December 3, 2014

"[A] small community of detractors is subjecting Serial to a scathing critique framed in the language of social justice."

"Its narrator and producer stands accused of exemplifying white privilege, stereotyping Asian Americans and Muslims, racism against blacks, and making 'people of color' cringe," writes Conor Friedorsdorf (about the popular podcast).
In Serial, the victim, Hae, is a Korean-American daughter of immigrants, while the man convicted of killing her, Adnan, is the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan. "Sarah Koenig, the journalist telling their story, is white," [writes Jay Caspian Kang's article in The Awl, "'Serial' and White Reporter Privilege."] "This, on its face, is not a problem. If Serial were a newspaper story or even a traditional magazine feature, the identities of all three could exist alone as facts; the reader could decide how much weight to place upon them. But Serial is an experiment in two old forms: the weekly radio crime show, and the confessional true-crime narrative, wherein the journalist plays the role of the protagonist. The pretense of objectivity is stripped away: [Sarah] Koenig emerges as the subject as the show’s drama revolves not so much around the crime, but rather, her obsessions with it."
That's all rather interesting, but let me introduce a second topic. Reread those last 2 sentences of the indented paragraph. I'm thinking that Koenig's podcast belongs in that trend I was talking about earlier today: under-edited stream-of-consciousness written by anguishing liberals. It's particularly similar to Josh Marshall's "thinking-out-loud/welcome-to-my-mind type stuff" that — as I put it this morning — "goes on and on," dragging us through "the raw experience of his thoughts, subjecting us in real time to a performance of his mental processes."

There's nothing necessarily wrong with that intensely personal approach to presenting a story. It can go wrong, however, and Koenig may be influencing others who lack her style and skill... such as, perhaps, Marshall.

20 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

The pretense of objectivity is stripped away:

While we're talking about pretense, let's strip those folks who are criticizing Serial of one of their pretenses: they don't believe that objectivity exists. They just use supposedly lapses in "objectivity" as a club against those folks who do believe in it, but they sure as hell don't.

Did the Marxists believe in "objectivity"? No, all knowledge is conditioned by class consciousness. Do their post-modern, post-Marxist heirs (identity politickers of every stripe)? No. For the heirs, all discourses (including science) are gendered, heteronormative, racial, etc.

Jason said...

Dang it... I thought this was going to be about that great comedy "Serial," starring Martin Mull, the last sane man in San Marin.

Scott said...

Crowdsourcing psychotherapy doesn't work. It just makes you look like an ass.

MayBee said...

Is Jewish more white privilegey than muslim? And if so, when did that happen?

I remember when Jewish people were a minority!

Smilin' Jack said...

I'm thinking that Koenig's podcast belongs....

Hello--the 1990s called--they want the entire concept of "podcast" back.

kcom said...

You sure they want it back?

FleetUSA said...

I haven't been following Serial at all, but from the brief intro you have given me it seems to be typical MSM thrill with itself. Like Watergate all over, the journalist is the champion.

Any wonder why the champion is called "Koenig", i.e. "King" in German.

Krumhorn said...

That's all rather interesting, but let me introduce a second topic. Reread those last 2 sentences of the indented paragraph. I'm thinking that Koenig's podcast belongs in that trend I was talking about earlier today: under-edited stream-of-consciousness written by anguishing liberals. It's particularly similar to Josh Marshall's "thinking-out-loud/welcome-to-my-mind type stuff" that — as I put it this morning — "goes on and on," dragging us through "the raw experience of his thoughts, subjecting us in real time to a performance of his mental processes."

Ann, I think your comment far more accurately describes Kang's half-baked social justice critique than it does Koenig's extensive work in examining the facts surrounding Hae's murder. Marshall is doing to Wilson what Kang did to Koenig - although I'll grant that Kang is actually an excellent writer and Marshall is just a crackpot spewing the lib spew.

Koenig's work is in a different class from the trend you are finding, even if she is an NPR type. Kang's critique of it is deserving of a different kind of analysis since the substance of his stream of consciousness, while artful and lucid, is more dangerous. He writes well what Crack writes so badly.

- Krumhorn

Anonymous said...

Very long comment warning: If being 'liberal' means housing and catering to activists, social justice warriors, and radical types, they're going to keep driving those 'liberals' Left.

If 'liberals' maintain political power, they're going to keep driving the country Left, as they will keep drawing false moral equivalence and dragging activists into the public square in normative fashion.

Unsurprisingly, activists will keep claiming their ideas are universal while pursuing their own naked self-interest and political advantage while trying to cram the rest of us into their worldview. Bad laws are better than no laws. Many don't even need facts, legal standards of evidence, etc. as we see in the Ferguson street theater.

