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Snark Attack

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David Denby’s Hall of Shame
In his new book, the New Yorker critic identifies—then slays—his worst offenders. Below, a few of his targets.


Private Eye
What: British satirical rag founded in 1961.
The Accusation: Established the paradoxical credo of the dispossessed (or snarky): “We are defeated, but everyone else is ridiculous. We have no power, but we will win … through the strength of our disdain.”


Tom Wolfe
Who: Author of New York Magazine article “Radical Chic.” (1970).
The Accusation: Though “brilliantly composed,” what lowered this article from Wolfe’s usual social satire to snark “is [his] contempt for absolutely everyone.”


Spy Magazine
What: Satirical monthly founded by Kurt Andersen and Graydon Carter.
The Accusation: “Acrid, knowing, and both undermining and caressing at once,” it was the center of American snark in the eighties. Created “New York Terror: ‘the fear that one … was ‘clueless.’”


Nick Denton
Who: Owner of Gawker Media.
The Accusation: With sites like Gawker and the “proudly idiotic” Wonkette, Denton has written “snark’s current mission statement: indolent parasitism as a work ethos.” Encourages assumption that “no one is worth anything; the corrosive view is the only view.”


Maureen Dowd
Who: Washington columnist for the New York Times.
The Accusation: “Despite all of her larks and inventions, she’s essentially sour and without hope … she’s the most gifted writer of snark in the country.”


Perez Hilton
Who: Creator of perezhilton.com.
The Accusation: Like all celeb bloggers, engages in the “You-Suck Principle,” glomming “onto celebrities in an attitude of adoration and loathing; first adoration, then loathing.” But Perez is the most “infantile.”

Snark
By David Denby.
Simon & Schuster. $15.95.


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