Thought Catalog

The Week’s Internet Shit Talking in Review: August 27, 2010

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Welcome to a new column on TC—The Week’s Internet Shit Talking in Review. Here, I’ll catalog, analyze and speculate on the small- and large-scale shit talking that’s one of the hallmark phenomena of the internet. Today’s entry includes shit talking from the ranks of Facebook, HTMLGIANT, Thought Catalog, Huffington Post, Gawker, Salon.com, 4chan and more.

1. Jodi Picoult v. New York Times, NYTPicker & Jonathan Franzen @ Twitter, Gawker
2. Commenters v. Tao Lin & Daniel B. Roberts @ Salon.com
3. Anon/s v. Leigh Alexander @ Thought Catalog
4. Anon v. Leigh Alexander @ Formspring
5. Hampshire College Liberals v. Hampshire College [other] @ Thought Catalog
6. King Kong Bundy v. Tao Lin @ HTMLGIANT
7. 4chan v. Dead Teenager @ Facebook
8. Catherine Lacey v. Anonymous Nerd Gangs of the Internet @ HTMLGIANT


Bestselling author Jodi Picoult, who wrote such classic novels “about families, relationships, and love” as Handle With Care and Change of Heart got into it this week with NYT, Jonathan Franzen, NYTPicker and to a lesser extent Gawker.

In a recent tweet, Picoult “blasted” NYT about what she perceived as institutionalized sexism over at its book reviewing arm: “NYT raved about Franzen’s new book. Is anyone shocked? Would love to see the NYT rave about authors who aren’t white male literary darlings.”

Eager to capitalize on Picoult’s 16,000+ Twitter followers, NYTPicker emailed her, requesting an explanation of her Twitter tirade. Picoult responded, in short: “the Times favors white male authors…if you are white and male and living in Brooklyn you have better odds…How else can the Times explain the fact that white male authors are ROUTINELY assigned reviews in both the Sunday review section AND the daily book review section (often both raves) while so many other writers go unnoticed by their critics?”

NYTPicker promptly posted excerpts of Picoult’s response along with their own interpretation.

Gawker covered it, and now Huffington Post has a giant interview with Picoult called “Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner Speak Out on Franzen Fued: HuffPost Exclusive.” Sounds like this shitstorm is working out for everyone’s brand!


A large majority of this week’s internet shit talking was directed at author Tao Lin, both on the battlegrounds of popular internet literary weblog HTMLGIANT and news-source-with-weird-name Salon.com. This comes at no surprise, and was indeed expected; as Lin gears up for the release of his latest novel, Richard Yates, and so continually advances toward the center of internet literary attention, popular online ventures are eager to get in on the spectacle. With that invariably comes hoards of hungry literati wailing and moaning, crying foul play and heresay against literature and death to Lin and the generation he purportedly represents.

And indeed, at Daniel B. Robert’s recent profile of Lin on Salon.com, commenters came in droves to cry blasphemy. Within hours of Roberts’ piece appearing on Salon, frenzied literati were observed openly calling for Lin, an entire generation of young authors like him, and Roberts himself to commit suicide.

“This is directed at the spate of young, successful, and ultimately suicidal contemporary fiction writers out there. Do the world a favor and either stop writing and be happy, or do yourself in quietly but quickly… To read meandering horseshit like Lin, or David Foster Wallace, or Robin Black or James Frey where ill defined characters do little of substance or action and over-observe the most mundane garbage while marinating in a puddle of self importance tainted melancholy makes me want to beat them, and the agents and publishers who embrace them, and the fluff writers, like Mr. Roberts here…I hope the successful young literary trend of suicide takes off and clears the decks of them, and the programs from which they graduated,” jrderego

Jesus. Among other displays of visceral disgust, here are some instant classics, most of which seem to communicate a strong worry that someone might perceive Lin as a “serious” author:

Hey Daniel– NEWSFLASH– Tao Lin isn’t in the same universe as John Irving or Martin Amis. Being able to contact some self-promoting schmuck (oh hurray!)is not something to celebrate… Tao Lin is the literary counterpart to “Jersey Shore.” Tao “The Situation” Lin, rojac6

As an author who self-published three books which now provide just enough income to travel the world indefinitely, I find this guy and this article to amount to nothing more than masturbatory bullshit…. I’m glad I’m gone and fuck this guy and just about everything that drips out of the anus that is Brooklyn, New York or the United States,” chadimus

One commenter, interestingly, chose not to hide his/her simple wish for Lin not to be perceived as a “serious” author, whose comment was titled “Not to be taken seriously….we need someone better.”


