Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why with the Jerkiness

Even though I have maybe too much pride and hope for the future of Michigan, I readily acknowledge that making fun of Michigan and Detroit is not a difficult thing to do for anyone with access to a newspaper, television, the internet, or eyes. I've heard people play games where they sit together and they go back and forth and try to come up with different accepted words or phrases for all sorts of inappropriate things. The first person who can't come up with something loses the game. One additional variant of this game that could be quite extensive would be to sit down and run back and forth between different things about which someone can make fun of Michigan.

Kwame...Synagro...Automobile industry...Union taxes...Lions...UM basketball...and on and on and on

These things are obvious. Even the most hopeful and prideful person can not ignore the facts, and it would not be helpful to do so. As much as I would like to be oblivious to these things, it is simply not possible. Sometimes, making fun of these things helps to alleviate the stress and strain of having to confront them on a daily basis. Also, if I make one of my very incredibly rare almost non-existent mistakes, it helps me to make peace with the mistake if I can find some humor in the mistake, perhaps through some self-deprecation. Despite this, I am often troubled and upset by the consistently negative, sometimes hateful, viewpoint that Michigan residents take toward Michigan.

For one good example, I'd like to point you toward a very popular, often very funny blog called The Detroitist. I don't know who writes this, how many people they have on their writing team, or anything else about their backgrounds. As a brief overview, they typically take the day's or week's Michigan headlines and in 1-3 sentences, include some sarcastic, clarifying, and generally hostile commentary for each headline. When I find myself on their website, I do think they are creative, clever, and funny, but I struggle to understand their greater purpose. At the top of the site, they include the well-known quote by H.L. Mencken "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Based on my readings of their site, this seems to be some sort of hedging to enable them to level shotgun blast after shotgun blast against Michigan, possibly to "afflict the comfortable"? It doesn't seem to matter what sort of initiative a city in Michigan undertakes to try to better itself and possibly change things for the better, because they will tear into it and call it idiotic through some witty choice of words, making careful to be sure that this bashing is different from the last bashing.

I know that it is necessary to take a critical look at government, individuals, media soures, and public initiatives, because without this critical look, the public could be fooled into thinking that everything and everyone is OK and everything is working just fine.
People and programs are forced to perform better when they know that someone or several someones are watching closely. That is why we take exams in school and 12-year-olds still have babysitters. They can probably take care of themselves, but someone needs to keep close watch, to be sure. However, this critical look is meant to produce new and better ideas, recommendations, and solutions - not just be an outlet for negativity and anger.

I would like to think that no one from the Michigan public thinks that everyone and everything is OK right now. I don't need anything to remind me over and over again, even with humor, that everything is the worst thing in the world. I might suggest perhaps sprinkling in some sort of positive message from time-to-time, preferably something not about Carey Torrice.

If you dislike everything about the place and see all efforts toward improvement as a waste of time, effort, and money, there is nothing that is keeping anyone here. I prefer you stay and help to contribute ideas and the energy toward our overall improvement. Someone with a large audience and visible platform like The Detroitist could, occassionally, try to do some good without having to diverge too much from the standard format of lampooning the news.


The Charlatan said...

There are several sites whose avowed purpose is to counterbalance the typical mainstream "negative" news, most notably ModelD.

Detroitist tries to acheive the same goal of improving the region by using a stick to counterbalance the carrot of ModelD.

One might ask: "Why the rose colored glasses ModelD? Would it hurt to say something critical and constructive every now and then?"

I think Detroitist provides a valuable service by continually and relentlessly pursuing stories of idiocy, incompetence & criminal activity and reminding everyone of the foolishness that goes in the state and especially south east Michigan.

The site is "pounding the rock" of incompetent leadership, apathetic voters and outright corruption in hopes that it will shatter into a million little pieces. Only by shattering that rock will the light of day be exposed to the those tunneling for a brighter future in Detroit.

The Charlatan said...

Oh and as a web-aware, hipster bloggy type might want to think of Detroitist as simply a more focused version of Wonkette.

Ken said...

Very good point - there are definitely some websites out there that are also too positive and they do need some counterbalance. I don't think I had appropriately considered those.

As a reader of The Detroitist (and a fan) I think there is a need to, at least at some times, propose possible solutions to the stories "of idiocy, incompetence & criminal activity and reminding everyone of the foolishness that goes in the state and especially south east Michigan."

One doesn't have to look too far to make fun of Michigan - however, if we want to live here, we need to work on removing those reasons. Maybe one way to remove these reasons, I guess, is to point out that they exist. However, If I received a low grade on a paper in school with no feedback or suggestion, it was incredibly difficult for me to figure out what I needed to do to improve my grade.

Woodwards Friend said...


If we knew how to fix Michigan we'd run for office but beyond tripling our infrastructure investment and better funding for higher education we don't have a clue. We're fairly certain the earnest leaders of this fair state don't either.

Of course the notion that detroitist should provide "feedback" or (as Elwood Blues once said) "offer some constructive criticism" is to suggest we have a purpose or a mission. Detroitist isn't some Billy Sunday of cynicism out to save souls. We do what we do for that most existential of reasons...because we can. Sinclair Lewis didn't offer constructive solutions for the dreariness of small town America in Main Street or the intellectual bankruptcy of the Chamber of Commerce set in Babbitt either. And he won the effing Noble Prize.

