The internet, at least as most people experience it, is not good for you. Just how bad it is depends upon how much of it you consume, and how quickly, and how thoughtfully, but at some point Chugging Sludge is just Chugging Sludge and the serving size becomes irrelevant. I myself ingest plenty of it, of course, and you may as well. Mainly it makes me anxious, and sad, in more or less the ways you might expect from an experience that 1) makes you suddenly and overwhelmingly aware of every ugly, brutal, unjust thing in the world mere moments after it happens and then 2) apprises you, by way of algorithms crafted specifically for that purpose, of what the absolute worst and dumbest people alive think about it.
The idea that I need to do all this “for work” is how I justify continuing to come back, but there is clearly some other, darker thing at work here. But it does not necessarily need to feel that dark. This week, Drew and I invited on Ashley Feinberg, online icon and reigning tyrant at Substack’s dazzling and horrifying Trashberg, to discuss the perverse pleasures of circa-now internet dreck and the powerful mutants at the center of our falling-down culture.
All of which makes it sound bleak, but The Ashley Feinberg Difference is that she really knows how to take all this reeking toxic wreckage and both have fun with it and make all those jagged shards of shrapnel go down not just smoothly, but pleasurably. That was the case here, as well, and we had what I have to believe is the most enjoyable possible conversation about, like, Bari Weiss’s vile newsletter and the howling ghouls that have made Mar-a-Lago their spiritual and perhaps literal home. None of that is good, exactly, or an indication of a culture that is “doing even acceptably well,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. Maybe not funny the way we might choose to laugh, but ordering a round of that sludge is one of those things that doesn’t quite qualify as a choice. It’s coming to the table anyway and this week we enjoyed it up, in a nice glass, with a twist of lemon peel.
Also, as is the custom, we did our usual dumb stuff. While Ashley was not subjected to a mash-up, she did have to briefly consider the Super League, remember a distinctly wet-looking Russiagate bit player, and brave the chunky contents of the Funbag. A question about collecting records somehow led to Ashley breaking out her complete set of her own baby teeth and showing them to us. Another question positing the (very useful) concept of a Mendoza Line for musical acts led to me doing a brief but harrowing Scott Stapp imitation. The usual high-calorie, low-nutrient goofery, in other words. But it went down easy.
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