten-snug!” “Others see you through a veil of sheer beauty, and they wonder why!” “An exclamation point of a dress that depends on fluid fabric for much of its drama.” “The miracle of figure flattery!” “Molds your bosom into proud feminine lines.” “Isn’t it wonderful to know that Corsets wash and wear and whittle you down… even though they weigh only four ounces!” “The distilled witchery of one woman who was forever desirable… forever beloved… Forever Amber.” And so on and so on and so on.

A fairly diligent search through the magazine reveals two discreet allusions to gray hair, but if there is anywhere a direct mention of fatness or middle-age I have not found it. Birth and death are not mentioned either: nor is work, except that a few recipes for breakfast dishes are given. The male sex enters directly or indirectly into perhaps one advertisement in twenty, and photographs of dogs or kittens appear here and there. In only two pictures, out of about three hundred, is a child represented.

On the front cover there is a colored photograph of the usual elegant female, standing on a chair while a gray-haired, spectacled, crushed-looking man in shirtsleeves kneels at her feet, doing something to the edge of her skirt. If one looks closely one finds that actually he is about to take a measurement with a yardstick. But to a casual glance he looks as though he were kissing the hem of the woman’s garment — not a bad symbolical picture of American civilization, or at least of one important side of it.

George Orwell, retitled as “George Orwell Wrote One of the Most Incensed Takedowns of American Fashion Magazines”, The New Republic, 1946-12-02.

January 4, 2016

QotD: The Science Czar

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I have noticed a tendency of mine to reply to arguments with “Well yeah, that would work for the X Czar, but there’s no such thing.”

For example, take the problems with the scientific community, which my friends in Berkeley often discuss. There’s lots of publication bias, statistics are done in a confusing and misleading way out of sheer inertia, and replications often happen very late or not at all. And sometimes someone will say something like “I can’t believe people are too dumb to fix Science. All we would have to do is require early registration of studies to avoid publication bias, turn this new and powerful statistical technique into the new standard, and accord higher status to scientists who do replication experiments. It would be really simple and it would vastly increase scientific progress. I must just be smarter than all existing scientists, since I’m able to think of this and they aren’t.”

And I answer “Well, yeah, that would work for the Science Czar. He could just make a Science Decree that everyone has to use the right statistics, and make another Science Decree that everyone must accord replications higher status. And since we all follow the Science Czar’s Science Decrees, it would all work perfectly!”

Why exactly am I being so sarcastic? Because things that work from a czar’s-eye view don’t work from within the system. No individual scientist has an incentive to unilaterally switch to the new statistical technique for her own research, since it would make her research less likely to produce earth-shattering results and since it would just confuse all the other scientists. They just have an incentive to want everybody else to do it, at which point they would follow along.

Likewise, no journal has the incentive to unilaterally demand early registration, since that just means everyone who forgot to early register their studies would switch to their competitors’ journals.

And since the system is only made of individual scientists and individual journals, no one is ever going to switch and science will stay exactly as it is.

Scott Alexander, “Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell”, Slate Star Codex, 2013-03-03.

November 20, 2015

QotD: Rolling Stone

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Rolling Stone morphed into AARP Magazine so slowly, I hardly even noticed.

Ed Driscoll, “Plutocrat Millionaires Insult Military Veterans”, PJ Media, 2014-11-14.

November 12, 2015

Small claims court case with wider copyright implications

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media, Wine — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Michael Geist discusses a recent small claims court judgement:

… the case involved the president of the Canadian Vintners Association (CVA), who received an email from Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa-based political publication, advising that he was quoted in an article discussing a recent appearance before a House of Commons committee. The man did not subscribe to the publication, which places its content behind a paywall, so he contacted a member of the association who was a subscriber and asked if he could see a copy of the article. When Blacklock’s Reporter learned that he had received a copy from the subscriber, it demanded that he pay for a full subscription or face a copyright infringement lawsuit.

While this does not sound like a copyright case, the Ottawa court ruled that the man had violated Canada’s copyright rules by breaching the publication’s paywall (an act it described as a circumvention of a digital lock) and awarded $11,470 in damages plus an additional $2,000 in punitive damages.

The Canadian digital lock rules were enacted in 2012 under pressure from the United States, which wanted Canada to mirror its safeguards on e-books, DVDs, and other digital content. Those rules typically cover circumvention of popular consumer products, but rarely involve website access. In fact, there are several U.S. cases that have concluded that sharing a valid username and password combination with someone else does not constitute circumvention for the purposes of the law.

Yet in the Blacklock’s Reporter case, the president of the CVA did not even try to access the publication’s site with someone else’s credentials. Indeed, it is difficult to see how asking for a copy of a lawfully obtained article could possibly be considered circumvention of a digital lock. Moreover, there is also a strong argument based on several Supreme Court of Canada decisions that providing the copy qualifies as fair dealing under Canadian copyright law.

As a small claims court ruling, the case has no value as precedent (and could still be appealed). However, it places the spotlight on the restrictive digital lock rules that have already caused a chilling effect within Canadian educational institutions, which often fear that circumvention for legitimate, educational purposes may violate the law.

