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glowing quotes from suspiciously
obscure sources
(criticism)
by jennifer amey

Ah, the Internet, where all opinions like to think they are equal.

In the New York Times Arts & Leisure section a short time ago, there was an ad for Get Carter (the new, sucky version). It featured the usual glowing quotes from suspiciously obscure sources--Midwestern small-town radio stations and the like--as well as a quote from "A.M. Benneter, Themestream.com."

Well.

Themestream.com is basically a vanity-press magazine. Anyone can post anything there, within reason. The vast majority of Themestream.com's content seems to comprise "uplifting personal essays" provided by would-be "freelance writers," all of whom seem to have thesauruses, although not all have quite mastered the concept yet (hang that Roget for putting antonyms on the same page as synonyms!).

This leads to two (inter-related) trains of thought: the spurious nature of most of the advice available from our fellow netizens (because let's face it, everyone knows Stallone's version is crummy) the scary opportunities the Net provides to publicists and marketers alike

Okay, problem number one.

Aside from the plethora of bulletin boards offering home-grown recipes for tuna shakes and protein bread made out of crushed pork rinds, many mainstream, respected shopping sites allow members of the public to offer recommendations. Does anybody edit these things? Are they generated at random by some soulless bot? On Amazon.com, for example, if you look up Don Bajema's Reach, you are told that people who bought this book also bought the Hollywood Collection Bette Davis 'Trophy Aquamarine' Ring Size 9.

Huh?

I cannot pretend to follow the leap of logic here. Maybe one person did buy both of these, but is that enough to draw a correlation between the two?

The second point raises some interesting speculative fodder as well.

Obviously, the bright light who found the themestream.com quote for Get Carter is assuming that the majority of New York Times readers have not heard of or visited the actual site.

Also, the film is clearly so awful that, in order to get favourable copy, they had to resort to a Google search of the Net, and then use whatever they found. One wonders. Will they soon be resorting to searching Usenet newsgroups as well?

And will this affect Web content in other ways? Small-time reviewers routinely fall into one of two categories:

"I will prove I'm serious by hating everything."

"I will achieve immortality by loving everything. My name will then surely end up on the video box of one of these turkeys. "

Will we now be subjected to endless, mindless "I laughed I cried" reviews of everything in existence? A.M. Benneter, after all, could now claim to have been published in the New York Times. Is self-publication the same as validation? Will everything on the Internet be presumed true, simply because it is there? One shudders at the thought. The situation is bad enough already, with the vast array of reactionaries who haven't mastered the concept of satire (many fundamentalists, for example, believe J.K. Rowling is a Satanist, because of a chain letter quoting an article from the Onion). Not to mention endless personal homepages featuring "about me" pages which include everything from the solipsistic subject's vital statistics to favourite chocolate bar (one hilarious example I stumbled across is from a professed "minimalist" who has about 85 pieces of metal sticking out of her head).

Thank goodness there are still people like me around, who only provide insightful, objective commentary.

Copyright © 2000 Jennifer Amey. All Rights Reserved.

Jennifer Amey is opinionated and over-tired in Toronto.

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