I had my first Activia Breakfast Pot on a train to Guildford yesterday, stirring my adult Crunch Corner on the tracks somewhere just past Woking I’ve never felt so grown up. The trees blurring into reams of green and brown as I entertained my first spoonful of vanilla speckled creamy substance, I started to feel nostalgic and it got me thinking about the first time I had done other things. The first time I stole a Curly Wurly from the ironically named ‘Professor’s’ corner shop; the first time I smoked a joint; fingered a girl; the first time I realised I could go out and buy bacon and just cook it and eat it if I wanted to; the first time I discovered Vice magazine. And then I got angry.
It was a Spring day and having just made a killing at my paper job I decided to treat myself to my first flat peak. I was about fifteen and a little high and the gangly Asian bloke who was to be my sales assistant spoke with such gleeful exuberance that I couldn’t help but be drawn into purchasing the very hat he suggested – a white King cap embossed with multicoloured crowns. His patronage and charm, coupled with my general social unease led me to but a hat that was too small for me, but I figured that was fine because I was cool now anyway. At the counter, as if he was doing me a massive solid for spending twenty-five quid on his stupid head accessory, my man winked and said, “here, I tell you what, I’ll throw this in free yeah?” The question-like nature of the statement threw me and I was confused as he pushed a massive magazine into the bag titled Vice. He called me bro as I left and I felt like I’d made it to the big time, then I went and ate a chicken burger from Roosters and sat on a stoop.
Later that day, after I’d decided to keep the golden head-size sticker on my new hat, I flicked through the magazine. My late-pubescent boy-mind went haywire. What was this mystical creature that offered me tits and guns and pictures of people in basements in New York looking like they were having a mildly good time? I flicked through the pages ravenous for more, falling in love, in a weird way, with a lady who was holding a shotgun whilst she breastfed her child. The world seemed so expansive and strange and if art was tits and guns, then I now liked art. I’d been enchanted by its pages of destitution, photographs of hope and of people who were just living life, (plus the section of Japanese schoolgirls photographed doing sexy stuff).
When I discovered their website, with its wide range of documentaries concerning the spectrum of fringe life, covering political struggle, artistic desperation and self destruction, as well as the nuanced portraits of some of life’s strange and fantastic human beings, I thought I’d found something that I could really subscribe to. It seemed as if Vice was a doorway into a world that was otherwise hidden by that stupid bastard mainstream media – and best of all it was free.
Then, over the years, as Vice has sought to expand its audience and churn out content that has a wider appeal, I have grown to loathe this machine.
At this point I should probably tell you this isn’t a ‘Ten Reasons…’ list at all. I lied to you in order to get your internet-addled, attentionless brain invested in what I’m writing. I’ve also pasted pictures in order to make you forget how much you’re reading because reading long things is totes rubbish, and I know you’d rather be trawling through fifty pages of Ratchet Mess, so here’s one I nabbed from their Tumblr to keep you on board:
Though they still do turn out the odd documentary of some real value and insight, you need only look at their recent videos on YouTube to see that something is not quite right. Sandwiched between the front line documentaries in Syria and Egypt, we have a four part series on cats from the internet. That’s right, the media outlet that brought you stunning documentaries such as the truly unnerving ‘Interview With A Cannibal’ and the tenderly beautiful ‘Suicide Forest in Japan’, is now sapping dat sweet YouTube Partner money from you with a vapid, unnecessarily split, four part series about super stars such as Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat. Though this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the trash that is now flooding the site in glacial melt.
The current climate of the magazine, and its readership, reads like a teenager’s angst ridden foray into drugs and being cool and shit. Take the ongoing series of the edgiest journos around taking LSD and going to public events for instance. It sounds funny, and when you see a link that says; ‘Danny Dyer Interviewed on Acid’, you think you’re in for a treat. What you get instead is a girl that looks like her parent’s worst nightmare in fingerless gloves and ripped tights making Danny look like he’s got it together.
