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Seattle-bashing takes hold in cyberspace
'Dreary, dark, drunk and dysfunctional' is how one critic describes the city


A strangely self-congratulatory segment that aired last week on KING/5's "Evening Magazine" show trumpeted the features Seattleites can be proud of.

There's the 520 bridge, the longest floating water crossing in the world. There's Northgate, America's first shopping mall. The region, viewers were told, boasts the busiest ferry system in North America and one of the tallest buildings west of the Mississippi: the 76-story Bank of America Tower in downtown Seattle.

Never mind that Boeing's gone, the dot-coms have dropped like tin soldiers and the state has lost more than 86,000 jobs -- more than 90 percent of them in the Seattle metropolitan area -- since January 2001.

"We should all feel mighty proud about what's around us, because it's all quite enough to make this the world's most special place to live," reporter Jim Dever told viewers. Dever neglected to mention one other distinctive Seattle feature: It may well be the only city in North America that has at least three Web sites devoted to slamming it. And if the postings are any indication, malaise is creeping over the Emerald City like moss.

The most popular of the sites,, has received more than 50,000 postings since its launch last March on topics encompassing everything from traffic and unemployment to fat women, bad beer, weather, Republicans, Tim Eyman's initiatives, racism, anti-social behavior, political correctness, Capitol Hill poseurs and a long list of other gripes.

Of late, the site also has become a forum for personal slings between its regular posters, who include: "waitress," an art school graduate from New Mexico; "The Elwood," a Civil War aficionado living in Charleston; "Jay (and Silent Bob)," a 20-something techie with a fetish for Asian women; the SUV-hating, bike-riding "Treefriend" and his pot-smoking nemesis "SeattleLance," and unsuccessful school board candidate David Blomstrom, who frequently posts lengthy, rambling diatribes about his many enemies in the school district and the media.

Seattle Shmeng: The Mystery of Why Seattle Sucks ( went live a year ago. It features postings detailing the city's innumerable shortcomings, and pithy thoughts such as: "Seattle -- where we all go to heaven 'cause we're too wet to burn."

Sick of Seattle (S.O.S.) (, which launched last July, has no message board but advertises monthly get-togethers for Seattleites to share the misery.

Those who want to make their disdain public can buy T-shirts, sweat shirts, mouse pads, barbecue aprons, boxers, thongs, bumper stickers, tile coasters and yes, coffee mugs.'s brightly colored logo features a wastepaper basket stuffed with the Space Needle, a Boeing jet, a coffee cup and the Kingdome. S.O.S.'s depicts the Space Needle under a gray sky and the words "I Came, I Saw, I Left."

'Lotta money, lotta swagger'

It's difficult to imagine a slew of Web sites declaring "New York Sucks" or "Paris Bites." But in Seattle, where "world-class" is used to describe everything from the city's schools to its cultural scene, the hubris of the past decade has given way to humility. Some believe the city became a little lofty and deserved to be taken down a few notches.

"Through the '90s, Seattle wanted to be a great city," said David Brewster, former publisher of the Seattle Weekly and the executive director of the Town Hall cultural center on First Hill. "Now the interesting thing is to figure out how to be a good city. We sought to have big sports, big buildings and a big profile -- lotta money, lotta swagger -- and to be a bigger player on the global stage than our population and our real traditions would allow."

Brewster said the city gambled badly, staking its success on rapid wealth and an unstable economy instead of implementing tax breaks and other measures that would be more sustainable over the long term. Boeing's relocation of its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in September 2001, Brewster said, was a result of that failure. The city's success quickly backfired, he said, as the cost of living skyrocketed and companies that might have set up shop in Seattle could no longer afford to.

"We grabbed the brass ring and were at the head of the parade of what successful cities wanted to be," he said. "It turned out to be the wrong parade."

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has a different view. He points to pending initiatives -- renewal plans for neighborhoods including Pioneer Square, South Lake Union, Northgate and the University District, light-rail construction and expansion of the monorail -- as evidence of a city on the upswing.

Nickels believes Seattle should dream large, that its current economic slump will be alleviated by new opportunities in sectors such as life sciences and biotechnology. The city, he points out, contains two of the nation's three genome research centers and has traditionally been a hub of innovation, the place where a young Bill Boeing ushered in the jet age and another famous Bill grew up to become the richest man on the planet.

"I think the future is incredibly bright for Seattle," Nickels said. "I think this is a center of creativity and energy unlike any other in the country. And far from having missed our opportunity, I think we are poised to take advantage of that creativity and energy amongst our people."

'There is no joy in Mudville'

Such optimism notwithstanding, the anti-Seattle sentiment is spreading. Last August, the Los Angeles Times ran a lengthy story about the city's decline. In January, the Oregonian newspaper -- which a year earlier published a story detailing the rivalry between Seattle and Portland -- ran a piece smugly proclaiming Portland as a hot new Mecca for young, creative types. Unspoken but implicit was the suggestion that Seattle, once the golden child of the Pacific Northwest, has become washed-up, as passé as flannel and grunge.

Scott Eklund / P-I
Steele (not his real name), founder of, said he sees Seattle as a city that blew its chance to join the big leagues.
The founder of, a 34-year-old advertising copywriter who goes by the screen name Steele (after a porn character he dressed up as for Halloween), said he started his site not out of hatred for his hometown, but simply to "make fun of the people we think make Seattle sucks."

At the top of his list are civic leaders who pushed through the construction of the $517 million Safeco Field baseball stadium despite opposition from voters, but have not adequately addressed transportation issues in a city with one of the worst gridlock problems in the nation.

