The Downfall of Bill Simmons and the Rise of New Media, Part 1

Major league American sport is sports media, and the media is American culture. Before the internet took over from the fake news, it took over sports media. This is why those outside Bill Simmons’ fan base should care that his HBO show was cancelled.

Simmons was one of the internet’s first success stories, making the leap from blogging to podcasting to running his own website to TV. Simmons was released by ESPN just as the internet came of age and became the new mainstream. What went wrong? What can other internet luminaries learn from his failure?

Writers like Simmons used sports to explore styles of sports writing such as long form analogy pieces and listicles, that embraced the advantages of the medium. The technology allowed for innovation, for example, links allowed obscure extended metaphors andthe use of short clips for humour. Tech innovation led to writing innovation.

As ESPN’s Sports Guy he was a blogger before for AOL subscribers. He wrote in an opinionated editorial style. For a while he was positioned as an alternative to the straight journalism of the main brand. He was the ‘net nerds insider in a world of alphas, extroverts and jocks. He brought obscure pop culture references and extended, tenuous metaphors in a style that imitated college friends talking about sports in a bar, a style perfected on his The BS Report. He used references from RockyThe Karate Kid and Teen Wolf. The internet facilitated this style, and also allowed for a sense of contuity between stylisiticly relsted articles. Search engines, Wikipedia and pre-copyright YouTube allowed for an expansion of what could be referenced, implied or used by way of analogy.

As the internet grew Simmons audience expanded and culminated in making The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy a massive success that earned him considerable clout at ESPN, ultimately leading in Grantland, a sports/pop culture journalists creative playpen. He made the transition for sports blogger to TV personality behind the scenes with the 30 for 30 series, then in front of the camera on NBA Countdown and The Grantland Basketball Hour. His love of hip-hop was novel in a time when the NBA was actively suppressing players being too hip-hip. Referencing 2Pac or NWA was edgy. Simmons is now a nearly-50 year old man who gushes over every new hip-hop act like an awkward dad trying to relate to his son.

How could one man go from pioneer of a new kind of media empire to out of touch in such a short time? For Simmons readers, the disease of more might sound familiar.

Whether Simmons knew it or not, he had lucked onto one of the most sustainable, low-overhead, high exposure double as a podcasting sportswriter. Unfortnately, growing up in old media meant his vision of success was defined by an outdated model, and his downfall was a result of his failure to update his vision.

Grantland was a way for the ESPN dino-media to keep Simmons and his kind at arms length. Simmons seemed happy, but kept working on his plan to his vision of a variety show. This was probably the result of his work for Jimmy Kim Mel. 30 for 30 was a success, but in front of the camera Simmons was a failure. He is a good writer whose style has become ubiquitous to the point of overexposure, and his references have become dated. He has become an imitation of himself.

The Book of Basketball will likely be his legacy. His threats to update are (ironically) more in keeping with a website. A book should be a reflection of the time of its publication, a time that was Simmons’ creative peak.

But then he had to go and try to be a real journalist, even if it was out of pride, and tackle the NFL and Roger Goodell.

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The story is adequately covered in Business Insider, Vanity Fair or Deadspin.

Simmons was a victim of the dino-media. Simmons contract itself is evidence that ESPN did not understand how to quantify internet popularity. He was continually at war with John Skipper, like a conservative working for CNN or the Washing Post. In his attempts to question the NFLs handling or the Ray Rice controversy Simmons was suspended, then later let go faster than a New York Times writer criticising Carlos Slim. Simmons is either the victim of a conflict of interest relating to Disney’s ownership of ESPN and other companies like the NFL that prevents it from effectively reporting on  controversies like domestic violence and concussion related injuries in the NFL, the internal discplinary procedures of the league and the nature of Goodells authority, or of  ESPNs desperation to ditch his exorbitant contract to save money because its social justice friendly objectives have left the company unable to pursue its corporate mandate of profitability. So essentially, fake news, or SJWs.

Such corruption, obfuscation and conflicts of journalistic integrity were rife during Trump’s campaign, and the aftermath has brought into question the very nature of establishment media. One might think Simmons would notice such parallels. This corruption is a 2oth century virus the dino-media is attempting to infect the 21st century with. Social media is the cure.

