Snark, Trump Era Zeitgeist & The Resistance’s Need For An Anti-Axios

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Sometimes, the absence of something can oddly be just as noticeable as the presence of something. It wasn’t too long ago — less than 10 years ago — when the nattering nabobs of the New York media world were aflutter over snark, smarm and the the difference between the two.

At the center of this debate was the late, sometimes-not-so-great Gawker Media. It is interesting that Gawker was at its best in the 2003-2004 era when it was new, just starting and was commenting on the early George W. Bush era. It was the age of the Second Iraq War and for people like me, Gawker.com really tapped into the zeitgeist.

It did, at least, for people like me.

In those early years of Gawker as we settled into the long war of Iraq, the site was a place to go and get a good chuckle over the foolishness of it all. In 2004 Wonkette was still under the Gawker Media umbrella at it, too, was really cool. It was really snarky and fun and was talking about stupid shit that the Bush Administration was up to.

But gradually, things changed. Some of it had to do with the loss of focus on the part of Gawker Media founder Nick Denton and some of it had to do with, well, Obama being president. It was difficult to be snarky and mean about how stupid The Powers That Be were when, like, we had a Cool Dad as president. The battle over snark versus smarm was joined and the issue became so muddled that eventually the lights got turned on, the beer drained and the party was definitely over.

Flash forward to now and it seems as though we’ve entered the post-snark era. This is really, really odd because there’s so much to be snarky about. If ever there was something to be unabashedly snarky about, Trumplandia is definitely it. The absence of any real snark as practiced by Gawker.com and before that Spy Magazine and Late Night With David Letterman is a quite a head scratcher.

Some of it, probably has to do with demographics. The people who most likely be the generators of snark — young people — are probably just a little bit too young to reach that 20-25 age era of their life when they want to crack wise at everything. Or not. I don’t know. It is interesting that the closest thing to any kind of protest or snark in pop culture is the pretty bland “woke” pop music you hear every now and again. Pop culture in general really hasn’t changed much since Trump’s victory. There are a few pings here and there of Hollywood getting its act together and helping people process Trump’s ascendance, but not nearly as much as you might think. Some of it is that it takes time to develop scripted material, I know, but still. You’d think they’d fast track that shit or something. Times are kind of desperate.

But there’s no site right now that is tapping into the anger that a lot of people are still feeling from the events of November 2016. What’s weird is, we have Axios. Axios relies upon “access journalism” for its scoops on the Trump Administration and it plays it right down the middle. No snark, no quips, no figurative raised eye brows, no anything. Just plain, boring facts about the insane clown shit-show that is the Trumplandia era. I guess what I’m suggesting is that The Resistance needs it’s own version of Axios. An anti-Axios. Something that does for The Resistance what Axios does for Trumplandia. It would be irreverent, snarky and cool like Spy Magazine was 30 years go.

You’d think that someone, somewhere would see what I see — that there is both an audience and a market for a snarky site like the old Gawker or Wonkette. Something for people like me to read and have the occasional cathartic laugh through. The closest thing we have right now is the podcast company Crooked Media. The only problem with Crooked Media is it always leave me wanting more. I listen to Pod Save America or Pod Save The World and I get so stirred up, so angry that I want to read articles about what they’ve been talking about. But, to date at least, they haven’t started to generate that kind of content. That would be the obvious thing for them to do to take their site to the next level, I must note.

This brings up the interesting idea of what my would be neo-Gawker would be like. In my imagination, it would be a lot like the Gawker.com of 2003-2004, but with a lot more video. Like, I would like most blog posts to have a 2 minute clip from the writer of the post explaining what they have written. I would also like regular video podcasts. Though Trumplandia has caused me to become addicted to podcasts, I think video podcasts are the future. I used to do one on the now defunct Blab platform and it was a lot of fun. If you’re all that interested in what I did, you can samples of my “show” on my YouTube channel.

I have suggested on more than on occasion that of all the existing media companies out there, that Playboy has the biggest vested interest in re-tooling itself as something of a neo-Gawker. I’m sure it’s a lot more difficult for them to do this than I think, but they have the means, motive and opportunity to do as I suggest. They are a legacy brand with a history of progressive leanings and they’re desperate to be relevant again. It would make a lot of sense for them to poach lot of Jezebel.com writers and completely retool Playboy.com to become the site that people like visit to process what is going on with Trumplandia.

Another thing I might suggest is having someone, say, Ilana Glazer, be a roving reporter for the site. I really liked what Gawker did with Julia Allison way back when and it would be fun to recreate that silly experience of having a young, attractive woman running around the streets of New York City having zany hi-jinks. I just think that’s really cool. I really like the concept.

