I guess I have to bring this up

Outside has been Pocketed, and the whole weird show may be coming to offices near me

On February 22, Pocket Outdoor Media, already the owner of Podium Runner, Women’s Running, Trail Runner and many other fitness-media brands, announced that it was acquiring Outside Integrated Media, Outside TV and several other entities and would be adopting the corporate name Outside. As you can see from the Pocket Outdoor Media home page, the familiar black-and-yellow Outside logo now adorns the site, with the old URL retained for now.

I’m guessing you’ve never heard of Pocket Outdoor Media, which is why I assume the decision was made to slap an already well-known label on the new twenty-nine brand conglomerate. But I’m guessing with even greater confidence that you’re familiar with some of the brands the company has been operating for a few years, now control or both, especially if you’re a regular visitor to Beck of the Pack. (Someone needs to make me a cheesy logo.) As it happens, I’m no stranger to these enterprises myself, and am prepared to offer a mixture of events I expect to occur and scenarios that would be good for the running world overall. In some instances, these ideas are distressingly divergent.

Starting with the basics, from the warped perspective at looking at these brands as legitimately placing the advancement of running-centric concerns at the top of their 2021 priority lists, Podium Runner and the other publications listed now have unrestricted access to the content of Sweat Science creator Alex Hutchinson.

If just a dozen immortal clones of Hutchison could be made, not only would everyone else interested in writing about running be forced to look for other jobs, but far more North Americans would become interested in the sport instead of being distracted by noise before getting a chance to discover its elegant mental, biomechanical, metabolic and other underpinnings. He is simply that good, better than anyone else who has ever covered the sport from any angle—technical, physiological and in between. I take occasional pride in the words I use to convey sometimes-gritty concepts that I study as diligently as I can, but Hutchinson can think and write circles around me and I am glad for it. He seldom mentions that he almost broke four minutes for the mile himself and has a 13:52 5,000 meters to his credit. And despite being the wisest voice in the sport, and its most persistent pure thinker in the area of endurance-sports performance, he never lets bombast or his own ego dilute what he has to say (in addition to not knowing as much as Hutchison does, I’ve been know to let those factors creep into my own work).

Anything that makes Hutchinson’s work available to a wider audience is a good thing for the sport of running. He could turn out to be a skinhead and this would still be true, luckily for him.

I expect that the editorial hierarchies in place before the acquisition will remain in place, meaning that Outside Online’s coterie of established Wokish hacks are now in the mix in their accustomed places. The question is whether the new CEO (I don’t think “publisher” is a real term anymore in contemporary media) will be cool with overtly discriminatory policies like the ones Outside began boasting about instituting in 2018, and which at least one of its editors has been happy to implement both in her dealings with me and in her habitual assignment of dishonest hit pieces to Martin Fritz Huber.

Mirhashem has shown every symptom of being a terminal dirtbag, but in the context of her so-called newsroom’s grisly mission, she has hardly gone rogue. When I e-mailed the Outside editor-in-chief, Chris Keyes, in the many months into Molly Mirhashem’s sitting on my ostensibly finished piece, he was too much of a douche to even respond and bounced my message back down the sewage stream to Mirhashem, who resumed the stalling game until I eventually gave up in frustration.

I never experienced anything like this chain of craven, dismissive nonsense in hundreds of instances of correspondence with editors who have handled my submissions in my twenty-two-plus years of professional writing in various niches. The editors who thought that these pieces needed more work even after a few tries, or had just plain missed the mark, were happy, often eager, to tell me exactly why this was; in most cases they were undeniably right. They certainly never tried ghosting me until I and my allegedly accepted piece went away. At the time, I was willing to attribute Mirhashem’s behavior to a protracted brain-cramp or undisclosed pressure or just plain sucking at being an editor, all of which may have in fact contributed to her floundering, then and now. But shadiness and the offloading of personal responsibility in favor of instituting cold groupthink norms is emblematic of the way entities powered by Wokism operate, so in retrospect, none of it was a surprise. If she’s allowed to keep being a turd, she will. If not, there are unlimited career opportunities in Wokism for editor-like humans with solid résumés but no integrity.

I also have it on very solid speculation that at least one person with sway at the Podium Runner-Women’s Running editorial agglomerate is unhappy with Huber’s work, in particular his jabs at Tracksmith. If so, whether this will affect Outside’s inclination to work with him remains to be seen. But internal voices have already gotten one longtime freelancer ejected from that swamp, so I suppose we* shall see.

