Category: Links

Mormons, homophobia, needles and Trump: Part One, Meet the Mormons

I’m going to try and draw a comparison which might seem stretched to some, but go with me on this weird little journey and let’s see if I can convince you about my grand theory.

Let’s lay some groundwork. This piece comes with some homework but if you’re at all interested in politics, piety, echo chambers, LGBT rights and community wellbeing, the role of education, the pandemic, and why leadership matters… let’s just say there’s bound to be something for everyone in this, even if I use a couple fairly niche case studies to make my argument.

Any reader who has been around for more than a hot minute knows that I was raised Mormon and while I’m no longer practicing and often highly critical of the organization and community, it’s still MY people in there. I still have emotional investment in the health and happiness of way too many people still in the faith to simply not care about what the community does as a collective. I often include Mormon community updates in links roundups and (occasionally) their own posts when I had strong enough feelings on a given topic.

Well, buckle up.

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (which I don’t actually recommend unless you have a high tolerance for memes and hyperbole) you might have seen my reaction to some news in Mormon world this week. Here’s what has been living rent-free in my head for two days straight: “Apostle Jeffrey Holland to BYU: Stop aiming ‘friendly fire’ at LDS teachings.” [text of the speech available here]

And of course, the Mormon and Mormon-adjacent internet spaces LIT UP with reaction. I include myself in that tally. While you may scoff or sneer at the use of social media as some sort of echo chamber (and we will get to echo chambers, just you sit tight!), there’s a reason why it is useful to see how specific incidents and statements are landing in real time to different audiences. I saw a wide range of reactions from rage to visceral pain to hopelessness, and I expressed my own disappointment. But also my bafflement.

Because my professional work and personal interests lie very much in the realm of audience-targeting and practical or cultural creation of those audiences – and let’s be blunt, a specific political edge – a few things struck me all at once.

First, some priors

The Mormon faith is small – it claims about 15m members worldwide according to their own public reporting and regularly advise on their numbers. Growth is important to the church, hence its active and well known missionary force. Demographic analysis done by public researchers (like the Cumorah Project, an ongoing research project by active, faithful members compiling organizational updates as they become available) academic researchers, and journalists do a good job at showing rates of growth and change.

There is a key element of activity within the faith that’s worth highlighting. There might be 15ish million people on the rolls, but the rates of participation in the faith (defined by the church itself through specific activities) is much lower than that. A decent estimate would be about 20% of members are regular worshipers, tithe payers, and so on. An even smaller number are “endowed,” which means participate in regular worship in LDS temples, access to which is tightly controlled.

Put a pin in all of these.

The other thing you need to know is that Brigham Young University (BYU) has been something of the flagship institution of the church in the 20th century. It invests heavily in its funding to make it affordable to students, can boast a library collection worthy of academic envy, and has taken great pains to achieve respect for its research, its law and business schools, and its performing arts.

It is famous/infamous for its Honor Code which in addition to academic expectation also enforces personal activities and behavior to conform with the moral standards of the church. No smoking, drinking, drugs, or sexual activity of any kind outside of heterosexual marriage. Modest dress standards for women and specific grooming standards for men. Notwithstanding its magnificently bearded namesake, whiskers for men were prohibited as a counter-counter-culture measure in the mid-20th century and remain to this day. Yeah, it’s strict.

Alongside the usual courses, students are expected to take religious studies classes which, in terms of course credit, amount to Minor degree’s worth of hours and work. These include classes on Mormon history and scripture, as might be expected, but also the King James Bible and religious literature. At least when I was there, the professors of various religious traditions were highly respected and their classes sought after, and interfaith dialog was active. For instance, due to the lifestyle elements compatible with their own, we had a decent minority of Muslim students as well as other faiths.

And then of course, that necessary thing, college sports! BYU fields 21 teams in NCAA varsity sports, often progresses well in championships, and even boasts a national football championship which looms large in the college lore.

What I’m saying is, the church has poured money and time for over a century to build a religious academic institution that can command respect across a number of fields.

Which is why I found this speech as bonkers as I did.

The Lord’s University”

First of all, this speech was delivered alongside an announcement of the creation of the BYU Office of Belonging (or…BOOB…this could have been thought through better), with a specific mission of combatting prejudice at the university. The juxtaposition is whiplash inducing.

