Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The End of the 00s: Noted, Without Noteworthiness, by Rob Walker

Exploding Trucks ForbiddenJust the other night I was watching Anderson Cooper's variety show on CNN, and right before a commercial break, Mr. Cooper showed about seven seconds of wobbling and grainy footage of a burning truck speeding down a highway. "A burning truck on a highway," he said (or words to that effect). He looked, and sounded, very concerned. "We'll tell how it happened, and where, right after this."

Upon reflection I think this is the most significant moment of the past 10 years. That is because it is an event that embodies so many 21st-century events: Something is happening, somewhere, and it has no particular effect on you whatsoever. The latest details in a moment.

I do not suggest that nothing happened in the past ten years. Things happened; significant ones, good and bad. But much of what happened was not noteworthy for having happened, it was noteworthy for having been noted, despite not being particularly noteworthy. We know the space in which news can be noted is now infinite; we know the noting of news has been "democratized." But the pace of news worth noting has not kept up.

Still, something must be noted. And so: A woman is missing, and her husband has been named a person of interest. A celebrity has turned out to be less perfect than advertised. Someone you follow on Twitter has a long delay in the Atlanta airport. A politician said something hypocritical; the politician's hypocrisy was detected by a blogger; another blogger has accused the first blogger of dishonorable bias. There's a new sex tape is making the rounds online. Somebody you met at a party two years ago likes your status. Breaking News Alert: A truck is on fire on a highway, somewhere. We will dig deeper with our panel of experts. Upload your pictures now. Leave us a comment. We're flooding the zone.

Every decade has its memorable moments. Possibly what we'll remember about this decade is all the forgettable ones.

Rob Walker is the author of Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are.

22 Comments / Post A Comment

shelven (#1,992)

Rob, I like this. It's almost a prose poem. Or at least an NPR commentary — an actually good one. (this is lizzie)

Very well said, and so true. (this is lizzie)

"A burning truck on a highway," he said (or words to that effect). He looked, and sounded, very concerned. "We'll tell how it happened, and where, right after this."

And then let me guess — it was followed, in bittersweet irony, by James Earl Jones' mellifluous, Darth Vader-y "This is CNN."

Bittersweet (#765)

After the burning truck footage, did Anderson feature the baton twirler, or the monkey playing the ukelele?

wiilliiaamm (#225)

In another world…Daphne Merkin would have written an 11 page "essay" to say exactly what you just said in a modest length "blog post".

Michael Hirschorn took 4.

hirschorn (#2,742)

i got paid by the word

HiredGoons (#603)

This is great.

You know what's really sad? This general tone of this decade turned out pretty much how I thought it was going to after viewing the bombing of Baghdad ridiculously stoned in a college dorm room, drinking Jim Beam and my friends and I alternating with variations on 'Holy Shit!'

I would have liked to have been pleasantly surprised, or at least shown that my intuition was not as sharp as I thought.

I'm not saying I'm particularly insightful or intelligent, lord knows there are plenty of smarter people than I – I just really, really would have liked to have been wrong.

Kevin (#2,559)

I think we're both in Mass. Let's get gay married.

HiredGoons (#603)

VT – my state or yours?

Kevin (#2,559)

Let's Live free and die in NH.

HiredGoons (#603)

I think you're fucking with me.

Kevin (#2,559)

Not yet I'm not!

so, like, how do note my appreciation of this note without it being like meta-hypocritical?

katiebakes (#32)

Wow, this is just really quite wonderful.

So elegant and true.

KarenUhOh (#19)

It's quite remarkable how unremarkable everything has become.

"Something is wrong[ly being designated as noteworthy] on the internet."

hockeymom (#143)

I feel melancholy.

josh_speed (#97)

Yes. Me too.

mathnet (#27)

Right right right right right!

Christine Huang (#3,622)

my impulse is to want to agree. but how is it different than any other decade post-broadcast communication? seems like inundating willing audiences with 'forgettable' news is the foundation of mass media…

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