The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 10/24

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The internet was a bit of a slow burn this week. The Dave Chappelle fallout continues, sharks are returning to Cape Cod, and the history of micronations grows in prominence. Highlights: Reality TV owes Black women everything, “Notes on Shade,” the final season of Insecure, Yasmine Williams, The Believer, the Book of Revelation, ghostwriting, Colin Powell, falconry, and Alec Baldwin. 



1. Washington Post: What does reality TV owe Black women?

I love reality TV, in a way, but surprisingly don’t watch much of it. In large part, most of my knowledge of the genre comes from recaps, memes, and YouTube supercuts—many of which feature Black women. Reality TV, as with much of the internet, was built by Black women. Black women “have appeared as some of the genre’s most iconic stars and are the subject of quotes and memes that fuel Internet culture and social media discourse. They have carried shows with powerful story lines and memorable scenes that expose us as a society, which is the whole point of the ‘reality’ genre.”

Structured as a series of responses to the titular question, this article by Bethonie Butler and Emily Yahr begins with “Reality TV owes Black women … more than the ‘angry Black woman’ trope” and concludes with “everything.” Reality TV has long received “criticism about perpetuating racial stereotypes, [and] the discourse surrounding these shows has always included a whiff of respectability politics”—something all the women interviewed here are keenly aware of. 



2. Post45: Notes on Shade

I love Namwali Serpell! When doing research earlier this week, I found Serpell’s “Notes on Shade,” published in January, and I honestly don’t know how I missed it. 

A professor of English Literature, Serpell investigates Blackness on the internet in much of her work. In this piece, Serpell meditates on “the practice of ‘reading’ — adjacent to ‘camp’ but not identical with it — that also goes by the name of ‘shade.’” In her introduction, Serpell writes of how she “adores performance: sprezzatura and gestural reaction, oracular intensity and tonal sophistication. And it is black and femme — a fiercely private code for survival, a badge of pride within certain cultural cliques.”

This was a thrill to read, and it further breaks apart some of the mechanics as to why reality TV owes Black women everything. 



3. Entertainment Weekly: Crew Love: Saying goodbye to Issa Rae’s Insecure

The fifth and final season of Issa Rae’s Insecure premieres on HBO tonight. Even in season one, Rae and showrunner ​​Prentice Penny knew they wanted the show to be five seasons, both feeling “that’s the right amount of time to tell these characters’ stories.”

I love Insecure and how it “​​challenges what the prevailing culture has come to expect from predominantly Black shows because it’s a show that deals with racism without becoming about racism.”

This story oozes so much love between cast members Rae (Issa Dee), Yvonne Orji (Molly Carte) and Jay Ellis (Lawrence Walker). I’m sad the show is ending, but am excited to watch these three and more in the final season.


4. YouTube: Yasmin Williams: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

I went to an arts high school, and my best friend there majored in guitar. When she would let me, I’d do my work in one of her practice rooms. Before then, I hadn’t listened to much guitar on its own, but it’s since become one of my favorite instruments. 

Although very different stylistically from my friend, Yasmin Williams’ Tiny Desk Concert took me back to sitting on the floor of my friend’s practice room. This whole concert is beautiful, but I found myself smiling the most when Williams described the songs and her techniques, illustrated by “camera angles overhead and out front, show[ing] us the tools that help Williams execute her vision via finger picks, taps, slides and knocks. Oh, and there’s a kalimba taped to the body of her guitar, too!”



5. Gawker: The Believer Was a Victim of Mismanagement and Neglect

The Believer is one of my favorite publications. On Tuesday, the Black Mountain Institute, the publisher of the bimonthly magazine, announced the closure of the publication early next year. A statement from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which houses the Black Mountain Institute, cited a “strategic realignment within the college and BMI as it emerges from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic” as reasons for the decision. The Believer was special amongst literary publications for “its emphasis on writing that wasn’t about or in New York. Established names would be published alongside newcomers, with art culled from around the world.” 

