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Sometimes I marvel at the negativity in the world.
It is honestly perplexing to me. I don’t know what I expect when I click on the comments sections of other sites – when I make it policy to avoid doing exactly that sort of thing on our site for precisely this reason – but the sheer volume of hatred, bile and personal ill-will on display is remarkable. I am genuinely taken aback. Are there really people – much less members of communities that I like and participate in – who hate what we do for a living that much?
I make the mistake, from time to time, of glancing down at the comments on Reddit, or YouTube, or wherever else resurfaces our content - and I see folks wishing death on me and my coworkers for daring to make jokes about dinosaurs and mummies. It’s amazing, baffling, insane, mind-blowing and absolutely not photoshopped.
What’s even more perplexing is that most of the complaints seem to stem from the readers who assume that Cracked is something we’re not: They perceive us as a site that believes we’re an authority on our subjects, and they grow infuriated that we are occasionally off-base. Now, that latter part of the argument I have no qualms with: I’ve always maintained that Cracked has a bit better correction record than your average newspaper (that claim is true, week over week. At least for my area; I’ve run the wholly anecdotal numbers), but we do make mistakes. However, I’ve also maintained that we are a comedy site who deals in information, rather than vice versa. Our source links aren’t there to prove we’re the authorities on any given subject; they’re there to give you, the reader, a starting point to learn. If we say the T-Rex might have had feathers (and oh god, do we ever say that), those little blue sections of text are not to be taken as irrefutable statements of fact – you can actually click on them, and delve into the subject on your own.
We only want to be your starting point. We want to introduce you to compelling new information on an entirely superficial level filled with dong jokes and farts, in order to make learning not feel as painful and dull as public schooling may have led you to believe. We won’t always paint you a complete picture, because a complete picture takes several thousand pages to paint, and these crippling modern attention spans have only given us two thousand words, at best.
The idea is that we’re in this together: I went to public school, like you, and like you, I’m a god damn idiot. My education was exactly as shitty as yours, and I’m sorry - but maybe together we can trick ourselves into learning a bit more. All we want to do is present a starting point for further education; a pathway concealed beneath a fine veneer of dick jokes. I know the people that write these articles. There are no faux-professors with leather-patched tweed jackets extolling at length about subjects for which they have no qualification; there are only ordinary folks in T-shirts and jeans looking at information and trying to show people that there’s fun to be had in learning it.
I guess I worry about this type of thing so much because I know that the human brain is trained to see criticism and automatically dismiss it. I worry that I see such hatred on display and my brain will automatically file it away as “not getting it” or “just jealous” or some other weak excuse, when maybe there’s a legitimate point to be gleaned. And I don’t want to do that. I want to see reality. I realize that all human beings will execute amazing mental gymnastics to avoid seeing the negative in ourselves - so I’ve been sitting and considering the validity of this kind of thing for days. And I just can’t find a way to understand it. Does it have a point? Does this seemingly unwarranted bile come from a legitimate source? I don’t know. I look, I see, and I understand that Cracked doesn’t always paint the complete picture – that we occasionally participate in comedic hyperbole, and that once in a while we misunderstand a source – but we do our best to correct it, and our intent and work ethic are always unquestionably positive. We’ve always set out to say “look at this cool thing! Maybe click the links and learn something - don’t just take our jackass word for it.” And I think that’s what we’ve always done.
I guess that maybe since we’ve hit it big, Cracked is seen as some sort of corporate evil, as compared to - I don’t know, blogs or YouTube channels. And I just want to find these naysayers (nay, they say, naaaayyy), and buy them a drink. I’d love to sit across from them and tell them: “There are ten people that work full time for Cracked. That’s it. That’s all we got. Those ten are the people you’re hating. I could tell you all of their names right now, and you could feasibly remember them. This here is Soren, this is Dan, this is Michael - they all spend 14 hours a day trying to make the world a very arbitrarily better place. Just a little bit, that’s all they want - and you just said you want to spit in their throats until they drown in it. We do this - and the folks that fund us do it – because they believe in what we’re trying to do. They see potential. You love sites like CollegeHumor, or FunnyOrDie, or the AVClub, and so do I; they’re great. But they have twenty times our budget and ten times our staff. Plus, they don’t set out to do the same things as us in the first place. Can’t there be room for everybody? Can’t the AVClub provide sober, in-depth analysis of your pop culture, and CollegeHumor runs some crazy infographics about Jagermeister, and FunnyOrDie debuts a hilarious video where Will Ferrell fights a manta ray to the death, and Cracked tells you that perhaps the way you’ve always pictured ancient Estonian sex rituals is significantly more blowing of the mind than you may have thought – and they’re all a net positive, leading you to be a slightly more well rounded person than you were coming into this morning?”
Why is there this impulse to pick teams in every aspect of our lives? Do we have to do Xbox vs. PS4? Do we have to do Conservative vs. Liberal? Do we have to do pick-up truck versus sedan, and gun-rights versus control, and gay marriage and legal marijuana and fucking everything else? Does every petty aspect of our lives have to be something this crazily divisive? Do we really need enemies that badly? I find enemies fucking tiring, myself. I’d rather have elaborate, multi-tiered systems of friends built on how often somebody buys me hooch. It just makes more sense. It takes so much less mental energy to just assume that everybody does their best, and wants to do right by you, and is grateful every day for the opportunity to maybe entertain you and possibly start you down the rough starter path toward learning a little something. Even if they’re not the best guides. Even if they drop the flashlight once in a while and stumble down the occasional ravine – you don’t have to hate anybody that isn’t actively punching you in the groin right now. You really don’t. I don’t know how else to phrase that: What does it take, in this day and age, to talk to an audience and not earn some sort of blood vendetta?
And then I realize that the soup I put in the microwave and forgot about twenty minutes ago is done, and so I put on A-Team re-runs on Netflix and try to bury my self-awareness in welding montages.
Haha, B.A. - they drugged your milk! That’s how they got you on that plane.