Back in the nineties, the notion of an online magazine was new and exciting. Salon was one of the first big web publishing endeavors, and for a number of years, the site attracted respectable literary and political contributors. It always had a liberal bent, but it was a serious publication. Over time, the novelty has worn off, and the competition among liberal web-zines has grown fierce. The seriousness has also worn off, as Salon seems to have adopted a unique strategy to distinguish itself from its competitors—being as outrageously dumb as possible.
A sampling of some choice headlines reveals Salon has become a caricature that no satirist could outdo. Video games aren’t politically correct enough: “ ‘The Legend of Zelda’ is classist, sexist and racist.” Only backwoods moralists object to murder: “So what if abortion ends life?” And then this winning entry from Joan Walsh, Salon’s editor at large: “What’s the matter with white people?”
But last week, they may have finally outdone themselves with “Why I can’t stand white belly dancers,” the latest in Salon’s recent series exploring the grievances of feminists of color. It seems white women who belly dance—excuse us for using the offensive Western term—are committing the sin of “appropriation” and engaged in a “brownface Orientalist façade.” For author Randa Jarrar, “Ultimately, the question is this: Why does a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab women’s backs?” Good point. Surely, only repressive mullahs should be in the position of denigrating the sensual expressions of Arab women.
It’s encouraging for the republic that the liberal know-nothing demographic doesn’t appear to be large enough to sustain Salon. Last month’s SEC filings reveal that Salon’s liabilities are twice its assets, and industry observers speculate that Salon’s days may be numbered. The Scrapbook does not cheer the demise of any publication, but should Salon go under, the cause of death will not be a mystery.