Thursday, February 26, 2009

Worth Repeating: Brilliance From FlatFace

The best thing about RBNS is the calibre of its commenters and their smarts, sense of humor, inside information and sheer brilliance. Here is one of the smartest things I have ever read dissecting what it is about Jackles and her self-obsessed fame fantasy that is so offensive, and neatly dismisses the argument that anyone intrigued by them is either jealous or has no life. As Flatface points out, the entire NonSociety soap opera is like watching an anthropological social study lesson playing out, something that speaks to a dying era of narcissism and frivolity:

Flatface: There is something kind of weirdly psychedelic about the turn Nonsociety has taken. It was born as one of those web 2.0, new-media pioneering projects. Kinda like Rocketboom, I guess. An example of how the new tech savvy do-it-yourselfers were going to bypass traditional print and broadcast media and go straight to their audience. They would equal, even surpass, the stuffy mainstream media in content. They’d just be quicker, hipper and more nimble. Yaa.

But as people began to figure out - years ago - a bad reception on the web is louder than a bad reception at the newstand or on tv. You can’t hear people laughing at you when you’re at home reading Maxim, or watching Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip. On the web, even on a site where there are no public comments, you quickly find the peanut gallery, even if you’re not looking.

Also, in NS’s case, they courted so much attention from within and outside the Web, that they are actually covered, at least a little, by sites who are better news gatherers than themselves. And so they just keep getting burned. So, we know for instance about their internalk strife, and the cancellation/non-subscription of their hoped-for reality show, their trouble with funding, their attempt to silence critics, and the problems they’ve caused for their other mid-profile friends by talking about them. None of that, though, is discussed or even mentioned in their strange web magazine. Which, objectively, is kinda like a internet version of Seventeen magazine. But without the production value.

It’s like a reality show about a reality show. They are trying to put a reality-based product out, one about their lives (lives as producers of a show about their lives? But with iPod accesory tips and party photos, too?)

And yet the facts that scream out from the rest of the audience tear huge holes in the world they’re trying to present on their site. They are giving us a revolutionarily real product, supposedly, that is revealed to be fake at the exact time it’s happening. They do a heartfelt discussion about a cleanse diet, for instance. But elsewhere it’s revealed they’re being compensated by the cleanse company. They have to back up, explain. Or Julia gets fired form her high profile Star gig, and tries to spin it. But is caught by Gawker, and snitches inside Star. On and on, it goes.

They cannot contain the content of their story to their website. Gawker takes a bite. Valleywag tosses a tomato. Random twitters bump the record player, and the song skips. The blogs call out. They are no longer directors of the story - the story of them. They really have become unwitting characters of their own soap opera.

It looks like a play, in a theater where the audience is booing and hollering and throwing things on stage, busting lights and knocking the cast down. But the actors are sooo determined to keep on with the play. They continue to grin and dance and wink at the audience. Even as the curtains are burning. They just try to sing louder. At this point, they are performing their lives. Not living and “lifecasting” them..

I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like this. It’d be like having a live audience follow the cast of the Real World, jeering them, and instantly producing people from the cast’s past to contradict lies the Real Worlders tell each other. As it happens.

And then there’s the NS show itself. The whole country is queasy nervous. Everyone i know, espcially in the media-heavy crowd which I’ll bet makes up a bulk of NS’s audience, people are really worried about losing their jobs. And it’s also one of those times when even people who aren’t interested in politics are paying attention to the world. The Obama election was the same sort of life-stopping earthquake as 9-11, just on the polar opposite end of the scale. There’s this low-level buzz that the two wars we’re hoping to get out of could suddenly blow up out of control. It feels like one of those times, when environmentalists and progressives have a chance to re-write the scene for the US.

A little like ’68, maybe.