"I think the monorail and Sound Transit are a great example of two projects that could have, if done right, solved our transportation problems or at least helped," said Steele, who declines to use his real name in interviews, feeling that his corporate clients might not approve of his sideline.

"One of the things that has added to the frustration of people is that we have these referendums and initiatives and when they pass or don't pass, our local leaders either ignore them, get them thrown out in court or just keep trying."

Steele sees Seattle as a city that blew its chance to join the big leagues. "In the mid-'90s, Seattle was really one of the top cities in the country. I traveled in Europe and everybody knew Seattle," he said. "We were No. 1 The dot-com thing was going on, we had all this tax money and the city was on top of the world. We had the chance to really step up and do all the things we're trying to do now, five years later, in a recession."

For the founder of S.O.S., a thirtysomething physicist named John who wouldn't give his last name and uses the screen moniker Mena -- a reference to a conspiracy theory involving former Gov. Bill Clinton and weapons and cocaine smuggling through a small airport in Mena, Ark. -- the litany of complaints about Seattle is seemingly endless.

The city, he says, is a "dreary, dark, drunk and dysfunctional" town of humorless navel-gazers. "Here you try to start a conversation, and (people) look befuddled, or stare at their shoes," he said. "I've had people tell me that they think Chief Seattle put a curse on this town before he died.

"If you like being by yourself, this is the place to do it. Part of the social isolation has to do with the general grouchiness. There is no joie de vivre here. Or as I like to say, 'There is no joy in Mudville.' "

He objects to Seattle's political correctness, its "almost religious worship of the environment" and its absent fashion sense.

"Every day is casual Friday," he said. "Everyone dresses like they're going off to a logging party. Or skiing. Or to a '60s commune. I remember my mom dragging me to the Seattle Opera, and seeing people come there in blue jeans and plaid shirts."

Still, John insisted the S.O.S. club is not anti-Seattle.

"We're actually trying to improve it," he said. "To make it more livable. To give people a sense that they're not alone. That's all."

So what's 'shmeng,' anyway?

Devin Sylva, a 31-year-old computer programmer who lives on Vashon Island, launched Seattle Shmeng mainly out a sense of disillusionment with the city's residents. A former resident of Hawaii, Sylva said he finds Seattle unfriendly and passive-aggressive, a small-minded big city with a vaguely disturbing juju he can't quite put his finger on. The word "shmeng," he said, describes "any bad, icky, gross feeling that makes you feel like you have to take a shower afterwards."

It's no coincidence, Sylva believes, that "Rose Red," the mini-series based on a Stephen King novel, and the TV series "Twin Peaks," were both filmed in the Seattle area.

"It kind of mirrors what the underlying vibe of everything here is -- a place that looks really normal but just under the surface there's something that's really wrong. It's just that intangible something or other. It'd be nice to figure out what it is," he said. "Other cities suck for tangible reasons, but Seattle just has something that's wrong."

Brewster, though, perceives the anti-Seattle sentiment as a self-effacing brand of civic pride. He doesn't see the Seattle-slamming Web sites as evidence of a city filled with whiny malcontents, but of a strong Internet culture and one marked by hyper-criticism of its institutions, including the "boosterish" local media. Seattle's economic boom of the 1990s, he pointed out, was spawned by unorthodox thinkers who took a skeptical view of the establishment.

"The whole new economy is about overthrowing existing things -- don't sell books in bookstores, sell them online. Don't buy in grocery stores, go to Costco," Brewster said. "This whole transformation of the way things are done is the secret of this economic success. So this kind of slam-bang criticism is a continuation of the questioning of what made the city such a hot city. It's very irreverent about the present way of doing things, because that's how you make a billion dollars, by thinking of a different way of doing things."

Brewster believes the future of Seattle rests on its ability to attract fresh voices, particularly minorities and younger people, to the table. In the '90s, he said, people were too busy working and making money to think about civic reinvention. The current economic lull, Brewster said, provides a chance for renewal.

"Now there is both the opportunity and the responsibility of shaping this place," he said. "The question to me is, will it be done by the usual people -- the Chamber of Commerce and the business interests -- or will it be done by a broader base of people who care about the city?

"Will the people on change the place into something they like and which reflects their values, or would they rather throw darts?" Brewster said.

"I'd like to see that they do both."


The following Web sites take aim at the Emerald City: --

Seattle Shmeng: The Mystery of Why Seattle Sucks --

Sick of Seattle (S.O.S.) --

820 Posts
I love Seattle.
When city bashing gets viscous, you know you're not far away from a great city. People only criticise if they see what the city could/should be with a little work.

Unacquainted Acquaintance
1,706 Posts
Heh, it's the same with Sydney. It can be so so so much better than what it is right now. I mean, the rail system's strangling itself (as Ron Christie predicted, I might add), traffic is only getting worse (yeah, like that's a surprise... :rant:).

That and our media sucks. Mostly. The SMH isn't too bad, but the Terrorgraph is Terrorable.

Its a sleepy little town
3,882 Posts
Ill rememver that sirhc8 next time someone insults Bris

I personally like Seattle very much. Its one of my Fav north american cities. Infact i think it is Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco.

there ya go :D

305 Posts
What's the saying, when you rise above the crowd, you catch all the apples? Seattle is a great city, truely sucky cities don't get websites made about them that say they suck because people don't care anyway. The fact is, Seattle is full of a bunch of nerdy activist types who love to rant about anything they can, so hence the websites... Those who have not been don't be fooled, as Seattle is a lovely place.
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