The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 9/20

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The internet was very sad and kinda all over the place this week, as was I. Highlights: RBG died, how the US Senate fails its citizens, queer theory, when do models own their image, the real Paris Hilton, Enya, an oral history of Wishbone, remembering Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his death, Kanye’s Universal contract, and banning TikTok and WeChat. 


1. NPR: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at age 87. Ginsburg, a feminist icon and champion of gender equity, had been battling cancer over the past few years. She served on the court for 27 years, “becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.”

According to NPR, days before her death, Ginsburg told her granddaughter, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” This situation recalls the summer of 2016, when Mitch McConnell blocked consideration of President Obama’s Justice picks following the death of Antonin Scalia, citing the upcoming presidential election. McConnell is not likely to take the same tack this time: “Instead he will try immediately to push through a Trump nominee so as to ensure a conservative justice to fill Ginsburg’s liberal shoes, even if Trump were to lose his reelection bid.” 

It is too soon to know how this will play out. But if filling Ginsburg’s seat can be delayed, and if Democrats can win back the Senate and the presidency in the coming election, then voting for Biden/Harris (not my ideal ticket) is better than having Ted Cruz or Tom Cotton on the bench.


2. The Baffler: Abolish the Senate

One of my editors sent this in a group chat Friday night while we were grieving Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While not directly related to Ginsburg, in this piece Thomas Geoghegan unravels how the Senate got us to this miserable place in electoral politics, and offers a way forward that’s contingent on, well, so many things. Geoghegan asserts that “if Joe Biden is elected in November, our first order of business will be to learn all over again how to govern ourselves.” He continues: “Whether we are conscious of it or not, the problem is the Constitution itself—which still privileges many of the same small states or underpopulated regions that first held back, and then wrecked, the original New Deal. If we want another New Deal of any kind, Green or not, the young in this country will have to begin by insisting on a true republic, based on one person, one vote.”

Given the antiquated system that determines how the Senate represents this country, if “North Dakota has the same power as New York to determine the will of the country as a whole, it is impossible for the chamber to act on behalf of the population as a whole—the people that we really are.”

This piece is giving me a lot to think about but has also left me disheartened. 


3. The Baffler: The House That Queer Theory Built

Academia loves queer theory. I might only be saying this because I am in the arts and I’ve come across many people at the institutions I’ve attended that use queer theory as a kind of gatekeeping intellectual/moral litmus test.

Fundamentally, writes Matt Brim, “the project of queer theory is to explore and respond to the universe of queer need, including the need to reimagine the universe of queer need.” This project, however, has been co-opted by “the depths of its success, and this is because the field’s signal provocations have been irresistibly yoked to high-class places and pedigrees. With this top-down orientation, queer theory has a class problem. More precisely, the academic field has a class stratification problem, situated as it is within a higher education system hellbent on sorting the rich from the poor and the already privileged from the already abandoned.”

Here, Brim questions how the hierarchical, classist higher education system affects future queer imagings by privileging rich Research 1 Universities and private colleges, although queer theories and pedagogies can be found in classrooms across the uneven landscape of higher education. “Are queer people materially produced by the queer ideas they learn and sometimes adopt and, even, come to believe at rich and poor schools?” Brim ponders. “Might materially produced queer ideas register in such deeply subjectifying ways that they produce different queer-class embodiments? Are queers class-made?”

These are all very interesting questions, some of which Brim attempts to answer, and some are left for our own imagining. 


4. The Cut: Buying Myself Back

Model Emily Ratajkowski makes her money by posing for photographs. The images of her that are produced, however, don’t belong to her—or at least that is how the men (and they are mostly men) that take them treat the photographs. In this deeply personal essay, Ratajkowski recounts numerous stories of how her image has been appropriated over her career, and how she has literally had to pay thousands of dollars to own a picture of herself. In one instance, Ratajkowski had to pay $10,000 to her ex-boyfriend to get back a “study” of herself by Richard Prince, after he took one of her Instagram photos and printed it on canvas as as part of his New Portraits show at Gagosian. Prince’s studio had originally gifted the study to Ratajkowski, and not her ex. 

The most gut-wrenching, disturbing, and pivotal part of this essay is Ratajkowski’s legal battle with photographer Jonathan Leder over his use of “revealing and vulgar Polaroids” in a book named after Ratajkowski and composed only of photographs of her. “When I agreed to shoot with Jonathan, I had consented only for the photos to be printed in the magazine they were intended for.” Leder continues to use these images. 

In her analysis of Ratajkowski’s essay and “the nude photo double standard,” Lauren Strapagiel writes for BuzzFeed that “the fact that the exploitation Ratajkowski described is the product of Patriarchy and Misogyny 101 — that men are taught women are disposable objects for pleasure and entertainment — makes it no less horrifying. Exploitation is not just an option for some men, but an imperative. Women, then, are not fully human. Not really.”


