Jun 04, 2024, 06:27AM

Anytown Takes on Death

The essential workers of the take economy try to make sense of Oliver Dabb’s tragic death.

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The shocking and grisly suicide of Oliver Dabb occasioned dozens of think pieces in publications like CultureShoXx, The Reckoning, Proud Mary, The Democratic Spectator, and Boys Life, as well as all manner of tweets, chirps, shouts, yelps, grunts, groans, and video essays from those noble souls who earned their daily bread laboring in the content mines and influence mills of the “take economy.” He was, after all, viewed as one of their own—one of their best and brightest, at that—so his decision to slash his own throat and nail himself to the floor with 18” rebar stakes in the living room of the tastefully-appointed Dutch Colonial he shared with wife Mary-Pat and sons Lawrence and Parker at the end of a quiet cul de sac in the Bulbous Hills neighborhood of Anytown’s West End demanded the best efforts of his peers to put into the proper context.

For days, everybody who was anybody and a great many bodies who were nobody—or had no bodies, given the proliferation of bots participating in the “marketplace of takes” (an otherwise obscure and sparsely populated Air Force base south of Coast City was shown to be “Seddit’s Most Active Community” in a study published some years earlier, and showed up at or near the top of the list for a number of other platforms in similar studies subsequently—saw fit to weigh in, stand up and be counted and let their voices be heard in the struggle to best encapsulate the meaning of Dabb’s self-murder to the zeitgeist.

“Y’all, speaking as a journalist and a content creator, I think we need to face the fact that speaking truth to power the way Oliver—and y’all, he was a friend of mine so I’ma call him by his first name, keepin’ it real, alright?—did takes a hella big toll on the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health of us who are about that life,” said Jae Kasslik, who was known for his straight shooting, “tell it like it is irrespective of whose feelings get hurt” approach—though curiously no one with any power or influence had really ever had their feathers so much as lightly mussed, much less properly ruffled—while he cleaned the lenses of his stylish glasses with a small felt cloth, an affectation he had cultivated as a way of accentuating how unrehearsed... off-the-cuff his presentations were despite their erudition and sagacity.

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Later to the party was video essayist Samanda James (BIPOC), whose specialty was analyzing “the culture” through the eyes of a “queer BIPOC academic,” though at various points the applicability of each of these descriptors to James (BIPOC?) had been called into question. Most threateningly for James’ (BIPOC) livelihood was a story that gained traction a few years earlier alleging that she was, in fact, a fortysomething heterosexual white woman named Jen Score, but a well-mounted defense charging a “sophisticated network of Russian trolls and bots fueled by misogynoir” with attempting to silence her seemed to hold the controversy in abeyance for a sufficiently long duration that the public—that is, the handful of publications that covered the story and the audience who occasionally skimmed them—moved on.

Samanda (BIPOC) tended toward well-produced, slickly edited videos of 30-40 minutes but also liked to give some sense of unrehearsed folksiness to the proceedings; it goes without saying that phrases like “spill the tea” were her bread and butter, to mix metaphors confusingly, but she also liked to be seen drinking actual tea, preferably from one of the number of mason jars her producer had purchased exclusively for this purpose. “Suicide is always tragic, but I can’t help but feeling that, as a queer BIPOC/WOC, mediocre white men are given more attention even in death than me, and people like me, ever are for anything,” she said after a particularly satisfying sip of iced green tea.

