GMG

It was a miserable year full of miserable things. Here is some stuff from 2017 that we hope stays in 2017.

Facebook

The problem is not really Facebook, I should say. Facebook is absolutely fucking awful—stupid and smug and kind of blithely anti-human and disgustingly craven even by the prevailing standards of triumphal circa-now ultra-capitalism—but it is terrible in large part because people are terrible, or at least terribly lonely and scared and terribly unwilling to do anything about either. Facebook just happens to be the place where this is most annoyingly apparent; it’s the social network that old people are comfortable with, and the one that most everyone is on, and it’s all outwardly clean-looking enough that it seems normal relative to the rest of the social internet. It just doesn’t work, at all.

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Facebook is no longer trying to conceal its abiding ambition to someday be the internet, all by itself—the only place you would ever need or want to go, the place where everything is. This idiotic grandiosity is par for this age of utopian would-be monopolists, but it’s especially unappealing where Facebook is concerned, because the site so transparently and transcendently sucks, and so clearly does not care about fixing any of that. Its algorithms have created a whole gray market economy dedicated to barfing scalding-hot lies on the most impressionable people in the world. It harvests every bit of information it can about us so that it can show us the outrages and rancid panderings that might keep us on the site longest and sell us what it thinks we want. It is so dedicated to its fatuous and self-serving idea of openness that it has turned all of its objectively anti-human defects into stands on principle. The algorithm is failing, but it somehow cannot be failed; an algorithmic fix for the algorithm is devised; the algorithm force-feeds your lonely aunt lies and resentment because her neighbors like it; everything slips somehow further and further from everything else.

For all the reasons to resist Facebook’s goal of Becoming The Whole Internet—and there are many, principled and practical and petty, all of them valid—there is none more compelling than the sheer fact of what a fucking horror show Facebook is, right now. It doesn’t want to be better than it is, just bigger. We would all be better off without it. - David Roth


MLS Expansion

I know some people think that this blog has some sort of personal vendetta against the MLS, or just American soccer in general, but the disaster of the USMNT’s 2018 World Cup Qualifying proved undeniably that there is a major problem with the way that the most powerful soccer execs in this country think about soccer. For too long, U.S. Soccer coasted on unambitious competitiveness, doing just enough to keep the team in important tournaments without actually committing the work and resources to becoming a true power. On the domestic front, MLS continually added more and more clubs to a league that still struggles for any TV eyeballs. Since 2015, the league has created teams in Orlando, Minnesota, and Atlanta while adding a second team to New York and Los Angeles. They’re not stopping either—Nashville was just given a team, and there could be another expansion team announced soon, bringing the league to 25 teams with an ultimate goal (for the time being) of 28.

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Now, however, the men’s national team has backslid so far that it’s not even somewhat relevant on the global stage. There is currently only one important American playing in Europe right now, and he’s a damn teenager. Compounding the humiliation, the USMNT’s failure in Trinidad ensured that no other U.S. international will get a shot to prove his worth with the world watching for at least a few more years. The solution, though, is not to continue the illogical, hellbent MLS expansion that dominated last international cycle, but really look at the overall quality of the league and figure out how to improve it.

Nine of the 14 players who appeared for the Stars and Stripes in the Trinidad match were from MLS. That number doesn’t look like it’s going down any time soon, with America serving as a much more comfortable place for American players than the more prestigious, less forgiving leagues of Europe. Accepting this development, the challenge then becomes making the league a fertile breeding ground for young stars, and a worthwhile test for the best American players. Anyone can tell you that expansion will make those goals even more difficult to achieve. The clear, simple fact is that diluting MLS even further with something like a barely wanted team in Detroit or a fourth California team in Sacramento will make a shaky league even worse.

This doesn’t even have to be a conversation about promotion/relegation or any complicated proposal to solve all of U.S. Soccer’s problems, and it’s true that some expansion markets—like Atlanta—have been successful. But for overall quality of play and talent development, this is a bad strategy that must be contained. MLS is already a place where European washouts like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore can combine to feature on one of the most dominant teams in league history, and MLS doesn’t need to give them even more cannon fodder. The prospect of more markets and more money must be tantalizing, but continued complacency and more mediocre top-flight teams will just lead to more international wipeouts. MLS and American soccer is dogshit right now. Instead of shoveling it to other cities, its owners need to clean things up first. - Lauren Theisen

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Investor Culture

A big, famous lie is that ESPN’s financially and culturally disastrous 2017 was somehow caused by its liberal politics turning off conservative viewers. But a bigger lie is that the company-wide layoffs caused by those massive subscriber losses saved the company money in any meaningful amount. If each of the roughly 100 people laid off in April were making $200,000 a year, cutting their salaries would save ESPN $20 million annually. Its Monday Night Football contract alone costs $1.9 billion a year. Here’s a rough estimate of the number of lost subscribers in the last six years; multiply that by the carriage fee and the company is down nearly a hundred million dollars every month from its peak. Against numbers like that, $20 million a year doesn’t amount to shit.