And the show they were trying to put on? Pink birthday parties. Cupcakes. Shoes. Re-heated Sex and The City aesthetics, with none of the sisterhood warmth that helped make that show a cut above drivel. Clips of doing karaoke at the Davos conference. Like bringing a cat to the opera. None of them had the first clue what was going on around them. In fact, going to Davos wasn’t really in keeping with their editorial mission anyway. Relationship advice. Single living tips. The latest consumer elctronics. Light stuff, breezy. That’s them. But they went to Davos. Why? They never say. It just seemed Capital-I Important, I guess. Truly, truly magic-mushroomy weird.

I actually think someone smarter than me could do a good American Studies/ Sociology dissertation on the rise and fall of NS and what is says about this period and this demographic.

That is all.


  1. The problem with living with Julia

    The living with Julia part..

    Peace, Meghan Asha

  2. Bravo Flatface! I completely agree, it's a Cultural Studies paper, to say the least.

  3. Flatface: Excellent piece of work!

    Total Jing: More like Abnormal Psych thesis.

  4. It's more of a psychological study. I understand these three can be seen as representatives of a larger 'culture' of egoism and consumerism, however, as a study, it's only three people. Nonetheless, brilliant observations...I believe similar thoughts were touched upon when this website first started. Smart, smart commenters here indeed!!! Go RBNS!

  5. Well done. Have they heard of Rocketboom, or iJustine, or Dooce for that matter? They are not the "first three human beings" to do... anything.

    I am going to use Dooce as an example because I am sure NS considers itself waaayyy more progressive than a mommy blogger, but Dooce blogged her way-- honestly-- through getting fired, and a mental hospitalization. Add baby videos, site ads, and turning down several traditional publishing deals, and what is that if not a lifecast? A well-written, interesting, honest, and profitable one.

    That has been on my mind ever since M once defended J by saying "there is no one else that puts themself out there online like Julia does."

    There are hundreds of thousands actually.

  6. So does this mean Poofy isn't going to get to make "fuck you money?"

  7. Julia might as well tell us next that NS visited the MOON.

    WOUld there be any notieable difference in NS coverage of events if J just stood, posed, while someone switched out cardboard Sears portrait studio backdrops behind her.

    Me, with Obama! Me, at the Grad Canyon! Me, with Godzilla! Me, at the pyramids!

  8. Brava!

    Such good writing and insight I may never post again ;-(

    But we all know the reason for Davos, CES and the other tech/geek clusterfucks - good old fashioned '50's-style husband hunting.

    JAB isn't Carrie, she's Sandra Dee.

  9. As long as we are clearing the air, I hate that damn Monster of damn Ja dog

    Peace, Meghan Asha

  10. Excellent analysis. FlatFace is spot on: "Performing their lives". So in this respect they are more like the crowd from The Hills than anything else I can think of - just the web based version.

    As this great article from n +1 - 2006- "The Reality of Reality Televison" stated :

    "The reality of reality television is that it is the one place that, first, shows our fellow citizens to us and, then, shows that they have been changed by television." - I think you could essentially say this of the NS girls - they came to change the web, (or more accurately USE the web) but the web changed - and as this site demonstrates - USES them.

    As for FlatFace's other point about NS being not only out of step with but almost completely, demostrably oblivious to the economic/political reality of their times it put me in the mind of a great line from George Packer's classic New Yorker article from last year - "The End of Conservatism":

    "The spasms of nerve endings in an organism that is brain dead.".

    This about sums it up for me. This is what NonSociety represents to me. An artifact, a dinosaur forever reaching out into the darkness.


  11. Cross-posting


    "I actually think someone smarter than me could do a good American Studies/ Sociology dissertatuion on the rise and fall of NS and what is says about this period and this demographic."

    I would disagree with you on some key points. I do not think that they (i.e. JA, MA) represent a period in time or a Zeitgeist of the past; rather, they are a continuation of the American experience. Remember, they are all big Obama boosters. Why? Because everyone else that is "important" is a big Obama booster. It is all about popularity and entitlement. For instance, Julia wants to ride in a private jet on her birthday when she doesn't even have enough money to purchase health insurance. Somehow, though, she is entitled to both. She is probably also entitled to go to Harvard Business School on our dime. Her attitude is one of narcissistic nihilism. To that end, NonSociety is just a convenient vehicle. If she were truly invested in it in any meaningful way she would probably be anti-Obama since Obama's Great Society is going to tax away the dad revenue that supports the NonSociety. She just doesn't care. If she cannot get what she wants through one vehicle she will get it through another (e.g. the government). There is no end to her madness.

