Reply to An Editor, or The Death of Journalism

“Hi Rayyan,

Sorry for the mammoth delay in getting back to you about this one. I’ve had a proper read through now and started to edit it… but — and this might sound a bit silly — I think it’s a bit too clever for us.

What I mean by that is that you’d need a proper understanding of Antigone for starters to be able to truly understand what you’re getting at here, let alone a deeper knowledge of Greek tragedies, Judith Butler, James Baldwin, Sophocles, Socrates and Hannah Arendt.

Do you see what I mean?

My main concern is that it could be read — at one point — as a defence of “All Lives Matter” when in fact you’re saying the exact opposite. But to make that bit clear — and to explain all the other references — would mean unpicking the whole piece.

So sorry to mess you around with this one. When I read through it a while ago I was thought it looked fascinating — and that opinion certainly still holds. But I think it might be slightly beyond the reach of our average reader, I’m afraid.

Many thanks again for your patience — and sorry again to say no after holding on to it for so long.

Cheers

H.”

“Dear H.,

Thank you for your honest email, to which, if you permit me, I would like to respond with equal candor.

Your feedback sums up the crisis of journalism today. Whereas historically, journalism and philosophy (or “clever ideas,” as you say) have often gone hand in hand (we seldom remember that Karl Marx had been a journalist), we have been brought to a world where brevity is a necessity and truth a utility, where indignation, the premier button on the online reader’s speed dial, has replaced thoughtfulness.

My article is a summary (a bad one too) of a much longer publication I wrote, one that I have little desire to publish in academic journals because, quite frankly, no one reads them. From here rises the limbo in which modern writers are trapped into — we want to produce writings that are true and accessible, but we are inevitably reminded that truth itself is not accessible.

The result? An impoverished journalism with a large audience and a rich academia without one. The gap between clever and simple ideas, surely, shall continue to grow until the very notion of cleverness becomes obsolete to us. From there, Babylon clasps asunder and we end up in a truth-less world of mere opinions, with each of us feeling entitled to speak a language of our own, with little desire to build again a tower of ideas that engages others, rather than sedate them into a click.

Once again, I appreciate your honesty and I believe this very exchange is an event in itself, worth to be communicated too under the light of a public realm that craves tension in ideas, not mere acquiescence.

Cheers,

Rayyan.”

Rayyan Dabbous is a Lebanese author. His recent books include DIY Creative Activism: A Handbook (2019) and Psychoanalysis of a Teenage Novelist (2020).