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

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Life is stressful, but the internet was hella good this week! A few gems: Deborah and Tamia Cox broke the Black internet, Samuel L. Jackson is telling you to stay the fuck at home, some labradors were very good sportsdogs, someone needs to check on Ina Garten, a livestream of a bird library, and an orangutan told a rapturous story to some otters

Highlights: Isaac Chotiner interviews Richard A. Epstein, Detroit faces coronavirus, COVID-19 is not your vacation, Coronavirus TV, epicrisis on social media, saving indigenous languages, Animal Crossing, friend dates, Rihanna, and 2000s celebrity drama. 

1. The New Yorker: The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration

Isaac Chotiner interviewed legal scholar Richard A. Epstein, whose March 16th article for the conservative think tank the Hoover Institution “questioned the World Health Organization’s decision to declare the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic,” saying that “public officials have gone overboard,” and suggested approximately 500 people in the US would die from COVID-19. (Epstein subsequently acknowledged that 500 number as a mistake and updated the number to 5,000.) Epstein’s article reportedly circulated amongst the Trump administration. 

Epstein’s dangerous ludicrousness is almost unfathomable, and it’s on full view in the Q&A with Chotiner. The below section of the interview comes after Chotiner questions the scientific rigor of Epstein’s analysis. (Chotiner is in bold.) 

I know, but these are scientific issues here.
You know nothing about the subject but are so confident that you’re going to say that I’m a crackpot.
No. Richard—
That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it? That’s what you’re saying?
I’m not saying anything of the sort.
Admit to it. You’re saying I’m a crackpot.
I’m not saying anything of the—
Well, what am I then? I’m an amateur? You’re the great scholar on this?
No, no. I’m not a great scholar on this.
Tell me what you think about the quality of the work!
O.K. I’m going to tell you. I think the fact that I am not a great scholar on this and I’m able to find these flaws or these holes in what you wrote is a sign that maybe you should’ve thought harder before writing it.

2. New York Times: Coronavirus Sweeps Through Detroit, a City That Has Seen Crisis Before

I grew up in Michigan and moved back after a six-year stint on the east coast to pursue my MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art in a suburb of Detroit. Michigan currently has one of the highest numbers of reported cases of COVID-19 in the country, with about half of them in the Metro-Detroit area. 

In 2013, Detroit became “the largest city in the United States ever to seek bankruptcy protection,” and currently has fewer than 700,000 residents, down from its peak in the 1950s of 1.8 million. It is a city “that has seen more than its share of crisis,” a city filled with systemic  inequities that highlight how class, race, and other factors play into the current pandemic. But Detroit resident and filmmaker Dream Hampton says “We know what it’s like to come together for one another… We never measured our city’s comeback by how many people moved here from Brooklyn, or how many downtown buildings a single Republican billionaire could buy. We focus on our ability to come together as a community.”

3. BuzzFeed: This Pandemic Is Not Your Vacation

My parents own multiple houses. One is in a major city. Another in the suburbs. And the favorite house of everyone in the family is a rural vacation home, The Cabin. The Cabin is in the middle of the woods, there is no WiFi, and there are no other homes in sight. There has been conversation about waiting out COVID-19 at The Cabin, but we haven’t gone up yet. My family isn’t alone in this thought, and “all over the United States, people are fleeing urban areas with high infection rates for the perceived safety and natural beauty of rural areas. Some of them own second homes in those areas; others are paying upwards of $10,000 a month, depending on the area, for temporary housing.” 

It has been noted that one of the primary vectors of the virus is wealth, and “the virus travels via people, and the people who travel the most, both domestically and internationally, are rich people.” The problem with fleeing to rural areas is they often don’t have the medical facilities, public services, or food-supply chains that are robust enough to support the influx of people seeking refuge from the virus. And many people arriving in these rural areas are not taking appropriate precautions. The question that anyone, including my family, who is thinking of waiting this out in a rural area needs to consider is “whether your relocation to a rural place will be a net help or a harm — not for you, personally, but for the community itself. Americans struggle mightily with the ideology of individualism: that all that matters, in a particular moment, is what is happening to you and yours. Rural America is asking you to think otherwise.”

4. Vulture: If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode

Since my school closed down in mid-March, one of my friends has been talking about how excited she is to watch movies about this present time period when they inevitably come out. She has also mentioned that it is hard for her to find things to watch right now, particularly TV shows, because they have so quickly become distant from the reality in which we now exist. 

Maria Elena Fernandez at Vulture had a similar thought and posed the question, “How would TV’s most beloved characters navigate social distancing in these dark days?” to dozens of showrunners and creators, and this is a list of what the 37 respondents had to say. 

