The Internet is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week

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Scarlett Johansson pretended to be woke. Taylor Swift was named Artist of the Decade. The internet was kinda weird this week, more interesting stuff happened off of it. 

Highlights: the US education systems addiction to graphic calculators, against economics, Pete Buttigieg is a lying MF, criticizing woke culture, Queen & Slim, the end of fashion collaborations, a Boomer that loves “Ok, Boomer,” Mark McGrath’s Cameo breakup, and #buttholesunning.  

1. GEN: Big Calculator: How Texas Instruments Monopolized Math Class

Somewhere, I have a TI-84 Plus Silver Edition graphing calculator. I have not used it since 2013 when I graduated from high school. And the only reason I know that I still have one is that I found it a couple of months ago when visiting my parents, although I’ve since forgotten where it is in their house. 

The calculators, which coast around $100 depending on the version, were never something I or my sister had to worry about affording. For many students, however, the coast is insurmountable forcing teachers to source the calculators themselves as it is “just what the curriculum demands,” according to a Baltimore Public School teacher Stephen Thompson, as “the U.S. education system has become addicted to Texas Instruments, which has a staggering, monopolistic hold over high school math.” 

2. New York Review of Books: Against Economics

I read this article and the first thing I did—before I even finished it—was send it to my dad. My father is an economist, and many of our conversations—it does not matter the topic—touch on how said topic engages with the economy. He religiously reads this list, and I asked him if he would write something about this article. Here is what he said: 

Is economics “a science designed to solve problems that no longer exist” after the 2008 financial crisis? Does it fail to ask “whether it is really necessary to have quite so many people sleeping on the streets?” David Graeber’s review of Robert Skidelsky’s Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics presents an oddly compelling view of contemporary economic issues through rose-colored glasses where “there are plenty of magic money trees in Britain, as there are in any developed economy. They are called ‘banks.’” The only clouds on Pollyanna’s horizon are orthodox economics and that British parliamentarians believe that money is “produced by the Royal Mint” when in reality “bankers simply wave a magic wand and make the money appear.” The implication is that all manner of social programs can be funded through this magic wand without stressing the economy and without anyone ever actually having to pay for them.

Were this article even a little self-aware it would be wonderful camp: e.g. in its criticism of economic theories that seem “self-evident, but only if you leave most of the critical factor out.” The questions of inequality, of whether marginalized persons can access economic opportunities, of what to do about homelessness are the right questions to ask. Conservative economics has in fact provided too few answers to these questions. Graeber’s review accurately captures the idealism of the new left in addressing these problems through social programs, but replaces a perhaps tired economic orthodoxy with a new heterodoxy that unfortunately is part aspiration, part fantasy, and no reality.

3. The Root: Pete Buttigieg Is a Lying MF

At this point, I’m surprised at how much airtime Pete Buttigieg is getting. 

On Monday The Root’s Michael Harriott called Buttigieg a “lying MF,” after video footage from 2011 aired of him stating that “kids need to see evidence that education is going to work for them… You’re motivated because you believe that at the end of your education, there is a reward; there’s a stable life; there’s a job. And there are a lot of kids—especially [in] the lower-income, minority neighborhoods, who literally just haven’t seen it work. There isn’t someone who they know personally who testifies to the value of education.” Harriott called Buttigieg a lying MF because he “went to the best educational institutions America has to offer and he—more than anyone on the goddamned planet—knows that everything he just said is a baldfaced lie.” Further, Harriott argues, because Buttigieg knew he was lying it was “not just a lie of omission, it is a dangerous precedent. This is why institutional inequality persists. Not because of white hoods and racial slurs. It is because this insidious double-talk erases the problem by camouflaging it. Because it is painted as a problem of black lethargy and not white apathy.” 

4. The Root: Pete Buttigieg Called Me. Here’s What Happened

I could have very easily added this as a hyperlink in my comment on the previous article, but I think these articles hold equal weight, and both should be read. 

After Harriott’s article caught the attention of the internet, Buttigieg called him to have a conversation. During the call, “Buttigieg didn’t want to tell me his side of the story. He didn’t excuse himself by explaining that the comments referenced by the article were made years ago. He didn’t even try to explain his plan for black America.” But at the end of the day, “the only thing I actually know about Pete Buttigieg is that he is a white man” and he “listened, which is all you can ask a white man to do.”

I’m still not convinced that this has played itself out. 

5. New Republic: The Strange Liberal Backlash to Woke Culture

Honestly, I’m very interested in this article, and the general conversation criticism on woke culture, but I am also not quite sure how to feel about it all. Largely, the culture I have known is woke culture. I went to undergrad from 2013–2017 and conversations about censorship on campuses across the country abounded. I tend to think of woke culture as a form of reading the history of a person, a culture, or an experience. This is also to say how many histories, apart from the dominant one, a person knows and can recognize in the world around them. 

Here Ryu Spaeth reviews three books critical of woke culture in which the authors, Meghan Daum, Bret Easton Ellis, and Wesley Yang, “have chastised the left for its supposedly histrionic excesses.” The books, in effect, all emphasize “one sort of freedom over all others: the freedom to be wrong, to be offensive, to be exempt from any obligation to anyone else.” 

