Wired magazine bursts a blood vessel doing its contrarian thing
To your right, you’ll see the cover of this month’s Wired magazine.
The premise of the issue is that climate change is now the only eco-problem that matters, but to solve it, we’ll have to slaughter the sacred cows of environmentalism. (2001 called. It wants its framing device back.) So what are these heresies that Wired‘s Strawman Enviro so clings to?
Carbon offsets are a complicated subject. Counter-intuitively, Wired skips the analysis and goes straight for a grab-bag of factoids, red herrings, and false choices, leading to a blanket dismissal. (See also: if it attempted to replicate the industrial food system, organic ag would have a big footprint too!)
Guess what? Environmentalists are just going to have to accept that dense, vibrant cities are the best way for people to live together sustainably! (2001, can I put you on hold? The late ’70s are calling about their controversy.) (See also: China is important!)
This techno-futurist, hipster-libertarian, self-consciously contrarian shtick was fresh and interesting … back in 1996, when Wired was founded. Since then, it has congealed into a set of knee-jerk mannerisms and affectations. It has lost its edge. At this point it just makes me yawn.
It’s telling that the best thing in the issue is written by Alex Steffen, proprietor of Worldchanging. It’s clear at this point that the cultural energy that once infused Wired, and the techno-go-go culture it represented, has now moved on. You want creativity, entrepreneurial energy, and innovative thinking? Look to the bright green movement, which is, judging by this issue, about 10 steps ahead of Wired on this stuff.
Since the whole issue reads like something discovered in founder Louis Rossetto’s recycling bin, it’s appropriate that Rossetto has an essay in it, looking back over the last 15 years and pondering what the mag has gotten right and wrong. This says it all:
We recognized a world in transition, but we missed the danger in front of us. We eschewed conventional wisdom, but we couldn’t escape it. Takeaway: Be contrarian, and then be contrarian again.
No. Really. Please. Quit positioning yourself relative to what other people are saying. Stop primping yourself in your intellectual mirror. Take a clear-eyed look at the world. Let the world inform you.