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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Bullshit 2.0

by CLINTON FEIN

Writer’s block.

It sounds pathetic in this day and age. In a world where every Tom, Dick and Harry is frantically typing his every waking thought, the quaint notion of writer’s block seems like a poor excuse of sorts.

For the last month I have been back in South Africa, the land of my birth and where I was raised. After more than ten years of writing about every political, cultural or social phenomenon, I found -- and find -- myself wordless.

Although I specifically allowed myself to slip into a mode of observation only – to simply absorb what was going on around me, every now and again I would have an overwhelming urge to spit something out.

Dick Cheney’s remark about anti-war sentiments aiding an Al Qaeda strategy; Alberto Gonzales’ atrocious abuse of the position of Attorney General; Thabo Mbeki’s incomprehensible policy of “quiet diplomacy” with a sick and demented dictator named Robert Mugabe, who deserves his place at the table with Hitler and Idi Amin. Yet just one paragraph into the outage, the words would evaporate, leaving me with a hundred opening paragraphs but not one full-fledged anything.

And everything I wanted to say was already being said a million times over by a zillion different people in a gazillion different ways anyway. Global, multilingual interpretations of prepackaged press releases by desperate publicists about their desperate clients.

With an avalanche of verbiage spewing faster and more furiously than green house gas emissions on a Texan highway, I felt myself being drowned in a cacophony of self-absorbed trivia masquerading as the new information pipeline. User-generated crap. The empty promise of Web 2.0.

Communities of like-minded communities linked to like-minded communities of like-minded people for like-minded discussions about like-minded subjects concerning like-minded consumption of like-minded products in like-minded earnestness for like-minded drones to inform like-minded sheep with like-minded generosity about like-minded everything so that like-minded beneficiaries can wallow in like-minded individuality.

Bullshit 2.0.

For every deed, a million analyses; for every sentence, a million deconstructions. Blogs begetting blogs, begetting social networks, begetting conversations and commentaries. Comments about comments for comments, responses for responses about responses. Words tripping over words to embellish words about words. Sentences about sentences, broken down into keywords and efficiently retagged into categories and subjects to be repurposed and rehashed and replayed and redeployed. An over-bloated, over-tagged, over-stuffed, over-sub-categorized, over-rated, over-extended, over-hyped, overload of over-analyzed, over-distributed, over-offered, over-done overstatement -- over and over and over again.

I am part of the problem. I read it, feed on it, absorb it, process it, analyze it, regurgitate it and piss it back. As if somehow, my own bullshit filter transforms the same old, tired garbage into fresh, new, insightful, meaningful, and appropriate pearls of infinite wisdom, cast before grateful, appreciative, deserving, underserved swine.

Maybe this is the unblock. The verbal diuretic that opens the flow. The release of the clog so that the excrement can flow free again.

I am back. Aren’t you lucky?

 
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