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MasMadness 1
Yeah, if someone came after my crutch I'd tear them a new one too.
Posted by MasMadness on February 23, 2012 at 3:28 PM · Report this
Dougsf 2
It's the "hipster" of criticism. The thing it most describes is the person using it.
Posted by Dougsf on February 23, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
yelahneb 3
This post is so meta.
Posted by yelahneb on February 23, 2012 at 3:40 PM · Report this
Jesus. So Brendan you're basically defending assholes asshole behavior on the off and delusional chance that buried somewhere in the Santorum-mixture of straw men, ad hominem, and rhetorical fuck-waded-ness, there MIGHT be some sort of vague point?

Here's a tip. Skip the childish foot stomping and just make your point.

TL;DR "Don't you dare call me an asshole when I'm totally being an asshole!"
Posted by tkc on February 23, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
Calling someone "snarky" is a legitimate criticism. It's not a legitimate counter-argument; a snarky review is no less factually correct than a non-snarky review, but that doesn't stop it from being worse.

"Am I wrong?"
"You're not wrong, Walter. You're just an asshole."
Posted by Ruke on February 23, 2012 at 4:01 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 6

There should be a name for terms like "troll" and "snark" which start off with trying to gainsay what might be out of band behavior but which end up being a blunt instrument that then gets used by the hapless once the argument gets beyond their intellectual capabilities.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on February 23, 2012 at 4:02 PM · Report this
I'd disagree with Brendan's definition of snark; I'd argue that snark is specifically criticism where the urge to be snide and/or witty comes at the expense of being accurate or substantial -- i.e., that it's a term applied to knee-jerk dismissals and lofty high-handedness that's trying to disguise a lack of genuine thought.

Basically, the opposite of what Brendan claims it is, which is a club to beat people who are in fact making accurate and telling criticisms.

Of course...Brendan's definition comes from the perspective of a critic who sees the word being used against him, whereas my (and, I believe, Julavits') comes from the perspective of artists, who feel bludgeoned by unjustified criticism. I imagine that there are indeed plenty of artists who feel that accusations of snark are their only shield, and so use it indiscriminately.
Posted by bottsford on February 23, 2012 at 4:05 PM · Report this
shut up you snarky hipster bitch
Posted by shut the fuck up on February 23, 2012 at 4:11 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 9
@1, @3, @5 - You all nailed it.

Brendan, I don't think snark has anything to do with how dearly one holds the target: I can't stand Michael Bay, either, but I'm sure I'd still find a heaping helping of snark in, say, Lindy's review of one of his films. (And I don't mean that as a criticism.)

The trouble is, snarky criticism is much more fun (and easier) to write, which goes back to what @1 said.
Posted by Free Lunch on February 23, 2012 at 4:14 PM · Report this
@ 4 and whomever else: I'm not emotional about the subject. I don't give even a little bit of a shit about being called "snarky"—it's been going on so long, and with such frequency, I've developed immunity.

I'm just sharing *why* I can't be bothered to take the word seriously, and why people who use it seem a little lazier and a little softer in the head than people who don't.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on February 23, 2012 at 5:11 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 11
I am intensely emotional about this subject. This woman is now my sworn enemy.
Posted by MacCrocodile on February 23, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
Fred Casely 12
@2: Thank you. "Hipster" is hereby nominated for oblivion, with "snark" as its runningmate.
Posted by Fred Casely on February 23, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
@10's been going on so long, and with such frequency, I've developed immunity.

And if it happens with such frequency you don't think that maybe you should have the opposite reaction? You know, consider your own behavior. Like MAAAAAYBE you could lay off being an dick every once in a while and just try to lay out a point with good argumentation.

When a majority of people point out that I'm doing something rude, I tend see if maybe they are right. Rather than reflexively rationalize my behavior by blaming everybody else for being too sensitive.

But. Yeah. Maybe that's just me.
Posted by tkc on February 23, 2012 at 6:03 PM · Report this
see, I've always read (and used) "snark" to refer to a specific tone--ironic, sarcastic, witty, irreverent, whatever--that I am actually particularly fond of. it's not just a word about criticism. people can be snarky, moods can be snarky. people who /complain/ about snark tend to be the sorts of people who insist that you take everything seriously (or worse, that if you are joking about something then you can't take it seriously), and who take offense if you don't.

really, snark is intended as a bulwark against those sorts of people. they tend to be pretty bad at telling when something is snarky or serious, so it occasionally lets you get away with making fun of something they love without them ever detecting the mockery in your tone. eventually they figure it out, and it tends to make them angry that they've been missing the point for so long. usually at this point they decide that if you're being snarky it's because you absolutely hate the thing you're being snarky about; they still haven't figured out the point, they just know that they've been missing it.
Posted by rcrantz on February 23, 2012 at 6:48 PM · Report this
Posted by Reader01 on February 23, 2012 at 8:06 PM · Report this
I am pretty sure the word comes from "Catch 22".

Corporal Snark is the character who laced the mess hall sweet potatoes with soap to prove that the common soldier had no taste.

