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Hack List No. 3: Benny Johnson

Our annual list is here! This time, we channeled each hack's unique voice -- and let them "write" their own entries


Alex Pareene
December 18, 2013 11:25PM (UTC)
Salon is running its annual Hack List this week. Also check out "winners" 1098765 and 4.

The amazing true story of the worst person at BuzzFeed

This is Benny Johnson


Via Feedbuzz

He's super good at tweeting!

(Again, via FeedBuzz.)

Here's what he made himself for dinner on Martin Luther King Day

(Once more, via FeedBuzz. It's almost as if this post relies heavily on aggregation already performed by others!)

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Benny works for a website called Buzzfeed

Buzzfeed refined a style of web writing that at this point is scarcely web "writing." It is a sort of one-page scrolling picture book with some bits that move. Buzzfeed uses this form primarily to create harmless diversions, but also sometimes to "report" news!

This tone or style is effectively the logical end point of the faux-casual "blog" voice and I deeply regret my small part in its spread

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Some of the people who produce these things at Buzzfeed make picture-stories you could describe as funny, or even witty

Some of them just copy and paste content from elsewhere, like a message board called Reddit, or IMDB. This used to be called plagiarism!

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Is it still plagiarism when no one at either end of the act is using their grown-up words anymore?


I don't know! YOLO!!

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Back to Benny. He used to work for a website called The Blaze

The Blaze was started by a guy named Glenn Beck

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Glenn Beck is a "demagogue," which is kind of like a "Doge" except intensely nationalistic and designed to foment an in-group's hatred for and paranoid fear of various out-groups.

Then Benny went to work for BuzzFeed because they wanted to hire some conservatives [UPDATE: Benny went to work for BuzzFeed because "Benny is a great native talent of the social web with politics in his blood" who will "make the sort of smart, entertaining, and compelling political content people want to share." I regret the error.]

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In July 2013, Johnson "wrote" a Buzzfeed post headlined "The Story of Egypt's Revolution in 'Jurassic Park' Gifs." And that's exactly what it was.

Basically every decent person agreed that this had crossed some kind of line. It was not cute anymore!

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The critics said: "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." Ouch!

At this point his bosses were probably like

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But then they saw the traffic and they were like

And Johnson was like

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But I bet many of the people who work with Johnson, most of whom aren't moral cretins, are like

Benny also once wrote a thing about how Cory Booker had an innocuous exchange with a sex worker on Twitter. It wasn't as vile as the Egypt post but it was equally contemptuous of the reader/viewer/clicker, relying heavily on childish innuendo, salacious nude photos, and the unsupported implication of some sort of impropriety on Booker's part. Everyone who read it was like

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"Ronald Reagan was the presidential master of YOLO." -- an adult with a prestigious job in journalism 


Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Benny Johnson Buzzfeed Hack List Media Criticism Parody The Hack List 2013 Trashy Video Wtf

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