With New CNN Partnership, Vice ‘Grows Up’

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Shane Smith (far right) and along with some of the Vice crew at the magazine's fifteenth-anniversary party this year. Photo: Mo Pitz

Last night at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, CNN and Vice magazine held a party to celebrate their new partnership, in which the news network has agreed to host several documentaries produced by the magazine's online news network, VBS.tv, on CNN.com. That a network trafficking in hard news has gone into business with a magazine whose current issue features a fashion spread of men with hard-ons might seem odd, but founder Shane Smith told Daily Intel that the partnership is indicative of the fact that Vice has, slowly but surely, been "growing up."

"Young people have become disenfranchised with the news," Smith said, explaining his company's decision to get into the business. He described his own disenfranchisement thusly: "The mainstream news media has failed in the past decade. Like, when you’re in New York, and it was after 9/11, everyone was doing blow and partying and stuff. Like, then you go out into the world, and you’re like — you can’t fuckin’ move because the traffic is insane. You’re like, where the fuck are the adults? Like, what’s happening to the god-damned thing?"

He continued: "We got upset, we got angry. We’re like, “What the fuck’s happening here? It’s shit. And no one’s running anything, no one’s being smart. You need someone to say, this is fucked! This is totally fucking insane. The absurdity of the modern human political condition is off the fuckin’ charts. So, rather than fuckin’ saying, Nike’s coming out with the new Air Woven that Comme des Garçons did, and you can only get a hundred of them in Tokyo, we’ve said, 'Okay, we’re gonna start doing different shit.'"

Still, the documentaries CNN will air retain a distinctly Vice-like flavor. In the first one, which went up on CNN's website today, Smith traveled to Liberia, where he watches children smoke heroin, visits a brothel, and meets up with a rebel soldier turned preacher named General Butt Naked — so-called because of his penchant for fighting in the nude — who matter-of-factly admits that he used to drink the blood of babies for good luck. It's unclear whether this was a fact Smith attempted to verify. "Liberia was scary," Smith said last night. "Everyone has been through a war, so everyone’s killed somebody. Everyone’s eaten human flesh."

But their new, serious bent and the partnership with CNN doesn't mean Vice is relinquishing its role as the "hipster's Bible," does it? "I hope so," Smith said. "Because if I’m still concerned about being the hipster’s Bible, then I should give up. I’m an old fat man, and I don’t give a shit about shoes and denim anymore. I give a shit about what the fuck’s happening, and if it’s like — they used to get mad at Bob Dylan because he went from being acoustic to electric. And you’re like, well, if I wanna stay the same, if I wanna be Vice, that used to be like, ‘Fuck everybody, and Do’s and Don’ts, and all this shit,’ then I should retire. Because that shit’s over. It is. It’s over."