Simmons was an internet pioneer who used an established platform to build his own personal brand, through a multimedia approach. This is the template for all internet brands. Following his departure I eagerly awaited the launch of his new website to replace GrantlandThe Ringer. Any Given Wednesday was to replace The Grantland Basketball HourThe Bill Simmons Podcast replaced The BS Report. Backed by HBO, he had the time and the money to build his vision of what ESPN had always held back. Simmons was out of excuses. All this has meant Simmons no longer actually writes…

His failure to transcend his former persona has left him. His attempt to recreate the echochamber he built at ESPN was a little too familiar. His revenge on ESPN has failed, because they both follow the same misguided social justice agendas. Simmons has failed to differentiate his product from the mainstream at all, at best promoting a kind of liberal predictability that only seems creative to journalism majors who love Rolling Stone. It lacks the testosterone of the old-school coverage, but also any edgy counterculture elements. It is a safe product, about as edgy as the rebels in Disney’s Star Wars or Lady Gaga. This is what controlled opposition looks like. Like an indie band signing with a major label, Simmons has alienated the non-mainstream internet with his lazy politics. As noted by Vox Day in a recent periscope, sports journalists seem to virtue signal to ‘real’ journalists for legitimacy. Chasing lowest common denominator numbers is the old way.

Simmons mistake was attempting to recreate his old platform, his old vision, rather than be a true visionary and come up with a new one for a new time. Embracing a cable station that would own your video content just as everyone stopped watching TV is like trading in a T-model Ford for a luxury horse and carriage.

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The pattern of 20th century media and culture was to co-opt and corrupt every countercultural movement or revolution and render it a meaningless husk. In the ’90s Grunge, Marilyn Manson and rap music were all symptomatic of depression growing into frustration, shouts for attention to neglectful parents, manifested as nihilistic rebellion or rejection of Western culture, co-opted into the next trend; frustration that gave form to a new cry for help – the school shooting. The mainstream assimilated all as it grew, like Akira.

It was not until the internet destroyed the music industry that people took notice. The technology made the choice – music files were smaller than videos. The internet has changed the way we watch TV. Hollywood has felt the economic hit, and has taken up arms against the internet, which has exposed them in every way. They know their industry is next. The internet had become the best way for athletes to built their brands. Conor McGregor’s use of twitter and podcasts with Ariel Helwani to promote himself has made him the biggest draw in modern sport.

In 2016 it was the news media industry that the internet chose to destroy. And it did it on the grandest stage of them all – the Presidential Election.

Part 2

Game Review: DOOM [Best of 2016 ]

When I watched the first trailer for DOOM it reminded me of some of my favourite gaming memories. It reminded me the first time I saw Quake II at a friend’s house. I was a console gamer, so this was the first time I witness lightning fast railgun head shots from overseas gamers. When it was ported onto the original Playstation I couldn’t believe it as I sat down to play the first demo…

Minimal intro then…silence. Alone, on an alien world with only one direction to walk and only one outcome possible. Walk forward, and my favourite soundtrack of all time kicks in. Watching the DOOM marine sprinting, double jumping, strafing and shooting his way through a genuine horde, accentuated by snapping the incisor of the enemy and plunging it into the beast’s gaping maw…I felt fifteen again. Do not stare into the abyss, break its tooth off and stab it to death with it.

This is not a game review proper. I am not going to talk about light filters and resolution settings. This is about the art of the throwback, and what its success means to the ironic battleground for masculinity that videogame culture has become.

That this game proudly displays the new R18+ classification despite the restriction of potential commercial appeal, this rating is a reflection of just how marginalised old-school gaming culture has become in correlation with increasing mainstream acceptance – similar to the comic books of the post-WWII period. What was acceptable in the ‘90s is not dangerous and restricted. This cultural regression in the name of morality is known as virtue-signalling. The original game was part of the original drive to censor videogames. It’s reincarnation had on obligation to earn this rating or risk any subversive legitimacy.

I, and many others (such as Total_Biscuit) were concerned by the Beta test version. The multiplayer had no identity and felt too similar to other modern games like Call of Duty, the Candy Crush of FPS. Why resurrect Doom as Call of Duty: Hell? Other recent attempts at the throwback like Twisted Metal failed because they were watered down and had little relation to the feel of the originals. The multiplayer remains fairly standard, but the it didn’t matter because the single player campaign is the real deal. This game is HIGH ENERGY!

Game reviewers demand homogeneous, hamfisted  ‘variety’ in the form of repetitive puzzles or limited driving sections because referring to intangibles such as ‘feel’ or ‘atmosphere’ are inherently subjective. There is nothing wrong with subjective journalism if biases, tastes and conflicts of interest are disclosed in advance. In a New Journalism sense, these can actually be incorporated into the article, if done artfully. As a result, every FPS has ‘stealth elements’ and the Halo regenerating shield. These conditions promote hiding, sniping and stealth kills. DOOM gloriously eschews such nonsense in favour of momentum and intensity.

