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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 10/11

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The internet was surprisingly enjoyable this week. MacArthur geniuses and Nobel laureates were announced. Highlights: Black Futures, the problem with stanning, Latria Graham, the importance of learning land, being trapped by words, you might be the asshole, the case for abolition, plans to kidnap Michigan’s governor, the vice presidential debate, and Claudia Conway’s TikTok account. 

1. New York Times Magazine: Seeing Black Futures

I feel like Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham have been talking about their book, Black Futures, for YEARS and it will finally be here in December. This piece and the images that follow the text are adapted from Black Futures, which attempts to document Black culture, and hopefully encourages its readers to do the same, and stresses the importance of preserving Black visual culture. “Right now, many of us are actively engaged with dismantling the history of the past, exposing it as wrong, perverted,” the pair write. “This summer, we watched as people toppled racist monuments into rivers, renamed streets, unearthed pasts that we were told did not matter. The familiar is being made strange and shown to be ripe for revision.” For this revision to take place it is necessary “to sharpen our visual literacy as we do the work of looking back to better understand where we are headed.”

 

2. Wear Your Voice: An Open Letter to Stans

I’ve never truly stanned anyone. Sure, I was obsessed with Kim Kardashian for a while, but I’ve only seen maybe half of all Keeping Up with the Kardashians episodes, and haven’t followed her on Instagram for years. 

Increasingly, there has been discussion on the problems of polemic stan culture, and how it can fuel cancel culture instead of supporting critical discourse. Mack, a self-identified former member of Rihanna’s Navy, writes that “so much of my attachment to Rihanna and the growing Fenty brand was about identifying things in her that I felt I needed to absorb in order to become the person I wanted to be. A lot of us come to stanning as already marginalized kids in even further marginalized communities. We are Black/brown, poor, LGBTQ+, women, disabled, and/or otherwise othered.” 

But Mack also understands that stanning gets in the way of liberation for said identities as “celebrity will always require the vast majority to live without.” Bothcapitalism and Celebrity require your service as a stan. They require your obsession with The Charts. They require your ability to trend topics online. As much as it may feel like you are performing love, you are performing labor. Celebrity is an entire industry that functions to move us beyond engaging with art, to performing on behalf of it.”

 

3. Longform Podcast: #413: Latria Graham 

This interview is sooooo good! Latria Graham, whose most recent story in Outside, “Out There, No One Can Hear You Scream,” was featured in this column a couple of weeks ago, talks to Longform about everything. Graham discusses how her “goal (as a person, not just as a writer), is to be the adult that I needed when I was younger,” never having a job with benefits, writing the way she writes because “I know what it is like to be one step away from losing everything,” and how her “job is to look for the cracks as a journalist.” This is one of the most real and forthcoming Longform interviews I’ve listened to. 

 

4. Alpinist: Water is Life

From the first word to the last line, I was gripped by this essay. A necessary story told with compelling prose, Navajo writer and professor Len Necefer tells the story of his relationship with “Sisnaajini (White Shell Mountain), Tsoodzil (Mt. Taylor), Dook’o’oosliid (the San Francisco Peaks, including Humphreys Peak) and Dibe Nitsaa (Hesperus Peak),” mountains sacred to his people. Necefer explains that “the identities of many Indigenous people are based upon the linkages of language, sacred histories, ceremonial cycles and landscape that fosters their vibrance,” and reflections on how his relationship with the mountains has changed over the years and helped him connect with his heritage. Some elders say that when we lose connection with the land, the land will die and so will we. Now, as a heating climate reshapes the landscape, their words carry even more weight.”

 

5. The Paris Review: The Eleventh Word

I don’t know what my first word was, let alone my eleventh. Lulu Miller’s son’s eleventh (ish) word was fish. Miller’s book Why Fish Don’t Exist, explains that our use of the word is symptomatic of our human inability to see the world as expansively as it is. In short, scientists recently discovered that many of the creatures we typically think of as ‘fish’ are in fact more closely related to us than to each other. And when you accept this fact you will see that the category of ‘fish’ is a bum category—an act of gerrymandering we perform over nature to make it line up with our intuition.” Miller uses this framework to explore the Zeigarnik effect, which “suggests that unlabeled things gnaw and tug at you with more vigor, their parts and powers somehow more alive when they are left to roam wild, outside of the confines of our words.”

