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In Pursuit of the Ultimate #SlatePitch: A Flavorwire Investigation

This morning, Flavorwire’s editors came across the following headline: “Hugs Are Falsely Intimate Power Plays. Stop Imposing Them On Everyone You Meet.” Yes, it was a contrarian take on the tyranny of hugs, and — no surprise — the purveyor of the piece was Slate. Over the past four years, the notion of “Slate pitches” — opinion pieces that are contrarian, it seems, solely for the sake of being contrarian — have become something of an entity unto themselves, spawning a “#slatepitches” hashtag that has even been adopted by the publication itself. But with their anti-hug manifesto following last weekend’s “In Defense of Neville Chamberlain,” have we reached Peak Slate Pitch? In an attempt to understand this feverish pile-up of Slate pitches, and where they go from here, Flavorwire has exclusively obtained the following chain of emails between two high-ranking Slate editors*, whose names have been redacted for legal purposes.

9/18/13

TO: <REDACTED, EDITOR 1>
FROM: <REDACTED, EDITOR 2>

Hey <REDACTED>-

As you’ve probably noticed, traffic is way down, and I don’t even wanna tell you how many clicks we’ve gotta make up this month. (We’re gonna have to pay for some extra Roiphe, if that gives you any idea.) <REDACTED>’s dumb thing about never putting pictures of her kid online and creating a “digital trust fund” or some kinda bullshit is still getting people going, even if it’s not quite up to her “poop spreadsheet” gold standard, but beyond that, we’re kinda scrapin’ bottom. Get the team together and brainstorm some conversation starters — and tell ‘em to kick it up a notch. We’re gonna really have to stir up some shit to hit these numbers. (And then keep track of it on a spreadsheet, lolz.)

<REDACTED>

9/20/13

TO: <REDACTED, EDITOR 2>
FROM: <REDACTED, EDITOR 1>

<REDACTED>-

Sat down with the team yesterday and here’s what we came up with:

  • That guy you insisted on poaching from Buzzfeed had exactly three ideas: “55 GIFs from the ‘80s That Will Make You Say ‘What?’”; “63 GIFs from the ‘90s That Will Make You Say ‘What?’”; and ’89 GIFs from the ‘00s That Will Make You Say ‘What?’” These are the same three ideas he brought to last month’s pitch meeting. When can I fire him?
  • <REDACTED> just saw the Joss Whedon Much Ado and proposed this: “Shakespeare: Why The Hell Do They Talk So Funny?”
  • Everyone seemed to really like “Kittens Are Overrated Carriers of Parasites and Disease.”
  • In the spirit of our anti-shorts and anti-flip-flop screeds, <REDACTED> has volunteered to write about the evils of the V-neck.
  • “It’s Time for Friendster’s Comeback.”

Lemme know if any of these float your boat.

9/23/13

TO: <REDACTED, EDITOR 1>
FROM: <REDACTED, EDITOR 2>

Hey <REDACTED>-

Not thick enough. Did you see last week’s traffic? Jesus Christ. Tell those latte-slurping Brooklynites to come up with some hate-click-drivers or I’ll fire the whole lousy lot of ‘em.

How was your weekend?

9/24/13

TO: <REDACTED, EDITOR 2>
FROM: <REDACTED, EDITOR 1>

Well, these are certainly traffic-drivers, but it feels like the staff might’ve gone to a darker place than you wanted. I dunno. You tell me. Here’s what we got:

  • “Kittens: You Say They’re Adorable, I Say They’re Delicious.”
  • “Your Favorite Grandmother Was a Fucking Asshole. Here’s Why.”
  • “Who’re We Kidding? That Mole is Probably Cancer.”
  • “How Your Child’s Kisses Are Literally Killing You.”
  • “Three Packs a Day Cured My Cancer. Here’s How.”
  • “What the New, Worshipful Mother Teresa Biography Doesn’t Mention.”
  • “Was Hitler Right?”

Also, the Buzzfeed guy proposed “Benedict Cumberbatch’s 23 Most Squeal-Inducing Looks.” I fired him.

9/26/13

TO: <REDACTED, EDITOR 1>
FROM: <REDACTED, EDITOR 2>

Hey <REDACTED>-

Okay, I appreciate the effort, but we’re gonna have to pull some of these back a little bit. As you may recall from the August 2011 crisis, “Was Hitler Right?” has been floated before, but it’s the nuclear option — we’re only pressing it in a meltdown situation, which this is not. Can we think about modifying this concept, though? <REDACTED> suggested we could maybe ease into it with Goebbels, but that might be pushing it, too. Neville Chamberlain, maybe?

And the “children’s kisses are literally killing you” thing is probably a little much, particularly without any data of any kind. But I gotta tell you, when I got home last night and settled in to the couch with my single-malt and little <REDACTED> ran up and hugged me with some unknowable shit on her fingers (Chocolate? Feces? Tar?) and got it all over my new blazer, I started wondering if we could write something about the evil of hugs. We got anybody who can knock that out?

9/26/13

TO: <REDACTED, EDITOR 2>
FROM: <REDACTED, EDITOR 1>

An anti-hugs piece? Are you feeling OK?

9/27/13

TO: <REDACTED, EDITOR 1>
FROM: <REDACTED, EDITOR 3>

Hello <REDACTED>-

First of all, thanks again for coming on board and taking on the <REDACTED> position after I had to fire <REDACTED>. I hope everyone realizes how little use we have around here for that kind of hesitation about a great idea (no matter what blather <REDACTED> had to contribute about “good common humanity”).

I read the Neville Chamberlain thing and it’s aces. Run it over the weekend. Tell <REDACTED> I’d like to see a draft of the no-hugging piece by EOD, if she can figure out how to get an Ethernet cable into her plastic bubble and email it to us. And see who’s up for “Kittens: You Say They’re Adorable, I Say They’re Delicious,” which should get us off to a strong start for October.

Speaking of which, just to be safe, let’s start looking for a Hitler-savvy writer with a strong social media presence.

And welcome to the team!

<REDACTED>

* No, we didn’t. This piece is satire. Obviously.