The first time you get in trouble in the game, conditioning will make you retreat and look for health. In DOOM there is only one way to get health. You must kill, the more theatrically the better. Frantic intense fury ensues and a few breathless minutes later, when all the demons are dead – that was awesome. No one else was in the room. No one else saw. You didn’t get a little medal. None of this matters.

To be a success a videogame, or a movie, or a song does not need to tick boxes in order to be a success. This is why criticism, especially pop-culture criticism, is so hard to quantify. A videogame like DOOM must honestly do what it sets out to do, and if this coalesces with what the audience expects, or surpasses it, the work is a success. DOOM is not watered down to appease corporate compromises and concerns. Such influences rob a game of innovation and identity.

DOOM is part of a cultural reclamation that began with Gamergate. This game takes a Black Metal approach – we don’t need you or want you. The speed, fluidity, hyper-realism and ultraviolence all scream ’90s. This is gaming taken to the source. The multiplayer is an afterthought for a reason. This game is made for 3 am singleplayer madness uncorrupted by squealing, foul-mouthed pre-teens to spoil any immersion and authenticity. This is the essence of old-school gaming – a lonesome but unapologetic fantasy world that has no interest in mainstream acceptance. This side of gaming was shamed into obscurity but the pendulum is swinging. DOOM allows us to crank the difficulty up to nightmare, cranky the music up to metal, turn off the lights and go to Hell!

Review:

Does DOOM creatively achieve what the designers intended it to creatively achieve? DOOM sets out to make gaming fun again, and it achieved that for me. This is the game that made me buy a PS4. The developers kept the game true to the spirit of the original but at the same time made an excellent showcase of cutting edge effects and gaming trends. 5/5

Did DOOM fulfil my expectations as a consumer? I wanted to DOOM to be a game I could play by myself, late at night, when everyone else was asleep. I wanted a game that would immerse me in flow, where I wouldn’t be stopped to look for a key or remember an intricate sequence of buttons to fire the grappling hook. This game is pick and play, but has deep potential to become elite level. 5/5

10/10

#DumpStarWars

I jumped off the Star Wars bandwagon years ago. I always liked the original, but there were always kids who liked it more than me. Obsessives who make their obsession their whole identity have always bothered me.

I heard that last year’s rehash was SJW propaganda, and featured one of the most egregious Mary Sue clichés in all of cinema. After seeing what Disney has done to Marvel Comics, none of this came as a surprise. Disney has been working on its monopoly over the dreams of children for its entire existence, collecting and corrupting them, like the Krank.

I’m sorry to be the one who must break it to Star Wars fans who were on the Trump bandwagon – this is what counter-culture is actually like. Being in a real counter-culture is a lonely struggle.Those who make reality their business don’t get to enjoy escapism. For anyone who didn’t realise this during the election, you realise it now.

Many of us had to make peace with everything from silence to direct hostility from artists who have generally not spent anywhere near the time I have learning how to  research, think and write. Most have a tenuous grasp of how government and the law actually work.

To those like Jack Posobiec, who started the hashtag, I’m sorry but you need to realise what the rest of us were forced to realise  – if you are one of the good guys, if you are part of the counter-culture, YOU DON’T GET TO ENJOY THE MAINSTREAM! Any of it. They hate you. They hate me. They will stop at nothing to attack us, isolate us, separate us.

  • Do you disavow Richard Spencer?
  • Do you believe #Pizzagate?
  • Do you care about Trump as Darth Vader and Amy Schumer as Barbie, or are mainstream cultural wars beneath you?

These ops are designed to divide and isolate the Alt Right, to turn us against each other. This recent Star Wars is designed to create a divide between the intellectual, stoic new conservatives and the mischievous, enthusiastic space monkeys that have been so useful in making conservatism the new punk rock.

So if you are a basement dweller who loves Star Wars, but became drawn into the alt-right through #GamerGate, you have been living in a fantasy where you get to enjoy all your escapist movies games and books and vicariously enjoy politics though memes. This is the time to GET SERIOUS.

The intellectual property ‘Star Wars’ you all helped breathe life into, that you visualised into existence, has been sold into slavery, and eventually slaughtered. Now the skins of the dead are being placed over PC bullshit to trick you.

Andrew Breitbart said, politics flows downstream from culture. The mainstream is an important battleground in the cultural war, especially regarding the indoctrination of children. The mainstream is trolling us, using what Mike Cernovich recently called the “Iverson Principle“. Do not let them make us look ridiculous, triggered like a sensitive snowflake, when the SJWs troll us.

