The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 7/19

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Not that one can predict what is going to happen on the internet any given week, but this week the internet was surprising, and almost all of my picks are about a person. Highlights: Viola Davis and Dario Calmese, the function of history, Bari Weiss, the Billionaire, Mary Trump, Nick Cannon, Naya Rivera, Megan Thee Stallion, and Twitter was hacked. 

I will also be taking a much needed and overdue break from the internet next week and will be back August 2. 

1. Vanity Fair: Viola Davis: “My Entire Life Has Been a Protest”

This profile is really fun and lovely to read! It is warm, loving, and perfectly captures what I imagine talking to Viola Davis to feel like: “spine-tingling.” Davis, known for her portrayals of “meaty, complex, mature women,” came into mainstream recognitional relatively late with her breakthrough “seven-minute performance that ended up snagging her an Oscar nomination” in Doubt in 2008. Throughout Sonia Saraiya’s conversation with Davis here, it is clear how race has affected Davis’s life and career. Davis recalls how her mother, sisters, and “the support and affection of people who knew she was worthy […] lifted her out of what she calls ‘the hole.’”

“Who’s telling a dark-skinned girl that she’s pretty?” asked Davis. “Nobody says it. I’m telling you, Sonia, nobody says it. The dark-skinned Black woman’s voice is so steeped in slavery and our history. If we did speak up, it would cost us our lives. Somewhere in my cellular memory was still that feeling—that I do not have the right to speak up about how I’m being treated, that somehow I deserve it… I did not find my worth on my own.”

Davis and all of her magnificence are on full display here. 


Dario Calmese

2. New York Times: The Black Photographer Making History at Vanity Fair

Dario Calmese made history with his portrait of Viola Davis for Vanity Fair, becoming the first Black photographer to shoot the magazine’s cover. In an interview before the cover was released, Calmese said “I did know that this was a moment to say something… I knew this was a moment to be, like, extra Black.” The image of Davis is based on “‘The Scourged Back,’ an 1863 portrait of an enslaved man whose back is ravaged by whipping scars. When Mr. Calmese came across it again a few days before the shoot, he decided to replicate it.” Calmese’s photo is not only a comment on slavery, but also “the white gaze on Black bodies, and transmuting that into something of elegance and beauty and power.” 

The photograph has also garnered criticism, however, as “Davis is stunning but the image is also superimposed on a lexicon of abused Black (masc) flesh that comprehends the meaning Gordon’s back offers, but makes it (and therefore Davis) a metanarrative of violence without quite touching the actual violence of it all,” wrote historian Jessica Marie Johnson in a Twitter thread. Johnson is “not against the cover,” she tweeted towards the end of her thread, but is “frustrated by a historical shorthand (in this case visual vocabulary) that asks Black women to be and hold centuries of violence, but never delves deeply into the way that violence is personal, physical, and metaphysically enacted on our own selves.”


3. The Point: One the Uses of History for Staying Alive 

This was the only thing I read this week that felt like many of the long reads I typically post. Bathsheba Demuth, a historian by trade, was researching the Yukon territory in Alaska when the coronavirus began gripping the country and world. In this essay, Demuth uses Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life as a way to make sense not only of her research—which inadvertently had her reading accounts of various epidemics in the region—but also of the pandemic as a whole. Demuth explores the three kinds of history Nietzsche deemed in the service of life: “monumental history, which gave men who wish to be great a dose of inspiration from the past. Antiquarian history offered traditions to lovers of custom. And critical history was a tool for casting off oppression by identifying its causes.” History is necessary for understanding the past, but imagination is also important. “A lack of imagination is a kind of incompetence. It is a reliance on a known script, fitting this fact into that expected outcome, rather than entertaining the possibility that February might look foreign by May.”

For Nietzsche, however, one of the greatest uses of history was to surpass its expectations. “History is useful when in service of personal aggrandizement, inspiring acting,” Demuth writes. “Thus it is he—always and only he—who is ‘without conscience’ who makes history by knowing just enough of it to transcend its limits.” Demuth summarizes this Übermensch as someone without “feel[ing] a sense of responsibility or empathy for others.” Of his historical ascent, Nietzsche wrote that “he forgets most things in order to do one thing; he is unjust towards what lies behind him and knows only one right, the right of what is to come into being now.” 

Nietzsche’s thoughts on history were individualistic, and he understood it “was useful because it gave a few terribly great people the knowledge to make it new. I wonder if it is not more a way to practice thinking beyond ourselves—and to understand that thinking beyond ourselves is also a world-historical force.”


4. Bari Weiss: Resignation Letter

Bari Weiss, one of several controversial conservative opinion writers at the New York Times, posted an open letter of resignation on her personal website this week. Much like the Harper’s letter on “justice and open debate” last week, which Weiss signed, her resignation is an attack on “illiberals” and the “new orthodoxy” at the Times, where “intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability,” and Twitter has “become its ultimate editor.” This theory is not new, but gained more traction after editor James Bennet resigned following outrage over the publication of Tom Cotton’s op-ed calling for military intervention on protests against police brutality. Weiss also claims that she was bullied by other Times writers in the publication’s Slack channels and on some of their personal Twitter accounts, and experienced “unlawful discrimination, [a] hostile work environment, and constructive discharge” at the newspaper. 

