The piece On Smarm is fucking spot-on. The things I keep turning over in my head;
- the sudden proliferation of smarm has increased dramatically over the course of the past few decades. There’s been a two-prong push for smarm: the sales pitch for the Internet as being unilaterally inclusive, and (at least in North America) the explosion of social rights activism. The difference, however, is this: there is someone for everyone but there is not (and should not be) everyone for everyone. The human knack for specialization alone makes everyone for everyone impossible.
- The moral sleight-of-hand that typifies smarm makes discourse impossible by ofuscating tone and content. Smarm creates a ‘them versus us’ mentality through tone instead of content. Whenever someone pushes the ‘no haters’ smarm ideology, it’s unable to be assailed regardless of which camp you fall into: the ‘haters’, who are critiquing in a ‘mean fashion’ and the ‘no haters’, who can’t speak up lest they be forever exiled.
- The dismissive nature of snark (as defined in the article, at least) also makes direct discourse impossible. The ability to critique an argument/statement/item without providing rationale is devoid of actual content.
- The aim of both smarm and snark to stifle conversation.
- That being said, the author’s definition of ‘snark’ is wide, and let’s say, selective. The author includes what should be referred to as (let’s call it) artistic dissent - presenting a dissenting opinion through content, delivered how snottily or snarkily. Since artistic dissent provides content, it is more valuable than snark (unless you’re not into that sort of thing).
- Not directly tied to anything, but I worry that the proliferation of smarm is dulling society’s ability to form value judgments. In a society that pressures you to tolerate everything and accept people, practicing discernment can appear to be socially unacceptable. It’s not our job to love everyone, because that’s impossible, and weird. Our society has, since hunter/gatherer, been defined and enhanced by specializations of skills, values, and tastes. Just because we shouldn’t heckle, let’s say, white people for being white doesn’t mean we have to love white people. Tools like smarm, through their repetition, artificially flatten individual value judgments.