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.

Some Things The Resistance Needs

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

As I keep saying, I’m hard at work on a novel about this bizarre era we live in, so I kind of have all of this on the brain right now. Here are two things I’ve mentioned before that The Resistance needs that I will review.

1. A Gawker-Like Website
The Resistance needs a Gawker-Like — or Spy Magazine — for this era. We need a go-to site for woke commentary in blog form about what’s going on in this era. Trump isn’t going anywhere and the sooner we understand that, the better. It seem as though some people think they shouldn’t start anything that would help The Resistance because they think Trump is going to resign or be impeached sometime soon. That just isn’t going to happen. I have suggested Playboy could be the media organization that would most benefit from such a thing, but it doesn’t seem they’re going to pay me any attention or even know that I’m talking about it.

2. A Twitter Killer
We need a better mousetrap. Twitter is great in some ways, but a real pain in the but Trump became president, in part, because of his use of Twitter. All of this is insane. We need something that uses the concepts of the old Usenet from 20 years ago in a modern way. At least I thin we do.

Anyway, no one cares. No one is listening to me. We’re going to just suffer as the Trump era grinds on and nothing changes, except for the worst.

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.

Playboy Needs To Get Woke Like Teen Vogue

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Teen Vogue has won itself all kinds of accolades and buzz for becoming “woke” in the face of Trumplandia. People have given what could otherwise be sort of a teeny-bopper version of the adult Vogue some real respect for its willingness to get political in an unexpected manner.

I have suggested on more than on occasion that Playboy Magazine should follow a similar path. Now, I know Playboy is doing something akin to what I suggest already. It’s always had progressive leanings. And it’s different for a traditional men’s magazine to bask in the buzz of being woke than it is a young women’s fashion magazine.

But I guess why I keep talking about this is it seems of all the legacy publications with legacy brands that could benefit from being woke, Playboy seems the most in dire need of it. Yet it wouldn’t be easy. It would really have to shake things up for my proposal to be effective. They would need to poach the best writers from, say, Jezebel to really get the buzz machine going.

The only reason why I even mention any of this is that now that Gawker.com no longer exists, I really don’t have a brand that I have a personal affinity for other than Playboy. I really like how cool Playboy once was, way back in the 50s and 60s before it lost its way in later years. So, I want Playboy to thrive and prosper and it seems as though it being exceptionally woke would do the trick.

If Playboy.com became the personal one-stop-shop for woke news on the Trumplandia experience, then it would be serving both an audience and a marketplace that is woefully under served right now. People like me are so desperate for what I’m talking about, that we feel forced to do it ourselves with blog sites like this one.

Regardless, it’s fun to think about. I doubt seriously that Playboy will ever know of my suggestions, but it would be so cool if I woke up and the media world was buzzing about a new, woke vision for Playboy. If Playboy was able to start to be relevant again, I think it would reap some great rewards and it wouldn’t risk simply drifting off into the sunset, never to be seen again.

All of this, of course would depend on how much power and vision young Cooper Hefner has. Cooper Hefner apparently has gotten more power of late and he seems like just the young, brash fellow who might follow the vision I have articulated. But anyway. No one is listening to me and all of this is little more than mental masturbation at this point.

An Idle Shout Into The Void: Playboy Should Be The Voice Of The Resistance

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have talked about this at length before, but I figure if I talk about this enough maybe someone, somewhere connected to Playboy Enterprises might at least humor me. I am doing my part for my little corner of the media world with The Trumplandia Report, but I don’t really have the resources to do it right.

In my mind, however, I can see that there is a niche in the media ecosystem that is not be served. That niche is a site that would serve as the effective voice of The Resistance. There are any number of sites right now that I go to, The Atlantic, New York Magazine and The New Yorker to name a few. But none of them have the biting snarkiness of the late Gawker.com.

That’s what I want, I want a site that is snarky, edgy and informative. And, given Playboy’s history of progressive values, it would make a lot of sense if it positioned itself to do as I suggest. It seems inevitable that if an established media company like Playboy doesn’t do what I suggest, then a scrappy startup may do it.

But of all the media outlets out there, it seems Playboy is sufficiently desperate for relevance and buzz that it might be willing to do as I suggest. Doing following the vision I am trying to articulate comes with a certain amount of risk.

There is a very real possibility that you would turn off a lot of readers. But I am of the belief for every reader you’d turn off, you’d pick up two or three more who, like me, are energized in their opposition to Trumplandia and they want quality content that would help them make sense of it all.

But let me stress, no one listens to me and so all of this is an enormous waste of time. Yet is is fun to articulate a vision. It is fun to see if I can catch the attention of someone at Playboy Enterprises, see if I can get someone to listen.

This video goes into a little bit more detail, and I suggest you watch it.

The Curious State Of Playboy

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Now, let me be very clear — I am not purporting to be an expert in the inner workings of Playboy Enterprises. I have a real affinity for the brand and so every once in a while I find myself thinking about it. And I only even think about it right this second because I have the notion of someone buying The New York Times on my brain and I feel like doing a little public mulling on the fate of another well known publishing brand, Playboy.

It seems clear that Playboy has no idea what it’s doing. It recently got rid of nudity, only to reverse course and bring it back. Playboy has a major problem in that the very thing that has been associated with it the most over the decades — great pictures of nekkid chicks — leaves most young people feeling kind of meh.

As Playboy itself admits, the Internet makes it so sex is pretty much everywhere and it’s difficult for even Playboy to distinguish itself in a crowded media field. I have thought off an on about how Playboy could fix its lot and so I’m kind of rehashing some it here.

One thing I think we undervalue Playboy for is its commitment to being a voice for the progressive movement. Throughout the 50s and 60s, before it kind of lost its way, Playboy was not only really cool, it was the voice of the Civil Rights and women’s movement. I always liked that about Playboy.

So, maybe if Playboy wanted to save itself, it might do something really, really radical. Right now, Playboy is a fixture of L.A. I think maybe it needs to radically transform itself. Like in a really unexpected manner. One way I could see it doing this would be to cut its ties with L.A. altogether and move the entire operation to New York City, specifically to Brooklyn.

Of course, all of this would depend on the vision of the Hefner family. Hugh Hefner is old and his son Cooper Hefner seems to be growing in power. Thus it seems as though the fate of the company may rest on the vision of Cooper Hefner in the coming years.

If the magazine wants to be a unisex lifestyle magazine, it should do so with vigor. It should keep the nude centerfold in some way, but otherwise, it should focus its attention on making Playboy.com the go-to online hub of The Resistance against Trumplandia.

As I keep saying, right now, I can’t think of any site online that is synonymous with The Resistance. If Playboy was to corner that market, I think it would yet again be relevant and buzz worthy — two qualities it, alas, is not right now.

Additionally, I idly think maybe it would be cool for Playboy to re-imagine the ideal woman for its readership. Instead of bimbo arm candy, why not a really funny smart woman like Ilana Glazer? That would be a real jarring change of place for the magazine. I could imagine a scenario whereby she might a roving reporter of sorts for the magazine’s brand, a mascot, even.

But, alas, no one listens to me for various reasons and I think barring something dramatic, like Playboy Enterprises being bought, it’s likely that Playboy will gradually drift into the sunset.