Updates: Pinterest, Hunger Games, Religious Atheism

Katniss bares her arms.

Dear readers,

Today, rather than embarking on a new essay, I thought I’d pass along some interesting tidbits that bear on my recent posts.

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Nitasha Tiku, one of the outstanding tech reporters working for the upstart site BetaBeat, published an article on Pinterest entitled “Coastal Investors Marvel at Pinterest’s Target Market.” She quotes CEO Ben Silbermann at length to the effect that Pinterest, unlike all those snooty websites out there, is meant for “regular people.” One commentator says that Pinterest “defies the mold that you have to build something for New York and San Francisco and then build out from there.” (Apparently, it also doesn’t get all picky about grammar.) Here’s Silbermann’s funniest quote:

Why is collection so basic to who we are? I think the answer lies in self-expression. If you walk around Brooklyn and ask people how they express themselves. Everyone’s a musician or an artist or a filmmaker. But most of us aren’t that interesting. Most of us are just consumers of that.

Yeah! We are the 99% and we are boring!

My grandfather was a very sweet man who had an unfortunate tendency: every time he paid a compliment to Person A, he disparaged Person B. When I played baseball, he would say, “It’s so good you’re well-rounded. Not like some of these spoiled kids, with their heads in a book all day.” Apparently, this is becoming the dominant paradigm for website marketing. In order to promote your website, you have to assuage people’s “Internet overload” anxiety by criticizing the Internet. Thus we have the spectacle of Jonathan Harris going around calling Cowbird the anti-Twitter, which it’s not, and now Silbermann implying that Pinterest is a website for the red states, which, again, it is not. (At least, not in any exclusive way.)

Why is he doing this? The answer is actually much more insulting to the “average person.” Silbermann wants to put Pinterest somewhere in the middle between sellers and buyers, so he’s most interested in people pinning items that other people can actually buy. He wants to make it clear that Pinterest is for consumers, not “artists.” If you buy things, you qualify. People like me, using Pinterest to create galleries, are basically fleas, except to the limited extent that we help give the website some small amount of aesthetic credibility. Furthermore, we don’t require aggressive marketing; I’ll sign up just because I can. Hence the “flyover state” pitch, and the $40 million in startup capital.

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I promised, on Facebook at least, that I’d blog the Hunger Games movie…but I really doubt that I will. I’ve just finished the first book in the trilogy. I liked it fine. It’s a perfectly decent choice for a young reader. At the same time, it’s politically backwards. It’s Libertarian in both general and specific ways: it’s clearly in favor of “states’ rights,” and implicitly favors “a well-armed populace.” It’s no accident that there are 13 Divisions, counting The Capitol.

It’s supposed to be a “dystopian” novel, but it’s really not, unless your idea of a dystopia is getting to run around in interesting, dangerous forests, kissing boys and shooting foes. It’s not a powerful statement about reality television, violence perpetrated by children, or anything else. Do we care when Cato dies? We sure don’t, because this isn’t real life. It’s a video game. It’s full of a lot of nature that many readers/viewers will never see in real life…just like Skyrim V: The Elder Scrolls. As for the element of girl power, the best you can say for it is that it’s totally unoriginal. You could trace Katniss back to other teen fiction heroines, or back to The Bride from Kill Bill, or back to one of her indisputable sources, La Femme Nikita. As in Nikita, the fighting is mixed with lessons in being a lady. For all the talk about challenging gender norms, the reality is that if Katniss was a boy, she’d come off as psychopathic. Her iciness is always pushing against the tenderness we automatically impute to her. Neither is real.

Anyway, taking a stand against THG would be a bit like denouncing the Narnia books as Christian propaganda. Completely unnecessary. Kids don’t realize Aslan is supposed to be Jesus, and they’re not going to be applying the 2nd Amendment to Katniss’s bows and arrows. But that doesn’t mean we have to take the author’s so-called “vision” very seriously.

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Finally, Alain de Botton’s religious atheism. The Christian blog Life And Building posted on him, and a pingback came my way. The blog isn’t very interesting, at all, but the post does confirm my hypothesis about the religious response: “An agape restaurant without God is a farce and an impossibility [...] it’s like dogs discussing amongst themselves how to incorporate flight into their community.” The majority of the Earth’s inhabitants would wholeheartedly agree with this, and Religion for Atheists will be forgotten in no time flat.

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