Media Monday: Why does Gawker's Hamilton Nolan hate D.C. so much?

Decrease Increase Text size
Boo. (Photo: flogfolioweekly)

Gawker's Hamilton Nolan hates D.C. with every snarky bone in his body. At least, that's the impression one gets from his writing. The website's resident media reporter, he also covers boxing for Deadspin and The Awl, and generally can be counted on to make the sport sound entertaining even to those of us who find it otherwise. In his latest ringside dispatch, however, Nolan sneaks in a few punches at D.C., our podunk town which he was forced to visit last weekend for the title match between super lightweight champ Amir Khan and local underdog Lamont Peterson at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Actually, "sneaks" is the wrong word; "telegraphs" might be more apt, given the headline of his report, "How To Get Robbed In D.C.: Amir Khan Vs. Lamont Peterson."

You know how people are always going on about there being two D.C.'s? Nolan unites their attendant stereotypes in this descriptive lede:

A black guy in dark shades and a pimp-style chinchilla coat strode through the D.C. convention center, headed toward the entrance to the fight. Ten feet behind him, a white guy in a button-up shirt surreptitiously snapped photos of him on his cell phone. 'Look, a real live pimp, at the fight! What a kick!' Check and check. All of D.C.'s mascots were represented.

I've lived here for a year and a half, and I have yet to see a single a pimp — on a night other than Halloween, that is. Nolan comes down for a day and sees one. I feel ripped off.

Moving on:

D.C., the real D.C., is the odd city out on the east coast, an island unto itself. It is a wholly insular place. It has its own fashion. It has its own slang. It has its own music. No one outside of D.C. has ever been tempted to subscribe to any of D.C.'s trends, something D.C. takes as a point of pride. D.C. is happy being friends with D.C.. D.C. does not need to be friends with you.

The first five sentences of that graf could just as easily refer to Manhattan, but writers never make fun of New York City — for fear of being made fun of, in turn, by Gawker. The last three sentences are kind of true.

He's a B-plus-plus guy, a tough opponent who will ultimately lose to the A-level guys, the superstars, in the same way that D.C. will never be more glamorous than New York or London, in the same way that a dish drenched in mambo sauce will never win a James Beard Award.

Note to A-level writer in New York City: There is no James Beard Award for individual dishes.

Nolan goes on to say that D.C. had "no idea what the hell it was doing" by holding the fight "in a massive room in its even more massive convention center. Not an arena. Not even a room with bleachers." A legitimate complaint. And then there's the final graf: "Welcome to D.C., Amir Khan. You got mugged. Don't be mad, kid. They needed it more than you." Someone throw Nolan a towel, so he can mop up all that condescension.

This is hardly the first time he's written unkindly about D.C. Here are just a few examples from the past year:

"Whether Liberal or Conservative, Hip Young DC Residents Are Nerds"

"Whites Win Control of Nation’s Capital"

"‘Milbanksy:’ Self-Awareness Strikes DC"

"Report: ‘Young, Hip Vibe’ Strikes Washington, DC"

"Adorable Little DC Trying to Be ‘Hip’ Like Its Daddy (NYC)"

"Anarchist Dog-Walkers Just the Latest Manifestation of DC’s Hipness"

"New York Is Sending Its Less-Hip Citizens Down to DC"

Granted, most of these take aim principally at the Washington Post, but Nolan can't resist a jab at B-level D.C., like in the Millbanksy post, where he writes, "And please, no comments saying 'OMG this has been all over DC foreverrrr.' We don't live in DC, okay? Thank god."

I'm not stupid — not as bright as New Yorkers, mind you, but not exactly a Tucsonan, either. Curating news with wit and speed is harder than it looks, and D.C. is an easy target. A punching bag, if you will. But no writer at Gawker Media, or perhaps anywhere, has mocked District culture as relentlessly as Nolan. Maybe, I thought, he truly hates D.C.?

I emailed Nolan three admittedly lame questions —

Do you hate D.C.?
If so, why?
Have you ever lived here?

— and he, despite my having criticized him before, promptly replied:

1. no!
2. I just like to talk shit.
3. I lived in DC from 97-2000. I went to Howard most of that time.

Did Nolan, who is white, really attend Howard University, where just 0.3 percent of students are his race? "Yep, I went there for three years," he wrote. "There was in fact one other white guy in my freshman dorm. Go bison."

I was devastated to hear this, because it means he's already earned more D.C. cred than I could in a lifetime. So swing away, Hamilton. I even have your next victim: this Post story about the Smithsonian's new tag line, "Seriously Amazing," which the institution hopes conveys "that it is both a hefty and hip place." I expect no less than 10 exclamation points from you.

  1. «
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. »

Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.

Recommended For You