5. YouTube: The Real Story of Paris Hilton | This Is Paris Official Documentary

When I clicked on this video I fully did not expect to be glued to my computer for almost the next two hours. This documentary, written and directed by Alexandra Haggiag Dean, feels more like a documentary directed by Paris Hilton herself. The film explores how Paris’s childhood trauma of going to “emotional growth schools,” most notably Provo Canyon School, has affected her ever since. 

While engaging and deeply empathic to Paris, at times the documentary lacks criticality. Paris is very open about how her experiences at different growth schools have led to her indelible drive for success—at one point in the film, talking with her sister about potentially having a family, Paris says, “I will not stop until I make a billion dollars, and then I think I can relax.” And whether or not she is actually happy, there is no commentary on or exploration of her metrics of success or happiness, apart from wanting more money. Paris does seem to find some relief when she starts discussing childhood traumas, but the assumption this documentary makes, that money equals happiness, is undermined as Paris never seems to find happiness. Perhaps exploring Paris’s metric of happiness is a narrative arc for her next documentary as there is bound to be another. 


6. Pitchfork: Enya Is Everywhere

Enya has always been in my musical ethos. I rarely seek her out, yet she is always there. Over the years, she has been the punchline to jokes, but also an influence to artists like Brandy, Nicki Minaj, Grimes, Julianna Barwick, and so many others. Once you start listening for her, Enya is always there. She is “like a Rosetta Stone for a particular thread of modern pop—music that is slow and hypnotic and restorative, with operatic melancholy, solitary strength, and a discernibly feminine sense of craft.” Recently, her relegation to “patchouli-scented muzak” has waned, and the stigmatization around her dissipated. “Perhaps it is a prevailing ethos of open-mindedness in music that makes her stirring melodies and enveloping textures as beloved today by mainstream rappers and independent singer-songwriters as by the heavier reaches of the avant-garde.” Perhaps this shift, at least over the last few months, is because 2020 is a fucking dumpster fire and listening to Enya is “like listening to catharsis,” said a student named Ana who was interviewed for this piece. 


7. Texas Monthly: Top Dog: An Oral History of ‘Wishbone’

Growing up, we didn’t have cable, and all of the shows I watched were on public television. I loved PBS Kids when I was young and knew the theme songs to every show. I was born the same year Wishbone first aired, 1995, and my memory of TV begins just as the show ended in 1998. The show follows the titular character, “a plucky Jack Russell terrier as he daydreamed his way into literary masterpieces. Wishbone’s fantasies, paralleling his human family’s modern-day experiences, transported him to places like ancient Greece, where he envisioned himself as Odysseus, and events like the Hundred Years’ War, where he took on the role of Louis de Conte, a page of Joan of Arc’s.” Like many programs on PBS, “the show took its young viewers seriously. Anchored by writing that didn’t coddle, Wishbone introduced kids to complex characters and themes while still being lighthearted (and, yes, adorable).” In celebration of the Wishbone’s 25th anniversary, “Texas Monthly spoke with the writers, producers, cast, and crew of the original series for an oral history recounting how our state’s favorite literature-loving terrier got his own story.”


8. The Guardian: ‘Colourful, vibrant, sensual!’ Stars on Jimi Hendrix, 50 years gone

Jimi Hendrix died 50 years ago Friday, and “in awe of everything from his raunchiness to his skill with sheer volume, members of Pixies, Yes, Parliament-Funkadelic, Thin Lizzy and more celebrate the guitar god.” Many of the people interviewed had a personal relationship with Hendrix, and while his life was tragically short, as Hannah Findlay of Stonefield reflects, “in a way, [his death]’s almost the highlight of his life: that he made it all happen in such a short period of time.”


9. Billboard: Kanye West Tweets About His ’10’ Recording Contracts: ‘I Need Every Lawyer in the World to Look at These’

There was a point in time that I actually kept up with Kanye, but whenever he does something now, too much happens too quickly for me to keep track of whatever he is doing. Apart from ravenously tweeting in one of his normal Twitter rants, he also uploaded a video of himself (presumably) urinating on a Grammy Award, shared over 100 pages of his Universal Contracts, and called the music industry “modern-day slavery.” Record producer Hit-Boy somewhat came to Kanye’s defense (over the music contracts, not him as a person) as the producer was told by three attorneys that his contract with the corporation is the “worst publishing contract they’ve ever seen.

As with most things Kanye, this is bringing about important conversations on predatory contracts in the music industry, but so much other stuff is also going on that that conversation is getting lost in the mix, and also probably not happening in the most productive way. 


10. New York Times: Trump Administration to Ban TikTok and WeChat From U.S. App Stores

On Friday, the Trump Administration announced “it would bar the Chinese-owned mobile apps WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores as of midnight Sunday, a significant escalation in America’s tech fight with China that takes aim at two popular services used by more than 100 million people in the United States.” Currently, the ban only means that US companies can no longer transfer or process funds through WeChat, and TikTok users, as of Today and midnight, won’t have access to updates or upgrades. While Trump’s administration is celebrating this in the name of national security, Josh Gartner, TikTok’s spokesperson, said the company “will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”


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

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