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As Tom Ley wrote on this website in April,

No amount of fired reporters and columnists is going to put even the tiniest dent in ESPN’s rights fees. Add up all the salaries of the people who lost their jobs today, and how much of a single Monday Night Football broadcast does it buy? Ten minutes? Fifteen?

As it turns out, the correct answer to that question is zero. Not zero in the sense that $20 million is a drop in the bucket for a company whose quarters are measured in the billions, though it is; literally, zero. As The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis reported, many of the reporters and on-air people who were laid off are being paid their full ESPN contracts in exchange for not working anywhere at all. The only reason for these massive layoffs then, is to report a slightly lower headcount to investors and to show those investors that something is being done. This is not a novel point, but careers are being ruined and readers are being impoverished so that like 11 rich motherfuckers can feel slightly more comfortable predicting that Disney stock will only slide slowly, and not rapidly.

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Are investors so stupid that they are appeased by wholly symbolic moves? The unanimous answer to that question appears to be yes. BuzzFeed recently announced that it was laying off hundreds of writers because of a missed revenue target. Their year-over-year revenue had actually increased from $250 million last year to between $280 and $300 million this year, according to the Wall Street Journal. But that was shy of the $350 million target, and so 100 middle-class people lost their jobs. A company growing at a healthy rate that dominates its industry fired eight percent of its staff because it didn’t hit a made-up goal by people who thought that that was the right amount of rich for them to get. And now those people can stop annoying the people who had to do the actual firing, for now.

They’ll never stop, though. After Puerto Rico was basically destroyed by Hurricane Maria, Donald Trump said that the island colony’s debt would have to be wiped out. In rich people talk, this is bondholders “taking a haircut,” not getting repaid for the loans they purchased. He was right, of course—investing is gambling, and no one would walk into a casino without at least a vague understanding that some losses were possible. But Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, immediately rowed that back. It remains the bluntest in-administration repudiation of Trump, and the only one that didn’t cause a second of controversy. Lots of evil and powerful people get their way in America, but powerful investors get theirs the most frictionlessly. - Dennis Young


Silicon Valley

Every tech bro says they want to make the world better, and maybe some of them even believe it, but they’re really there to make money. Which is fine! Just don’t dress up greed as altruism; don’t vape smoke up my ass. For my money, there have been only three good inventions since the millennium: the Roomba, the Keurig, and the iPhone. That’s not enough to spare Silicon Valley from deserving to be nuked from orbit. - Barry Petchesky

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Various Things

  • Comparing everything to @dril, as well as using Dril as a substitute for an actual joke. Dril is funny. Not every single example of a buffoon is Dril. There are a million other buffoons in the history of humanity to choose from.
  • Starting a joke with “TFW” or “When...” or any variation of it.
  • The word “sentient.” Congratulations, this perfectly fine word is on life support. Freeze it like Ted Williams’s head and let’s revisit it in a few years.
  • That thing where someone tweets about Person A without directly tagging them, and Person B replies to the tweet by tagging Person A. What are you, their assistant? Stop snitching.
  • Steve Bannon.
  • Explaining the obvious joke. (This won’t happen but it’s nice to dream.)
  • A desire to make a list of extremely specific things that need to die for 2019.

- Samer Kalaf


Shilling For Brands

If you are a person who works in media, don’t do ads for brands. If you work for the sales team, fine. If you don’t, don’t do it. And certainly don’t do it, then celebrate it like you did a good thing. This happened a lot in 2017, and in 2018 it should die and go straight to hell.

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Don’t write blogs that are only ads for shoes. Don’t write blogs that are only slightly more complicated ads for hot sauce. Don’t credulously hype a quack doctor’s nonsense. Don’t tweet about all the free stuff you get. Don’t “kudo” your ad partners. Don’t banter with chain restaurants on Twitter and get them thousands of retweets so you can be an onion mascot or whatever. Don’t rewrite the Philadelphia 76ers’ press release about their new uniforms. Don’t secretly accept bribes from companies to namedrop their products in your stories, which, as the Outline recently reported, is a thing that happens. This is very bad! But remember, if you’re doing ads for brands and not even getting paid for it, you’re a shill AND a chump. - Laura Wagner


Drug Laws

More than 63,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2016, according to CDC data. More than 40,000 of those ODs were from opiates. The numbers for 2017 will be worse. We are in the midst of a drug overdose crisis. And there’s one way to fight it: Drug laws need to die.

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It’s been clear for years—from studies and common sense and the overdose crisis itself—that drug laws don’t work. Making a substance illegal will obviously keep some use down. But for those who do wish to use, it makes the problem much worse. If there is one key cause to our current rase of overdoses, it is the crackdown on pill mills that drove people to more dangerous forms of heroin. Cracking down on heroin led to more fentanyl. Cracking down on fentanyl led to carfentanil. Cracking down on drug gangs leads to turf wars and violence and an inconsistent supply for users. Inconsistent supply leads to deaths.

It’s the iron law of prohibition: When drug enforcement is increased, drugs get more potent. And with regards to opiates this is the most dangerous part of it all. When someone tries to quit drugs and relapses, they often use a dose that they were used to in the past. They may buy from a new supplier. They may not know how much they’re using. They are at greatest risk of overdose.