These concerns are entirely, and conveniently, distinct from Outside’s accounting fiasco, the systematic nonpayment of over $150,000 to various (obviously) freelancers, a scam that evidently only ended last spring after enough contributors had realized they weren’t the only ones who’d been stiffed. Stunningly, Outside was already known for paying extremely late when it paid at all. In a Twitter thread, Mirhashem addressed only the more innocuous aspect of this:

To the extent these claims represent anything other than crap, it might be a passive diss of Larry Burke, the man who sold the Outside hive of degeneracy to the entity that now bears its stylish name, probably from a yacht, and a suggestion that he was the guy responsible for the money problems, meaning those problems have been solved. That may well be the case, but the fact that Mirhashem and the rest of the current crew have, by design, driven the publication into editorial disrepute can’t be solved with either a lame series of tweets or timely, guaranteed payments to freelancers, especially if those freelancers are Wokezillas and are motivated by a startlingly fair business arrangement to produce yet more whiny, dolorous bafflegab.

If Huber and others I haven’t mentioned represent a potential conflict between merging content suppliers, a number of other areas are ripe for synergy. One of them is Alison Désir, profiled in Outside last year and in Women’s Running in January.

To know Désir from her profiles and online accounts is to know her as an anti-white racist who is hostile to the concept of women’s and girls’ sports. That someone intent on seeing women’s running end has been designated a powerful figure in the sport of women’s running suggests to me that something is deeply amiss with either women’s running itself or the manner in which its proponents select other proponents. Her thesis that running has a white supremacy problem on the basis of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder a year ago is facile, sickening, and stupid, requiring both the leap that white runners were the killers (they weren’t) and that running is visibly overrun with racist episodes.

That Women’s Running presented this idea uncritically, along with announcing Désir’s plan to write a happy bunch of bedtime stories titled The Unbearable Whiteness of Running, is a throwing down of a real gauntlet. Remember, she says that if you are white, you are being told you need to change, even though you fundamentally can’t, and you have to do it by reading certain canonical texts. Do not question what they say; your Whiteness blinds you from the deeper truths. None of this is negotiable. In other words, she demands that you join a cult.

Will editors gaily promote the cult promulgated by this long-suffering product of an elite prep school and Columbia University until she gets her wish? And what, exactly, is that wish?

Wokism being not so much as cult as a religion, the key thing to remember about critical social justice (think “social justice warrior,” but without the need to shed tears over my name-calling) conquests is that there are no deeper questions allowed, no application of logic, no cries of “Hey, aren’t you just fighting hate with hate?” tolerated. There is only an effort to convert everyone to the rigid point of view that Caucasians, all of them, have something to atone for that they can never fully repair but must die trying, no matter now much repeated humiliating behavior this demands. It is a lifelong process, with the promise but not the delivery of vague but empowering personal salvation. If you’re a Christian, you have Adam and Eve (mostly Eve, naturally) to blame for your indelible stain. If you’re not Wokish yet, it’s your Whiteness. And no, I’m not making these terms up, nor am I mistaking common nouns for proper ones. Woke-speak is an ancillary language by design, meant to obfuscate and apply judgments rather than communicate. It’s like Nadsat for folks even more intent on mayhem than Alex DeLarge and his droogs.

You can see from the stories about Désir that, other than dispensing of sex categories in running altogether, she presents no goal for society to aspire to or even a pretense of one. “It is time for white people in the running community to cultivate a white identity that is separate from white supremacy” is empty content, other than being coupled to advice to read some of the worst books ever written, among them White Fragility by the entrepreneurial hate-monger Robin DiAngelo. It is an invitation to pull up a chair and feel guilty, mouth agape at the relentless absurdities but somehow unable to turn away.

In Christianity, the Rapture or admission to Heaven are the hypothetical endpoints of living or at least preaching a the tenets of the faith, but in the real world, these concepts are always somewhere over the horizon. So it is with Wokism. And as such, it is the editorial gift that keeps on giving, because the Wokish will continue “problematizing” sports, workplaces, liberal feminists, Substack writers, and the ghost of Dr. Seuss until every last twinge of personal butthurt has been obliterated from all of their asses, which of course never happens even in people with a relatively stable outlook.

This all implies that if Alison Désir and other self-interested agitators keep seeking attention from media outlets, they’ll get as much of it as they like. We live in a time when a lying fool who struggles to break seven hours in a marathon calls herself an athlete, and none of her three trillion unique followers dares to say, “A kitchen is not a workout venue, a wine glass is not a workout implement, and live Instagramming is not a workout” or its equivalent in emojis.

