Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Elements of Trolldom: Katie Roiphe and Pico Iyer

Professional Internet troll Katie Roiphe has been on a tear! (If you missed her pre-Christmas salvo, "We Like Rapey Movies Because They Help All of Us to Keep Thinking Of Ourselves as Victims Even Though None of Us Actually Are, Because Rape Is So Vanishingly Rare," well, enjoy!) Now for the new year she's back, with a column called "Turning Off the Internet Is Impossible but Even Though We Actually Can, Thanks to Cool Tools, But Really It Is Illusory, Because Our Very Minds Are Different Now, and We Will Live Only Inside the Internet Forever"! It's actually a weird plea about human helplessness, or her own helplessness, which pretty much contradicts her other work, which more regularly maintains that helplessness (and sexual harassment in the workplace) doesn't actually exist so much. Importantly, however, she makes reference to the recent Pico Iyer essay in the Times, concluding, quite snippily, for her, that: "Freedom, then"—and she means the computer program that shuts off your Internet—"is a poor man’s fabulous hotel room on a cliff on a beach without wireless." (True!) The Iyer essay is the most ludicrous, hilarious, parody-defying piece of foolishness ever published; we challenge you to even pick a favorite sentence. (Try this one: "Finding myself at breakfast with a group of lawyers in Oxford four months ago, I noticed that all their talk was of sailing — or riding or bridge: anything that would allow them to get out of radio contact for a few hours." OR: "I’ve yet to use a cellphone and I’ve never Tweeted or entered Facebook." (Haha: SLOWLY, GENTLY, HE ENTERED FACEBOOK. Sorry.) ALSO: "I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot." Remarkable. But the very first sentence is still pretty great though; don't miss it.) So what we see here with Roiphe in comparison to Iyer is that he is the exponentially more successful troll, because he has little idea that he is trolling. Roiphe shows her hand too much, relishing in her trolldom, always crossing little lines of sense, drawing leaping bizarre conclusions, knowing that She Is Controversial. She just exists to stir pots, and so her strange, sometimes seemingly put-on beliefs seem so much thinner than Iyer's, whose work rings with true, if unintentionally hilarious, conviction about the way the world is.

39 Comments / Post A Comment

Holy cow. That Iyer piece is like if Joan Didion were a man, and also 150 years old.

C_Webb (#855)

Wait … are the children I have today the children of tomorrow?

melis (#1,854)

@C_Webb But in the end, the kids you take are equal to the kids you make.

Smitros (#5,315)

As a semi-recluse I'm actually pretty fond of the Iyer piece. Still, my takeaway from the first sentence is the existence of a "Marketing to the Child of Tomorrow" conference. The notable phrase that follows is "black hole resorts," which sounds a lot like extraordinary rendition.

camelface (#4,600)

"As a semi-recluse I'm actually pretty fond of the Iyer piece."

Strong start, young troll. Keep reading the masters and maybe someday you too will inspire the same feelings of rage and frustration as your heroes.

jfruh (#713)

I won't know what to think about all this until Tom Friedman reports back with the opinions of a cab driver in [city where there is a conference that is paying Tom Friedman shitloads of money].

deepomega (#1,720)

@jfruh Remember when Peggy Noonan would turn a three block walk into an oped?

SeanP (#4,058)

New Awl slogan: we read a bunch of dumbasses so you don't have to. And I think Choire is exactly right about the difference between Roiphe and Iyer – Iyer is amusingly clueless, whereas Roiphe is just purposely annoying.

SeanP (#4,058)

@SeanP Also: people PAY for software that has the same effect as… shutting off your router? Seriously?

@SeanP Well, sometimes there are other people in your house who need the Internet when you don't. (Yes, I own that program.)

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)





stuffisthings (#1,352)

@SeanP My Internet just shuts off randomly a few times a day. I guess I should be paying Verizon extra for that, I should give em a call!

SeanP (#4,058)

@Maura Johnston… but you can shut off the internet for just your own machine for free too! It's as easy as shutting down the wireless card or (even easier) unplugging the ethernet cable.

jolie (#16)

It's subtle, but I'm keen on this one (emphasis mine):

"Two journalist friends of mine observe an “Internet sabbath” every week, turning off their online connections from Friday night to Monday morning, so as to try to revive those ancient customs known as family meals and conversation."

hockeymom (#143)

@jolie Oooh. Tell me more about this thing, this "family meal." Sounds so exotic.

C_Webb (#855)

@hockeymom Did Iyer provide the names of those journalists? Because I've got a 6th grader who hasn't stopped conversing since mid-2003, and I could use a "sabbath" myself.

deepomega (#1,720)

@jolie Haha. But what do they TALK ABOUT if not Roiphe's nightmarishness.

hockeymom (#143)

Here's my favorite:

“I work for MTV. Down in L.A.”

We smiled. No words were necessary.

Is it me, or is Katie Roiphe more and more like a watered-down Andrea Peyser for the booky set?

OMG that first sentence. I can't even. Can we please have a contest, a la Hemingway Sentences, using that one?

C_Webb (#855)

@Miss Expatria@twitter HELLO!!!!

Cobalt (#7,571)

Iyer makes clear in his essay that he completely fails to understand that distraction is avoidance, not being in the moment. Yet he claims to go to retreats all the time, but never fully engages in the lessons of them, and lives in rural Japan so he can, what, walk more? At least he's not being serial-raped by the Internet all the time like poor Katie Roipe.