5. Amodern: Epicrisis for an Epic Crisis

I found this article through Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Twitter account, where she uses the technique epicrisis, “a rhetorical figure that describes the process of citing and commenting on a quotation” to retweet the professor James Brown, who tweeted a link to this article he wrote in which Cottom’s account is used as an example. This article traces the use of epicrisis by social media moderators and users through telephone operators of the past. This work involves “a constant repetition of harmful, violent, and abusive content, and this repetition wears on those forced to make sense of it,” and has only grown with the proliferation of social media. “From white women in the parlors of the 19th and early 20th Century being asked to manage and ‘draw out’ conversations to those same women being asked to absorb abuse and harassment of telephone subscribers as they worked as operators, to the Black and Hispanic women who were then asked to step into those positions when white women vacated them, the tale of our toxic communication infrastructure is indeed epic scale and centuries in the making.” This is a fascinating read addressing the intersection of communication technologies, race, class, and gender. 

6. The Believer: Save the Words

The preservation of indigenous language is a conversation topic that I witness all the time, mostly on Twitter. I’m familiar with snippets of “the fight to keep indigenous languages alive, through speaking, software, and day care,” but it was informative to read a full article on it. Language is fundamental to how we understand and experience the world and how culture is sustained. it is particularly pertinent right now, when thinking about how the pandemic could affect Native American elders, some of whom are part of the last generation to grow up speaking their native languages. An elder member of the Menominee Nation, based in what is now Wisconsin, “once explained the importance of the language using the actual structure of Menominee as a metaphor. There are animate and inanimate nouns, and the body is animate—but only because it holds a soul. Without the soul, there is no animacy. Language, this elder instructed, was the soul of the Menominee people. Without it, they would become inanimate.”

7. Bitch Media: Saved by the Bells

I didn’t grow up playing video games and honestly hadn’t heard of Animal Crossing, first released in 2001, until its most recent iteration, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, was released last month for the Nintendo Switch. The internet has been abuzz with talk of the game. The concept of the game is simple: “You inhabit a town filled with animals and, slowly, day after day, the town grows and changes and becomes more fruitful—literally. You build friendships with your new neighbors; collect fruit, fish, and bugs; offer donations to the museum; and customize clothing at the tailor.” Animal Crossing differs from most video games in that there is no “hero-villain dichotomy” and players don’t “race against the clock… The game’s internal clock keeps with our clocks IRL, with days passing as ours do, and there’s no goal that has to be completed on any given day. Instead, the player decides what to accomplish, if anything at all.”  

As someone who has never played the game, this conversation among Bitch Media’s staff members offered a glimpse into the cultural phenomenon, and why it is providing a much needed bit of escapism for people right now. 

8. The Cut: The Worst Friend Date I Ever Had

My best friend sent me this “uncomfortable but funny” story about making friends as an adult. My friend and I met our senior year of high school. We lived in the same dormitory. But the way we became friends was much like how Samantha Irby questioned the process here: “Are you just supposed to walk up to an interesting-looking person on the street and ask them to be your friend?” I, like Irby, “can usually glance at a person and know at first sight that we’re probably going to get along.” 

One day I saw my now-best-friend in our dorm, walked up to her, told her she looked cool and that I wanted to be friends. From there our friendship developed as many do: over meals. I don’t remember if we had the same lunch period, although “lunch is a good friendship-testing situation, because nighttime feels too much like a date and doing anything during the day makes it easier to pretend you have something urgent to get to if it fucking sucks,” but we eventually ate lunch and dinner together everyday. I honestly can’t recall if we ever had a bad friend date. 

We stayed in constant communication through transitioning to college, and even managed to see each other at least once a year. Not much has changed since we were 17. Don’t get me wrong, walking up to a stranger asking them to be my friend was awkward as hell, but it was the best first move I’ve ever made.   

9. Vogue: Rihanna Talks New Music, Fenty Skincare & Her Plans To Have “3 Or 4 Kids”

OH MY GOD!!! ANOTHER RIHANNA PROFILE! Sadly, this one isn’t filled to the brim with fantastic photos, BUT it is fully stocked with beautifully descriptive fangirl moments. By all counts, Rihanna is tremendously charismatic, and the fact that she is “in real life, bashfully generous in new situations, only adds to the addictive quality of her charm. I can’t stop looking at her… She looks like a woman who has mastered living in her own skin, who has nothing to hide.” Surprisingly, there is no mention of how Rihanna reportedly smells like heaven here. 

10. Twitter: Current Stan Culture would have never survived the It Girl War of the Early 2000’s. A thread.

I greatly debated using this thread, but at the end of the day, I could not get it out of my head. I grew up in the Golden Era of Disney Channel, from the late ‘90s to mid-2000s. I LOVE Lizzie McGuire, Kim Possible, and That’s So Raven, and all of the Disney and Disney Channel films from that time. I don’t know how, but I forgot how amazing the celebrity beefs were of that time until Twitter user @DearArchie reminded me thatcurrent Stan Culture would have never survived the It Girl War of the Early 2000’s.” Honestly, I feel like there hasn’t been a universal “it girl” in so long that I forgot about “it girls” generally. 

This drama coming back into my life was a gift this week. And I hope Archie follows a commenter’s suggestion to “do one about Amanda Bynes.”

All images taken from reference articles. Have a suggestion for next week? Email afoehmke@bmoreart.com with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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