Take Time

This weekend, millions of internet users scrambled at once to see photos of naked celebrities. These photos had been accessed and published without their subjects’ consent. Media outlets, whose institutional assessments concluded that publishing copies of these photos would be the wrong choice, but accustomed to the realities of the internet circa 2014, had to find ways to address this issue. Mostly, at first, there was a lot of writing around the photos, which coyly provided enough information for people to contextualize and then eventually find them. Then there was real reporting about where the images came from, about the people who acquired them, about technology and about the victims. The story was quickly advanced.

But a phenomenon like this generates an enormous surplus of attention, much more than news can meet. In such a situation the internet’s craving for sex and humiliation is effectively infinite. This throws the Content industry into a frantic generative mode, initiating a full-spectrum stress test on par with a natural disaster or a war. This weekend was a consumption bonanza, a historic seller’s market for Content. This was no time for mere reports and analysis, no, that would never be enough. It was Take Time.

Take Time, the internet’s evolutionary defense against attention surplus, can be large or small, quick or long. A simple form of Take Time is the post-gaffe rush, which usually looks something like this, and occurs over a period of a few hours:

Hacked? EPA Office of Water tweets about Kardashian App

EPA tweet about Kim Kardashian confuses and entertains the Internet

Kim Kardashian App Takes Over Environmental Protection Agency’s Twitter

EPA Office of Water Is Caught Playing Kim Kardashian Mobile Game

‘That Happened’: The Head-Scratching Tweet From an Official EPA Account That Had Some People ‘Howling’ With Laughter

Kim Kardashian App Takes Over Government Agency’s Twitter Account

There were dozens more of these stories, all about a single tweet, from virtually every outlet that publishes news. And they served their purpose admirably: They left no attention on the table. They represent the “we should have something on this” news impulse stripped to its barest form, left unspoken and carried out as a matter of course. Endless minimalist Takes, obviously duplicative from the producer’s side but not necessarily from the other, all drawing energy from a single glowing unit of information.

A: If we acknowledge the Object, people will acknowledge us.

B: But the Object… it just… is….

A: You must harness it. You must find a way to turn your gaze… into… a Take…

The dimensions of Celebrity Nude Take Time stretched conventional Take models to the limit (but did not contradict them). The readings were off the charts. The levels were going crazy. This weekend, through a sleepy holiday, the Takes began to materialize. It was as if the Takes had been snatched directly from writers’ brains at the moment of conception by some unauthorized agent, and then posted, raw, onto the internet (this agent, however, seemed to target men). People who didn’t previously know they were Take generators, much less Celebrity Nude Take generators, found themselves typing, asserting, publishing, delivering fresh Takes in newsy glossolalia.

B, dazed: Did I… is that Take.. mine?

A: Yes…. yes. It is beautiful.

Take creators might have caught themselves saying things like “that, my friends, is why you never take nude photos of yourself,” or “just a reminder that, actually, sex is natural.” There were Takes on privacy and gender and consent and free speech issued with and without conviction. Everyone with an outlet — or, really, everyone, since the great democratization of Take distribution tools coaxed previously private Takes out from bars and dining rooms and into the harsh sunlight — found themselves under the spell of that horrible force that newspaper columnists feel every week, the one that eventually ruins every last one: the dreadful pull of a guaranteed audience.

A flood came, a wide river of nudes cut through the desert, and bustling cities of Takes rose along its banks. Where there was once nothing, there was now something.

Some Takes were good Takes, some were bad Takes. One common method for generating Takes is, and was, to push two existing Takes together and see if they stick. Some Takes were probably convincing and even vital, but in the fog of Take Time it became impossible to tell. Most takes, regardless of character, were rewarded as confused clicks, aimed at, and fueled by the existence of, nearby nonconsensual pornography, took the shape of any new volume they were given.

Clicks gathered in orderly lines to be gunned down or imprisoned by rolling Takes, mounted Takes, airborne Takes. They died confused and aroused, guilty and disgusted. There were conventional Takes, banned Takes, nuclear Takes. By Tuesday, few could even remember what they were scrolling for.

A Take Time of this magnitude spares only the silent and disengaged. Any new Take issued during the diminished but ongoing Celebrity Nude Take Time, including this Take, may still be construed and dismissed as a Celebrity Nude Take.

When Celebrity Nude Take Time is finally over, the best Takes will be excavated and christened Ideas. Ideas are Takes that can be referred to in the future without embarrassment, or which could be presented to their subjects without shame.

The rest will never be spoken of again.