Another thing Outside might consider is that both political conservatives and sane liberals run, too, and the overwhelming majority of them are not white supremacists. Signaling that everyone who is not orthodox Wokish is flatly inimical to a fair society is, at best, off-putting to this cohort. Lately, and for all I know as a longstanding feature, the Outside Online Twitter feed has overtly reflected far-left politics. That’s their choice to make, but it seems an odd one given the potential losses—right?

Then again, look what happened when Roger Ailes came along and decided to create a network that, rather than try to attract as wide a segment of the American viewership as possible, instead picked about half and decided to enslave these viewers with repeated bouts of emotional abuse. This proved both terrible for the media’s reliability and enormously profitable for the Rupert Murdoch Newscorp empire, and it was inevitable that MSNBC and others would wind up employing the same strategy. And what do you know? MSNBC overtook Fox News as the most-watched cable news network at some point during the Trump presidency, relying on a shambling series of former intelligence spooks, retired FBI agents and washed-up Republican insiders—folks you can really trust!—to buttress Rachel Maddow’s breathless promises about Russiagate.

It’s not at all unlikely that Outside, apart from whatever personal convictions new CEO Robin Thurston holds, will continue to employ a rage-first, facts-second, social-good-dead-last publishing model in its op-ed-style pieces, because this is a clear moneymaker, and it’s hard to see that train losing acceleration anytime soon, much less halted or even held to a steady speed. There are simply too many younger Americans with rampant insecurities compelling them to start running and framing it in terms of a galactic struggle against Everything for the market for this garbage to dry up.

Which leads to another interesting supposition. Outside Online’s corporate offices were, and for the time being remain, in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Outside’s offices (I’m now referring to the entire company, i.e., the former Pocket Outdoor Media) are here in Boulder, adjacent to one of my regular running routes and close to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, which gave me Rosie. I have to wonder if Santa Fe is big enough to offer the combination of enough pathologically exercise-crazed, literate-enough humans in need of employment and enough hungry Wokish in need of cancelable meat to properly staff the Outside offices in Santa Fe now that more bodies with these non-normative traits may be needed. Boulder, on the other hand, is to these characters what Provincetown is to the well-off gay man or South Africa is to diamonds.

A couple of industry observers who know more than I do, but whose names I’ll omit here because they don’t know I know what they’ve said about the matter, believe the move will occur. If it does, the admins will probably seek a no-trespass order against me before they even get the phones and power turned on, assuming any of them have the brains to remember where I live.

Also, you’ve perhaps noticed that most of complaints about this blog mention, derisively, that I’m old. First, as true as that is, I bet I could still outrun the best ten-member relay team the entire worldwide Wokish brigade could assemble over any distance, which counts for something in running. Second, who are the coaches and writers who guided these Gen Z types (the runners who actually run, I mean) through the sport in their fledgling days and created most of the running literature those coaches rely on? Has the sport been built on the backs of people who are all younger than 40 today? I obviously have no desire to feed the media machine anymore, but other relative graybeards probably do, or at least would prefer to read about something on what’s advertised as a running site besides someone’s latest cancel-worthy thought-crime.

Finally, to state the obvious, Runner’s World is probably wondering what it can do to retain whatever its market share is, other than also continue to repel conservative readers, and I have no idea in what direction any of the pertinent numbers have been moving. I also have no clue how much content currently available in print will shift to a digital-only model. RW seems to be sticking to a lot of training-related stuff, which I see as a positive no matter what it consists of because it reminds us* what the central focus of running as a sport is about. It is a contest fundamentally with the self, with one’s competitors, teammates and advisers serving as substrate for improving whatever gifts the self brings to the mix.

To use running primarily as a battleground for misguided culture wars is to intentionally toss it into the toilet. So far, it hasn’t been decisively flushed yet, and maybe these entities don’t have as much influence—good or bad—on runners who are locked into the idea of competitive results as I fear. No one is going to give up on their marathon dreams because the immoral leeches who have placed themselves in charge of the public discussion on fairness won’t shut up. But if all anyone can think about on a run or at a race is either how oppressive they’ve been or how oppressed they should feel and continue feeling indefinitely, and enough road-race newbies get the idea that their own opinions are not just worthless but evil, it’s not going to be close to what it could be. Shutting down others with blind accusations of -isms is an assured way of bringing ruin to any situation, and since the Wokish have no more intention of letting up than Mormon missionaries do, don’t be afraid to offer input to the editors of any stories you see along the lines of the ones I’ve reviewed here in the past six months or so. Sheer troublemakers and liars are not the only runners capable of exerting influence on their peers as well as on publishers, or whatever media-company heads are now called.