    Often, in my darkest hour, I have thought about starting a wiki about Julia Allison where all of her past antics could be consolidated and documented. Furthermore, Julia would serve as a paradigm for a certain type of destructive personality. One could then nominate other individuals as being Julia-esque so that a database of destructive personalities could be built in realtime and save the rest of the world from having to work, hire, or have direct interactions with the Julias of this world. Maybe I am mad too.

  12. What Julia Allison Baugher will take from this: "OMG people want to write a dissertation about me. I'm an icon!!!"

  13. What's this "Juliaexposed"??

  14. Brilliant Flatface, just brilliant.

  15. You're exactly right, Anon 5:59. She won't understand 99% of what flatface said and still fails to grasp that to be in on the joke, you have to understand the joke.

  16. @Anon5:53 -- I LOVE the idea of a JA/NS wiki. The RBNS team of writers and commenters are the perfect people to create and maintain such a compendium of vanity. When do we start?

  17. "Random twitters bump the record player, and the song skips."

    Day-um, flatface. Rock ON!

    Just one reason why I check in her for some daily R&R.

  18. Check in here? In her? Oh, who cares.

    The song skipped, probably because of some random twitter sent by a butterfly in China. Or something.

  19. Excellent Flatface, but also thank you Don Juan for further illustration.

    If we take The Hills analogy to one conclusion, this makes Jackles the Audrina of the cast (the pool house dweller that she is). Which amuses me insofar as Jackles does not see herself in a tertiary role in any respect.

    If only she would just shut up and assume that position.

    I have been wanting to make this joke for a bit, so thank you for that opening Don Juan.

    Aside from that, very astute observations today all around.

  20. Anon 5:59 -- so true. But really she could only be a chapter or a few graphs. You'd need other supporting evidence and material to really make it a good read. So again, shut up and accept your tertiary role and be grateful even for that, Jackles.

  21. From the comments of today's TMI:

    As I stated before, I just bring the clothes. If she doesn't like my selections, Julia can always wear something else.

    I agree here, Julia's dress is not the most flattering, but neither is my hair in this episode. I can't be right ALL THE TIME.

    and this...

    Mary Rambin wrote on February 26, 4:04 pm
    I pulled all three dresses from Anglomania by Vivienne Westwood.

    As you might have seen on my blog, I wore Julia's dress to Twestival with the bow tied in the front and Meghan's turned the other way around to the first day of Fashion Week.

    I LOVE this line, so funky and fresh, but honestly not worth the price in my opinion.

    See, here's where I hold firm that TMI and NS and the M/J/M friendship is OVAH. First, it's just tacky to criticize a designer. Yeah, she probably got the dresses free or as a rental from some shop, but show a modicum of gratitude. She's pissing on everything NS-related. She's out, done, finished, kaput.

  22. Or she's stupid. That's a lot more likely.

  23. Look, I think these people are idiots, but haven't things gotten a little out of hand here? I really can't believe I'm drawing this analogy, but have you seen the movie The Craft? You know, the one in which the high school misfits use witchcraft to take revenge on all those who have wronged them?

    Well the misfits put a spell on the evil bitch cheerleader blonde, which causes her hair to fall out and sores to form on her scalp. There's a scene in which she's crying in the locker room, in a truly pathetic state. No matter how awful cheerleader bitch has been, you can't help but feel sorry for her and want the revenge to stop.

    I think we're at that stage with Ms. Baugher. The point has been made: the time in which she was barely infamous for being famous is slipping away; there's really no need to stand around watching the end of it all.

