Ben Carey, one half of the anarchic creative consultancy Benrik, has spotted a trend in the media’s reporting of the recession. As the months have gone on, the language used by journalists has become increasingly apocalyptic, from crisis to doomsday, collapse to meltdown. Sometimes it has even turned to the vernacular of natural disasters: tornado, maelstrom, earthquake. “No cliché is left untouched,” says Carey, who decided to launch a counter-attack. At his website, recessionblocker.com, you can access all the major UK news sites with one major difference: any negative word associated with the economic climate has been blacked out. You get the story, cliché-free.
Carey is not the only one to be inspired by financial gloom. A clutch of blogs and websites have emerged in the US, mostly created by people recently made redundant. Pinkslipsarethenewblack.com is the “blog for unemployed people by unemployed people”. The pink slip is the US equivalent of the P45. Ann Binlot, its creator, unemployed since last August, says it is “a way for unemployed people to get together and vent”. The site gets around 1,000 hits a day. Then there’s the405club.com, started by “three guys with nothing better to do”, according to one of its founders, José González.
A former asset manager, González was laid off in January and started The 405 Club a week later. Its name refers to the maximum amount of benefit an unemployed person in New York City can receive, and it offers a mix of useful tips (how to perform well in an interview, ideas for dating on the cheap) and entertainment (including where to get free pizza in New York). It even sells slogan T-shirts: “Is my pink slip showing?”; “My company just wasn’t that into me.”
Less helpful, but funnier, is stuffunemployedpeoplelike.com (“Finally having time to be an artist”; “public libraries”; “sitting”). The entries depict in wry detail the behaviour patterns of the newly jobless, such as “Sleeping in while your significant other gets up for work”.
The website’s creator, Grace, says that “in a sad way, people like it”, and that it gives those out of work a sense of sharing what can otherwise be a grisly experience. Grace didn’t want to give out her surname – because she is looking for a job. But she admits that the site has helped her as much as any of its visitors, helping to fill her empty days: “It gives me a structure, too”.
And then there are the sites that don’t need words at all. The blog brokershandsontheirfacesblog.
tumblr.com is self-explanatory: a series of photographs of traders clutching foreheads, covering mouths, wiping brows, as they watch markets tumble. One or two of the pictures on their own would be unremarkable, but the cumulative effect is strangely hilarious and anthropologically fascinating: financial workers around the world gazing at screens of falling numbers, reduced to grabbing at their faces in desperation.