Democracy Dies in Darkness

Dear internet,

The Washington Post.

what. a. bogus newspaper.

So for years and years (19 years??) i have read the online chats in the washingtonpost. I am only semi-literate, at best, so the orality of the chats appealed to me greatly. I liked the food chat and the travel section and hank steuver’s delightfully mean girl takedowns of bad television. i liked it all.

But my favorite chat was gene weingarten’s chatological humor. Always irreverent, sort of weird, definitely off color, but always in good taste. It had gumption. Anyway the Post changed their chat software to something truly so dreadful, it was like guaranteed to cause seizures from the blinkiness of it all. the interface was so bad it had to be a joke. Not even AOL engineers in the mid 90s would have accepted that crap.

So gene weingarten took the side of the chatters who were rightfully complaining that about this literary malpractice.

The washington post responded to this helpful feedback by…axing chatological humor.



I could not believe it at first. I looked forward to those chats one tuesday a month. Sometimes a year would go by and I wouldn’t read the chats, but then I’d remember and read all the chats at once.

During coronavirus, gene weingarten started chatting weekly. and man. you know what? it was a really great thing to look forward to. the covid lockdowns felt a little like drifting in an ocean with no shore in sight. the chatological humor chats felt like a sandbar that appeared with the low tide, reliably, every week, with a little tiki bar set up so people could congregate and chat before the waters rose again and we all had to get into our little boats and wait out the waves alone again.
The online chats were this unique feature of the washington post that drew people in, a little corner of the Original World Wide [Wild] Web when it wasn’t all about the SEO and clicks or whatever.

But I think the Post just engineered that situation (horrible chat software, outspoken host) to justify ending chatological humor. Because having a bunch of randos write into a chat that was then archived on their pages, did not fit with their business model. They couldn’t censor it or monetize it, so they ended it. And thus, in darkness, democracy dies.*



*Which should have been the post’s slogan all along, but I guess I am not the only semi-literate person on the internet.