Is This the Worst Thing BuzzFeed’s Ever Done?

Slate's Culture Blog
July 8 2013 7:11 PM

Is This the Worst Thing BuzzFeed’s Ever Done?

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This is not how you educate Americans about Egyptian politics.

Photo By Getty Images

BuzzFeed is not known for its restraint, decorum, or adherence to traditional journalistic standards. But it’s nonetheless usually pretty easy to tell the difference between a BuzzFeed headline (“The 15 Most Epic Puppy Stampedes”) and an Onion parody of a BuzzFeed headline (“40 Numbers Under 40”). Today, sadly, BuzzFeed crossed that line, publishing “The Story of Egypt’s Revolution in ‘Jurassic Park’ Gifs.”

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

Let that sink in a minute. “The Story of Egypt’s Revolution in ‘Jurassic Park’ Gifs.” The democratic yearnings of an oppressed people reduced to 20-year-old catchphrases. A bloody, tumultuous, ongoing political conflict filtered through moving screen shots from one of Spielberg’s most popcorn-ready blockbusters. The deaths of hundreds of Egyptians—including more than 40 allegedly peaceful protestors who were shot just yesterday—metaphorically reenacted via computer-generated dinosaur maulings.

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Oy.

I don’t like most of what BuzzFeed publishes, but I respect other people’s right to. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look at photos of baby animals and garish ’90s trends. But there is something wrong with treating a political crisis as though it occupies the same moral realm as kittens and frosted tips. Jurassic Park is an entertaining film, but it is not allegorically deep enough to convey the complexity or tragedy of what’s going on in Egypt. BuzzFeed’s GIF-ification of Egypt’s civil conflict belittles the pain of people whose lives have been upended by violence and surely confirms the suspicion of many non-Americans that we in the U.S. do not take their lives and circumstances seriously.

And it’s not even well executed! An Onion version of “The Story of Egypt’s Revolution in ‘Jurassic Park’ Gifs” would probably at least attempt some kind of coherent metaphor for the sake of highlighting the shallowness of the comparison. BuzzFeed’s version is a narrative mess. In one GIF, Samuel L. Jackson’s character seems to represent Morsi; in another, Wayne Knight’s character is. Near the end, wounded Jeff Goldblum appears to symbolize the entire nation of Egypt; just two captions down, he is “the international community.” (How convenient that the stand-in for the “international community” is a white man.) The only thematically consistent thing about the list is that Egyptians—at various times, Morsi, the Egyptian Army, and protesters—are represented as raging, irrational, dangerous animals.

I feel fairly comfortable asserting that BuzzFeed’s dehumanizing, minimizing, implicitly racist treatment of the Egyptian revolution is the worst thing the site has ever done. (Congratulations, Fox News car chase suicide—you’re off the hook!) I will hold out hope that BuzzFeed does the right thing and takes it down. (There may be encouraging precedent here; a similarly stupid post from earlier this year, “What’s the Deal With Jazz?,” seems to have vanished.) But so far, the site’s editor-in-chief has not only published but also promoted this dreck:

Of course.

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