Then you have the monotoned, punchable drug-freak, Hamilton Morris, who endeavours to try drugs in places, whilst talking about how many drugs he takes as his intolerable drawl makes you begin to hate the fact that humans invented language at all. Separately Vice also produce documentaries concerning the damning effects of drugs upon people globally, such as Krokodil in Russia and Scopolamine in Colombia. This is a hypocrisy that runs deep in the magazine, and exposes the weak underbelly of what this magazine is trying to do. On the one hand drugs are sweet, funny, wild, zany people do them, (and don’t you just want to be one of them?) – on the other drugs are bad and are made by bad people in bad places who do bad things.
Whilst it may then be argued that Vice is just a platform for opinions, and the expression of an individual’s personal journey into whatever world it is they choose to explore, there is a serious undercurrent of snide cynicism that permeates a lot of their work, which undermines this fact.
Take anything written by Clive Martin, for example, which a commenter below managed to astutely sum up:
And this isn’t just a one off example of the kinds of responses this guy gets for his columns. The self styled nu-age gonzo journalist, whose twitter handle @ThugClive is as witty an ironic twist of Tupac’s infamous Thug Life motto can get, basically goes to do things he doesn’t want to do so that he can write long-winded, unending-sentenced, diatribes filled with pop culture references about how he didn’t like the thing he went to go and do. He’s a dick and epitomises a lot of what is now wrong with the magazine. Where once it was a observation, a glimpse into another world, we are now forced to understand this world through the eyes of a smarmy middle class kid with a penchant for MDMA and East London.
Though this guy’s not entirely to blame, it’s the editor that should be taking a stand to this insipid journalese, and preventing this crap ever being published in the first place. As you can see from the articles produced at the moment, as well as the staff writers employed to create them, the ethos has changed, with a deadening insistence upon hip, smarter-than-you commentators taking the piss out of whatever subculture, celebrity, or person in the news that they can.
Bertie Brands, the girl who calls out pretty girl bullshit, jumped on the Robin Thicke bandwagon recently, and when she discovered that a lot of people disagreed with her, decided to write an article on the people that disagreed with her. Being snide and smarmy, she dismissed anyone else’s opinion as invalid if it did not coincide with hers. Again, the blame can’t be placed on Ms. Brands, and instead we have to look higher up the food chain to find a reason why this petty girl’s bullshit is allowed to be published at all.
Having recently sold 5% of their shares to that bastard Rupert Murdoch, the media and publishing group has finally, openly and financially, crossed over from its roots as an independent underground magazine into the big wide world of media moguls. What we are seeing now can only be the beginning in terms of what Vice will produce.
The clear fact is that there is a sea of discontent within Vice’s readership. Every article has comments alluding to how their content is getting worse day by day, with many commentators feeling betrayed by the very nature of this decline. As an article on Not So Popular touched on recently, with the media and publishing industry facing the seemingly unassailable feat of conquering the internet, and with journalists that don’t write behind pay-walls being forced to churn out a shit tonne of copy in order to compete with one another, the progression of pointless, sloppy opinionated journalism isn’t going to stop any time soon. Much like this article, work will be peppered with pictures to get viewers in, or pithy arguments to insight a reaction from the reader. Whilst the Clives and Berties are allowed to write their nonsense, it will be written. Who are they to turn up their noses to getting paid to be arseholes for a bunch of other arseholes?
What is truly infuriating is the fact that Vice prides itself on being informative and interesting, calling itself in its own meta title ‘The definitive guide to enlightening information’, all the while peddling piddley anarcho-articles steeped in wittier-than-thou cynicism, emulating the exact bullshit industry that it seems to think it’s better than. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older and instead of making zoomies out of coke bottles, or dabbling in Class A’s, I prefer to eat healthy yoghurts and have a day out in Guildford. Either way, all I know is that the mutiny of readers who have had enough of this nonsense is rising, and they’re baying for the blood of Vice’s staff writers. Unless the editorial staff take notice, it might be too late for them to rekindle the spark they once had.