(Originally posted over at my old Tumblr account, reposted here since I’m doing all future STOW posts at this site.)
Every week, articles show up on my social media feeds. Some of these articles enrich my understanding of the world by teaching me something new or forcing me to look at the universe in a different way. Most are fine, or at least utterly unobjectionable. Some of them enrich my understanding of the world in a different way: by revealing to me that no idea on Earth is too ridiculous for an Internet writer to present it seriously in an article for a semi-respectable publication. This project is dedicated to that third kind. This project is dedicated to the Silly Takes.
Here’s how it works: people will submit me links to Silly Takes, and every week, on Sunday, I will decide which of the Takes is the Silliest, and write a few words thereabout.
So, what constitutes a Silly Take?
Silly Takes are, first and foremost, silly. This means that they don’t make very much sense, or smack of a writer trying way too hard. They sometimes come with intriguingly bizarre titles like “Why [Utterly Harmless Thing X] Is Actually Destroying America.” They are often predictably contrarian: “Why [Thing People Like] Is Not Only Not Good, But Actually the Death of Civilization” is frequently (though not always) a Silly Take.
Secondly, Silly Takes are takes. A “take,” in Internet Parlance, is an article that attempts not usually to report the news, but rather to explicate a particular position on that news. In other words, “Donald Trump Said X” is not a take, but “That Thing Donald Trump Said Made Me Feel Y” is a take. Takes are usually relatively short (1000-2000 words), and usually written in the first person. Takes are frequently “Hot Takes,” in that they are written shortly after some News Thing has happened, usually within 24-48 hours. Not all Silly Takes are Hot, but most Hot Takes are Silly.
Here are some things that are not Silly Takes:
- Stuff that is not published in a semi-reputable outlet. I’m not looking for wild forum posts or weird facebook comments or bizarre tweets. I’m also not looking for stuff written on Some Guy’s Blog that Only Five People Read. In order to be a Silly Take, people need to have heard of the website that published the Take. There is an exception if the writer of the tweet or blog post is famous, or at least an established Take Writer on the Internet. The famousness of the tweeter or blogger may override this rule for particularly silly tweets or blog posts. This is the Jill Stein rule.
- Stuff like “Pokemon Go will let demons into your house” or “My fursona wants Daddy Sanders to spank me.” That sort of thing gets enough Internet hate already, and I don’t really know how to make fun of it without just being pointlessly cruel.
- Stuff that is obviously the product of mental illness. TimeCube is not a Silly Take. I’m not looking to make fun of people who are sick, here, I’m looking to make fun of people who are in full possession of their faculties and thus Should Have Known Better. Actually, strike that. I’m mostly just looking to make fun of the piece itself, rather than focus on the writer. I am considering not even naming the writer in my post on the Silliest Take of the Week, particularly given that much of the fault for the publication of a Silly Take is not on the shoulders of the writer, but rather the editor. Anybody can have a bad idea; editors are supposed to stop them from reaching the light of day.
- Stuff that just makes you angry. Things can be wrong without being Silly Takes. “Donald Trump will/will not be a good President” is probably not a Silly Take. “Donald Trump will be the best President we’ve ever had except for Millard Fillmore, who was definitely the best President” is probably a Silly Take. Also, I’m going to try really hard not to get too partisan with the Silly Takes. All sociopolitical groups and opinions are capable of producing Silly Takes. Because of the nature of the Internet, it is probable that a disproportionate number of the Silly Takes will come from liberal or libertarian sources, and will be about politics, tech, or pop culture. But this isn’t because those people or subjects are inherently sillier than others. There just seem to be more people working on those subjects and viewpoints in the #content mines.
- Takes that are silly because of some super complicated reason that requires a PhD to understand. This is a subset of Q4, but it’s worth mentioning. The goal is for the Silly Takes to be legibly silly to most people, not just people who know a ton about the subject. The Silly Take should cause most relatively educated people to shake their heads in amusement and wonder.
- Stuff that is “fake news” or just a conspiracy. Pizzagate is not a Silly Take. “Twitter Users Making Fun of Pizzagate Truthers is The Reason Trump Got Elected” would be a Silly Take.
Some potential questions, and answers thereto:
What constitutes “the week?”
The week begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday. Nothing could be the Silliest Take of the Week on the day it was published.
How do I submit Silly Takes?
Write an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(I mean, or you can tweet at me or send me a facebook message or w/e. I suspect this is just going to be friends of mine, so I probably won’t get overwhelmed by messages.)
Are you going to @-mention the authors of these Silly Takes?
Probably not. I don’t want to do anything which might look like or condone harassment. Writing a Silly Take is a shame, but we all do it sometimes, and so I’m not really interested in haranguing the Writers of the Silly Takes. Don’t you do it, either.
Don’t you have better things to do?
Oh, yeah, totally.
What are the odds you do this twice and then stop because you’re bored or it’s too much work?
About 3:1. But I read a lot of the Silly Takes that go around anyway, so I don’t think this will take a lot more of my time.
Why should we care about what you think?
You probably shouldn’t.
What if we disagree with your rankings, or think that a take you think is silly isn’t silly?
This is impossible. I am infallible in every way and the final arbiter of Silliness in Takes. If you disagree, you must begin a journey of introspection to discover what is wrong with your thinking such that you disagreed with me about the Silliness of a Take.
All jokes aside, what if we think you’re being a huge jerk?
If you actually think I’ve crossed a line from good-hearted ribbing of a silly article into being a huge jerk, drop me a line and let me know.
What if a week goes by and there aren’t any Silly Takes? What will you do then?
TL/DR: Send me Silly Takes from the Internet: email@example.com