By A (Righteously Indignant) Veteran Top Ten List
10. You don’t even need to be a top ten list to be published anymore. In my day, if you had seven items, or sixteen, you’d be either sent to Santa or thrown away in the supermarket parking lot. Now there are “top twelve lists” and “top forty-two lists.” What’s next, the top two reasons to buy a car in the winter? The top 6.8 ways to win on eBay?
9. The pound sign has been murdered and turned into something called a hashtag. Pound signs were for lists and lists alone. Pound signs were used to organize ideas. They made each one dignified. Hashtags ruin ideas. They commodify ‘em and make ‘em cheap. Hashtags turn everything into whores. And not the good kind.
8. Half the lists aren’t even lists. People used to read lists because they knew they were getting something special, something with some punch. Maybe even a blue joke. I used to put those around number four and give the reader some time to collect himself before the big payoff at number one. Now everywhere you look people are writing journal entries and disguising them as lists. “Top six reasons I had a great day.” These bastards are betraying the public trust in lists and Obama is just letting it happen.
7. Letterman’s about to go. Damn shame. That was the only real place an up and coming top ten list could get noticed anymore. I remember I was on that show in 1992. Nancy Kerrigan read me. Nice broad. Legs up to her ears.
6. Some of these lists are just pictures. They don’t even have copy. You’ll see fourteen unattributed pictures masquerading as a list. Now, I’m not against pictures. After I came back from the war, I was working as an FBI most wanted list at the post office. People just looked at the pictures, I know that. But we still had text, whether anyone read it or not. That was where I met my first wife actually, she was a pretty little telegram. I made her a top ten list of stamps, “flowers of the west” they were called. That was one night she didn’t use STOP, if you know what I mean.
5. These lists today repeat themselves. You can’t have “the through the dorm shortcut” and “stopping inside somebody else’s dorm for warmth” on your “38 ways you know you went to the University of Alaska at Juneau.” You should be trying to reduce items anyway, not repeating yourself. Get it to a round number at least. God almighty. Why do I even bother?
4. There’s no integrity anymore. Lists used to matter. You had to verify your sources and be ready to ask the tough questions. You know we were this close to getting a Pulitzer category right? They almost gave it to a list who worked with Sy Hersh. The “Top ten reasons that Agent Orange will be a huge headache for the U.S. government.” Headache? Ha! He had balls that one. Good list. Ahead of his time. Married a cocktail menu. Died in a swimming pool.
3. The lede can be anywhere these days. We used to bury that sucker, bury it all the way down at number one. That was something we were proud about. We would go into the newsroom and call all the new stories pussies for putting the lede first, trying to buy the reader off. Might as well open with chocolate and flowers. We buried our leads with pride. Made you earn it. These days the best one is always number seven or something. Pathetic.
2. Fucking Buzzfeed. I’d add 23 reasons why anyone who reads that can go to hell, but I have enough respect for you not to just choose numbers out of the air and pretend they matter, like some sort of carnival gypsy. I was once Nixon’s enemies list you know. Twenty assholes, all heavyweights, and I carried them all, pulled a double and barely avoided the shredder. You were always worried about the shredder when Ol’ Dick was around.
1. A list doesn’t even get a proper end anymore. I’ll take the shredder over an icon of a recycling bin any day. Now there’s no pageantry, no respect, no ceremony, none of that beautiful shredder engine starting up, none of the dignified howl as the paper gives up the ink. No, now they just delete you and you’re gone, like you never existed. Well not me, dammit. I’m retiring and I’m going to see the country as an old-fashioned chain letter, a list of ten awful things that will happen to you if you don’t mail me forward. With any luck, I’ll go out helping a cowboy light some kindling. I’m not going to die as a fart coming out of some computer’s ass, I’ll tell you that much.