This week was also witness to shit talking here on Thought Catalog, directed at gaming journalist Leigh Alexander for writing about video game consoles. From the shit talking’s general nature, (take as an example, anon NOTME’s comment “Wonder why anyone cares…”) we surmise that Alexander’s articles caused either one or a number of anonymous males to have a very strong desire to comment on the articles in an attempt to convince the reader they didn’t care about the articles. This manner of behavior has long perplexed researchers, as surely the reader could not be aware the particular shit talking anon even existed—nonetheless cared about the piece of writing in question—yet, bafflingly, the trend still endures.


In an interesting, secondary twist over on Formspring, Lin came back into the shit talking fold, this time by association, in an altercation during which one anon likened Alexander’s writing to his.

“Congrats on poorly apeing mediocre author Tao Lin, you definitely weren’t late to that party.Are you hoping to use games writing cred to get into hipster writing no gamers will read? Do hope most people don’t notice you are bullshit in two subcultures?” the anon said.

To this Alexander responded with a rarely deployed shit talking deflection method in which she dealt a solid logical defeat to the anon, rather than call the anon a pseudo-intellectual and reference Kafka or something.

“Seems like normal people disliking things just decide not to read them/don’t care enough to take the time to navigate to the writer’s formspring and write 3 sentences + 2 rhetorical questions that are intended to be insulting to a stranger. So congrats on writing something that is way more ‘bullshit’ than anything I could possibly write…” Alexander replied. Nice.


Another piece here on Thought Catalog by cool intern Ben Saucier this week produced a rare form of shit talking often not perceived in “the wild”—shit talking that may actually have to be backed up “IRL.” His recent article called “Hampshire College President Resigns after Protests, Abuse and Office Raids” garnered an unprecedented amount of fervor, at least for Thought Catalog.

In the article’s comment section, we witnessed the age-old battle of liberal versus conservative, with a number of ~10-paragraph comments that possibly took 2 hours to write. We also saw, of course, allegations of psuedo-intellectualism and accusations of hipsterdom, which has become one of the hallmarks of blogosphere shit talking since NYT realized that covering the shit out of “hipsters” was an awesome way to get traffic.

What’s unique about the shit talking on Saucier’s article is not the subject matter. It’s that the fracas is between people that go to the same school; even attend the same classes. A rarely documented case, this potential shitstorm is definitely worth following in the weeks to come. If anyone sees this go IRL and happens to take video of the incident with their iPhone, please let us know.


Minor incidents of shit talking involving Lin occurred over at HTMLGIANT this week, in which we saw an anon called “King Kong Bundy” come to the plate for the anti-Lin-and-associates team. In a post by HTMLeditor Blake Butler called “German Books” that regarded young author Zachary German, anon “OnTheRoad” couldn’t help but quip “Zack Germany is a no-talent dweeb.” After poet Daniel Baily referenced a “Tao Lin school of poetry,” King Kong Bundy, obviously roused by OnTheRoad’s display, commented “Tao school? Wow. I’d hate to be a student there.”

King Kong Bundy appeared again on another post by Butler regarding recent New York Observer of coverage Lin. “Outside of HTMLers, does anyone know who [Lin] is?” King Kong Bundy asked, possibly in an attempt to recruit other members of the anti-Lin troop. Donald, however, quickly assumed damage control, commenting “They sell, or have sold, his books in American Apparel. Maybe Urban Outfitters, too(?). NYLON have done at least one feature on him / Muumuu House. The answer to your question is ‘yes’.” To this King Kong Bundy has not yet responded.

But to be fair, Lin’s books were only ever sold at Urban Outfitters. Lin’s writing has also garnered blurbs from The Guardian, New York Times, The Stranger, New York Magazine, Emily Gould, Miranda July, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Austin Chronicle, Michael Silverblatt of Bookworm, Bookslut, Boston Phoenix, Los Angeles Times, Paste Magazine, Vice Magazine, USA Today, The Independent, The Boston Globe, Time Out New York, Time Out Chicago, Publishers Weekly and others.


A relatively major, morally questionable, unconfirmed shitfest occurred over at Facebook this week. Users of 4chan apparently shit talked a teenager in high school that recently died in a car crash. On the now deceased teenager’s wall, one 4chan anon commented “he dun goofed.” Another posted a link to a Facebook group called “R.I.P. Mykal’s car and the mailbox he cut down. May he burn in hell.” Classy.


In what some are already calling the second major shitstorm of the Literary Year, preceded only by March’s Shitstorm Alberto, Catherine Lacey this week challenged any member of the Anonymous Nerd Gangs of the Internet (ANGI)—a collective of Lin haters—to an IRL fight at Lin’s reading at Bookcourt on the 9th of next month.