Samanda (BIPOC) was forced to do some damage control, though, as even many of her colleagues and allies objected to her using the occasion of Dabb’s suicide to call him “mediocre.” She was quick to correct the record, though, assuring her followers and supporters that “[she] had been speaking in a more general sense of white male mediocrity and its insidiousness” and added that “Oliver Dabb was a good friend to [her] and a brave fighter in the cause of truth,” and concluded: “I’m sorry for anyone that took offense to my words.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, “New Tradcore” favorites like Bruhtilla the Hun, a self-professed “alpha who makes Jack Chaser look like a soyboy” and who was represented by an ultra-yoked cartoon avatar in stylized Hun garb, and Dan Zahor, a former actor who’d enjoyed success in his new role as a culture warrior since causing a minor stir a few years prior by announcing that he’d boycott any potential reunion projects involving “Doggone It!”—the popular talking dog sitcom in which he had co-starred as Cholly, the ex-hippy roommate of the human breakout protagonist and “breakout star” of the series according to an influential piece by Brian Powell in “TV: The Magazine”—as a way of combating “Hollyweird’s War on America,” professed their belief that Dabb had self-murdered due to low testosterone and/or infection by “the woke PC mind virus.”

This led to each having a long back-and-forth feud with popular UK-based video game streamer and “anarcho-communist” political theorist Captain Hi-Score, who’d emerged as one of the most subscribed-to content creators on the internet despite averaging only about 1.5 videos per year for most of his career; nonetheless, he had thousands of “Drinking Buddies” on the popular patronage platform “Buy Me a Round” who subsidized his tortoise-like approach to content generation to the tune of a nearly $10US/mo. mean “tab,” so Hi-Score was in the catbird seat even without his roiling feuds re: Dabb’s death with Bruhtilla, Zahor, and other “NTK”/”NRX” figures.

While nonsensically holding his lavalier mic between thumb and forefinger (everyone in the business was doing it now, but Hi-Score had been the first, consarn it), and with the aid of cleverly tricky editing, dubious statistics, and some good old-fashioned debate-club-style argumentation, Hi-Score gave it to his enemies with “both barrels” in a four-plus-hour video “kiss-off” to the feud before he went back into his quasi-hibernative state for the remainder of the year.

So, why were all of these folks—some of the best minds of their or any other generation, the sort Ginsberg saw starving hysterical naked etc.—leaving the fact that Oliver Dabb, or anyone, nailing himself to the floor with rebar spikes after cutting his own throat damn near to the bones of the spine was such an obviously unlikely if not wholly preposterous prospect unremarked upon despite all this kerfuffle? Y’all ain’t ready to talk about that.

Rance Hartley was, though. Humped his rusted-out husk of a jalopy with the bad brakes and the bad head gasket through the BIPOC streets at dawn looking for an angry word with Slate Flanagan. On little more than fumes and bad intentions he coasted to the end of the cul de sac where Flanagan’s Craftsman was situated next to the “Dabb Death House,” as some were now calling it. Throwing on his rumpled coat and lighting one of his thin cigars in a vain effort to kill the sickening hairy-tongued hangover taste the ocean of gin he’d swum in most of the previous day had given him. He didn’t have much of a head on him yet, but if the sun got much higher before he got a drink in him he’d be in a real spot.

“Flanagan!” Hartley cried hoarsely as he propped himself up with the aid of a trellis just inside Flanagan’s gate. “Flanagan! Open up, you fat prick!”

A dog yipped somewhere nearby. A light came on behind the drawn blinds of the left front window of the little forest green house. Hartley staggered up the cobblestone walk to the front door—black or a darker green, he couldn’t tell in this light—and reared back to pound heavily upon it when, following a series of loud but muffled profanities, the door swung open. Slate Flanagan, all 300 pounds of him, stood there, his squinting black eyes widening considerably in recognition.

“Hartley!” the Irishman muttered sharply. Then: “Th’fuck’re ye doin’ere? ‘n’at this ungodly hour?”

Hartley fixed his bloodshot eyes on Flanagan, who now held an irritable little Pomeranian in the crook of his large, fish-white left arm. He’d always had a fondness for the little monsters. Flanagan, that is. Hartley felt like drop-kicking the fucking thing into traffic. Nonetheless, he choked back the bile, and asked loud and clear: “The cops know you were the last person to see that Dabb kid alive?”

Flanagan scoffed, started to bluff, then sighed and unlatched the screen door that had separated them till now. “Reckon yeh’d better c’m’in.”


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