Which is a snarky ass move, if there is one.
Posted by Ignatz Mouse on February 23, 2012 at 8:59 PM · Report this
Chronos Tachyon 17
@14: I'm with rcrantz on this. Snark can be glorious and beautiful. There isn't another word that quite captures that special blend of wit, whimsical irreverence, and sarcastic bite. The best snark blows right past serious criticism, plows through flippant dismissal, then wraps around to a third level of meta where it's actually undermining the target argument again.
Posted by Chronos Tachyon on February 24, 2012 at 12:47 AM · Report this
Anybody who is communicating has to take into account their tone as much as their message. being snarky about Michael Bay with a film snob is perfectly fine, because the "message" is already agreed upon. when you are not preaching to the choir, its probably not effective to use snark, which should be more important to someone as a communicator, than whether or not it is "right" or "wrong" to use it. In other words, if you give someone the opportunity to focus on the snarky tone of your argument, instead of the substance, then that is your fault. I say all this as someone who enjoys "snarky" humor, perhaps too much. You just cannot ever expect it to change anyone's mind.
Posted by longball on February 24, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
John Horstman 19
@14, 17: Ditto; "snark" holds a positive connotation for me, not a negative one. I think I'm using it to describe the same thing as people using it as an epithet, but due to values dissonance, they think it's bad and I think it's good. They are wrong. :-)

Also, "meta" is meaningless on its own. It modifies something else, as in "meta-joke" or "metaphysical". Self-reference, self-demonstration, deconstruction, and postmodernism already have adjectives to describe them: "self-referencing", "self-demonstrating", "deconstructing", and "postmodern"; please use them where appropriate (it might be helpful to invest in a dictionary, thesaurus, and/or knowledge of The phrase "[blank] is so meta" fails to communicate any meaning; [blank] is meta-what?
Posted by John Horstman on February 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
Chronos Tachyon 20
@18: I'll second that, with the caveat that you can't change someone else's mind with snark if their mind is made up, but that undecided bystanders are often swayed by wit and humor. If one side is dead serious and blustering while the other is light and witty, that's good evidence that the dead serious side is acting defensively because they don't have reality on their side. Of course, bystanders are turned off by outright cruelty, or if the witty side's criticisms just don't make any sense. And the repercussions of this effect are far from uniformly positive....

@19: "Meta" is Greek for "beyond", and when used in English as a stand-alone noun instead of an adjectival prefix it clearly means the postmodern lit-crit sense "[analysis] beyond [the surface meaning]": meta level 0 is directly making a statement/argument/rebuttal, meta level 1 is questioning the motives behind a meta level 0 statement or otherwise addressing its form or context (e.g. someone is clearly making a dishonest argument because of a conflict of interest, so you call them out on it), meta level 2 is addressing the form/context/motives of a meta level 1 statement (e.g. you were making an earnest argument when they questioned your own motives, so you retaliate by accusing them of dodging the question because they don't like the answer), and in general a meta level n+1 statement is addressing a meta level n statement's form/context/motives instead of its substance. When "meta" is used in these senses, communication of meaning has been achieved (the entire point of language), so the usage is perfectly cromulent, proscriptions against verbing and nouning things be damned.

My own use in @17 wasn't strictly hewing to this sense, of course; it was tweaking it for the sake of a math/comp-sci modulus 2 wraparound joke. It's a long-standing norm that jokes get to abuse language for Rule of Funny. To state the point seriously, a really good snark attack will demolish a foundational premise of the bad argument (meta level 0), yet that will be veiled behind a witty attack on the form/context/motives of the bad argument (meta level 1). If you got that from the joke and didn't need it explained, then I succeeded at communication and there was no need to criticize the joke's form in the first place.

It's worth noting that a good amount of the "meta" abuse out there (perhaps even "[x] is so meta" for "[x] frequently uses self-reference") originated from or was influenced by comp-sci geeks: 60's MIT hacker culture turned "meta" abuse into a sport/joke, and it spread from there into broader geek culture and thence to the Internet. For instance, while "metadata" a.k.a. "data about data" mostly hews to the postmodern sense of "meta-" (it answers questions like "who created this data", "where did this data come from"), "metalanguages" instead are "languages for describing grammars" -- NOT languages for expressing "who invented this grammar", "where does this grammar fit in the Chomsky hierarchy", etc. but merely for compactly expressing which strings of symbols are permitted by the language's rules. EBNF such as «mood ::= "happy"|"sad"|"angry"; stmt ::= "I am a " mood " cow."» is a metalanguage in the comp-sci sense, but there's absolutely nothing postmodern about EBNF because it doesn't even acknowledge the existence of semantics in the base language whose grammar is being depicted (the tokens "happy" and "sad" are 100% interchangeable). The "meta-" prefix here has been divorced from its lit-crit sense and generalized to "any recursive structure" or "any reference between two things of the same type".
Posted by Chronos Tachyon on February 25, 2012 at 2:08 PM · Report this

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