Now, I was not shocked to see an apostle of a church which has spent the last thirty years defining itself in the public eye through primarily gender and sexuality based positions and teachings say something I consider pretty bigoted and homophobic. Dressing it up in the language of love doesn’t make it less morally repugnant, but it’s frankly right in line with the church’s long established stances. Some of its greatest hits include:

  • Objecting to and mobilizing against the ERA, in “defense” of women
  • Opposing LGBT rights generally and mobilizing against gay marriage specifically; Prop 8 and its fallout casts a long shadow
  • Published proclamations supporting “divinely designed” gender roles and functions that – in my opinion – go far beyond anything to be found in the foundational scriptures or teachings of the faith but instead reflect the cultural expectations and norms of the leadership and cultural panics of the time. Said leader is, of course, revered as a prophet with a direct line to the infinite
  • The infamous period of racist doctrine and practice which excluded Black members from full participation in the faith and men from ordination – which while it has been withdrawn, has never been apologized for, denounced, or refuted. Because to do that would expose the leadership who imposed and maintained these doctrines and actions to accusations of being, shall we say, less than prophetic. Which is kind of awkward given the point above
  • Half-hearted attempts at “loving outreach” to the LGBT community including the now defunct “Mormon and Gays” platform which attempted to express the doctrines of the church in a way that made them sound less exclusionary than they are. The fact that these efforts have all be shuttered quietly in recent years is important.

But I WAS shocked to hear this man state it was the duty of the faculty and staff of the university to uphold the doctrines of the church, AND that the institution was prepared to lose “professional association and certifications” if necessary to do so. In other words, that the true role of this ostensibly academic institution is not, in fact, academics or education for academia or a profession, but the enforcement of religious orthodoxy.

Anyone who can’t see the potential risk to the value of a diploma, the attractiveness of grad school candidates, or even workforce implications is fooling themselves or willfully blind. It also seems to me to be fundamentally at odds with the sheer amount of money and work that has gone into building the university’s reputation far outside its own religious community.

When is a cigar just a cigar and when is it an existential call to arms?

There was much chatter about the use of the phrase “musket fire” in the speech. There’s a distinctly American tone to this, which deliberately harkens back to the American Revolution and is a well-used metaphor.

But unless you’ve been living under a rock, a lot of American symbols, metaphors and rhetorical devices have taken on some additional layers of meaning in recent years. Think of the flag being co-opted in the culture wars, from Trump physically embracing it and specifically attempting to flip the discourse about anti-police-brutality protests as “disrespecting flag and/or troops, to the “thin blue line” redesign of police officers and their political supporters. On the other side we have flag burning or rejection by activist groups who claim it doesn’t represent them or other left-wing manipulations.

As the meme goes, “WORDS MEAN THINGS.” So of course do symbols and metaphors. Memes are the language of our world in many ways and serve the useful function of being a way to convey large and even multiple concepts in visual shorthand. They are collectively created, shared, agreed upon, and layered with meaning to the point that large groups of people can see a visual cue and all draw roughly the same conclusion from it: the same punchline to an unspoken joke, a shared experience, or a shared fandom.

Or all of the above.

It’s time to introduce a subculture within a subculture: DezNat. Like so much in our times, this is an online community hoping (and in some cases) acting to bring about their preferred utopia. And they are radical in their beliefs. Not everyone ticks every box, of course,

Some of the symbols or language they have created or co-opted include the Bowie knife (a combined reference to historical figure Porter Rockwell and to the concept preached by Brigham Young of blood atonement – which I’m not even going to attempt to unpack! Just read the links)…and guns, including muskets.

Remember, layers. Musket metaphors are a meme that combines specific interpretations of patriotism, equally specific interpretations of resistance, and yet further equally specific interpretations of rights and values. Free speech, religion, etc.. In this context you also have to appreciate that Mormonism is a millennialist faith – it’s in the name: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They believe that the US is a divinely chosen land that enjoys specific freedoms which enabled its revelations to come forth and enjoy certain legal and cultural protections in the “last days” before the judgements of God are poured out on the earth.

The militancy referred to in religious speech is often best understood as symbolic; but not exclusively. This is just as true in Mormonism as it is in Christianity, Islam and other sects. And just like other sects there is almost always a minority who see the holy war in real and stark terms and are prepared to posture…or act…accordingly.

So, who was this speech for?

Setting aside the highly relevant subject of coded language, let’s look once more at the explicit text.