Miller’s son got his first night terror shortly after learning the word “fish.” Miller writes, “it was only with the advent of words, with the illusion that he could name the whole world, every last corner of it labeled and known, that the unknown became an enemy, became a threat.” Language is limiting, and “with each word comes a false set of assurances. That now you know how it will behave.”

 

6. The Ringer: How “Am I the Asshole?” Created a Medium Place on the Internet

I’ve never gotten into Reddit, but I have an account. I often see screenshots of Reddit stories on other places on the internet, and a couple of times a year they inspire me to log in to my account, but I’ve never gained fluency on the platform. 

Founded in 2013 by Marc Beaulac, the Am I the Asshole subreddit is a place for people to ask “a question about an interpersonal conflict, and readers weigh in about whether the poster was in the right or in the wrong and why.” It is a place without the immediate cancelation of the poster and “where accountability actually exists, even if only in the form of branding someone right or wrong in one absurd situation. It’s also a place for growth: Sometimes posters return to talk about how their lives changed—almost always for the better—because of the advice they got from thousands of anonymous strangers.” And with 2 million subscribers,AITA might be the largest public forum for conflict resolution on the planet.”

 

7. Level: Abolition for the People

The last few months of protest against police and antiblack racism have brought to the foreground more conversations about abolition versus reform. Abolition for the People, a new series created by Kaepernick Publishing and LEVEL, “seeks to end that debate once and for all.” Over the coming month, the project will publish 30 stories that discuss different aspects of abolition, “all of which point to the crucial conclusion that policing and prisons do not serve as catch-all solutions for the issues and people the state deems social problems.”

This series and Colin Kaepernick are not here to play, and two of its first essays are by Angela Y. Davis and Kimberlé Crenshaw. I’ve very excited to see what this project has in store. 

 

8. New York Times: F.B.I. Says Michigan Anti-Government Group Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

I was born and raised in Michigan. After doing a six-year stint on the East Coast I moved back to the state last June. I grew up in a suburb of the state capital, Lansing, and used to drive by the capitol building every day on the way to school. 

On Thursday, the FBI charged 13 men with terrorism, conspiracy, and weapons charges, as the men planned to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor, and overthrow the government. According to reports from the FBI, “the men spied on Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, even looking under a highway bridge for places they could place and detonate a bomb to distract the authorities.”

I frequently go to northern Michigan and many of the state’s conservative areas where it’s clear that people hate Whitmer. There are billboards calling her an idiot and “little Hitler,” right next to campaign signs for Trump. Much of this present animosity is about Whitmer’s executive order that people must wear masks inside of businesses, which isn’t even enforced in many places up north. 

The extent to which these men planned to kidnap Whitmer is somewhat surprising, but I’m not shocked at all that people hate her. People hate Whitmer as virally as the “coastal liberal elites” hate Trump. 

 

9. YouTube: Vice Presidential Debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris

I did not watch the vice presidential debate, but I did watch some clips from it. Whether or not you like Kamala Harris, she knows how to debate, and the entire evening seemed more productive than whatever Trump and Biden did. And even though I did not watch Harris and Pence, I’m still enjoying the fly memes

 

10. Wired: Claudia Conway’s TikToks Can’t Save Democracy

Over the summer Claudia Conway, daughter of Kellyanne and George Conway, became a TikTok sensation for “her bold public stances against her family and its politics.” Claudia and the information she shared on TikTok became of national concern as she broke news of her mother’s positive COVID-19 test, openly discussed her intent to emancipate from her parents, and contested the reports of Trump’s health from mainstream media outlets. “Through TikTok, she gave people hungry for information a digital glimpse at the turmoil within an opaque, frequently dissembling administration in crisis,” writes Kate Knibbs. Conway is being heralded as a resistance hero, and many are wondering, could she “take down Trump? As a story, it’s as gripping as a good YA novel: Brave teen exposes powerful liars, saves democracy, etc.” 

Knibbs, however, contests this framing, writing that “this is not a hero’s journey. It’s a sad family melodrama that happens to be taking place smack in the middle of a Venn diagram of overlapping crises in American culture.” Knibbs reminds us that “nobody knows what has really gone on in that household. Regardless of what did, the present family crisis is all the more reason to avoid treating Claudia like an oracle. She doesn’t need the weight of those expectations right now.” 

 

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

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