“Should I write my last column for The Heights on my love for all things BuzzFeed or my cult following in Afghanistan?” I asked Connor “Condor” Murphy, The Heights’ editor-in-chief.
“Either,” cawed Condor—just as a real condor might. “Maybe both.”
Condor’s tenure at Boston College’s ill-reputed student publication is coming to an end. It fell to me, his nominal best friend, to give him a send-off the likes of which The Heights’ non-existent readers had never before seen and never would see again. I would have to write him the best last column on Afghanistan, BuzzFeed, and my narcissistic but otherwise-endearing tendencies that he would ever read. Condor, know that I crafted this column that has nothing to do with you out of my love for you.
When I began writing columns earlier this year—after Condor secured me a post on The Heights for solely nepotistic reasons—The Heights’ epically low standards of journalism inspired me to begin a search for an online newspaper that took its job seriously. I made a point of reading the best of the best, from The New York Times and The Washington Post to The Daily Free Press, Boston University’s fabled, award-winning student publication. None of them met my high journalistic standards, though.
Only when I came across BuzzFeed did my search at last come to an end. Sure, the underrated reporting coming out of BuzzFeed News has managed to redefine investigative journalism with scoops on topics as varied as Kevin Spacey, Milo Yiannopoulos, and American mercenaries in Yemen, but it was the high production values of listicles such as “15 Tumblr Posts about Poop to Read While You’re on the Toilet” that hooked me. I’m still not entirely sure what exactly Tumblr is, but it seems great.
Have you ever wondered whether “How You Feel About Christmas Will Reveal Which Hallmark Movie Cliché You Are”? I sure have. Because of BuzzFeed, I now know that my Hallmark movie cliché is “Your name is definitely something like Joy, Holly, or Mary.” It’s a little-known fact that Joy, Holly, and Mary are all variants of the name Austin, Ancient Greek for “someone named Austin.”
As BuzzFeed and I began our year-long romance, I continued my work as a freelance journalist, publishing articles with hip, millennial-friendly titles such as “Afghanistan’s Youthquake: Young Activists Lead the Way,” “Here Come the Taliban Drones,” and “The Taliban Want to Go Green.” Millennials love activism, drones, environmentalism, and earthquake metaphors. What more could they want?
Little did I realize that my readership included not only millions of Americans infatuated with my brilliance and handsomeness, but also a cult following in Afghanistan, where a handful of my biggest fans had republished and even translated some of my articles. The Afghan website Etilaat Roz reposted a Persian version of my article “How the U.S. Is Indirectly Arming the Taliban.” Another Afghan website did the same with my article “War, Drugs, and Peace: Afghanistan and Myanmar.”
Some freelancers might consider these unauthorized re-publications examples of plagiarism, but considering the amount of effort that it likely took to translate my articles from English to Persian, I can only assume that I have developed a cult following in Afghanistan and that these websites want to share my legendary work with Afghans in one of their national languages.
Wikipedia defines a cult following as “a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a work of culture.” Given that I am without a doubt a work of culture, this definition seems as accurate a description of my popularity in Afghanistan as I can reasonably expect from a free encyclopedia.
The Afghanistan Times Daily even copied and pasted one of my articles from The New Arab. I can think of no surer sign that I have achieved status as a cult classic in Afghanistan—much as I have in the United States. Also, as you are likely wondering, I do indeed sign autographs.
I can only expect that Condor will leave behind a similarly stunning legacy when he departs from The Heights. He may lack my extensive fandom in Central and South Asia, but Condor represents no less of a cultural icon than I do. Though I graduated from BC almost six months ago, Condor—in his infinite graciousness—has allowed me to continue writing for this sinking ship that he captains.
“Austin, God-like BC alumnus, what will Condor do after The Heights?” you may be asking.
I have no idea. Most of our conversations consist of us roasting The Heights.
“What will you do?”
Now that I have lost my last connection to The Heights’ leadership, I’ll just have to start roasting The Heights from afar. No longer can I use my columns to destroy it from the inside out.
Well, dear readers, I’d like to say that that I’ll miss you, but I have no idea who you are, so I’ll only say that it’s been an experience. As for you, Condor, I’ll miss you most of all.
Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Graphics Editor