The announcement was met with “immediate outpourings of support from readers, as well as former and current contributors, interns, and employees were shared following the news. Chief among these was the desire for someone, anyone (with money, obviously), to swoop in and buy the magazine to save it.”


6. Pipe Wrench: Apocalypse, Now?

I’m not a religious person—I stopped constantly going to church around age 10—but I’m constantly fascinated by religion and the ways in which it has been weaponized. I’ve never read most of the Bible (although I often consider it) and thus have never read the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. It “has been used to justify violence, oppression, and abuse — and it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the New Testament, as theology or literature.” It “reads as though the author took a large dose of magic mushrooms and wrote a thousand-page screenplay. The plot is convoluted, its cast goes by multiple identities and aliases, and its characters are almost painfully generic.” Early canons of Christian text didn’t even include the book.

In this radical rethinking of the Book of Revelation, “Emily Manthei asks: What if we just… took it out?”


7. Study Hall: Ghostwriting

Written by Alex Sujong Laughlin, this piece wasn’t what I was expecting it to be, although I’m not sure what that is exactly. I think I thought this essay was going to be on ghostwriting as an industry, which it touched on, and not a personal essay that, amongst many things, discusses social media as ghostwriting. I figured I would read more about how ghostwriting, as Sujong Laughlin writes, “required me to displace myself, even in my own mind, to center another perspective,” but I was pleasantly surprised by the rest. 

I often think about my voice in this column, how it has changed over the years, how I currently want it to change. It is easy for me to have these lists published week after week, but I’m petrified at the thought of the writing I’m most excited by ever seeing the light of day. I’ve yet to finish the first decade of my adult life. Reading how Sujong Laughlin “spent the first decade of my adult life finding the words to describe experiences I haven’t had, places I haven’t been, and people I’ll never meet,” made me wonder how I will look at my writing now in ten years.


8. Democracy Now!: A Reluctant Warrior? An Examination of Gen. Colin Powell’s Bloody Legacy from Iraq to Latin America

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell died on Monday of complications to COVID-19. This legacy is being greatly debated, largely down political lines, as some are valorizing him as a great statesman, despite his emphatically calling for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 after falsely claiming the country possessed weapons of mass destruction. Powell was also a key figure in the invasion of Panama in 1989. 

Of his legacy, Democracy Now guest Roberto Lovato says “the story of Colin Powell in Central America and other parts of the world is what I would call a tragic tale of militarism in the service of declining empire. And it also previews what I call the age of intersectional empire … in terms of how race is being deployed by the militaristic, bipartisan consensus elites in the United States.” Later in this segment, Lovato adds Powell had “managed to evade judgment, unlike [former secretary of defense Caspar] Weinberger, who was indicted and condemned, and then, I believe, pardoned, thanks to lobbying by Colin Powell.”

Aside from his political legacy, Powell’s death is also being discussed because he was fully vaccinated. Some are using this information to stoke vaccine hesitancy and anti-vax rhetoric despite the fact that Powell had “multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, as well as Parkinson’s.


9. Texas Monthly: Eat, Prey, Love: A Day with the Squirrel Hawkers of East Texas

I grew up in Michigan, which has a huge hunting and fishing culture. I usually fish a few times every summer (without catching anything), but I’ve never hunted. Falconry dates back four thousand years and “represents one of the oldest and most enduring relationships between human and bird. It is also perhaps the most romanticized form of hunting.” 

I’m not going to lie, the midwestern part of me loved reading this, but I couldn’t stop picturing Calypso, a red-tailed hawk, holding a half-dead squirrel in her talons as she “[tried] to figure out how to work herself loose” from some tree branches.  


10. Associated Press: Warrant: Baldwin didn’t know weapon contained live round

On Thursday, Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set of a western movie, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. Baldwin had been told the gun was safe to use and was unaware it was filled with a live round. An investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is ongoing, and photos of Baldwin “showed him distraught outside the sheriff’s office on Thursday.”


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