There’s a moment in ‘Anchorman’, following a mass brawl involving swords, severed limbs and howling men in flames, at which Ron Burgundy surveys the carnage and says: “God that really got out of hand fast. I mean that really escalated quickly. Brick, did you stab a man with a trident?”
I feel the same way about the past week of Kanye West coverage. What started on Monday morning with a few outraged Tweets swiftly progressed into a sort of blaring, discordant symphony of LOLz, encompassing keyboard cat, Barack Obama, Patrick Swayze’s death, and even (thanks to Stereogum) the Pavement reunion.
The Kanye West “I’mma let you finish but…” formula has become the meme that swallowed all others. It’s clear that the rise of Twitter has accelerated the blogosphere to the point where it represents a kind of collective mania. The site’s co-founder Biz Stone used to say that the real-time conversational surge of the Twittersphere was like “birds in flight” – only now it’s more like a billion clucking chickens, bumping wattles with each other and shitting themselves.
All of which is another way of saying that the joke is probably wearing a bit thin now. But first, a few key points to draw from this important chapter in human history.
1. For all the opprobium (“the guy’s a jackass”) Kanye West is now roughly 6000 times more famous than he was last week.
2. Ditto the MTV awards, which suddenly looks like a key event in the music calendar, rather than a tired 80s relic.
3. All things considered, 1 and 2 would suggest that the whole affair was staged, to both parties’ mutual PR benefit.
Bearing that in mind, was Kanyegate ludicrous overkill? A hysterical fuss over nothing? An absurd over-reaction to an unbelievably trivial event?
Yes to all the above. And yet… it also kept me amused on an otherwise dreary, blustery week in September. It also, at times, made me marvel at the blogosphere’s capacity for genuine ingenuity in the service of utter pointlessness (“Aah, the internet”, as Graham ‘Glinner’ Linehan might say after posting a YouTube clip of a squirrel in a tumble dryer). That so many people are willing to squander so much of their time and expertise in the pursuit of a low-level collective chuckle is, I think, something to cherish.
Now, I’m happy for you and I’mma let you finish – but it really is time to let this meme die now.