Regardless, maybe the media world has changed to such an extent that what I want simply isn’t possible. It could be that the amount of money needed to start a major blog is now such that the whole endeavor is cost prohibitive. That makes me sad. It would be so much fun to have one site that was the go-to site for The Resistance. Something that really tapped into this anger that many of us are feeling.

I would start such a media company myself — The Trumplandia Report is kind of my vision of what it would look like — but, alas, I don’t have any money and generally no one listens to me. But I need somewhere to vent, so I write here whenever the mood strikes me. I hope that doing my little part for The Resistance helps in some way.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

Playboy Should Position Itself As The Anti-Axios

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have spoken at length about this before, but I really enjoy this topic, so I will come at it from a slightly different angle. I have written about how I think a startup blog should try to be the Spy Magazine-like Anti-Axios of our day. A neo-Gawker, if you will.

And, yet, I suspect that due to the changing nature of the broader Internet, that’s just not going to happen. No one with the means, motive and opportunity is going to invest in such an idea simply because Twitter exists and the blog universe has become so large and saturated that it would be difficult for such a person to see any immediate ROI. Or something like that.

So I turn my attention, again, to Playboy.

It just makes too much sense for Playboy to throw everything up in the air and completely switch gears. It makes too much sense for it to hire a bunch of Jezebel writers and turn Playboy.com into the biting political site that we’ve all been looking for. I really enjoy what The Atlantic has been producing and Crooked Media does a good job, but it is, to date, a podcasting company. It just doesn’t seem all that interested in doing what I want.

But Playboy not only has an existing audience, it has a name brand that is already associated with liberal progressive causes. And it’s really, really desperate to be relevant again. Doing as I suggest would do just that. It would really get people buzzing again about the brand and I feel the market would be there, as well.

It’s possible, though, that what I want is not something a legacy brand can provide. It could be that only a startup could do it. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for someone to see what I see. Maybe they never will.

Meh.

The Continued Absence Of A Spy Magazine-Like Anti-Axios Is Curious

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It is very curious that we’re this far into the Trumplandia era and someone, somewhere with the means, motive and opportunity hasn’t founded a Gawker or Spy Magazine for this new age. I just don’t get it. It’s really weird.

The Atlantic, strangely enough, is doing a really good job providing people like me with the thought provoking content that I’m looking for during this Cold Civil War. And Crooked Media, too, with its podcasts is doing a good job giving me content that enrages me, if nothing else. It enrages me because I feel like they’re telling us how Trumplandia is successfully destroying America and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about at this point. New York Magazine’s site also does a good job, but it’s a little bit bland liberalism for me. And The New Yorker and Vanity Fair continue to do yeomanly work.

But these are general sites, general news organization. They’re not devoted to specifically tearing Trumplandia to shreds. That’s what I want as a reader. That’s what I’m interested in right now. The closest thing I have at this point is Twitter, but that’s just because of who I follow.

Meanwhile, Axios is everything a Gawker or Spy Magazine would be against. It’s access journalism that sucks up to Trumplandia in the effort to get a steady flow of scoops. But there’s no opposite. There’s currently no snarky, rough-on-the-edges journalism site that’s popular enough to get the media world buzzing. Vox is meh.

I want a site like Gawker in 2003 or 2004 that you woke up excited to read. I want a site that really tears into Trumplandia in a way that makes people like me cheer. I have suggested that Playboy might be the news organization to do what I want, but I’ve heard crickets. I mean, I’m a nobody. No one listens to me.

Maybe it’s because in the last 10 years or so, the online media world has changed to such an extent that it’s just, in real terms, impossible to start a blog like Gawker. Maybe that’s what is obvious and yet I can’t accept it for some reason. It could be that moment in time has faded and will never return.

Oh well.

Still think Playboy should do it, though. The have the most to gain from doing as I suggest. It would really give them a purpose that the currently lack. They have the name and the resources, they could do something really cool if they came out swinging against Trumplandia on a daily basis.

If such an organization ever did get founded, I would probably bug the crap out of them to write for them in some capacity. They would get a huge amount of buzz and I think the advertisers would come with the associated traffic. It’s just a matter of someone with some vision and resources to actually make what I suggest a reality.

Axios Of Boring: The Big Meh

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have given myself something of a challenge: find something to write about using the Axios webpage as a writing prompt. I have to say, I find myself stumped.

It’s difficult for me to come up with a point of view at all about anything Axios has to say because it’s so dry and there’s just no there, there. At least with the late Gawker.com, there was an occasionally a juice nugget worth writing about.

