Friday, February 27, 2015

Spartz / Bentham

Emerson Spartz, “Internet-media entrepreneur,” as quoted in The New Yorker :

“People have hoity-toity reasons for preferring one kind of entertainment to another,” he said later. “To me, it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at cat photos that inspire you or so-called ‘high art’ that inspires you.”
And Jeremy Bentham, philosopher of utilitarianism:
Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and sciences of music and poetry. If the game of push-pin furnish more pleasure, it is more valuable than either. Everybody can play at push-pin: poetry and music are relished only by a few.
And everybody can play at clicking: 17 Secrets, 8 Crazy Ways, 3 Little Words. One difference between Spatz and Bentham is that Bentham wasn’t thinking of making money from distraction.

One more choice Spartz bit:
Asked to name the most beautiful prose he had read, he said, “A beautiful book? I don’t even know what that means. Impactful, sure.”
[Bentham’s famous words appear in The Rationale of Reward (1830).]

comments: 9

The Crow said...

Uh...well...yes, I did think you would link, as your links always have before. Did you think I wouldn't be able to distinguish a worthwhile opinion from self-serving nonsense if I read it for myself?

Come on, now, Michael. Methinks Spartz discovered where thee tied thy got and absconded with it, leaving thee peevish.

As for Bentham's motive for publishing, perhaps it wasn't to make money, which he surely did, even if his pay was only pennies by today's standards. I suspect his motive had more to do with promoting his philosophy - for the benefit of society, I have no doubt. But he did benefit from publishing, for his ideas were widely read, then debated, then accepted and utilized for the good of all. He became a person of renown, which opened more than a few doors for him.

Spartz parses words in a way I wouldn't. He doesn't even attempt to cloak his arrogance. Seems to me he speaks/writes from his lizard brain. The biggest difference between Spartz and Bentham is that Spartz will leave nothing of real value behind. This post has given him more attention than he deserves, in my not so humble opinion.

Michael Leddy said...

“This post has given him more attention than he deserves, in my not so humble opinion.” You may be right, and I usually ignore such stuff. But The New Yorker did shine a light, and I think it’s worth remembering how much money gets made on idle clicks.

About Bentham: I just meant that he wasn’t profiting from push-pin, as Spartz is from memes.

The Crow said...

Good point, well made and humbly taken.

Chris said...

On the upside, people still occasionally read Jeremy Bentham, but who plays "push-pin" these days?

Michael Leddy said...

Maybe Emerson Spartz?

Anonymous said...

I went to the New Yorker article, and note that their "monetizing" web page tries to mount ads, because they too are in the click game, not to mention selling a subscription. So I don't see the article as anything particularly different that the monetizing web sites with online games, these being somehow repackaged "memes." Have actually read all of Bentham's 1830 work? "As all the world would then be occupied with the study of the sciences, they would pretend thus to employ themselves, and would be ashamed to be entirely ignorant of those things which were the subjects of general conversation." What a pompous, long-winded fool, given that the study of sciences is become so propitious for the advancement of this world, while Bentham is become a footnote for students in philosophy classes. I am not ashamed, in Bentham's silly words, to be uninformed about much in contemporary conversation, such as the New Yorker article seems informed, because there are better things to do. Spartz is busy making money from folks, as is the New Yorker. Your blog, Mr. Leddy, is refreshingly not monetized. That places it as "conversation" far above the reams of blah-blah Bentham put out, and a darn sight better than much the New Yorker prints these days. (Disclaimer: I used to have a subscription and canceled it, for its many "repackaged memes.")

Slywy said...

Most of this sailed over my head. I went to the New Yorker article and remembered the quotation about Uganda. Both times I've seen it I had fond memories of long articles in the Chicago Reader that sucked me into another world, and both times I thought how his approach is like being bottle fed. It atrophies the imagination.

Michael Leddy said...

Anon., thank you for the compliment. Yes, this blog is ad-free, and I appreciate the idea of writing as conversation. I like it even as a conversation with myself.

I’d make a distinction between the headlines that are meant to turn us into rats hitting the lever to get the pellet and The New Yorker’s links to its articles and "Other Condé Nast sites.”

As for Bentham, I read some of his work in grad school, probably when I was reading Hard Times. Bentham drove me crazy, then and now. I’m sure I didn’t read that book. I’m surprised to see that there’s a volunteer project to transcribe his manuscripts.

Diane, what can I do but agree? Reading the New Yorker article reminded me of how much “Internet” I don’t know about.

Slywy said...

Well, I meant really that I couldn't follow the conversation in the comments. :)

"To me, it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at cat photos that inspire you or so-called ‘high art’ that inspires you.”

To him, all it means is that someone's paid money for the click. That's why it doesn't matter to him.

To me, cat photos don't inspire me to do more than chuckle and maybe scritch my own moggy, which is fine but not enough to sustain life. High art, well, at least some stories and some good poetry, occasionally inspire me to think and even to wish I could emulate. That's why it matters, even if not to HIM. He is not all.