I can see what many in the NPR crowd get, which is often the old progressive moral superiority, and confirmation bias for all the '-isms' that form parts of the modern gospel, like environmentalism and feminism,. Saints Eleanor and Woodrow standing watch while there's Ivy-League activism going on--- Bill Moyers and union, Southern populist, yellow-dog stuff, Old Boston Puritanism made 'modern' and aligned with 'progress' and higher Ed.

Black activists seem to get legitimacy, a piece of the pie, less injustice, Civil Rights vindication, political power often coming through unsustainable bureaucracy coming with graft and corruption etc.

See Detroit.

Deriving moral authority from the many secular ideologies, activist playbooks, and further Left stuff runs into the problems of not just authoritarianism, but totalitarianism in 'the personal is political' true-believers.

That sure ain't liberal, and many activists can barely see the Constitution from the mob in which they stand. That's just bad stewardship.

As I see it, the slavery issue, where black folks were held under the Civil laws, will still be the main moral claim and fundamental injustice fueling so many of the dangerous ideologues and activists.

America could use a cool-down, especially from the race issue, but in the meantime, the further Left types appropriation of 'liberalism' will continue, as will their following the logic where it leads.

We'll see what happens.

rhhardin said...

Goes on and on

"But the quality this `stuffing' has, that the other parts of verbality do not have, is two-parted, perhaps: (1) and `endless' quality and (2) a `sludge' quality. Of course that is possibly two qualities but I prefer to think of them as different aspects of a single quality, if you can think that way. The `endless' aspect of `stuffing' is that it goes on and on, in many different forms, and in fact our exchanges are in large measure composed of it, in larger measure even, perhaps, than they are composed of that which is not `stuffing.'"

- Barthelme

Michael K said...

Whew ! Glad I don't pay any attention to this stuff. Sounds like boredom squared.

Phil 3:14 said...

"This American Life, which over its 20-year history has essentially made a cottage industry out of white-privileged cultural tourism."

Hmmm, I listened TAL off and on for several years. Speaking as a privileged white person it did speak to my interest in extended "news" narrative but I don't think it represented "my culture". It was very NPR/New York City in its feel. (Not that I've ever lived in NYC. That's just my bias)

So I'll stick to reading the Economist. I guess that's my culture!?

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, I think your comment far more accurately describes Kang's half-baked social justice critique than it does Koenig's extensive work in examining the facts surrounding Hae's murder. Marshall is doing to Wilson what Kang did to Koenig - although I'll grant that Kang is actually an excellent writer and Marshall is just a crackpot spewing the lib spew."

I agree. My observation is of a trend in writing, and as I say in the post, some exemplars of the trend, notably Koenig, are doing it well. Others are not, and maybe, when it's bad, it's especially bad.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Koenig emerges as the subject as the show’s drama revolves not so much around the crime, but rather, her obsessions with it.

A quote of a quote, which I'm calling out as opinion and not fact, and disagreeing with.

I don't know what podcast he's listening to, but I don't see any "obsessions" in Koenig's work. I see a dedication to getting to the truth that is sorely, sadly lacking in the vast majority of "reporting" that is inflicted upon the public these days.

Ann Althouse said...

Wait... I said "I agree," but I don't agree with everything you said. I agree that the Kang is an exemplar of the trend, not that he exemplifies the trend more than Koenig. The trend isn't about what is bad, but about a style that is often bad but can be good. The good examples lure others into doing what for them will be bad.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Koenig "stomps around in a cold case involving people from two distinctly separate immigrant communities," Kang writes,

That is full-on bullshit. What "immigrant community" of Hae's does Koenig "stomp around in?" Her family left the area, was almost impossible to track down and when Koenig did make contact, they declined to be a part of the story. Kang makes it sound like Koenig was making some houseful of Korean aunties cry or something. Nonsense.

Ann Althouse said...

And I sure wouldn't agree "Marshall is just a crackpot spewing the lib spew."

He's got a strong liberal bias, but he's not a crackpot. Quite the opposite. He stays on track and keeps working assiduously on his goals.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

OK I see he said she stomps around in a cold case, not in the supposed immigrant community, but I still think it's a silly charge to make.

Shanna said...

Ann, I think your comment far more accurately describes Kang's half-baked social justice critique than it does Koenig's extensive work in examining the facts surrounding Hae's murder.

I don't listen to this podcast but people have been talking about it a lot lately. I seem to have gotten the idea that it was fictionalized. Is that wrong? I may have to read up on this.

James Lileks said...

"But Serial is an experiment in two old forms: the weekly radio crime show..."

That's like saying "Serial" shares much with old radio shows because people are talking, and there aren't any pictures. Radio crime dramas - or comedy / dramas - were either hard-boiled detective stories or Dragnet-style procedurals. They certainly weren't serials.