October 18, 2015

Playboy‘s biggest market today

Filed under: Business, China, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Colby Cosh on why the Playboy brand is so attractive to the Chinese market:

Playboy was once an important cultural force; and what are Chinese men and women buying when they buy jewelry or clothing with the Playboy bunny on it? They are buying a small stake in an anti-puritan, worldly vision of the good life. Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy philosophy,” which he used to set out in windy essays sandwiched between the pictorials, is still considered good for a laugh decades later. But every magazine does express a philosophy, whether or not it chooses to yammer on about doing so, and Playboy’s epicureanism was a powerful one. It practically amounted to a guarantee to the customer: if you bought Playboy, the only uplift you were at risk of encountering would involve lingerie, not morality.

When you were done being titillated by an issue of the magazine, the ads and the articles about stereos and cigars and cocktails were there to linger as an aftertaste, making a subtle but sharp imprint on one’s endocrine system. It is hard for us to appreciate what this kind of thing means in a strongly collectivist, egalitarian society. People who visited the old Soviet bloc, and who saw what blue jeans or heavy-metal cassettes did to the brains of the people there, will have some idea. It is an enigma of 20th-century history: stuff that seems trivial to a Western consumer somehow encodes a message of choice and private aspiration that can never be expressed as powerfully as an explicit proposition.

October 14, 2015

Playboy finally reads the writing on the virtual wall

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Nick Gillespie says “thanks for the mammaries” to Playboy magazine:

Well, it was either really changing things up or going bankrupt for Playboy, the men’s mag that published its first issue way, way back in 1953.

Inside the pages of that first issue, Marilyn Monroe was seen posing with, as she once put it, “nothing on but the radio.” Its circulation peaked at 5.6 million in the mid-1970s and now comes in at maybe 800,000 nowadays. That’s still an enviable number but like a lot of other, older mags (think Time, Newsweek), Playboy is a shadow of its former self in every possible way: financially, journalistically, culturally.

The New York Times reports and the Interwebz weeps that come next March, the nudes are out as part of a thorough redesign of one of the most influential mags in American history. Yes, Playboy helped to mainstream nudity and, more important, start frank conversations about sex in a time of button-down sensibilities. Yes, Playboy photoshopped the hell out of its pneumatic centerfolds and playmates, launching innumerable careers and an even-higher number of eating disorders among women and unrealistic expectations among men.

In many ways a very progressive outlet, Playboy also showcased some of the worst, most-retrograde elements of the patriarchy that slowly and surely lost its power over the 20th century. For all of the nipples and the semi-arty beaver shots, it was far slower than National Geographic to showcase the full range of human diversity when it came to naked ladies, unless your idea of diversity only ranged from the girls of the SEC to the girls of Big Ten. It published a ton of great and famous authors with a capital A and set the standard in post-war America for the Big Interview, sitting down with everyone from Ayn Rand to Timothy Leary to William Shockley to Jimmy Carter (who notoriously admitted lusting “in his heart”) for incredibly extensive and intensive Q&As that simply (and sadly) don’t gone anymore.

The joke was that you’d only read Playboy for the articles … yet the articles were actually quite good for the most part. By the time I saw my first issue of Playboy (October 1972, if I remember correctly [edit: off by a year … it was 1971]), it was already being seen as stodgy and “conservative” compared to more explicit and raunchier competitors.

Update: Megan McArdle contrasts the Playboy Man with his modern-day “successor”, the Pick-Up Artist:

In its heyday among the mod generation, the writing essentially peddled the fantasy of being a more sedentary James Bond: a sophisticated and urbane man about town, drowning in lady friends. The New York Times quotes Hefner’s first editor’s letter, which sketches the demographic he envisioned: “If you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 80, Playboy is meant for you. … We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex. …”

Playboy Man was, in short, a connoisseur of the upper-middlebrow au courant, at least enough to carry on an hour or so of really good cocktail party conversation. He liked to give cocktail parties, too, though they might have only one guest. His hi-fi system was the latest, his little black book crammed with the names of willing and attractive females. He was, we might note, the type of person who really doesn’t have a lot of spare time to spend looking at Playboy centerfolds.

[…]

It’s interesting to contrast Playboy Man with the modern incarnation that has taken his place: the Pickup Artist. Both present versions of the same message: follow this code, and you’ll be successful with women. (For some values of the word “successful,” anyway.) But Playboy Man was supposed to achieve this through mastering a certain body of “cool” knowledge, through becoming the sort of person who might impress even those he does not intend to woo. The Playboy fantasy was of being the kind of gent who naturally attracts women because he’s so with it, while the Pickup Artist fantasy is more like a teenager playing a video game: You press the buttons in the right sequence and — yes! — your character unlocks the next level.

Sexual conquest has, in other words, moved down market, as pornography did, first with the introduction of raunchier Playboy competitors, and then in the move to the Internet, where sheer volume trumps production values. Playboy spoke to the moment between two sexual moralities: the age when sex was forbidden, and the age when sex became ubiquitous. In the moment between, the sight of men openly pursuing lots of sex had a sort of glamour, and a status, that it has now entirely lost. I don’t say that the pursuit has stopped. But the charmingly dangerous character of the “wolf” has now been supplanted by an assortment of derisive terms that I cannot repeat here in a family-friendly column. For an adult man to admit that he spends a lot of time thinking about how to score is as gauche now as it was in 1900, though for entirely different reasons.

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