THE SCARIEST THING about the herd I encountered is the realization that this is the literary intelligentsia for the next forty or fifty years. The new bureaucracy is the old bureaucracy, with more exaggerated apparatchik characteristics: intellectual complacency; narrow-mindedness; intelligence replaced by glibness; unearned arrogance; personal timidity; hostility to dissent; unquestioning acceptance of dominant institutions; and so on. You could drop them into a German bureaucracy circa 1937, or a Soviet one circa 1973, and they’d fit in well. Every criticism I made at the outset of my discussion with them, they later demonstrated to be true. The only thing surprising about this herd was the speed at which it closed ranks against the intruder. The Internet has served to quicken the actions of LeBon’s “Crowd.”
Their put-downs of me were revealing. –I was referred to as a broke James Patterson. Unexamined is what Patterson does right. After all, people are reading him. The thinking individual—one not buried under clouds of conceit—would look to the Pattersons of writing as a template to improve or build upon. (The irony is that the James Pattersons pay the bills for publishing’s house of cards. And surely, his art is no more empty than theirs.) –Any mention of strategy or marketing was scorned. These blogging DIYers seek to be not-DIY as quickly as possible.
Their art, meanwhile, is herd art. Utterly insubstantial; meaningless and largely unstructured; unplotted collections of words; endlessly self-referential; free of real-world ideas (“unjudgemental”); their art is beyond criticism—or beneath it—because it takes no risks and upsets no one. The world outside the bourgie apartment or the unchallenging discussion of a faculty cocktail party is far removed. The interchangeable writings aren’t solipsistic so much as narcissistic, in that they’re mirror images of one another. The members of the herd see in the writings reflections of themselves. It’s the perfection of bureaucratic art. It would be an art fitting for an Orwellian 1984.
A final clue was an email I later received, not from an individual, but from TheHerd@theherd. (Or similar.) An acknowledgement that collectively they’re a machine?
Look at their title. Study it for a minute, and see how fitting it is for a dawning Orwellian world.