We should have taken this outrageous insult with the our characteristic humour thrown the entirety of our support behind the Empire:

  • Buy Empire merch
  • Root for the empire in the cinema and just act totally amazed when they eventually ‘lose’
  • Cheer for every token victory the Empire has, and boo the end credits.

If they want to call us Nazi’s, ask them why they keep producing the damn merch. There is no referee to enforce the rules of fairness, and if there was, he wouldn’t be on our side. Lighten up guys. We create, they react. We’re above this kind of hysterical finger-pointing. These aren’t the droids you are looking for.

2016 was the Year of Visualization

2016 was a year of creative inspiration, dominated by men who have the ability to shape the reality around them. Visualization, or the law of attraction, must be differentiated from ‘the Secret‘, which was  an attempt to make the law of attraction a product. It is not the creation of matter from nothing. It is a way to consciously create synchronicity between the conscious and unconscious mind.

We like to think that we know who we are. We like to think we are in control of our identity. We are definitely not the sum process of a bizarre combination of chemical reactions and learned behaviour. When you can’t sleep, when you can’t eat, and when you can’t bear to sit alone in an empty house, it is your unconscious that won’t let you rest. This is the bug. Socrates called it his daimon. It is the source…

When I was a younger I was fascinated that Marilyn Manson could crown himself the Antichrist Superstar before he’d released the album, and the world make it happen; that Kid Rock could announce to the world he was going platinum, and the world promptly complied. 

I saw it as some kind of mass-hypnosis, that no one wanted to be the one to point out that the emperor is naked, and this is not entirely removed from the truth. There is an element of hypnosis, but the actor is not just hypnotising the audience. The actor is hypnotising himself, and the delusion can be infectious.

Scott Adams picked Donald Trump to win the 2016 election based on his rhetorical abilities. Vox Day wrote about the rhetoric/logic dichotomy in SJWs Always Lie. Mike Cernovich makes self-talk a major part of Gorilla Mindset.

Whether this is all a form of active self-delusion or a way to re-programme your brain is irrelevant. We are talking about the space between the letters, where no regulation can reach.

There were conversations going on beneath the waves of every Trump speech. Beings more in touch with the subconscious are more in touch with the the zeitgeist, through the collective unconscious, and are thus more readily struck by the bolts of inspiration that float through it.

Donald Trump’s subconscious spoke through him to the subconscious of enough of his voters to make them recognise an existential threat as old as this epigenetic subconscious, the battle between genders and the r/K gene war it produces. The conscious is confused, fleeting and easily distracted or manipulated by emotional responses to programming at that level. The ancient unconscious brain, the soul if you will, is less easily fooled.

There will be more on Conor McGregor in an upcoming feature blog on visualization. There will be more on Trump and Mike Cernovich in my upcomings blog review of MAGA Mindset. 

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  • Read here to learn about how imagination creates reality: Danger and Play.com
  • Read here to learn about how Conor McGregor has utilised visualization: The Psychology of Conor McGregor
  • Read about visualization and Donald Trump in MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich

Criticism – Know Thyself

Reviewing a book or a movie or an album is inherently subjective. The best reviewers (and review readers) have always known this. There are no ways to quantify so much of what makes good art, or even good pop trash. The best music journalists, from Lester Bangs to Dom Lawson, have made their tastes and personalities part of their reviewing process.

My answer is based on New Journalism principles, to embrace my subjectivity and make it a part of my writing. The reader is reviewing the reviewer – Are my tastes similar? Can I trust this guy? Eventually I may be able to get you to give a chance to something you may not have, or let learn to like something that might have normally turned you off. Thus we build a network of connected art and media with each individual as a unique hub. This is the function of reviewing.

Every review I write will only examine two factors:

  1. Does [subject] creatively achieve what the creator intended it to achieve? /5
  2. Did [subject] fulfil my expectations as a consumer? /5
  3. Overall /10

It is unfair to compare masterpiece by a great novelist with a collection of articles. It is unfair to compare a multi-million dollar game with a rebooted retro classic. It is unfair to compare an album that is the high watermark of a musician with a collection of rarities. The intention behind a work factors into its authenticity.

I include the second factor as a recognition of intertextuality and subjectivity. The process of reading creatively engages the reader and the writer in symbiosis. Expectations from a fan will be different from those of first-timers. First impressions last, but a deep engagement with the work of an artist often takes place across several works, often from very different parts of an artists life, to tell a rich and multi-layered story.

If you can think of any factors not covered by these two criteria I would love to try to integrate them, because the subjectivity of reviewing renders it almost useless unless you are familiar with the reviewer.