From the epic On Smarm by Tom Scocca at Gawker:
Snark is often conflated with cynicism, which is a troublesome misreading. Snark may speak in cynical terms about a cynical world, but it is not cynicism itself. It is a theory of cynicism.
The practice of cynicism is smarm.
Smarm, on the other hand, is never a force for good. A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all. It is a civilization that says “Don’t Be Evil,” rather than making sure it does not do evil.
Hat-tip to @ShakingStick. As someone who gets accused of snark on a regular basis: mind. Blown.
There’s also some big serious thoughts to be worked through about smarm and faux-positivity in the context of the 2014 general election … maybe in a few years when the pain has dulled!