Tom Scocca from Gawker wrote this long read about smarm and it's one of those pieces that makes you look directly back at yourself ( I hope that's not the most self-absorbed thing I've ever written).
Scocca's critique of smarm seems to be targeted mainly at those with influence or power; he doesn't point a finger at anybody with less than 10,000 twitter followers. Nor is it necessary for him to. But his criticism on David Eggars' advice to Harvard undergraduates to not be snarky isn't completely wrong. Sure, Eggars' smarm is a form of bullshit: soft selling his brand in a way no one can really argue against, but Eggars' prescription is right for an 18 year old.
Understandably, no one needs to make a $200 million dollar movie to see what a pile of nonsense the plot of Transformers was. On the other hand, there is something worthwhile in understanding the craft of story telling, or acting, or computer animation: really getting some experience or knowledge, more than reading a wikipedia article and the first 50 pages of first book on Amazon's suggested list for the topic. Snark is a haven for those without actual experience. It allows you to seem like an expert on something when you probably don't know anything more than saying "Todd Rundgren is a goddamn hack." I don't know a thing about Todd Rundgren.
I admit snarking my ass off about pop music, or anything popular, when I was younger. Having gotten more experience listening, understanding, trying to write, or playing that genre of music, I only started to grasp how powerful and connecting a lyric or song could be that a critic probably would write off as "trite." And that's driven me to a ton of behavior that would probably fall under Scocca's definition of smarm. Hopefully, most of what as a musician or a listener is driven by passion and love of the craft, but sometimes you just don't insult somebody or their work because it's the wrong thing to do or it will hurt your career.
Which leads me to my last point. His examples of memorable negativity (Hunter Thompson on Nixon, Mencken on the Scopes Trial, etc.) are all truly fantastic works written by certified giants in their field. No, you don't have to have a lick of previous credit to do something truly wonderful, but it certainly helps. Personally, I don't feel like I've ever done something truly great, although I certainly hope I've given every project I've been on my absolute best. But I don't think Moby's wonderful negative piece of R. Kelly's "Black Panties" would carry the same weight if it wasn't Moby writing it (and he still fills the piece full of "conditional" smarm). For me, I'd rather focus on truly amazing works, things that inspire because of their novelty, their genius, or their charisma. And if you come across something bad, learn from it. Ask yourself why it's bad and how you can avoid the same mistake, instead of tweeting about its worthlessness.