Reading Axios, I definitely get the sense they’re so willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt that they’re almost complicit. My vision for this site is to be the exact opposite of Axios, but Axios is so dry and I would never read it otherwise to such an extent that it’s difficult to use it even as a whipping dog for fun.

I guess my biggest problem with Axios is they don’t generate any content I couldn’t find somewhere else. They may have scoops generated by “access journalism” on a occasion, but the actual content is kind of white noise in my book.

None of the headlines pop out as all that interesting and they don’t seem all that interested in doing anything weird like talking to interesting people with stories to tell. It comes across as really corporate and, well, meh.

I mean, Sen. John McCain attacked Jared Kushner. So what.

Give me personality profiles. Give me great, interesting headlines that draw you in and make you think. Meh. Just meh.

I will keep monitoring Axios just because it gives me something to write about, but otherwise, meh.

We Must Refuse to Normalize Trumplandia

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m of the opinion that Trumplandia is an anomaly in America’s history, much like Vichy France was anomaly in that otherwise proud nation’s history. Americans are too easy to poke fun of the French for Vichy France, when France pretty much ruled much of Europe for 20 years just a hundred years before.

So let’s talk Trumplandia.

First, I keep talking about it, but what is Trumplandia? I first heard the term during the 2016 election cycle when someone said the FBI was “Trumplandia.” I found the term intriguing and as events progressed I gradually came to see Trumplandia as America’s version of Vichy France. Trumplandia is that collection of individuals who support Trump for various reasons and are so blinded by their devotion to him on a personal level that they’ve lost sight of the obvious: this is not normal.

It’s not normal and the sooner those of us who oppose Trumplandia stop being outraged and start being engaged, the better. That’s the crux of the problem of The Resistance, I think. It is way, way too easy to stay angry all the time to such an extent that you get burnt out.

But instead of getting burnt out, I would suggest we, the opposition, get engaged. We have to stay focused. We have to keep our eyes on the prize — at the very least flipping Congress in 2018. The Vichy Republicans who cower in front of Trump are at the center of the bizarre situation we find ourselves in during the Trumplandia Era.

To me, the most startling aspect of Trumplandia, the part of it that could potentially make someone white hot with rage, is that seemingly otherwise normal individuals willfully voted for a bigot, a racist and a misogynist. That such a thing happened at all in this nation that I love continues to blow my mind.

What’s worse, there continues to be an active effort to normalize Trumplandia. There is definitely a disconnect between what a large segment of the population thinks about Trumplandia and what the mainstream media thinks. You see that disconnect in various places like Twitter and the late night comedy shows. It is there that right minded people are openly debating if the President of the United States is a traitor, a quisling.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media is only slowly beginning to realize the gravity of all of this. After facilitating Donald Trump’s rise to power, media outlets like MSNBC’s Morning Joe are just now, reluctantly beginning to see the error of their ways. That doesn’t even begin to address outlets like Axios which are built from the ground up to be complicit in normalizing Trumplandia.

That’s why all of this is so troubling.

We are living in a dystopian present and there doesn’t seem to be anyway out. There doesn’t seem to be any easy answers for the foreseeable future for no other reason than the Vichy Republicans are so complicit in Trumplandia that they wouldn’t do anything to Trump politically, even if it was proven that his 2016 campaign actively colluded with the Russian efforts to hack our election.

So, as I keep saying, we need to put our outrage to work. We need to stop being outraged and we need to start being engaged. That is the path out of this dystopia. That is the path out of surreal political environment that we find ourselves in.

Only by using our outrage in a constructive, meaningful manner can we smite Trumplandia from our political landscape once and for all. The weird thing about Trumplandia is it has completely upended the traditional Left-Right spectrum, at least on social media.

But history does not go in a straight line. There will be setbacks. Maybe even a lot of them. But if we stay engaged, stay focused it is inevitable that at some point we will be victorious.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The TrumplandiaReport. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

Axios As Complicit In Trumplandia

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I don’t have anything against the folks at Axios, it’s just I guess I am so opposed to Trumplandia that the notion that you would willfully prostrate yourself before Trumplandia in an effort to get a scoop kind of troubles me. That’s why I keep thinking someone, somewhere will found an anti-Axios.

I’m dong my little part with this site, but I simply don’t have the resources to do nearly enough with my vision. Should that change, should I get even the tiniest little bit of traction — most likely in the form of someone helping me — then that would rock.

Or put another way, it just seems pretty obvious that there needs to be a site that does the exact oppose of Axios. Once you normalize Trumplandia by seeing it as just another administration, you kind of facilitate a surreal dystopian future where the once unimaginable is taken for granted.

