Saturday, March 22, 2008

Welcome to Browntown

What’s up with the racial segregation of Slate?

For some reason, I find myself drawn to frequently check, even though their style of using multiple over-the-top headlines to attract me to the same boring article over several days is kind of irksome. I’m not that interested in much of their actual content, but I like that it’s relatively frequently updated. I like a lot of their political coverage, and their summaries of what’s in other magazines, but their TV and movie reviews are uniformly awful and always have been, for example.

I guess I keep going back because it was one of the more interesting free-content news-type websites waaay back in the day, along with Salon (which lost me irrevocably as a reader the very instant that they tried to force me to pay to read their crap, although I think they gave that up at some point), and I just haven’t broken the habit.

Also, watching the brilliant, booze-soaked, hyper-pugnacious Christopher Hitchens (pictured) sweatily contort himself into rhetorical pretzels trying to prove that he wasn’t wrong by supporting Bush’s war has been a mesmerizing spectacle over the past five years or so.

However, something odd has been happening recently. About a fifth of the featured articles on the website now have a huge greenish-brown splotch on their pictures. Clicking on any of these brown-splotch articles instantaneously transports you to an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT AND MYSTERIOUS WEBSITE, presumably separate but equal to Slate, cornily called “the ROOT” and done up entirely in tasteful shades of brown. You almost expect a Flash animation of LeVar Burton in shackles to race across the banner ads.

Why a different site? What’s with the ghettoization of the website? Clicking on a Slate article about pregnant women doesn’t take me to a separate, vagina-themed website called “the VAG”. Clicking on a Slate article about sports doesn’t take me to a separate website called “the BALLS”.

Why, then, this mysterious corner of what I assume must still somehow be a department of Slate? And why brown? Do brown-colored people love websites which appear to have been cobbled together from their own flesh? Are they easily startled and alienated by non-brown websites? The whole thing seems patronizing and stupid. Doesn’t this imply that the regular Slate is only for white people, or at least non-blacks?

And why is this mahogany-hued content shuffled in with the normal Slate articles, when it takes you to a different website? Why do I have to be bait-and-switched into taking the Internet equivalent of a bus into another part of town in order to read what appears to be a normal Slate article except that it happens to be about black people? I don’t get it, at all. Down with the brown splotch!

P.S.: Dear hypothetical pro-“the ROOT” commenter (Hypothetical in the sense that I doubt I’ll get any comments, not that the website doesn’t have supporters. For all I know, “the ROOT” is extremely popular.): Before you waste time pointing it out to me, yes, I’m sure that there’s a reasonable and well-written explanation, easily available online, for the existence of whatever “the ROOT” is and its apparently parasitic relationship to Slate. But I don’t care; as an average, indifferently interested Slate-surfer I was transported without warning to the mysterious world of “the ROOT”, and I felt like describing my initial reaction.

P.P.S.: Check out Jimi Izrael’s hip way of contracting “everybody” in the above picture. “EVR'YBODY”. He removed one letter from the word... and then put an apostrophe between two other letters. Why, Mr. Izrael, why? My brain hurts.

No comments: