"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 17 July 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Even Better Than the Real Thing



Despite the plethora of available

(and idle) hands in the thinly

veiled circle jerks of graduate

seminars and corporate

sit-downs, there are few touches

that please better than one's

own. So if a boozing spree or

DS9 marathon the night before

has left you unprepared, just

think of getting caught with

your pants down as an

opportunity to squirt a load of

self-indulgent commentary on

what everyone else is saying.

Some call it "meta-criticism,"

but we all know it's mental




But such performances lose their

impact once everyone learns the

trick. With one person on stage,

it's art; with everyone going at

it, it's a CU-SeeMe conference.

And while we're more than happy

to see the crowd finally come

around, it's time we tipped our



We're through with the faux

cynicism, the mean-spirited

know-it-allness, the cheap shots

at sitting ducks. It's time we

revealed ourselves as the secret

boosters of the Web that we've

been all along.



If you've believed everything

we've said up until now - that

the Web is a sham, that no one

knows what to do with it other

than tirelessly attempt to

reproduce old paradigms, that

there's not a snowball's chance

in hell of anyone ever making a

red cent off the thing (let

alone one of those new-fangled



O'Donnell - hundreds) - we

apologize for the inconvenience,

because we've come to our



Admittedly, we've been a bit

lost, and perhaps we haven't

seen the forest for the trees.

At first, goaded by certain

nameless publications, we

thought that the Web shouldn't

just lamely adhere to old

models. The idea that anyone

could get a bunch of magazines,

buy a scanner, download BBEdit

Lite, and voila - this only fed

our disappointment. "Many to

many!" they said. "The more, the

mediocre," we thought.


And the Web's attempts to

simulate other media was

hopeless. Want full-frame,

streamed video at 30 fps? Turn

on the damn TV! But then we saw

what really smart innovative

people are thinking, and

realized that, by sheer force of

will it'll probably actually

happen. Any day now, in fact.


But now it's gone beyond

questions of how this new medium

is relating to the old. We've

seen the light, and finally

figured out what's going to make

the Web really last on its own.

Sure, you can have print on

screen; sure, you can download

Quicktime movies for that

cinematic experience. But far

from being just a lame retread

or slick simulation of older

media, the Web adds an elusive

quality that makes it even

better than the real thing: it

knows irony. It's no coincidence

that "hyperlinks" rhymes with

"knowing winks."


[Gen X]

But, we hear you protest, "Print,

too, has in recent years spawned

its own upstart cottage industry of

irony!" Well, let's just say

that we predict even the

Lifshitz fortune won't bankroll

mags like Swing forever, and

they'll be well into their

second lifetimes as birdcage

liner before anything on the Web

ever dies. You see, the Web's

advantage is that you can draw

the line between reality and

satire so thin that it becomes,

well, invisible.



Let's glance at some of the more

popular, cutting edge websites.

Are those wacky fonts and retro

graphics a parody of showbiz

glitz - or are they the real

thing? And here we have not just

a simulation of a webzine, but,

incredibly, the real thing. And

exhibit three - not just a

parody of a promotional website,

but again, incredibly, the real




And the layers are often spread

even thicker, as websites beget

websites, irony begets irony,

satire begets satire. Case in

point: humorous film is in need

of promotion; promotion requires

website; humorous promotional

website adapts well to medium by

parodying whole idea of

promotional websites. Meanwhile,

website Suck blasts websites;

website Suck is blasted by

parody website for blasting

other websites; Suck gives

parody website own column;

column goes meta and blasts

whole medium.



Don't follow? Add this to the

mixture: said column shamelessly

promotes original promotion

here. Promotion, or, by virtue

of using the word "shameless,"

merely a parody of promotion? Is

it a simulation? Is it the

simulated? I believe it was

Baudrillard's Forget Foucault - or was it

Foucault's Forget Baudrillard -

that first noted the

juxtaposition of... oh,

nevermind. What with all this

"what if we're all living on the

fingernail of a big giant," if

you listen carefully you'll hear

a French post-structuralist

jerking off somewhere.


So let's gently make our way out

of this hall of mirrors by

offering our apologies. While we

may have disputed the Web as a

viable new medium in the past,

today we repent; we now realize

that it's this very irony

overload that makes it

significant, that makes it

matter, that guarantees its

future survival - if for no

other reason than that it can

knowingly self-reference itself

so well that it becomes a

perpetual motion machine of pure

obfuscation. We think the Web

deserves tenure.

courtesy of Heavy Meta