It's kind of adorable you think we have a large audience on a visible platform. DailyKos we ain't. Christ, how we wish we were because quitting the job and day-blogging (and day-drinking) in our boxers sounds wonderful but detroitist is very much micro-media. There are snail darters with a greater impact on the Michigan's future than our humble blog.

Your mistake is that you think if you believe something hard enough it can be true. If we just loved Michigan more...things would be ok. If people believed we're winning Iraq...we would. If Wall Street analysts said Enron was a good would be. That Tony Robbins hocus-pocus doesn't work in the long run.


p.s. charlatan, the wonkette comparison is high (if undeserved) praise.

Woodwards Friend said...

And, for what it is worth, ModelD is a very good site.

The Charlatan said...


It is indeed "high praise".

I was higher than The Dude when I wrote that.

Ken said...

Ha. Being called "Son" by anyone is spectacular. Also, apparently, I'm an idiot because "Your (my) mistake is that you think if you believe something hard enough it can be true."

In many respects, I am a dummy. Because I can - I should make fun of a fat person walking down the street because that person is fat. I can make fun of a disabled person because that person is disabled - particularly if it is that person's own fault because he smoked crack and got burned in a terrible accident.

There appears to be a fundamental disagreement of intent (or lack thereof) here and that is OK - but I will continue to stand by my belief that if EVERYONE continues to crush the negative without seeking out some of the positive, there will never be any positive. That may be untrue, or idealistic, or deserving of being called "Son", but I choose whatever optimism and idea-creation I can muster.

Ken said...

Also, clever use of the word adorable. Calling anything adorable entirely minimizes that thing's point or purpose, even if it is worthwhile to at least consider that point.

I think it is ridiculous for everyone with some visibility to the public to claim that they absolutely have no impact. The word grassroots exists for a reason.

GRANDY said...


I'm a fan of the Detroitist. Is it mean at times? Of course it is. It should be. Frankly, its refreshing to see someone point out the blatant hypocrisy, idiocy, and all around silliness we witness on a daily basis.

Isn't it possible that by showcasing the moronic that Detroitist is actually showing love for the city?

Transparency and decency are too things we have been lacking for far too long. If it takes some sharp tongued bloggers to make that happen, I'm all for it.

Remember, Jonathan Swift found himself the target of many slings and arrows, simply for pointing out the truth through satire.

Satire has been, and remains perhaps the most effective way to point out the failings of leadership.

Ken said...

I appreciate everyone's point of view on this subject. I claim no exclusivity on being right in this area.

Like I mentioned in the original post, I, too, am generally a fan of the detroitist. Sometimes I don't think that people get my point when I write or don't read the entire post - either way it's probably a testament to the terrible quality of my writing.

Maybe I spend too much time reading about Michigan's troubles and, like many things, I am overly sensitive to this subject. I keep coming back to the thought that if I have a huge pimple on my nose and I know it is there, I don't need a kind citizen to point out to me every day that I have a huge pimple on my nose. It's there, I know it's there, everyone knows it's there. Then, another one pops up on my forehead, that same kind person would be like "Wow, one on your forehead and your nose. Disgusting." That does not make me feel better. Perhaps this observational person could point me to some Neutrogena or Proactiv.

SupergayDetroit said...

Oh Good Lord, apparently I've been reading the Detroitist all wrong.

I thought it was just a daily news roundup with a few clever introductory sentences for each story! Isn't that why the link to the actual news item is at the end?

Ken, you seem like a dear, sweet, well-intentioned young man. And like so many other dear, sweet, well-intentioned young people you will eventually either burn out and realize you need to have fun with this stuff, or move on to someplace functional.

I think Dionne Warwick said it best ...

Wishin', and hopin', and thinkin', and prayin',
Planning and dreamin' each night of his charms.
That won't get you into his arms.

GRANDY said...


I wouldn't worry about it. You do your thing, Detroitist does his(hers?)

There is room for all.

Ken said...

supergaydetroit - great name. Plus, I appreciate your cynicism because it is exactly what I attempt to counter in my own little way. It's starting to feel somewhat like me against the world on this one. The world, of course, is 5 people large.

Just thought I would mention that I've been at this for five months and I'm still writing. On top of that, believe it or not, I've been doing something functional the whole time! I have a job that I love and contribute to society as much as I can.

I should spend more time casting questions toward other blogs to get this kind of feedback every day. I've been missing out.

Woodwards Friend said...


I've long advocated the eating of Irish children as a solution to the problems of hunger and over-crowding.

Dan A. said...

"And like so many other well-intentioned young people you will eventually either burn out..."

Ken won't burn out. + I know too many that would not appreciate that comment in general.

SupergayDetroit said...

Burn out doesn't necessarily mean flare out. But you can only live in the clouds too long. The air's too thin.

I think history is on my side as to whether or not it will happen though. I bet you a dollar it does.

As for my cynicism, if you want to call it that ... that's what keeps my opinion relevant. I don't cater to people who wear blinders, but I do uncover the good stuff in the context of the negative. As a matter of fact, my ability to do that is what made me a star!



Dan A. said...

$1? I'll def. take that bet.

: )