As Alex Shephard writes in The New Republic, Weiss “wants to frame her resignation as a consequence of this supposed hostile takeover—that she’s a free thinker cast out by an intolerant, illiberal regime. But her letter, while long on invective (and just plain long), is short on evidence, and what she’s done instead amounts to auto-cancellation: quitting, then blaming her peers for driving her out.”

This whole letter is a hot mess and apparently Weiss didn’t learn anything from last week’s Harper’s discourse. 


5. Bloomberg: Covid Conversations With One of America’s Richest Men

This is a very fascinating, but also extremely grotesque conversation. When the pandemic first broke out, Max Abelson had the idea to call the richest person he knows: a billionaire Wall Street banker. Abelson “thought someone so well connected might know what was going on.” This was in March. Abelson and the anonymous Billionaire had ongoing conversations through June 5th. Most of what is said by the Billionaire in this article is somewhat predictable and self-defensive for someone so rich but who also wants to appear like a nice person, and can be summarized by his reaction to the uprising against police brutality: “If you don’t like the system, I have no qualms. You want to break the system? Then you’d better be in charge.” The thing is, those in charge don’t want to change the system. 


6. MSNBC: Rachel Maddow One-on-One with Mary Trump

This week Mary Trump, Donald Trump’s niece, released a memoir and exposé about her family and the president, Too Much and Never Enough this week. The book, which apparently confirms Trump’s obvious vile hostility and contempt, provides insights into Trump family generally and it sold over one million copies on its first day. 

Rachel Maddow did a one-on-one interview with Mary Trump. Clips from their exchange have circulated widely across the internet and spawned many think pieces. Two of Mary Trump’s statements that are getting the most attention are her confirmation that she has heard her uncle use racial and anti-Semitic slurs, as was common practice in the family, and said “I don’t think that should surprise anybody given how virulently racist he is today.” The other was her explanation of why Donald Trump is “incapable of success” in overcoming the pandemic: “It would have required taking responsibility, which in his mind would have meant admitting a mistake, which in his mind would be admitting weakness, which in my family was essentially punished with the death penalty.”

It is honestly refreshing to see a Trump that isn’t batshit. 


7. YouTube: Nick Cannon Lands In Hot Water With Viacom For Anti Semitic Comments

This week, Nick Cannon made anti-Semitic comments on his podcast. When talking to Professor Griff, formerly of Public Enemy, Cannon said the Black people were the “true Hebrews” along with other conspiracy theories including that Jewish people control world finances. ViacomCBS condemned Cannon’s statements and announced they were breaking ties with him on Tuesday. Cannon first claimed that his comments were not anti-Semitic or emblematic of hate speech and declined to issue an apology, but later apologized for his comments and removed the episode. 

In this segment of The Breakfast Club, Rumor Report, Charlamagne Tha God, in as clear of terms as possible, iterates that “you can’t tell Jewish people what is anti-Semitic just like nobody can tell Black people what is racist, you can’t tell gay people what’s homophobic, you can’t tell women what’s sexist. The only thing you can do when you say something like that, when you demean one of those things, is you’ve got to sit back and listen. I can’t tell you that what you felt isn’t what you feel.” More people need to hear this. 


Naya Rivera

8. Los Angeles Times: Actress Naya Rivera, ‘Glee’ TV star and ‘fierce talent,’ dies at 33

After going missing while boating with her son in Lake Piru last Wednesday, the body of actress Naya Rivera was found on Monday. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning. 

Rivera was most known for playing Santana Lopez in Glee, and “many remembered her as a trailblazer for LGBTQ representation on television” as her character on the show was queer. 

Rivera is also the third main cast member of Glee to die in the past 7 years as Cory Monteith died from a drug overdose in July 2013 and Mark Salling “died in 2018 of an apparent suicide; he was weeks away from sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.”

Since her disappearance, an outpouring of support from fans and celebrities flooded social media. “On July 2, Rivera posted a now tragically poignant message on Twitter and Instagram that said: ‘no matter the year, circumstance, or strifes everyday you’re alive is a blessing. Make the most of today and every day you are given. tomorrow is not promised.’”


Megan Thee Stallion

9. Essence: Tory Lanez Reportedly Shot Megan Thee Stallion

Early last Sunday morning, Tory Lanez reportedly shot Megan Thee Stallion in the foot. Not much is concretely known about the incident, but it has been reported that Lanez and “Megan were involved in an incident that resulted in him shooting her as she fled an SUV.” Allegedly there is also a video of the incident which a source said was “an example of abuse.” The Los Angeles Police Department has not confirmed if the video exists, and “refused to identify Lanez was a suspect.” Lanez, however, “was arrested in the wee hours of Sunday morning for felony gun possession,” and has since been released on bail. All of this also apparently took place after “Meg and Lanez were enjoying themselves at a pool party in California’s Hollywood Hills.” 

I wish Megan a quick recovery, and I don’t know what happened but it is fucked up that she “suffered gunshot wounds, as a result of a crime that was committed against me and done with the intention to physically harm me,” as she wrote in an Instagram post. I am, however, also very curious about why a pool party was taking place in the middle of a pandemic? Maybe that is just me. This story is evolving with every headline.  


10. Twitter: Hacked

Twitter was hacked on Thursday in a targeted attack that took control of approximately 130 influential accounts. Some of those affected were Kanye West, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, and Michael Bloomberg. While in control, the hackers posted about a bitcoin scheme, and those tweets have since been removed. It is believed that the hackers “successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools” to gain control of the accounts. 


Images taken from referenced articles. Have a suggestion for next week? Email with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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