Week Nine

Adam McKay on How To Be Political and Entertaining and Not Destroy the World

“Is there a sincere attempt to understand the world, or is the action just one of manipulation and distraction?”

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/04/12/magazine/adam-mckay-interview.html
This reminds me: I read that you and your mom have very different politics — she’s a Trump fan. How does she understand your political perspective? I honestly don’t know. There’s definitely some Fox News, OAN News talking points that get thrown around about Hollywood liberals. Here’s something funny that happened: I got an email from her husband, because we’re trying to find common ground. He sent me a video, and it was Michael Douglas talking about the corruption of our political process. He was like, “Is this something we can agree on?” And I’m like, “That video is from my group!” RepresentUs: Their singular mission is get big dirty money out of politics. They’re not a right- or left-wing group. It took him aback: He had sent me a video from my group. Then I tried to tell him: “I’m trying to explain to you: I don’t watch CNN. I don’t love Joe Biden. I’m not a fan of the D.N.C. I want money out of our politics. I want universal health care. I want fair wages.” They didn’t quite know what to make of that. I’m hoping that now that the orange turd is gone, things might settle down a little. But how would they describe my politics? They probably think I’m Karl Marx.

A Kidnapping Gone Very Wrong

In 1974, John Patterson was abducted by the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico—a group no one had heard of before. The kidnappers wanted $500,000, and insisted that Patterson’s wife deliver the ransom.

Link: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/05/john-patterson-kidnapping-mexico/618396/
“That young 31-year-old woman, she acted with no help, no one to hold her; her best friend was missing,” she said. “But she acted—I acted—completely honorably throughout that whole period. And I love her.”

Many Americans don’t support journalistic values, study says

Most — if not all — journalists likely share a commitment to a set of journalistic values, including a belief that those in power should be subject to oversight, that transparency is the right approach to important information, that facts are required

Link: https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/many-americans-dont-support-journalistic-values-study-says.php
Open mind: “I must confess that my first impulse was to resist these findings. After all, I’ve spent decades with the ideas described above as my lodestar, convinced that journalism serves the public good. And after all, investigative journalism is built on the idea of being society’s watchdog,” writes Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post‘s media columnist, in a piece about the API research. “However, given that trust in the news media has fallen from about 70 percent in the early 1970s to about 40 percent now, according to Gallup — it seems worth viewing this report with an open mind.”

The Shooting of Daunte Wright and the Meaning of George Floyd’s Death

How much has changed since the events of last spring?

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-shooting-of-daunte-wright-and-the-meaning-of-george-floyds-death
On Sunday, at the rally, Joanie Shafer, a local photographer, highlighting the connections between Floyd and Wright, pointed out that Wright had called his mother on the phone when the officers pulled him over, and that Floyd had called out to his deceased mother as he himself was dying. The implication was that interactions with the police had become so fraught that grown men were enlisting the aid of their mothers, on earth or in the hereafter.

Embrace the Grind - Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Sometimes, programming feels like magic: you chant some arcane incantation and a fleet of robots do your bidding. But sometimes, magic is mundane. If you’re willing to embrace the grind, you can pull off the impossible.

Link: https://jacobian.org/2021/apr/7/embrace-the-grind/
I don’t disagree: being able to offload repetitive tasks to a program is one of the best things about knowing how to code. However, sometimes problems can’t be solved by automation. If you’re willing to embrace the grind you’ll look like a magician.

Deconstructing Disney: Queer Coding and Masculinity in Pocahontas

Pocahontas may seem like a strange vehicle for discussing our gay villains. But Disney gets inventive when they need to circumvent white people’s historical responsibility for genocidal atrocities …

Link: https://longreads.com/2021/04/13/deconstructing-disney-queer-coding-and-masculinity-in-pocahontas/
Disney’s attitudes toward colonization and queer coding are, it turns out, inextricably linked. By using a queer-coded villain, the corporation entirely elides white responsibility in retelling a historical tragedy, letting the cowboy-type colonizers off the hook for any wrongdoing and, instead, reframing them as the heroes of the story. In Pocahontas, Disney pulls off the magic trick of telling a story about colonization and genocide where the only thing that’s actually punished is the “wrong” kind of masculinity.

Why We’re Freaking Out About Substack

A company that makes it easy to charge for newsletters has captivated an anxious industry because it embodies larger forces and contradictions.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/11/business/media/substack-newsletter-competition.html
So the biggest threat to Substack is unlikely to be the Twitter-centric political battles among some of its writers. The real threat is competing platforms with a different model. The most technically powerful of those is probably Ghost, which allows writers to send and charge for newsletters, with monthly fees starting at $9. While Substack is backed by the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Ghost has Wikipedia vibes: It is open-source software developed by a nonprofit.

Trump put a right-wing radio host in charge of a national park. Emails show the chaos that ensued.

Michael Savage used his position at San Francisco’s Presidio to stir up a controversy over Japanese American internment.

Link: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/04/michael-savage-donald-trump-presidio-trust-san-francisco/
The speaker was silenced after less than a minute, but this exposure to a small dose of public criticism incensed Savage. After the meeting, he fired off an email to Grayson and trust administrators demanding, “WHO PERMITTED THE LAST SPEAKER TO ATTACK ME? HOW DID SHE GET ON THE LIST OF ‘APPROVED SPEAKERS’?” Fraser responded that public comments at board meetings are not pre-screened. “[W]e are required under the First Amendment not to censor people however offensive their comments might be,” she wrote. Savage snapped, “Yes, I am aware of the ‘law’. Do not appreciate your lecture. Not what I asked. How did this hateful person get to be chosen?…Did she indicate she wanted to verbally abuse my good name?” Fraser emailed Grayson and Benioff that she would appreciate their assistance “in helping Dr Weiner understand how public meetings work.”

After Going ‘Free of L.G.B.T.,’ a Polish Town Pays a Price

Krasnik voted to be “free of L.G.B.T.” two years ago to satisfy conservative voters. Now, the mayor regrets the move, which has led to censure from other European countries and put funding at risk.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/10/world/europe/poland-lgbt-free-krasnik.html
But that changed early last year when Bartosz Staszewski, an L.G.B.T. activist from Warsaw began visiting towns that had vowed to banish “L.G.B.T. ideology.” Mr. Staszewski, a documentary filmmaker, took with him an official-looking yellow sign on which was written in four languages: “L.G.B.T.-FREE ZONE.” He put the fake sign next to each town’s real sign, taking photographs that he posted on social media.

Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal

A special team led by a high-level manager says Rupert Murdoch’s paper must evolve to survive. But a rivalry between editor and publisher stands in the way.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/10/business/media/wall-street-journal-murdoch.html
As the team was completing a report on its findings last summer, Mr. Murray found himself staring down a newsroom revolt. Soon after the killing of George Floyd, staff members created a private Slack channel called “Newsroomies,” where they discussed how The Journal, in their view, was behind on major stories of the day, including the social justice movement growing in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death. Participants also complained that The Journal’s digital presence was not robust enough, and that its conservative opinion department had published essays that did not meet standards applied to the reporting staff. The tensions and challenges are similar to what leaders of other news organizations, including The Times, have heard from their staffs.