    And worse still, the attitude here is too often self-righteous, as if somehow the spite and glee are a public service nobly undertaken, helping to rid the world of the nonsense that is NS. In truth it's not a public service, it's just cruelty for its own sake.

    The argument made by the NS crew from time to time, that people should lay of because their families have read the criticism about them, is a weak one to say the least. But when I think about this site it strikes me that I'd be mortified if I discovered that my daughter was participating in the viciousness.

  24. Is Julia's page completely broken for anyone else?

  25. FormerGawkerEmployeeFebruary 26, 2009 at 9:18 PM

    Anon8:43: What an off-base assumption to make. I am a dude, and I am quite certain there are a lot of dudes among us. She has pissed off people of both genders. Why would you assume it's only women who have issues with her?

  26. @FormerGawkerEmployee: Sorry, where did you read that I was assuming that all the people commenting here are women? I'm not one, for a start.

  27. Anon8:43: Get over yourself. This is all for the lulz, ok? It is funny as hell. And yeah, i want to stand over the NS corpse as it rattles out the last gasps, ok?

    This is how some people unwind, ok? No self-righteousness. It is just the new TV, and people here tend to find acerbic comedy to their taste.

    It is not much more complicated. And i love FormerGawkerEmployee more and more each day.

    Lulzing at NS is an equal opportunity lulz, ok?

  28. Ditto on the dude-ness here.

  29. @SomeProblems: "Ok?" Jeepers. That last one was a bit repetitive. Oops.

  30. FormerGawkerEmployeeFebruary 26, 2009 at 9:49 PM

    "... if I discovered my daughter was participating in the viciousness."

    How else to read that?

  31. I am convinced Jacy is also a dude, and RussianGirl.

  32. I am convinced Jacy is also a dude, and RussianGirl.

  33. Sorry, posted twice there. Anon951=DudeFan.

  34. @8:43: No, I didn't see it. I don't really care for movies about teenagers.

  35. Speaking of dudes, in actual fact, Jackles has pissed off a lot more men than women in her life.

    Harold Ford Jr., various former boyfriends whose pictures she keeps posting on her blog years later despite their protests, Lodwick, Forman, Denton, Ben Leventhal, Owen Thomas, the list goes on and on and on.

    She tends to suck up to women to their faces and does all her back-stabbing behind their backs. But she is so in love with herself that when any guy fails to fall for her tits and her (really cloying and embarrassing) efforts to flirt/be sexy, or worse, breaks up with her, she openly and publicly says and does extremely nasty shit to them.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the people behind all of the reblogging blogs were men, and if at least half, if not more, of the commenters here are men.

    She has made countless male enemies.

  36. I remember when I first saw the site. I was in disbelief, and sent the link to my 19 year old intern. She was disgusted and had nothing but contempt for the site. That's right...


    So it was a terrible business "plan," that is rightfully failing. (I wonder if she owes money to investors). But the reason i continue to read Reblogging NS is because its funny. After the stress of my job (where I do work), RNS makes me laugh. Every court needs its jester, someone to point out that the emperor has no clothes. (I'm sure this point has been made several times about NS).

    Thanks for bringing some HAPPINESS into my day :-D

  37. aw, thanks guys.
    I like especially don juan and anon 553. I think as shallow as our subject (nonsociety) is there is humor to be wrung from it. And also ideas.

    I'd really like some of the other regulars to write an essay-length screed like I did. Like, does anyone else think we're in this weird middle period of the internet? Like, how weird are things?
    And to the haters, and I count myself among them, can you express why? In a clear, logical, almost emotion-less argument? In the academic sense of argument?
    I love you all...

  38. Detective Cupcake here:

    RBNS fans, please visit the link below and give your opinion of Jankles.


  39. Non Society is not novel. It's like Julia pretends like everything she does is novel and talks about it like she invented things that everybody else has been doing for years. She's like Al Gore saying he invented the internet.

  40. Just discovered this blog. As someone who has been burned by the trainwreck that is JAB personally, I applaud you all.