There are no good guys or bad guys in the drug war, only winners and losers. It would be nice if we could outlaw drugs and people would simply stop using them. It doesn’t work that way. The drugs will continue to flow in no matter the amount of enforcement. Legalizing drugs would allow us to treat the problem as a public health one rather than a criminal one.

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This doesn’t mean we suddenly have relatively unfettered commercial sales to adults like we do with alcohol or cigarettes (or weed, in some places). We might want to keep drugs illegal to sell but make them legal to possess. Portugal has had success with decriminalization. Maybe we just start with safe-injection sites. We might want to put users trying to quit on heroin maintenance or some of the underutilized medication-assisted treatments available today. We might want to ask drug users what they think would help. Perhaps a change in laws will cause drug use will go up; fortunately, most drug use doesn’t lead to a habit. And the most dangerous drug use and misuse will go down.

We have tried our current approach for far too long. It has failed. It has made things worse for almost everyone. Drug laws need to die. - Dan McQuade


Bad-faith ESPN Complaints

Hi, Deadspin.com employee here. You might remember us from our years of criticism of ESPN, or perhaps our logo which is literally a parody of ESPN’s logo typeface. Today, I’m here to call for the repeated stupid criticisms of the Worldwide Leader to die, because almost all of them are generated with bad faith and an overall lack of basic factual knowledge.

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Yes, ESPN’s ratings are going down—but they’re going down at a lower rate than those of nearly every other cable network, including FS1. People aren’t canceling ESPN because of perceived liberalism that has infected the network, they’re canceling cable entirely—or more accurately, their heirs are as they handle closing their dead parent’s accounts. Yes, cable networks are losing viewers because the reliable subscribers of old aren’t being replaced by new subscribers, or so-called “millennials,” who have found other avenues for their entertainment dollars. (Or, even more accurately, they have no entertainment dollars to speak of, anyway.) The network’s programming is fine. Ratings strongholds Around The Horn and Pardon The Interruption are fine. SportsCenter is fine, and SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt is the best late-night programming on any network.

Yes, ESPN fucked over dozens of staffers by removing them from the air but not releasing them from their contracts. That remains a shitty, and somewhat incomprehensible, thing to do. But that’s not where the criticism of ESPN is coming from; no, what floods our Twitter mentions and comment threads whenever we post a story about ESPN—any story about ESPN—is how viewers “only tune in for live sports” and how the other programming is complete trash. These people are not, apparently, watching Outside the Lines–it’s a daily show now, you know—or First Take (really, it’s watchable again) or just the daytime SportsCenters which remain strong despite the departure of so many talented individuals from their productions.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize ESPN and you will continue to read those criticisms in these pages. But the most common, repeated, and stupid criticisms must die in 2018. - Tim Burke

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Superhero Movies

Oh my God, who cares! There are too many superhero movies! I don’t need to see a crew of 127 Avengers fight some redshirt villain for the 15th time! That purple-faced sad guy who wants to end the world is stupid! Every villain in like every superhero movie is a purple-faced sad guy! People say the Thor movie was good, but I don’t want to have to read pages of lore to understand it! Go away!

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They should only be allowed to make maximum two (2) superhero movies per year. Thank you. - Patrick Redford


People Complaining About Superhero Movies

Twitter is an excellent answer (as is Facebook, the NCGOP, or seedless avocados), but I will instead go with the obvious, clear choice: People complaining about superhero movies.

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This is my reality. I work with a group of bloggers that turn into neanderthals who will hoot and holler every time someone remotely references Star Wars (I recently dropped a John Williams piece into our group chat—the conversation ended 30 minutes later with at least six staffers commenting on the translation of “Darth Vader”). But on the day the Avengers: Infinity War trailer drops, they can’t wait five minutes to be like, “Durr I haven’t religiously followed the MCU and am unfamiliar with the universe and this is all dumb.” It’s a travesty. It makes no sense. In a world where there are a handful of actually good shows and annual Star Wars films, there is a series that produces two or three decent-to-great movies starring some of the industry’s best action-film actors, and, somehow, nobody but wet-chicken-loving, soil-for-cereal Tim Marchman is on my side on this. Whatever. I’m not mad; I’m quite happy and have not been owned, actually. More superhero fatigue means fewer normies I have to fight for seats at the premiere. Thanos looks like a thumb and I’ll be first in line come May to watch him beat the shit out of Tony Stark. - Nick Martin


The Machines

One among the many very depressing things I have spent too much time thinking about this past hell-year is how many very stupid generations of our very stupid species have convinced themselves that the technological innovations brought forth by a stupid, cruel, and reckless way of life can do more than facilitate stupidity, cruelty, and recklessness. Personally I think it is time to face up to that being a big stupid lie, or at its most benign the optimistic self-own that will eventually consume and destroy all of everything that makes life possible and worth living, if we let it. But of course that is not going to happen. Maybe there will be a very big electromagnetic pulse or something. I will deliver my cranky blogs to you by hand, by stone tablet, by cave wall; I will perform them by the campfire. I will complain that it sucks. - Albert Burneko