Hello, it’s Saturday morning as I write this; after several days of rain the sky is clear, and it’s not terribly humid. In my tiny backyard I can hear a chorus of air conditioners. Our little fig tree has just enough fruit coming in to make a single, small tart.
I’ve been thinking about my work and the future of it a lot these past few weeks. I’ve worked in publishing for all of my career, and have been building content management systems for the better part of the last decade. Which has me wondering if this is where I should stay, or if it’s getting to be time to do something else. (N.B. to all my colleagues reading this, I’m not going anywhere just yet, don’t panic.)
A large part of what I really like about my work is that it’s in support of writers and editors. When I deal with the more bullshit parts of my job (and all jobs have some amount of bullshit), I sometimes close my eyes and remind myself that’s what I’m doing and it’s all worth it.
But is it? Tim Maly lands on what’s been nagging me of late:
In the wake of these terrible events, pretty much all of my colleagues have discovered the renewed importance of whatever it is we were working on in the first place. I, of course, have discovered the renewed importance of understanding the role of fiction and speculation in shaping the future of the world. I think we should be suspicious about this.
Emphasis mine. I think about this especially with regards to the many statements I’ve seen about why it’s so important to support journalism in the wake of the election. And don’t get me wrong—I think it’s fucking important. But I’m also skeptical that just doubling down on what we’ve been doing is the right thing. There’s a strong argument to be made that journalism as it stands right now isn’t equipped to deal with a world in which all information flows through Facebook and white supremacy is ascendant.
I don’t think anyone quite knows what to do about that.
I was struck also by this tweet from Khaled Beydoun, in response to the attacks on Linda Sarsour for using the word “jihad” (meaning, struggle) in a speech: “The fight against Islamophobia is above all intellectual—and namely, ceasing the Orientalist distortion of words like ‘jihad’ and ‘sharia.’” Again, emphasis mine. I want to be convinced that the fight against all that ails us—Islamophobia, white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism—is an intellectual fight. (Probably because I’m vain enough to think that’s a fight in which I am at least moderately well-armed.) And I believe in how words shape the world, how changing those words can change the world.
I’m just not sure if that’s going to be enough.
“The Muslim Ban is back, baby. But only kind of?” Episode 10 of Sarah Jeong’s Airport Cases explains the recent SCOTUS ruling with all the WTF it deserves. (Bonus Sarah Jeong: Dara Lind interviews her about naturalizing as an American citizen last month.)
“After white supremacy brought Reconstruction to a violent and premature end, medicine evolved along those same dividing lines of white citizens and black outcasts. America’s developing peculiar, private, decentralized, job-pension-based health-care infrastructure was the only fit for a modernizing society that could not abide black citizens sharing in societal benefits, and one where black workers had often been carved out of the gains of labor entirely.” Vann Newkirk on the racist origins of our dysfunctional healthcare system.
A smart thread from David Roberts on how the Dems could successfully push forward on climate policy. (As an aside, I love Twitter threads and hate how Twitter has so consistently failed them. Watching writers workshop ideas in threads is a fascinating look into the way people think.)
“One document trains content reviewers on how to apply the company’s global hate speech algorithm. The slide identifies three groups: female drivers, black children and white men. It asks: Which group is protected from hate speech? The correct answer: white men.” Julia Angwin and Hannes Grassegger on the astonishing censorship rules developed at Facebook. Among other things, this is the consequence of a rules-based culture that looks for rational, programmable solutions to complex cultural problems—with some bonus ignorance about how language works thrown in. See also this great thread from Tressie McMillan Cottom, which explains how Facebook’s choices here are based on risk management rather than social justice.
“Each monologue, each snide quip about NASCARnation was meant to affirm the viewers’ sense that they felt the right feelings, saw the world the right way, and, most importantly, weren’t hateful slobs who refused to floss their only tooth while singin’ the songs of that old time religion. Never mind that most liberal policies are now built around marshalling state violence to immiserate and discipline minorities and working class whites, or marshalling state violence to needlessly carpet-bomb the Middle East or go Zero Dark Thirty on some children (remember: consensus!).” Emmet Penney on lectureporn.
“Is tough immigration control really a form of hate, or just part of the political conversation? Does rejecting a religion make you an extremist? At a time when the line between ‘hate group’ and mainstream politics is getting thinner and the need for productive civil discourse is growing more serious, fanning liberal fears, while a great opportunity for the SPLC, might be a problem for the nation.” Ben Schreckinger with a critical look at the SPLC.
“When people consider the meaning of genocide, they might only think of corpses being pushed into mass graves. But a person can be genocided—can have every connection to his past severed—and live to be an old man whose ribcage is a haunted house built around his heart. I know this because once I sat in a room and listened to dozens of Indian men trying to speak louder than their howling, howling, howling, howling ghosts.” Anne Helen Petersen on Sherman Alexie.
“Words are powerful. Words can be love and comfort — and words can be weapons. And while a writer may not be the person who picks up that weapon and fires it at a marginalized community, if we make a weapon that fits the hand of the assailant perfectly and fires a hell of a lot of bullets — we will have some blood on our hands that we can’t simply wash away.” Ijeoma Oluo on the ethics of words.
“That’s a strategic function of nothing, and in that sense, you simply could file my talk simply under the heading of self care. But if you do, make it ‘self care’ in the activist sense that Audre Lorde meant it in the 1980s—self preservation as an act of political warfare—and not what it means when it’s been appropriated for commercial ends.” Jenny Odell on doing nothing. (I love this; it reminded me of Mary Ruefle’s command to waste time.)
Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean. In a way, this book reinforces Beydoun’s point about the intellectual battleground we find ourselves on. MacLean investigates the thinker responsible for much of modern libertarian policy. As I was reading it, I kept thinking of a phrase from Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed: in the communist society in which much of the book takes place, characters censor each other whenever someone expresses possessive attitudes. “Don’t be propertarian!” they say. This book is about the propertarians.
In this weather, all I want are super cold frozen drinks and this is the best of them.
Makes 2 drinks
Salt, to rim the glass
4 oz blanco tequila
2 oz lime juice
2 oz triple sec (preferably Cointreau)
1 oz simple syrup
Lime wedges, for garnish
Rub a bit of lime around the rim of the glasses and dip in salt; set aside.
Pour tequila, lime, triple sec, simple syrup and about two cups of ice into the blender. Blend until slushy; don’t be afraid to add more ice. Pour into glasses and garnish with lime wedges.
Bonus: mix the salt with a bit of chili powder (ancho is great, but whatever you have on hand will do) and rim the glass with the chili salt for a bit of kick.
Hit reply to share reading recommendations or tell me what you’re drinking. Keep reading. —m
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