If there's one thing even mediocre people are good at, it's fooling themselves. When the plank is too high, it's time to yank it downward while surrounding oneself with even bigger failures. If B students hire C students, what kind of dregs do the C students drag in?
Googling "no first prize" reveals that the courage to defend the standards when no contestant is good enough still persists in two of meritocracy's final bastions: Physics Olympiads and classical music competitions, no doubt because of how hard it is to fake being good at either pursuit. As one might expect, many of the search results are expressions of bitter, impotent rage at the sheer gall of refusing to award a gold star for effort. Ultimately, as the Butthurt Generation grows older (they never actually grow up), they'll have the last Atheist Nod by condemning such acts of defiance as Crimes Against Self-Esteem.
At least with high-profile competitions, even being a contestant demands some threshold level of competence. The dedicated dilettantes tend to sidestep this by dispensing with the very notion of striving to accomplish something, with preemptively defensive assertions like "HEY I'm just MESSING AROUND" and "i kinda did somethin dont judge XD" (with DeviantArt a shining exemplar of the "Attention! I took a shit and didn't bother to wipe my ass" school of not even trying). Such exhibitionist pauperism is a sign that a craft is practiced not as a pathway to mastery, but merely a vector for socialization.
Humans are social animals and there's nothing unusual about this phenomenon. From sitting on a gym bench and chatting without ever lifting the bar to carrying around a guitar one cannot play, pretending to do something, or just doing it badly, together has been as potent a social glue as really doing it. This discussion between literary critic Lev Pirogov and poet Vsevolod Yemelin mentions a showcase of applying this principle to poetry (in translation from Russian):
PIROGOV: What about The Pub? Did your own rise to fame not originate from performing in clubs like that? I mention this because in the 1950s, one spoke of "poetry that fills stadiums", but it was mainly the Polytechnical Museum where things were actually happening. Today's internet is one such "stadium", a front of sorts, while the real stuff goes takes place at The Pub. Is this not so?
YEMELIN: The Pub is great. However, my fame did not start there, but rather owes itself to being promoted by a few good people (with you among them). Basically, it was like this. I started dropping by The Pub. Whenever I was performing, or listening to the other poets, I always ended up getting completely trashed. Earning very little at the time, I quickly felt a huge impact on my budget.
Then I figured, why bother coming to the other poets' performances? I'll just go the nights when I'm reading. And that's how I realized that Literary Night at The Pub is not attended by anybody except the poets themselves. They simply sit there, listen to each other, and applaud. So once I stopped attending their nights, they immediately started to ignore me.
It's pointless to bow before empty chairs, so I stopped coming to The Pub altogether. Much easier on both liver and wallet.
The sordid circlejerk mentality revealed by this anecdote finds an even more fertile breeding grounds on the internet. Making it at The Pub, as sad as the place sounds, requires leaving the house and being tolerated by people in real life. Blogging, on the other hand, promises all of the pretense without any of the legwork. In just a few clicks, the miracle of modern technology furnishes one with a personal podium, a launchpad for typing letters that others can see on a screen, Just Like A Real Writer. It's convincing enough that they feed into their own bullshit and start putting on airs, all while aimlessly puttering around like the toddler in a shopping cart with a fake steering wheel — sans Mom to do the actual pushing.
The question remains: why would anyone decide to half-ass things in his free time? What compels some young people to think, "here's an opportunity to do something interesting, and from a myriad possible activities, I'm choosing something I suck at!"
The answer is depressingly simple: because they're not good enough to do anything else. The crux of the matter is that most anime fans devoted enough to run a thematic blog are hopelessly broken and empty people.
Decades of abundant food, cheap electricity and even poors owning multiple cars have dulled Americans to the necessity of becoming useful citizens. Having wasted his formative years on memorizing trivia, leveling in World of Warcraft, and smelling like musty socks is a frighteningly common portrait of a college graduate, who has no other way to express himself, let alone relate to normal people. In a self-implicating display of myopia, the linked article lambasts "people who lack interests" when said people in fact simply aren't DEFINED by their interests to the point of needing them as a crutch for communication. The otaku, on the other hand, devotes all of his time and attention to such frivolities because he has nothing else going for him.
Here, enthusiasm for a hobby acts as a surrogate for a missing personality. Online, the obese twenty-something permavirgin gains an identity as the esteemed AnimeBrandon of TheAnimeCritic.com. At the blogger masquerade, self-importance is the order of the day, a gay parade of Youtube links is a Season Preview, and a game of soggy biscuit is a Movable Manga Feast.
Fortunately for these wretched souls, society's standards are tipping in their favor. The general spread of social networks as a primary communications platform from reclusive dweebs to regular folks means the former are less likely to be castigated. 4chan image macros, online videogame slang, and Farmville poopsocking are making tremendous headway into mainstream society, further propagating the imitation-driven core of the so-called "Geek Culture". Just like each sorostitute gets a lower-back tattoo that is "unique" (i.e., from a different page of the parlor's Celtic and Tribal Motifs tome), riffing on a communal pile of cliches provides a zero-effort way to feel special while doing the exact same thing as everybody else. The Monty Python obsessives and the Pulp Fiction quoters finally unite as one in the same pop-cultural cesspool, in which the otaku gleefully dissolve as yet another meme database.
The onset of this Database Culture naturally feeds into the "Web 2.0" trend. Whereas the original Dot Com boom posited that putting something on the internet automatically makes it profitable, the second wave also piled on the requirement of making it SOCIAL. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Prada cofounder Patrizio Bertelli fumes at the effects of its proliferation:
A few weeks earlier, a U.S. newspaper article had suggested that Prada’s Web strategy was “stodgy” compared with that of brands such as U.K. fashion house Burberry, which has a Facebook account and encourages consumers to send in photos of themselves wearing the brand’s trench coats. [...]
"I think it’s bullshit. Why does showing a photo of someone wearing a trench coat online mean being open to the world? What’s that got to do with anything?"
What Burberry provides here is a brand-sanctioned arena where customers can play the me-too game. The mania for checking off boxes in public profoundly clashes with the rules of classical marketing (as sneering trend sharks love to point out). For Miuccia Prada, this presents an unappealing compromise:
"It’s not that I don’t want to embrace the Internet, but I don’t want to just throw random answers out there. In that case, I’d rather not answer,” Prada continued. Turning to Bertelli: “I’d like to see you get up in the morning and sit there and answer questions online. Why don’t you do it?
"You don’t get it, do you?” Bertelli belted back. “Communications move fast and fast communication compromises quality. It’s inevitable, and you have to accept that."
With the need for originality or insight gone, crude memes go stale very quickly, needing to be replaced as soon as the cesspool has done its share of clicking +1 and "Like" buttons. As Mr. Bertelli concludes, "[t]he Internet is democratic, and so you can’t give it an elitist response."
Except that's exactly what this site is — an elitist response and a refusal to settle. The anime blogosphere remains a facade of purported journalistic/critical craftsmanship thinly masking an extended hugbox for the socially crippled, and life is too short to pay attention to retards, let alone play by their rules.
Here, the aim is to produce writing that is insightful, original and authoritative. There's no room for meandering rants with "approachable" flaws that invite equally half-baked commentary from passersby more interested in whining than discussing. This is where topics get ethered, a court of natural law to render sentences wherein every vaccuum-packed verse of the verdict exudes enough righteous finality to moot any perspective for doubt.
Though it might read like The Atlantic, this is more like the Bermuda Triangle. There's no mercy, no quarter, and NO FIRST PRIZE.