Yesterday, global internet company Buzzfeed was handed its own viral arse on a plate prepared by local top-down media. Now, if you’re a grown-up, you might not care that the publisher of omg wtf failed in its attempts to influence a radio music poll. But, if, like me, you’re an ancient twit obsessed with the last stages of a battle between terrestrial and digital values, you probably enjoyed the point scored over the International House of Lol by ABC Radio. Goodness knows, I did.
For some weeks, an internet campaign helmed by the listicles website sought to influence the annual Triple J Hottest 100 music countdown. The push to see Taylor Swift, a platinum-selling Grammy-winning New England blonde best described to the oblivious as a fusion of Grace Kelly with an applicator tampon ad jingle, on what was held as a snobbish and even sexist hit-list was the subject of a hundred feelpinion posts.
The argument for inclusion of the artist, who had never been played on the popular ABC youth network, proceeded roughly thus: many discerning young women enjoy the buoyant anti “Hater” song Shake It Off therefore, the network’s refusal to acknowledge this partiality was an act of naked sexism. Not only did the institution hold fast with rockist orthodoxy by withholding an anthem of free-and-easy feminine freedom, but it maintained top-down principles of Father Knows Best in an age of internet liberty. Omg. Wtf. No one understands millennials and their right to Upvote the Best Viral Content On The Web.
Some of the argument countering this Fuck The Gatekeepers moment missed the mark. Bondi Hipsters, apparently a comedy duo, typify the worst responses with their “open letter” published by News Corp today. Perhaps it’s a clumsy in-joke when the Hipsters characterise Swift fans as bogans — certainly, this Basic Bitch is beloved by a judicious middle class enamoured of their own catholic taste — but it nonetheless captures the nature of the meanest objection to the #Tay4Hottest100. This, in short, was one that held that the old-fashioned cultural distinction between elite and common artefacts — one that pro-Tay commentators said concealed added sexism — was valid.
Of course, this distinction is no longer valid. Frankly, it’s no longer valuable. Cultural capital was once a simple matter and acquired by the most orthodox and simple means: the bourgeoisie enjoyed literary fiction and the working class consumed comic books. It was back in the ’60s that critics decided it was all
text and that to declare something outside this category was neither plausible nor chic. Relativism is hardly a novel fucking argument and I can remember being an ’80s teen at pains to define myself through my “democratic” and “un-ironic” appreciation of both pop and politics. It ain’t new.
These days, the middle class defines itself not so much through its attachment to particular artefacts but through its attachment to a combination of artefacts. Pierre Bourdieu, the ’70s foremost critic of cultural capital, would be overwhelmed by the chore of describing the taste of the young modern who must, to maintain her value, appear equally moved by Marvel and Muarkami, by Tay-Tay and Tame Impala.
The charge of cultural stasis is an old injunction and one Triple J heeded years ago and answered with surprising force in its response to the Buzzfeed campaign yesterday. I suspect that their Buzzfeed parody site, which describes in listicles form all the reasons that Swift would not be honoured by the station, was the work of the best creative PR crisis response public money can buy. But, it was worth it. It managed to convey a subtle and brand-building message to an Upvoting demographic in a language they understand — via redwolf.newsvine.com