So, that’s why I’m left scratching my head as to why someone with some resources to back them hasn’t decided to start a site much like the old Gawker devoted to getting people to use their outrage against Trumplandia to become engaged. I keep expecting the guys of Crooked Media to do as I propose, but they seem more interested in doing podasts than a traditional blog.

It just makes too much sense. All the ingredients are there for an anti-Axios to explode. You have a lot of people like me who want a go-to site to bone up on resisting Trumplandia and given that over half the population voted for Hillary Clinton, there obviously is a market for it as well.

As I keep saying, I think probably some of what I want is being served by Twitter. That may be, in fact, what is going on. People like me are simply going to Twitter to get what I suggest they may want in an anti-Axios website. Websites are kind of passe these days for various reasons, so it may be difficult to get the funding to do it at all.

I’m no media expert, I simply don’t know.

I guess all of this boils down to my personal belief that something cool could be afoot if someone with a little vision — ie, me — was given the resources to start a site devoted to being an anti-Axios. After some thought, I realize what about Axios makes me uncomfortable — it’s complicit and it normalizes Trumplandia, which in my mind is something akin to Vichy France.

So, Axios is kind of a news organisation devoted to getting scoops from Vichy France by being complicit in the hole endeavor.

I’m sure they’re great folks and I have nothing personal against them, but I am of the opinion that sites like the one I would like to build need something to pick on and Axios would be a perfect target. But, as I keep saying, no one is probably going to help me and I’ll get bored of all of this soon enough.

But I still have a little bit of hope.

Shelton Bumgarner is The Trumplandia Report’s editor and publisher. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

Axios Watch: Axios Of Dullness

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Welcome to the first installment of my effort to document Axios’ cover of Trumplandia. Now, let me stress, I have no idea if this is going to last more than one issue. I may grow bored of it — and this blog in general — and all of this will be moot.

But if the late Gawker can do 500 days of coverage for a z list celebrity, then I can at least attempt to occasionally pick on Axios.

So, let’s look at what’s going on at our polar opposite. Axios makes it name, at least according to the sense I get from Twitter, for getting great scoops because it is something of a lapdog that uses access journalism to make a name for itself. Given that I have no money and have no access, it makes sense that I would see my self on the other end of the spectrum from Axios.

The site itself looks great. It’s got a clean, sleek design that is inviting and enjoyable. Having said that, the actual content — at least on the surface — seems pretty meh. I don’t know enough context yet to know how right I am on that.

Anyway, today, Axios the site leads with a story about Sec. of State Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic work relative to Jared Kushner. Dull. I don’t care. Boring. Give me something interesting about Trumplandia. Give me more detail about, like, why doesn’t Kushner speak in public? What is up with that, yo?

I guess I’m not the audience, because I am struggling to find one sold story that catches my interest. One that is interesting, however, is their article about Angela Merkel talking about the sorry state of Europe-American relations these days because of Trump. It’ an important story…and yet…it seems to me they could spin it with a little bit more pizzazz.

But, like I said, I have a feeling I’m not the audience. The audience is wonky people in D.C. not some broke ass writer in the middle of a fly over state.

I have to give them credit, they have at least one sold headline — ‘Raging Bull’ Trump shifts back into 2016 campaign mode That is at least a mildly interesting headline.

Overall, the content of the site is kind of like that scene in Wayne’s World where they end up in Delaware.

The Time Is Ripe For The Founding Of An Anti-Axios Startup

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

This is one of those instances where I can articulate a vision quite well, but given that I simply don’t have the resources, it’s not like anything is going to happen with it. In fact, absolutely nothing is going to happen with my vision for an “anti-Axios” of sorts.

As you may know, from what I can gather from Twitter, Axios is considered a prime example of lapdog “access journalism” in the age of Trumplandia. Off the top of my head, I honestly can’t think of a site that does the opposite online right now.

I can’t think of a site that attacks Trumplandia mercilessly with wit and snarkiness. I am writing this blog in large part because I want to get a lot of things about Trumplandia off my chest and I can’t do it in 140 characters.

I propose that if someone who did have resources were to follow the vision I wish to articulate, that there would be both the audience and the market for the site to be successful. All the ingredients for a site as I propose exist for it to be successful.

You have both a market and an audience that, as of right now, isn’t really being served. If someone like me can’t think of a single go-to blog to read about how horrible Trumplandia is, then obviously it doesn’t exist in any meaningful manner.

What I want is spread across several sites, most of which I don’t read. Vice, Wonkette and a few others do some of what I want, but really the site that as of right now does it is Twitter itself. So, maybe that’s why the site I want doesn’t exist.

I just get it from Twitter.

But it would be cool for a site such as I suggest to exist. Maybe it will eventually, but, alas, I doubt I will be involved in any way.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He can be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.