We have More Important Things to Worry About than Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, died a few days ago on April 11th. You may or may not have heard by now. The New York Times wrote a nice piece on his life and a large number of blogs and forums have filled with discussions of his books, essays, and politics. If you haven't heard by now, I guess I'm not too surprised. Ablogistan took a look and found that there were more twice as many mentions of Anna Nicole Smith in the news than Vonnegut. That fact is both depressing and fascinating at the same time. One of the tried and true methods of social science research is content analysis, where researchers pour over the raw text produced by a culture and measure things like word use. Content analysis is nice because it gives you quantitative data in areas otherwise relegated to qualitative research, but it can be a real chore. If you wanted to study McCarthyism, for example, you would need to poor over thousands of pages of microfiche counting word occurrences and judging usage. The chart comparing Anna Nicole Smith and Kurt Vonnegut is fascinating because it points out how the rise of the Internet has helped lessen a lot of the tediousness of content analysis. So let's take a look. What else is more important than Kurt Vonnegut? (Unfortunately the Internet has not made the difficult stuff like conceptualization and research design any easier, so the findings below are not exactly academic journal material). Google News search for Kurt Vonnegut (past week): 1,317 articles. Google News search for Anna Nicole Smith (past week): 10,232 articles. Google News search for Don Imus (past week): 9,534 articles. There you have it. Anna Nicole Smith, notable for going from being poor and attractive to being rich and less attractive, then rich and somewhat attractive again, is almost 8 times more important than Kurt Vonnegut. Don Imus, who hasn't even died yet, is about 7 times more important than Vonnegut for calling some basketball players "nappy headed hos." Google News tends to include more traditional news outlets (newspapers, television, etc.). So what about the unprofessional world of commentary and discussion found in blogs? Blog posts about Kurt Vonnegut Blog posts about Anna Nicole Smith Blog posts about Don Imus Congratulations, bloggers! You talked about as much about Kurt Vonnegut as you did Anna Nicole on the day the news of their deaths came out. And so far Don Imus has yet to have half as many mentions. Blogpulse shows an even clearer trend: Trend So there you have it: Officially speaking, Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote for half a century, producing some of the best novels of all time, is less important than a woman who was famous mostly for being famous. We have empirical proof. And once again, the bloggers have shown that they just don't measure up to professional news media.

  1. Man way to take the easy way out Kurt. Leave us behind to sort out all this shit. Not like people are intelligent enough to understand his work nowadays anyways.

    D WallZ
    April 14th, 2007 at 4:38 pm
  2. Congratulations on hijacking thew news of Kurt Vonnegut’s death and turning it into a masturbatory piece on how bloggers are smarter than journalists. Are you really surprised that Anna Nicole Smith gets more attention than the death of a critically acclaimed 20th century novelist? You can be as idealistic as you want, but pull your head out of your rear on this one and spend your time praising and remembering Vonnegut’s life rather than taking a jab at state of mass media.

    Come on
    April 15th, 2007 at 2:58 pm
  3. Hey, you caught me. Fair is fair – I admit it, I have been eagerly awaiting the death of a noted author so that I could hijack it for months now. I even took author-death flying lessons in Florida, but they got suspicious when I said I didn’t want to learn how to land.

    April 15th, 2007 at 5:39 pm
  4. “Come On” takes a swipe at the messenger and forgets the message which is that a good man died and the media was wrapped up in other more sensational material. What do you want the guy to do? Write a Requiem for Kurt?

    Get happy and understand we are being fed entertainment, not information.

    April 15th, 2007 at 8:01 pm
  5. It’s a sad comment. However, who will remember Smith or Imus five years from now? Ten years hence, Vonnegut will still be the motivation for thought and self analysis. It’s quality, not quantity.

    1950′s example: Jayne Mansfield, Charles Van Doren, and Aldous Huxley.

    Take Care

    April 15th, 2007 at 9:04 pm
  6. Yeah its not like Don Imus has been around since the sixties and helped to revolutionize radio. Apparently saying nappy headed ho’s is the pinnacle of his career. I don’t know how but people manage to get dumber and dumber. If Kurt Vonnegut was here now he’d pimp slap you.

    D WallZ
    April 15th, 2007 at 11:40 pm
  7. Worry not friends.

    I am 16, a Junior in high school – a public school, the only high school in what was called the poorest city in the country by CNN during the early ninties. I share God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian with every friend I can. I forcefeed it to people. They will learn.

    The future is not so black. No blacker than it ever has been.

    And as far as stabbing at mass media goes, please don’t worry about it. It should be encouraged. Mindless garbage is as much a medicine as organized religion is, at times, so I wouldn’t suggest upsetting our whole culture, but there is certainly room for improving when it comes to actual intellectual stimulation. Humankind will be a happy kind when each person is strong enough to live without these medicines, but we will have to ease into it.

    People aren’t getting dumber and dumber, either – we just are taught by Mother Culture (borrowing the term from Daniel Quinn) that our past was an age filled with glory, when in fact it was filled with just as much ignorance as our present age is, or more.

    I am sad that I became interested in Kurt Vonnegut a couple months after his death, but since then I have been reading, and sharing.

    Tyler Wyckoff
    October 12th, 2007 at 9:30 pm
  8. I just wanted to see if I have to math skills to get the captcha right.

    July 22nd, 2008 at 10:36 am

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