La Cieca (#1,110)

@Cobalt "…and [so] every trip to the movies would be an event." The only way this makes sense is if Iyer is trying to say that he wants to live in a place that combines the seemingly irreconcilable qualities of walkability and lack of easy access to movie theaters. If you live on the Upper West Side, you obviously can walk just about everywhere (though you'd probably take the subway or a cab from time to time for the sake of convenience) but there's no way you're going to avoid the looming spectre of the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13.

Though even if you live directly across Broadway from Loews, there's still an easy way to make a trip to the movies an event: only go when there's something worthwhile spending $13.00 on. But what do I know: it's not like I've been able to make people think my stuff is important enough to read that I can rationalize moving to rural Japan.

City_Dater (#2,500)

@La Cieca

I am choosing to believe that when he lived in Manhattan he got around entirely by rickshaw.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

@City_Dater I once took a pedicab from Times Square to East Broadway and Rutgers if it was more feasible I probably would have made it my main way of getting around.

Other friends try to go on long walks every Sunday, or to “forget” their cellphones at home.

Iyer is friends with my mom?

David (#192)

A day will come when there will be nobody around that lived during the period when there were no "personal" computers or portable telephones (those that graduated from College before 1982 are mostly in this camp)… and the effort to prevent receipt of electronic communications will approach that of wondering what it was like before light.

MissNormaDesmond (#201,411)

@David Hah! I graduated from college in 1982.

untitled HD (#4,555)

You could also just own an old Apple computer, which quits randomly
while online… in fact, why not also buy a car which some days
just won't start?

(I never realized I was so much on the cutting edge)

notsowiseowl (#16,634)


"It’s vital, of course, to stay in touch with the world, and to know what’s going on; I took pains this past year to make separate trips to Jerusalem and Hyderabad and Oman and St. Petersburg, to rural Arkansas and Thailand and the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima and Dubai."

Like, I can't even.

notsowiseowl (#16,634)

@notsowiseowl Also, just re-reading that now, I notice he takes pains to emphasize that they were separate trips. Because for a moment I was wondering how he managed to string together the rural Arkansas–Hyderabad–Oman–St. Petersburg leg of his journey. A lot of time on

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@notsowiseowl Yeah. I too understand that everyone should contribute to the vital cause of burning as much kerosene as possible (in addition to occupying enough of rural surface for the purposes of taking long walks). I hear they really need all of us NYT readers right there at Fukushima. It's vital, you know! Fucking brilliant.

La Cieca (#1,110)

@notsowiseowl This sounds disingenuous. Iyer is a journalist among whose areas of expertise include globalism and luxury travel, so naturally he's going to travel a lot for his work. What he calls "to stay in touch" is what the rest of us would call "going on assignment" or even "junketing."

I imagine it's frustrating for him to trek at great expense to some exotic and remote locale only to find the natives there busy with their iPhones.

Only a vanishingly tiny fraction of the world's population has the wherewithal to (for example) choose whether to live in Manhattan or in an idyllic site in the Japanese countryside that's not too far from an international airport. Even among the very wealthy, how many can make a comfortable living without having to live within commuting distance of an office or some other location where you're expected to put in regular appearances in person?

Still, all things considered, if you had to sit next to someone on a flight to Asia, you'd choose Iyer over Roiphe, wouldn't you?

MissNormaDesmond (#201,411)

@La Cieca Of course you're right, but I still get what notsowiseowl is saying about that sentence. There's just something about it. On the other hand, categorically, Team Iyer.

MissNormaDesmond (#201,411)

You will perhaps be shocked to hear that, although I'd seen the name before, I wasn't quite sure who Pico Iyer was, so I resorted to Wikipedia. This turned out to be both informative and nearly as hilarious as that essay, and I actually found my favorite sentence there: "His books have appeared in languages such as Turkish, Russian, and Indonesian, and he writes regularly on sport, film and religion — and especially on the places where mysticism and globalism converge." (I can see it now: a meditation on the points of convergence between the Upanishads and Pride of the Yankees.) He wrote his own Wikipedia page. He must have.

surprise (#201,658)

Can someone translate this one?
" the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context."

What is the meaning of this sentence? How does paying attention to what we are already doing take up more time?

Oh Grow up,Choire. You're the only troll here. The article was extremely relevant per our current cultural. All these attacks are ad hominem. I've been a Pro Dominatrix in NYC for years and I'll tell you that Katie Rophie is spot on in her article. Many of my Pro male Dom friends report that 90% of their clients are career women- late 20's to 50's. Hence, Katie's Demo G. is correct. Most submissives are indeed upper middle class to upper class working men and women who want a break from being in control in the workplace and thus feel liberated when they hand the control over to someone else for awhile- get it?. It's a Yin Yang. Believe me- I'm privy to the huge thriving underground S&M in NYC and globally – as everyone in "the scene" trades information. People outside the S&M scene have NO idea how many husbands, bosses, high power career women secretly see Doms and or attend S&M play parties. Again, Katie is spot on in her analysis. I think people would rather attack Katie than admit they are part of something new happening in our current cultural climate. S&M hitting the mainstream. S&M is a huge umbrella that covers someone's BF slapping them on their arse during sex to calling them a "bad girl". Everyone does it in various form from light to heavy play. Thus, I do think it makes people uncomfortable because it is close to their lives, not remote from them…it makes people think about their own relationships, their own boredoms, their own desires, etc., in a way they would prefer not to.
If you are so offended, Choire, by the growing trend of so many women(mostly career women) wanting male dominance, BDSM role play..that's your problem. Stick to reporting about what you know Choire. Katie obviously did her underground research and trust me as a expect on the demo g. for S&M with years of experience in the global S&M scene – Katie is right whether you "like it" or not. Just don't shoot the messenger.

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