I haven’t read any of the books, but this review, and criticism on woke culture generally seems, at least to me, to be based on the central culture: is it about education or cancellation? And either way, whose job is it to educate whom? How do the “unwoke” arise without the woke? And, as many people who are aware of multiple histories are parts of marginalized groups, is it always their job to educate others? Because it shouldn’t be. 

6. The New Yorker: The Powerful Perspective of “Queen & Slim”

I saw Queen & Slim on Thursday and I am still thinking about it. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I post another review of it in the following weeks. 

The film follows “a couple on a first date who kill a police officer in self-defense, and their subsequent life as fugitives.” The principle of the film questions how “a system capable of dispensing such arbitrary deaths cannot be trusted in any context, least of all to administer justice on behalf of those whom it also victimizes.” It has been described as the black Bonnie and Clyde but that “is the story of two outlaws who are fleeing justice; ‘Queen & Slim’ is a meditation on a system of justice that treats innocent people as outlaws.” The film is filled with reference to Blackploitation films and Spike Lee, the Black Panthers, the murder of countless unarmed Black people, and uses Assata Shakur as a guiding star. 

Queen & Slim “is an extrapolation of thoughts that run through the heads of black people each time we’re called upon to mourn publicly, to request justice like supplicants, to comfort ourselves with inert lies about this sort of thing stopping in the near-future,” and “stands as strong a chance of being hailed and lauded as it does of being denounced and picketed, but it understands the inescapable fact that heroism is entirely a matter of context, that heroes need not be concerned with explaining themselves, and that [there]…stands a great likelihood of being misunderstood.”

Queen & Slim is one of those films you only need to see once. But is necessary to see it once. 

7. The Outline: There are no more fashion collaborations left

The other week I was sitting in critique staring at my friend’s feet—more specifically her shoes. This went on for the whole critique, which lasted over an hour. I was trying to remember when Nike and Puma did a collaboration. After the critique, I asked her about her shoes—to her relief as she noticed I was staring at her feet. Cheerfully, she informed me that there was not a collaboration between the two brands, but her shoes had translucent fabric and she was wearing Puma socks underneath. 

Collaborations between clothing and fashion brands, and celebrities (which are also just brands at this point) are becoming increasingly common. Just this week Prada and Adidas dropped the first items from their collaboration. In the past few years “the notion of “collaboration” has widened to the point of abstraction.” In the past, “the point of a fashion ‘collaboration’ is that one brand lets another brand (or multiple brands) do some stuff in their name.” Now “a collaboration can mean that a celebrity partnered with a brand to make something that is not quite official merchandise but will still provide them with a stream of revenue, that a fancy brand wants to “remix” clothes by a less-fancy brand and sell them at a marked-up price, or it can mean that a high-fashion designer wants to work with a mass-market clothing company to sell a cheaper-than-usual sweater or whatever while the mass-market clothing company wants to inject an air of class into their otherwise pedestrial clothes.” These collaborations, particularly the celebrity ones, are also, ostensibly, about leveraging fanbases to sell more products at a higher price. But this can also backfire as people my not buy something they otherwise like because of the celebrity collaborator. But with stan culture at a high, maybe that doesn’t matter. 

8. The Atlantic: Everyone Hates the Boomers, OK

Both of my parents are Boomers. They don’t always agree that they are “true Boomers” because they were both born between 1955 and 1965, the decade that was added on after the fact. One time my mother disagreed with me that she was a Boomer before asking me how to send a YouTube video. That was perhaps the first time I said some variation of “Ok, Boomer.”

The “Ok, Boomer” meme reached its height around two weeks ago.  As with most memes, it heard its death rattle “when some legit news outlet—The New York Times, NPR—takes notice and spies in the meme a cultural signifier, perhaps even a Larger Metaphor. Deep thinkers hover like vultures. The world surrounds the meme, engulfs it, suffocates it, drains it, ingests it. By the end of the week, Elizabeth Warren is using it as the subject line of an email fundraiser, next to a winking emoji.” The meme was so significant because what it “made plain is that the only thing all these age cohorts agree on is that as bad as everybody else is, the Boomers are worse.”

9. Twitter: Mark McGrath’s Cameo Breakup

Lmao! Cameo is an app that “lets fans book a personalized video shout-out” from their favorite D-list celebrities. Well, a girl booked Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath to break up with her boyfriend because McGrath is his favorite. During the breakup, McGrath admitted that it was his first video and was very sympathetic to the now ex-boyfriend (the breakup was due to distance, but she still wants to be friends) and wished him luck on his thesis. I’M DYING. 

10. RollingStone: Sorry, Anus Tanning Is Not Really a Thing

So this headline basically says everything you need to know but yeah… an influencer on Instagram, @metaphysicalmeagan, went viral this week for a picture she posed with her butthole/vulva exposed to the sun in which she explained the benefits, which include “hormone regulation, libido strengthening” and “creativity and creative output,” of #buttholesunning (her hashtag) in the comment. Megan said she learned of “perineum sunning through my studies of Taoism and Tantric practices.”

The photo had about everything necessary for a viral photo: “pseudo-scientific, goofy wellness jargon, egregious cultural appropriation, and a photo of a lady with her clothes off.” But there is very little, if any, peer-reviewed research to support Megan’s medical claim, and about “the half dozen or so traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) providers contacted by Rolling Stone” did not have familiarity with the practice and couldn’t comment on any benefits the practice could have. 

*All images taken from reference articles*

Have a suggestion for next week? Email with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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