The death of the Village Voice has drawn out a coterie of mourners bowing their heads over the venerable radical rag, but their orations at its funeral are completely wasted. The death of the Voice is not due to mismanagement, the right wing or its complicity in human trafficking. After all, its former competitor, the New York Press, which forced it to go free instead of charging a buck fifty, died fairly recently. The end of the Village Voice has to be seen in the context of the death of alternative media.
The passing of the Village Voice, its thick greasy pages smudged with desperate cries for attention in between glossy cigarette ads and phone sex ads, also coincides with the passing of the bohemian nature of the East Village, now little more than tall glowering condos and coffee shops. To those residents who showed up there in the 70’s and 80’s bearing art school portfolios and a burning desire to be part of the “Scene”, it’s one more triumph of the capitalist running dogs over the “People”.
But the real reason that the Village Voice is dead is because the alternative media is dead and the alternative media is dead because there is nothing for it to be an alternative to. New Yorkers can just as easily read shrill rants about the NYPD in the Daily News, pretentious movie reviews for artsy films at The Onion and leftist denunciations of the War on Terror in the New York Times.
The way that the Village Voice used to cover Republicans is now the way that every media outlet, but the handful that aren’t part of the liberal collective, covers Republicans. Every mainstream media outlet is opposed to fighting terrorism, opposed to the police and opposed to any notion of balance in reporting. And every outlet is churning out the same tired 24/7 coverage of something provocative a Republican allegedly said because every outlet wants to be the Village Voice, the ink-stained pamphleteer on the corner screaming about capitalist pigs before heading off to a concert at CBGB’s, also as dead as the Village Voice and the rest of the East Village.
Newsweek, once the paragon of middlebrow inoffensiveness, now does the kind of covers that the Village Voice used to do. It still hasn’t run a picture of Bush drinking the blood out of the green neck of the Statue of Liberty, but, if Romney wins, you can expect that as the March cover. And by then even that might be considered tame.
If anyone deserves credit for killing the Village Voice, it’s George W. Bush, who was its unwitting cover boy more often than Obama has appeared on the cover of Essence. Under Bush the entire media became alternative and the alternative media became supplementary to requirements. When mainstream newspapers give positive reviews to books and movies that envision Bush’s assassination, cheerlead anti-war rallies run by militant Trotskyites and demand unilateral surrender in the War on Terror what possible territory is left for the alternative media to explore?
All that was left for the alternative media was to run yet another profile of a new bar where people drink the tears of Ecuadoran children purchased through fair trade while looking at themselves doing it in video monitors as an artistic commentary on capitalism. And these days that’s what the internet is for. A culture eager to document itself doing everything, take photos of the food on its plate, review the movie on Twitter while watching it and run a blog about its streetcorner is in no need of an alternative paper to kludgily do these things for it at a snail’s pace.
The same forces that swamped the Village with Obama-supporting hedge fund managers who wanted a place with trendy bars that made them feel like artists also killed the Village Voice. The death of the mainstream meant the embrace of the alternative. With no standards left in any paper, every paper and magazine became the Village Voice, but with a subscription price and better quality control. The Village Voice became a classifieds section for people looking to rent a room, find a concert or rape a Ukrainian teenager– and Craigslist was busy destroying that business model.