Lacey’s post addressed the shit talking both she and Lin received on her review of Richard Yates over at Time Out New York, about which many commenters declared a breach of ethics and blasphemy against Literary Doctrine, as Lacey was once intern for both Lin and Melville House, Lin’s publisher.

Lacey’s unapologetic response on HTML prompted many members of ANGI to come show their colors. In particular, we saw Stephen Augustine and, again, King Kong Bundy as the troop leaders.

King Kong Bundy seemed more concerned with discrediting Lin than addressing the subject matter that Lacey addressed. Of Lin, Bundy didn’t necessarily have anything new to say, but he did offer a parody of a review ‘for’ Lacey: “I’ll review for you [Catherine Lacey]. A small Asian man writes words that are uninspiring, show no sense of creativity, and could never get into any big journal, yet is praised for it.”

Steven Augustine, despite repeated comments that insisted Miley Cyrus was an appropriate metaphor for “Tao Lin,” added something quite unprecedented and perhaps never-before-seen in the modern Lit Community—a link back to a 2007 shitstorm over at The Guardian about Lin’s debut short-story collection, Bed. Here, we see the young author and Augustine participating in what some might feel is a particularly uncharacteristic type of banter, especially for Lin, whom we know to be cool, calm and collected.

Aside from this exciting kickback to 2007, shit talkers here—much like those at Roberts’ profile of Lin at Salon—still seem mostly concerned about convincing readers not to take Lin seriously.

To wrap up TC’s maiden Shit Talk Review, while we did see a bit of self-hate and a few arguments that at least postured logic in this week’s shit talking, overall it had the slant of attempting to censor information, with most comments aimed at getting its readers to not consider the person or piece as “serious.”

Looking into next week, a number of Twitter users are, ironically, predicting high amounts of shit talking on this very post, possibly concerning my ties with Tao Lin. Additionally, mainstream media outlets and the vast majority of bloggers are predicting increasing amounts of shit talking as the release date for Richard Yates gets closer, the summer gets hotter and the world keeps on turning. TC mark

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  • Terrence Funkhauser

    I don't consider Tao Lin to be a “Miley Cyrus of Literature,” but I do think what he does is rather easy. If that seems like a back-handed insult, it probably is.

    • Hhl

      can you be more specific, what is easy?

      • richard yates

        i assume he means 'k mart realism' or lin's unorganic parody/satire of such is. lin's adverbs and adjectives seem to go so far as to 'deplore' the related verbs/nouns of 'further meaning' or something. i don't know how i feel about tao lin yet but i [think i] have read all of his poetry/internet presences/SFAA. i hope 'richard yates' will 'define' him in my mind so i can figure out if his 'output' is 'worth perusing'

      • TerrenceFunkhauser

        It's difficult to imitate F Scott Fitzgerald. It's easy to imitate Tao Lin. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy his writing — I just don't find it as “revolutionary” as some people make it out to be.

      • HHL

        so you feel he is overrated

      • TerrenceFunkhauser

        That's quite enough out of you.

      • Donald

        It's easy to imitate Tao Lin? I wouldn't agree with that at all. It's easy to imitate his style, I suppose, albeit not always with great success. It isn't necessarily easy to imitate its application, and it certainly isn't easy to imitate “what he does”.

        You're either deluded, or just lacking in rigour and meaning to say far less than you are.

      • HJChristian

        Donald, you've done it this time.

        I think the scores of internet writers who follow and write like Tao lin are a testament to the fact that he can be easily imitated. Look at muumuu house.

        It's so easy to be profound these days. He could write a story about a guy who buys some twinkies from a convenience store, and end it with “and i got home and sat on the toilet and cried.” And his readers would eat it up.

        I am neither deluded nor lacking in rigor.

  • http://youtubedotcom.tumblr.com/ marshall

    “hard-hitting”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=116300551 Poncho Peligroso

    i'm just so fucking angry about everything all the time

  • curt

    damn, stephen augustine seems like an unpleasant person

    • Ste"V"en Augustine

      I am unpleasant as a bed-of-toast-crumbs-fuck… unless you're beautiful, talented or capable of helping me build a Hackintosh. The “Miley Cyrus” riff is more about Tao's fans. Tao is Tao. I don't “hate” on him, I “hate” on the trend. What is “the trend”? Down down down. Simpler simpler simpler. Sell sell sell. Whatever. I invite you to hate this comment.

      • Lk

        tao has more shittalkers than most writers and sells probably 100x less than jonathan safran foer or whoever so wha are you talking about

      • SteVen Augustine

        Yo, did you ever consider the possibility that shallow, uncritical, hyperbolic fan-praise is a kind of “shittalk”, too?

