It was seven unlucky years ago when a handsome young man named Alex Pareene typed to me on G-chat with a sex proposition: “Save me from guest editor hell,” he said. Pareene, an NYU film school dropout who had recently taken over the politics blog Wonkette from its founding editor Ana Marie Cox, now needed to replace his co-editor.
We both worked for Gawker Media. (I’m working there again, now, for the third or fourth time.) My old site, SPLOID, had just been shut down because it did not make any money. (This is a theme that will repeat. SPLOID, in fact, was a copy of my old pre-Gawker site Tabloid.net, which also shut down because it did not make any money. And how many parenthetical asides can a person put in one paragraph, a paragraph that is traditionally supposed to be the “nut graf” that include enough relevant backstory to keep someone reading?)
Alex lived in D.C. I lived in … Northern Nevada, yes. Our geographic distance was not an issue, because even if we were neighbors, we are the kind of people who would prefer to stay home and type to each other in little G-chat windows. Wonkette was a little different then. For one thing, we didn’t have bylines. Nobody knew who wrote what, and the site’s strangely antiquated use of the Royal We grew from this mystery. We didn’t have comments, either.
As for the “content,” I suppose it was about politics, although I’ve never been interested in politics, not in the sense of being interested in politicians, who seem to be a special kind of glory hog or idiot or both. I do recall one day in 2007, when I was living in Los Angeles, that Pareene sent a very special sparkling animated GIF from some sleazy new youth service called Blingee.com. We fell in love with the Blingee. And Wonkette chose a path that no self-respecting political site could ever follow. Which is to say: No political site has any self respect, unless that political site is profusely illustrated with Blingees.
Pareene left a year later, and I left with him. It was a relief. But I was lured back a few months later, promised more money than I had ever made, and being morally weak I accepted the offer and got back on the Wonkette. There was a new kid, now, an extremely surly wildebeest named Jim Newell. He challenged me to fire him almost weekly, but he ended up staying forever, at least until my forever ended so many years and presidential terms later. Gawker Media decided political blogs were a losing proposition, right before our biggest year ever, and through a bizarre series of outbursts and late-night deals, by May of 2008 I was also the publisher of Wonkette. (If I could go back and do it again, I would’ve just stayed at Gawker, honestly. But only Doctor Who has a Time Machine.)
For the 2008 convention, flush with cash, our whole crew went to the presidential conventions. Despite our terrible and well-earned reputations, we all got full credentials, we expensed everything, we not only crashed parties but were invited to parties, and our intern-turned-writer Juli Weiner (yes, the one who works for Vanity Fair now) suddenly became a one-person editorial staff, running the whole site from …. her dorm at Columbia? It’s hard to remember, because it was a long time ago and we drank like alcoholic fish in an unfiltered aquarium of alcohol.
When it was all over, when the Dingbat Queen had been anointed and our servers had crashed from the rotten luck of being the only national publication that had paid any attention to Sarah Palin before that awful day, the entire global stock market had also collapsed. The world can take only so much abuse. We can only take so many assaults on our dignity, on the Human Spirit. The world should’ve ended that night. Comet, aliens, whatever. We deserved it.
Instead, somehow, we got to November. I like to think that Wonkette played a part in destroying the Crab King, John McCain. Remember, as McCain went into the primaries, he was still a maverick. I worked very hard to portray him as he truly was: a doddering old idiot so baffled by the modern world that he would surely cause a nuclear war by confusing the nuclear football with his “TV Clapper.” We came across an obscure YouTube amateur comedy routine that inexplicably called McCain “Walnuts!” And that became the geriatric cretin’s name, reducing his Earthly Stature every time somebody repeated it or reposted it. That was the greatest thing we ever did. In some small or big way, we helped save Earth from nuclear destruction. You’re welcome, America/Earth.
The young Muslim from an obscure Hawaiian tribe of Harvard Law graduates became president, and everything that followed was a savage letdown. But Wonkette went on, dragged on, you might say. (I sure did!) Ultimately, Wonkette had a purpose. It was an island for lost toys, a box of liquor delivered to the wrong house, a refuge from the stinking smarm of pious Republican psychopaths and gloomy liberal bummers. Hopefully, there are also remembrances from all the good people who worked with me during my many many years at this site. I say “hopefully” because I am not about to start digging through Gmail and actual paper files to ensure that I mention all of them. Who cares, anyway. We were better off without bylines.
It needed to continue, your Wonkette, as much as I needed to get the hell out of there. Who would be your new Wonkette? I preferred a woman, what with the “-ette” and all, and I needed someone who could stomp right into the joint and take over. You can’t learn to do Wonkette, and you wouldn’t want to. Wonkette must be operated by someone without a choice in the matter. The bile and Blingees must flow naturally, like semen on a congressman’s flag pin.
Early in 2012, your Rebecca Schoenkopf became the editorex or whatever she calls it. She embraced the past and vomited on the past, and in that marriage of embracing and vomit, a new Wonkette was born. I am very glad it’s here, very glad it’s her, and very glad to be writing about something else for a change. Even if that’s not change we can believe in.