Why VICE.com can go fuck itself.

Edit: My co-writer for the piece linked wrote this comprehensive rebuttal to all of the points mentioned in the VICE article linked below.

Earlier today I was linked to this article, which basically calls everything I wrote in the article titled 5 Depressing Realities Behind Popular Reality TV Shows into question. The author of the linked article, in a post that I can only describe as a the most desperate attempt to prove someone wrong since Hitler wrote a strongly worded letter to the Vienna Academy of Art with Nazi stationary, pretty much accused the article I helped write, and by extension all of Cracked of being full of shit.

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Accusing this way more popular site of being full of shit is in now an attempt to make this post go viral.

For anyone who is curious, this claim has less basis in fact than the author of that VICE pieces ability to fly. Cracked.com has rules about sourcing in place that are so strict drinking while reading them automatically gives you a DUI. If any writer, whether they’re a first time pitcher or a long-time columnist tries to deliberately misrepresent facts, they’re gone. End of story. If an article is found to have shaky sources it’s sent back to the workshop and the writer is banned from doing anything else until said sources are fixed, how do I know you ask? Well …

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That’s Cracked senior editor, David Wong raking me over the coals for shitty sources in what became this article. I was literally banned from doing anything else Cracked related until I fixed every single source, until I backed up every thing claimed with a rock solid quote from a reputable source. At the time of that indiscretion on my part I had 20 articles under my belt. Wong thought nothing of slapping down my shit and I don’t blame him, one bad article calls into question everything Cracked has done. Which is why VICE’s article was particularly insulting.

It didn’t just insult me and my co-writer, it insulted the dozens of people who helped get that article to the front page, the people who’ve spent years making Cracked the foremost source of fact based humour on the entire internet.

In the article linked above, Mohammed Shariff (my co-writer) and I researched the living fuck out of every example linked, as is the Cracked way. VICE seemed to take exception to every single one, so I decided to explain why they can go fuck themselves.

VICE, or more specifically, their writer “Jamie Lee Curtis Taete” took exception to the claim that “No One from The Biggest Loser Can Keep the Weight Off” because according to him “About one-fourth” of contestants weren’t able to keep the weight they’d lost off. Which means that the Cracked.com claim of “Almost everyone”  wasn’t true.

Which is where I point out that virtually every person from the show put on at least 20 pounds after it ended, in other words the difference between being healthy and being overweight. Then I should point out that the actual article I wrote says, right there in it “almost every Biggest Loser winner has gained back a chunk of the weight he or she lost on the show“. Not all of the weight, or even half of it, but a significant, noticeable chunk of it. Like you know, for example 20 fucking pounds. That may be a drop in the bucket for some of the people featured on the show, but 20 freaking pounds is a pretty noticeable difference. So the first example that VICE found fault with is actually perfectly acceptable (if you read it properly), because everything claimed in the article is 100% fucking true! Virtually no fucker can keep the weight off, as evidenced by the fact that virtually everyone involved with the show has put some of the weight back on and that only like 3 people involved lost any more weight after it ended. Even the really fucking fat ones who probably needed to do just that.

But hey, VICE had 5 points to pick apart, surely their other points held water. Is a sentence that is so wrong typing it out technically counted as incest.  Basically the entire article hinges on the fact that Cracked.com (a comedy website) used hyperbole to describe certain examples, thus everything it has ever published is completely baseless.

Cracked.com is a comedy website, sure, but it’s also one of the most disciplined and demanding places to write for. Simply because the standard and quality of the content they put out is only matched by the standards they demand of the sources included in said content.

So for everyone who read that VICE article and wondered if Cracked really is full of shit, whether they’ll happily publish any old rubbish to get views. Please, go pitch there yourself and try it. See how far you get.

I can safely say that Cracked.com is one of the most, if not the most reputable sources of information on the entire internet. But like I said, if you don’t believe me, go pitch there and see for yourself how difficult it is to get something published. I’ll wait.

12 thoughts on “Why VICE.com can go fuck itself.

  1. He is wrong though. He wrote a grammatically imprecise article for a pedestrian site, and it got ripped to shreds by a much more experienced writer. Also, this isn’t a rebuttal, this addresses one of the points raised, and it does that poorly. Then again, for Cracked, this is actually pretty good. As in, it’s readable.

    • Okay, let’s look at another one.

