August 19, 2014

Source: Shutterstock has had a crappy week.

Many people are suddenly hearing about that upstart online magazine for the first time, on account of not one but two “€œcontroversies”€ of the sorry sort we”€™re all too familiar with.

(Not me. Full disclosure: Thought Catalog published my recent e-book.)

For those who remain blissfully ignorant: Thought Catalog debuted four years ago, as a first-person essay site geared to Millennials, and boasting a “€œvalue-neutral editorial policy governed by openness.”€ Almost anyone could post there, with minimal or no editorial interference. As well, unlike all its competitors”€”the likes of xoJane”€”Thought Catalog isn”€™t de facto “€œprogressive,”€ something they feel obligated to briefly address on their “€œAbout”€ page, under the question, “€œWhy do you publish offensive content?”€

“€œGetting more or less fired from your own ad agency”€”in fact, this whole “€˜scandal”€™”€”is awfully punk rock, so when I called Gavin for comment, I wasn”€™t surprised to hear that he wasn”€™t giving too many fucks about it all.”€

“€œOffensive”€ isn”€™t the word that springs to mind when glancing at Thought Catalog’s constantly updating front page on any given day. Typical fare includes “€œ17 Ways to Tell You”€™ve Gone and Grown Up”€ and “€œ5 Reasons I”€™m Jealous of Pregnant Women”€: gluten-free fare by kids for whom “€œnostalgia”€ means “€œthe 1990s.”€

Naïve, self-absorbed, overly earnest, poorly written stuff? Absolutely. But “€œoffensive”€?

Well, yes, if you”€™re the awfully important-sounding Nieman Journalism Lab.

Amusingly, Nieman’s mission statement, just like Thought Catalog’s, expresses a prim, pageant-contestant-type concern for “€œthe future of journalism”€”€”a future that, if the former gets its way, will not include the latter.

“€œThere’s no need to enumerate the breadth and variety of godawful content published by millennial angst engine Thought Catalog,”€ Nieman huffed on August 14. “€œThe site’s propensity for publishing garbage is so well known, they actually address it in the FAQs.”€ (That’s the “€œoffensive content”€ bit I mentioned above.)

No doubt you can smell a sizable “€œbut”€ heading in your direction.
Sure enough, Nieman wants you all to know that it is outstandingly shocked and appalled by a particular Thought Catalog essay, one so “€œegregiously racist”€ that it “€œcannot be ignored.”€

This essay, by Anthony Rogers, was entitled “€œFerguson, Missouri Looks Like a Rap Video,”€ and was illustrated with a news photo of a young black man looting a smashed up shop. Its most memorable line was something about area stores being denuded of hair extensions and other accoutrements of “€œurban”€ fashion.

“€œWas”€ because Rogers”€™ piece has since been hidden behind the Internet equivalent of a childproof safety cap”€”you have to click through a trigger warning page to get to it, and compared to the shrieking, scary, reversed-out giant sans serif type telling you how offensive the post is, the “€œcontinue”€ button is so comically tiny as to be almost negligible.

However, I can point readers to a site that has far, far more readers than Thought Catalog. It’s called World Star Hip Hop, but its Haitian-American founder’s nickname for it”€””€œthe CNN of the ghetto”€”€”is more aptly descriptive.

WSHH offers thousands of videos of things like “€œrappers engaging in fights with other rappers,”€ along with cell phone footage of “€œknockout games”€ and other crimes”€”including, quite recently, what appears to be a woman kicking a toddler. Bear in mind that this footage is rarely purloined from security cameras, but is shot and proudly uploaded by the perps themselves, or their friends.

Interestingly, one of the most commented-upon videos currently up at WSHH is by an African-America fellow calling himself “€œJonathan.”€ He chastises other blacks for, well … looting Ferguson stores for hair extensions.


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