      • http://chrysler5thavenue.blogspot.com chrysler5thavenue

        “Yo”.

      • Hhl

        people who like tao usually arent hyperbolic, they just say they like his writing, unlike as the example of your shittalking of him displays people who dislike him put writers on pedestals calling them gods and having things like canons and calling them great

      • SteVen Augustine

        I'll respond to the part, of what you've typed here, that I understand.

        There's quite a spread between “shitty” and “great”… many levels… in any field you want to consider. There are “shitty” dentists and “great” dentists; “shitty” painters and “great” painters.

        If you happen to know something (technically) about Dentistry or Painting, you'll have more insight about grading the quality of a dentist's or a painter's work. But you can also have an opinion, as a Consumer, about your favorite dentist or the watercolors on your kitchen wall. That kind of opinion… the Consumer's Knowledge of what He/She Likes… is fine, but don't expect someone with Technical Knowledge about Dentistry or Painting to take that kind of opinion seriously.

        How can anyone with any knowledge of Lit, for example, take your disdain for the concept of a “great” writer seriously? Considering a writer “great” only puts that writer on the “pedestal” of “great writing”. A “great writer” isn't a “god” any more than a “great” surfer is. But there are Great Writers and Great Surfers and Great Architects and Great Managers of Arby's Restaurants. Maybe this offends some people who worship Mediocrity. Maybe some people are Mediocre at everything and want that to be true of everyone else.

        Your opinion isn't part of any informative/informed conversation about Writing… you're just somebody who doesn't know that much about the topic (Writing) and who thinks, for reasons of her/his own, that not knowing much (about the topic) is some kind of measure of decency. Well, people who don't know much do tend to feel that way, don't they? I wouldn't expect anything different.

        No one is “angry” about you not knowing much about Lit beyond the fact that you “like” Tao Lin's work. No one gives a shit. These are just comments about “shittalk”.

      • TerrenceFunkhauser

        Oh, please.

      • SteVen Augustine

        Trenchant.

      • Hjchristian

        I don't know what angers me m0re — that I had to look “Trenchant” up, or that I waited 5 hours for your response. Either way, I'm far from happy.

      • SteVen Augustine

        I can't battle with someone who bothered to come up with a funny response.

      • Schizflow

        you seem kind and secure with yourself

      • SteVen Augustine

        I am slightly Holy.

      • Donald

        Augustine's argument was good. It was (appropriately) thorough, based in (&on) reason and logic.

        Yours was “Oh, please.”

        You're angry?

      • TerrenceFunkhauser

        Oh, I'm angry all right. Your name is Donald — you should be, too.

        On a serious note I do agree with Augustine.

      • SteVen Augustine

        See? We're all secret friends (and, btw, thanks, Mr. DeLillo…!)

      • Donald

        Hah, touché. Although people do tend to like the name, at least in my experience. I guess maybe those who don't just tend to keep quiet, lulling me into a false sense of security.

        I actually quite like “Terrence”. It's an under-appreciated name, albeit difficult to pull off. (If you're genuinely called Terrence Funkhauser, good work on… all of that.)

        I only just realised that my (apparently incorrect) HTMLGiant comment was quoted in this. So, that's sort of embarrassing, and probably undermines everything I say in this comment thread. That'll teach me to read the whole article in future…

      • http://chrysler5thavenue.blogspot.com chrysler5thavenue

        On the surface, it does seem that you guys are defensive because Tao Lin's unassuming minimal style is a threat to the validity of your own bloviated writing. You have to admit at least that.

      • harry

        I'm sorry but it feels like Augustine is actually getting away with comparing writers to dentists in terms of the ability to judge them as 'great'. man, that shit aint right.

  • The_augustine_authority

    I like this… this is like a Sports Column!

  • http://popserial.tumblr.com word choice

    jesus/lol re “lin's adverbs and adjectives seem to go so far as to 'deplore' the related verbs/nouns of 'further meaning' or something.”

  • http://twitter.com/rislynsey christopher lynsey

    Telling of character. All anonymous everything.

    • TerrenceFunkhauser

      What a vacuous comment. Are you a baboon who has learned to use a keyboard?

  • andrew

    this is a good column idea

    'i support this'

    i am very much looking forward to future installments

  • http://twitter.com/iAMyourCOOLguy Kevin Biggers

    tao 'the situation' lin. seems like one of the top five things i've heard in a while.

  • http://twitter.com/WellReadWife The Well-Read Wife

    This column is my new favorite thing on the internet.

  • http://twitter.com/WellReadWife The Well-Read Wife

    This column is my new favorite thing on the internet.

  • BenSaucier

    hahaha this is great.

    I'll get you your video!

    • Brandon

      that would be awesome.

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