      His Gordon Ramsey rebuttal hinges on the fact that the show’s website lists a lot of businesses that are still open. He completely overlooked the fact that most of those businesses were from the newest season, which finished filming two months ago. In other words, they’re still open because they literally have not had time to close. It’s also important to note that the new data with the open businesses was released on the 3rd of February, AFTER the Cracked article would have been written, so it’s unfair to accuse them of deliberately falsifying information based on something they had no opportunity to see.

      I could do this with pretty much all of his points, but I don’t really have time to thoroughly rebut your rebuttal of Karl’s rebuttal of Vice’s rebuttal, so I’ll just leave it at this: A good journalist understands that to disprove a claim you need sources which are objectively better than your opponents. In fact, he struggles to even provide equal sources.

      Oh, wait, this is meant to be a flame war. I should probably make a personal attack at least once, otherwise you’ll have wasted all the thought that went into your insults. Emm, hmm, let me see… oh, I know! Vice runs stories based on wild speculation and unfounded claims, such as their statement that The Sun ran a half naked image of a murder victim in a conscious attempt to get revenge on the journalists at the more liberal Guardian newspaper which recently exposed editorial misdoings that lead to many of the Sun’s editors and staff being arrested (http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/the-sun-pistorius-killing-reeva-steenkamp-front-page-controversy), a claim which has no factual basis. Burrrrrrrrrrrn!

      … I am not very good at insults.

      • On the contrary, I think you are quite excellent at insults. But I am only basing this opinion on the evidence presented here.

  2. Things:

    – Entirely because of things I read by Mohammed Shariff, I haven’t read Cracked since last year… Because the specious claims piss me off. I’m a little obsessive-compulsive when I’m not gullible, and I hate to get fooled… Especially by only marginally good stories. I’m glad David Wong is on your case about that. But even if you researched the fuck out of something, you can research your way into believing every 9/11 conspiracy theory… And he’s right. If your sources are bullshit, your bullshit is bullshit. If you can’t figure out how to critique a source’s veracity,

    – Tell David Wong that lists are formulaic and trite formatting for a comedy website, and this is the other reason I don’t read it. I like that he tries to make a “Today I Learned” approach to comedy, but let’s be honest – it’s mining pageviews in a convenient way for advertisers.

    – LISTS

    – TOP NUMBER LISTS OF LISTS.. DID YOU KNOW LIST? CLICK LIST. LISTS. LISTS. LISTS. LISTS. LISTS.

    – (click next to net us more pageviews) DONE WITH LIST HYPERBOLIC ALMOST COMEDIC ANNOTATION OF WIKIPEDIA PAGE SOURCES WITH BASICALLY NO OTHER SOURCES THAT JUSTIFY CLAIM. (why not try a library… jstor maybe…)

    I think David Wong should be on your case, because the Vice bitching was right in communicating the exact same experience that irritates me about your comedic list aggregation service. He’s also an editor. Congratulations! An editor enforcing editorial policy is one sign that there’s an editor enforcing editorial policy. You’re better than a blog, but it’s all barely a step above blogging.

    Speaking of which, Vice’s columns have an eye for the postmodernity of “immersive journalism” — the writer/reporter/correspondent is what the audience watches to see what a story is. It’s convenient that blogging isn’t far from that, but these writers know how to farm pageviews too… They’re just opinions pages that don’t have to be particularly accurate to convey the experience of a columnist. The nontraditional journalism of immersing an audience in another person’s experience is what (in this case it’s irritation at how Cracked is full of specious claims and misrepresentations of sources, which remains true regardless of what David Wong catches) defines Vice’s editorial policy. Traditional journalism just reports a story and tries to be balanced. Cracked.com farms pageviews from lists of “Did you know?” cherry-picked bullshit arguments. Maybe Cracked should hire more fact-checkers in their workshop instead of storytellers dying to get their lists published.

    No disrespect to your blog or articles, but I wouldn’t want to write for Cracked. I’d love to write for Vice, though. Call it a difference of opinion. Good luck with your writing, too – Cracked or not. This is the internet, and there’s no such thing as bad publicity here. Criticism by Vice or not, nowadays pageviews are your resume getting padded to demonstrate your profitability as a writer.

    • Whoops, I accidentally a few words and maybe repeated too many.

      Ah well. Muphry’s Law strikes again.

      You get the idea though – Cracked sells lists to advertisers who procure a website for unsuspecting bored people on the internet. Content, yes, but not very novel content. Vice sells the immersive experience of another person’s views, and under a byline. It’s New Journalism, and so the columnist is understood to be unreliable like an opinion columnist. It’s also a lot like blogs and our ego-mad social networking statuses, except Vice functions to inform people of other peoples’ lifestyles. It can be hit and miss (you’ll always find some hipster bitching about the writing style of a Vice column), but it’s high concept quality shit… Not formulas. And they have editors, too.

      You’re kind of comparable in some ways, but it’s all another way to skin a cat. Do not let it rustle your jimmies. I think you should try it out yourself. It never hurts to learn a new format. And good luck! Again. (I keep getting distracted and forgetting what I’m saying goddammit)

      • Way to mercilessly insult a website with absolutely no evidence whatsoever. That’s only marginally worse than what this hack who writes for Vice did.

      • Someone’s a little too mad. I don’t usually strike nerves when I miss a mark. For the sake of argument, though – do you not see the lists?

        This is the one that pissed me off too much to come back, because I realized it pissing me off was the reason I showed up in the first place.

        http://www.cracked.com/article_19848_7-famous-musicians-who-stole-some-their-biggest-hits.html

        Underlying assumption: that musicians have not repeated chord structures, quoted themes and melodies or accidentally lifted bits of songs by other musicians – less or more famous. Never mind that Beethoven himself quoted Bach and Mozart in symphonies (and Mozart and Beethoven themselves “quoted” melodies of pet songbirds). The copyright culture has convinced us that people are capable of originality. An aggregation of lists comedically interpreted should convince us otherwise, but… it hasn’t. Every good musician – hell, every creative person steals their best ideas and expands (or contracts…) on them.

        7. Green Day

        Can’t defend them. I am disappointed he missed the obvious David Bowie and The Who tribute in riffs, lyrics, melodies strung throughout Jesus of Suburbia. The Oasis song is not stolen, and definitely not stolen from Oasis, though. That’s a chord progression. Not the melody. You can’t copyright a chord progression. (In Em it’s) Em-G-D-A, which is too many things. A mashup does not make something a copy.

        6. Oasis.

        – The first song did not steal its electric guitar E-F# shuffle. It did not play the original song or melody the same way. This shuffle is too common to say either band stole it.

        – Step Out is the same/very similar chords and melody. That probably counts. Good job.

        – I understand what he means, but that chord and melody are flat after the first chord change relative to the coke commercial. That means it’s not the same.

        5. Radiohead

        – Sounds almost the same as Creep. The Hollies won the lawsuit. It counts as stolen. Good job.

        – You fucking dolt. This is where I get pissed off. This is specious bullshit. That was a PURPOSEFUL TRIBUTE. “This is what you get” in the context of Karma Police and in that part of Sexy Sadie was intended. INTENDED. IT WAS AN INTENTIONAL TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES. INTENTIONAL.

        4. The Beatles

        Now I know you’re whoring pageviews.

        – Watch Your Step vs. I Feel Fine. George Harrison “confessed that he stole” the riff and it was influenced by Bobby Parker? That’s interesting… Because JOHN LENNON MADE IT UP AND PLAYED IT. LIKE THE CITED SOURCE SAYS. And it was not stolen. It is a different song.

        – Chuck Berry Song vs. Come Together. Lennon stole “flattop” and the opening rhythm of the Chuck Berry song because he loves Chuck Berry (as did the rest of the group). But you don’t understand. Chuck Berry is Rock ‘n Roll. Everyone has plagiarized from him, and quite proudly. The lawsuit was Chuck Berry’s overzealous lawyer, and John went along with it.

        – My Sweet Lord is not a Beatles song. It is a George Harrison solo career song released after the Beatles broke up. He kept playing the song and making money from it because he had a settlement allowed him to, even before he bought the company and the copyright.

        3. The Strokes

        – Not the same at all. Unless you’re tone-deaf.

        – Henry Mancini song completely different. Unless you’re tone deaf. Even then it’s different rhythms.

        2. John Williams

        – Jaws was inspired by that figure from the New World Symphony (Dvorak is in the public domain now), and the m2 interval (hitting a black key and a white key next to each other on a piano) is a popular way of using dissonance. You’re neglecting Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. All of those were Romantic composers and not classical. All of contemporary American symphonic music is highly influenced by those two guys.

