Why is 2007 so great? Or: Why the Death of Print is a Good Thing

Because Serious Policy Journalist Ezra Klein (and I mean that in an honestly respectful, non-Malkiny way) can take five minutes out of his Monday to write a post titled “Arthropod Deathmatch.”

Josh Bearman explains why we’ll all be speaking Japanese someday:

In Japan, they have many things that we do not have in the 3rd dimension. For starters, it is possible in Japan buy a DVD that, I’m guessing from the content, was called something like Arthropod Deathmatch. This was the deluxe edition, featuring three-plus hours of macro-photographic battles such as Scorpion versus Millipede, Tarantula versus Preying Mantis, and Giant Flying Wasp Creature versus Some Other Venomous Gnarley Ass Thing.

He concludes that he would have bought the DVD, had it not cost “like” $7,000 and been in PAL format.

It’s genuinely unclear to me why either condition stopped him.

Ten years ago, Ezra might’ve emailed this to a couple of friends, or just flipped past it and chuckled, said something to a coworker maybe, and that would’ve been that. Maybe he’d have pitched some fun little piece on it to an editor, but most likely he would’ve been met with one of those quizzical looks you get from people who generally like you but are, at the moment, completely baffled by what you’re saying. (This is a look I’m extremely familiar with.)

There just wasn’t enough space in the pages of the nation’s various magazines and newspapers to accommodate quirky material like this. If James Fallows wanted to call out an article in The New Republic, he’d have to take up precious print pages in The Atlantic to do it, competing with all the non-responsive content the magazine wanted to feature as well. So writers like Ezra, with a few exceptions, generally weren’t allowed to go much beyond Stuff That Matters, and they had to leave out the quirky, oddball, slightly less useful* material that humanizes journalists, allowing them to be more than just random tiny bylines tapping blandly away in their publication’s house style.

That’s a model that worked reasonably well for a long time, but it’s failing, obviously, was that it doesn’t leave much room for arthropod wars.

*This is debatable, of course, as there are those of us who derive far more utility from posts on badass Japanese bug war videos than from even the most precise and insightful post on health-care policy.