Seeking well-written, expert takedowns of terrible things
November 23, 2016 1:23 AM   Subscribe

So I've been thinking about some of the things I like reading on the Web, and I think I've identified a favorite micro-genre: long, thoughtful, in-depth expert critiques of terrible things. Can you help me find more Slacktivists, Jenny Trouts, and Maciej Ceglowskis?

Some examples of the sort of thing I mean:

Slacktivist on the end-times Left Behind novels from an evangelical perspective

Dropkicker on terrible Kickstarters from an engineer's perspective

Jenny Trout and Pervocracy on Fifty Shades of Grey from writerly and BDSM-expert perspectives

DallasFood on Noka and Mast Brothers chocolate from a foodie perspective

Maciej Cegłowski on tech industry ailments from a "computer guy" perspective

I guess I really enjoy the combination of learning new things while experiencing gentle schadenfreude. Can you recommend more things that fit the pattern? (Arguably many of these fall into the broader genre of 'fisking', but that hasn't helped me much as a search term.)

NB: I much prefer things that are "punching up" at popular or powerful targets (or scammers), and that make some effort to be measured and fair.
posted by fermion to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
Point by point readings of terrible TV were once a mainstay of media studies / cultural studies--maybe they still are. An exemplar is John Fiske, e.g. in chapter 1 of Television Culture where he looks at this short clip from the 80s TV show Hart to Hart (he returns to it in a later chapter to discuss irony, metaphor, jokes, etc.). An even better example--more of a takedown--is Mark Crispin Miller's reading of this soap commercial (his book Boxed In is full of stuff like that, though it assumes familiarity with 80s TV). I guess the expertise they bring to bear is basically literary theory, not far removed from something like Barthes's S/Z, but applied to more banal material.
posted by Wobbuffet at 2:21 AM on November 23, 2016

Best answer: He dulled his edge a little this election season, but Charlie Pierce's essays from the 2012 election still crackle with bitter sarcasm and righteous fury.

For this cycle, I loved Jeb Lund's "Trump Sunk Under the Lowest of Low Bars," despite his win taking a bit of the fire out of the argument.

Aside from politics, there's this recent MeFi post on a blog that eviscerates McMansions from an architectural perspective.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:26 AM on November 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Matt Taibbi. His criticisms of Thomas Friedman are especially funny.
posted by neushoorn at 3:06 AM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Back in the now-seemingly-idyllic day, Molly Ivins on George W. Bush was something special. What I wouldn't give to have her around in these dark days...
posted by Smearcase at 7:10 AM on November 23, 2016

Previously. Most of these are not web based, but they fill a similar niche.
posted by Bruce H. at 7:39 AM on November 23, 2016

Best answer: Andrew Gelman's blog is good on statistical practice in social science (like political science, economics, and psychology), particularly the recent and ongoing replication crisis in psychology (wiki). Try the "Zombies" tag and see if anything interests you. There are also good posts elsewhere on things like election forecasting, but those are less polemical. I'd say that reading the blog regularly has improved my instincts and awareness for credibility of claims in data analysis.
posted by rollick at 8:21 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but maybe Dale Peck's pugnacious lit crit? Here
posted by scratch at 8:37 AM on November 23, 2016

Best answer: I love a scathing restaurant review, especially by the NYT's Pete Wells, who can be subtly devastating.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Some great stuff here. Thanks! I think McMansion Hell and Andrew Gelman's Zombies tag are my favorites--both have interesting niche subject matter and friendly authorial tone.
posted by fermion at 8:50 PM on November 23, 2016

My first thought was Jeb Lund and Dan O'sullivan's obituary for Andrew Breitbart that gawker published when he died. I'm not sure if I'd call it fair, but I wouldn't call it unfair, and it's timely these days... Andrew Breitbart: Big Deal, Big Coronary, Big Corpse
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:38 AM on November 24, 2016

Although he has his critics with others in the map world, Kenneth Field's blog on cartography (map design) is comprised in-depth criticism (and praise) on others' maps.
posted by fizzix at 2:08 PM on November 26, 2016

Does anyone know if that Slacktivist criticism is available in a single file as a .mobi, .doc, .html, etc?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:50 AM on November 27, 2016

Response by poster: The corpse in the library: Fred Clark has published his critique of the first Left Behind book as two ebooks. I was happy to pay for them, since I have gotten a lot of pleasure from his work, and they do make the reading experience much more convenient. No ebooks yet for the second or third LB books, sadly.
posted by fermion at 1:23 AM on November 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

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