        – Star Wars used similar notes to better effect. You can count that as stolen if you want.

        1. Madonna

        I’ll cut it off there because I don’t care about Madonna.

        So we’ve got what… Three.. Maybe four actual accounts of plagiarism in the fourteen or so examples?

        Specious claims. That’s Cracked.com whoring my attention for pageviews by making false, ambiguous or just plain sensationalist claims that don’t prove themselves under scrutiny… Similar to what happened here. Not to mention the approach is redundant (http://www.cracked.com/article_18500_the-5-most-famous-musicians-who-are-thieving-bastards.html because you did that one already).

        Alright.. So fact-checking that and brushing up on my music theory took about two hours. That was time I will never have again. This is the barrier that allows this model to work. No one will bother checking closely unless they waste a good part of their day.

    • Meh. You can call it “innovative immersive journalism” all you like, but I haven’t seen one article on Vice that wouldn’t be at home in the unashamedly horrible tabloids that’ve been clogging up the newspaper market since before the term “newspaper” entered the English language.

      “Immersing an audience in another person’s experiences” is not a new concept. I can think of twenty notorious Sun articles off the top of my head that center around doing just that – “I had a sex change – WITHOUT telling my wife!!!” “My daughter grew another head!!!” “I married a sex offender!!!” (all real headlines, by the way). The formula is as old as bias itself. Write an emotionally exploitative first person account of a controversial issue or horrifying tragedy, cynically designed so that the reader is either sucked into the story or horrified by the narrator, and wait for word-of-mouth controversy to put more pennies in the news boy’s hat.

      I understand there’s a market for the stuff Vice churns out, just like there’s a market for Jersey Shore. But you can’t claim what they’re doing is in any way new or a product of the internet age. British tabloids have been using a practically identical approach at least since pre-WW2, and Vice is a British newspaper. Blogging has certainly let a lot more people into the game, but they’re not blazing any new trails.

      And it is undeniably a formula, just one that’s hidden under a coating of icing sugar.

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to write a whole novel slagging off Vice. This business model has just gotten so out of control in the UK that it genuinely gets to me when people try to defend their approach.

      Back on the topic at hand, if you want to read a more source-based rebuttal of the Vice article check out Mohammed Shariff’s response here:

      He goes through pretty much all of the factual claims Taete made.

      • > “that wouldn’t be at home in the unashamedly horrible tabloids”

        Eh alright. But Hunter Thompson wrote in New Journalism too. Hell, Isaac Asimov wrote stories in pulp magazines.

        > “Immersing an audience in another person’s experiences” is not a new concept. ”
        That’s not what I meant by “New.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Journalism

        > The formula is as old as bias itself.

        I am serious here: who lied to you and said that there was a way to write something without bias? Exploitation stuff isn’t bad on its own. Quentin Tarantino makes fabulous exploitation movies. If it’s all entertainment news, would you rather hear editorial bias or hear it from the reporter in the understanding that the reporter isn’t reliable?

        > British tabloids have been using a practically identical approach at least since pre-WW2, and Vice is a British newspaper.

        I have a feeling all of that statement is conjecture. Vice Magazine is not British publication, nor was it ever British. And why would its Britishness make it inherit British tabloid culture? This is fallacious.

        > Rebuttal

        The rebuttal didn’t really rebut anything. It just said the same (single) older source was more reliable than facebooks and twitters of the individuals, with the counterpoint being only that, “Most of those people have gained back the weight.”

        Hyperbole is not saying 33/69 = 1/3.

        “… Because only 10 families have gone broke, this excuses the families. Try telling that to the families…”
        What kind of argument is that? That makes no sense at all.

        “what a dick thing to say”
        Being a dick does not refute the point. It is depressing to lose your house, but it is not depressing when you can sell a multimillion-dollar palatial estate that you did not pay that much for. So… Profit.. Buying a new house.

        “…[Oprah]”
        It’s basically assumed that any time you win a prize, you have taxes to pay over the prize. One time she didn’t pay taxes, so people got taxed for them at the end of the tax season.

        The Vice article did have merit and the rebuttal didn’t. It could also be a metajoke on effortlessly specious claims Cracked often makes.

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