In his speech, Holland cites and quotes a letter that bemoans the apparent secularization the writer perceives happening at the university.

“You should know,” the writer says, “that some people in the extended community are feeling abandoned and betrayed by BYU…”

Who, I can’t help but wonder, are these people who feel that BYU is not religious or orthodox ENOUGH? I’ve already gone into some detail about the behavioral standards and education elements, and plenty more writers who are far more eloquent than me can share even more about the curriculum and culture to make thee point, but let me just state unequivocally that BYU IS NOT A SECULAR ENVIRONMENT. Many classes begin with prayer, a religious and even pro-American-quasi-religious ethos is centered in its coursework (including a required course called American Heritage) to say nothing in the faith itself. Religious observance is required, and even hints of unorthdoxy can get you punished or expelled. Believe me, I know; even if that’s a story for another time.

I’m not saying this speech was for DezNat exactly, though the inclusion of the metaphors and language is already doing the work of making plenty of that community sure think it is. You see what you want to see, and plenty of extremists want to see their leaders endorsing, winking at, or even explicitly embracing what they already believe to be true.

But I absolutely do believe that Holland should know enough about his own flock to anticipate how this rhetoric will be taken and used. Not for the “soft” bigotry and “gentle” exclusion he outright states he and the institution should practice, and damn the consequences, but by the militant minority. The zealots.

Okay but what the hell does Trump have to do with this?

Good question, kittens, and that’s why there’s going to have to be a Part Two.

Weekend Links

My role throughout the pandemic (at least at work and friend circle) has been to be the croaking Cassandra of doom…and frankly I’m all too often proved right. On Monday we’re supposed to get some sort of sign as to what our summer could look like if we continue to ease out of lockdown, but between variants and the still skyhigh infection rates across the world, I feel like too much hope will be a bad idea.

We’re in an arms race with Mother Nature and the virus’ biological goal is different than ours. It just wants to replicate and spread. But us, we want to LIVE.

One of my brother’s wedding reception is next month and we have no idea if we’re going to be able to go. Jeff hasn’t seen his family in nearly three years. My best friend is getting married this fall. And I feel like I’m losing the ability to visualize the future after a year on restrictions. It’s brain melting.

ANYWAY. Onto the links.

Convince me I’m wrong:

I look forward to the war!

This story is tragic but gripping.

Ditto.

I’M SO EXCITED:

More good Netflix news, thank goodness.

The previous Leader of the Free World…is now…a blogger. I feel like I should retire. (Charlie Warzel has an interesting take.)

The US census reports the lowest birthrates in nearly a century. This seems to have prompting handwringing amongst the elders, the conservatives (and their problematic adjacent ideologies), and demographers alike. Meanwhile, every thirty-something I know chorused in a huge mob, YA THINK? However it’s not as straightforward as it may seem and lots of the downward trends are due to things we should objectively cheer (fewer teen and unplanned pregnancies’ are objectively good). The moral panic won’t dwindle of course.

Seems relevant.

I put on an actual outfit the other day and it was the most surreal set of sensations!

On the flip side…everything is selling to us now and that’s A Bad Thing.

NOT NOW, CHERNOBYL.

Apropos of nothing, Rep. Gaetz has a lot of loud opinions about how anyone on government existence should have mandatory drug testing. Thinking maybe we need to start with our so-called public servants first. Who guards the guardians, and all that? (Seriously, how does this failson still have his job?)

This this, a thousand times this: there is no such thing as a “low skill job.”

I don’t feel at all qualified to inform on the Israeli/Palestinian situation, even though I have a lot of opinions. But I’ll leave the explaniners to Vox.

Does this mean we’ve officially moved from 90s to early 2000s nostalgia? The cicadas and portmanteaued celebrities have risen again. The circle of life.

Weekend Links: Female Rage, Activated

We have a LOT to unpack, kittens.

General mood.

Today I learned

The first giant beauty brand has fallen under the axe of COVID. Or is there more to the story?

Amazon disrupted paid books, and it’s now disrupting the lending medium.

Feminism is a fractured movement. After all, what does a single mother in a favela have in common with a Manhattan socialite? Yet the pandemic—or more accurately, the economic shutdowns imposed to contain it—has affected women and girls around the world in remarkably similar ways.”

Our longest war never had much of a consistent (or legal, to my mind) justification. I remember arguing this point my freshman year of uni in a freshman writing class and I have never wavered in my thoughts on the matter. But it’s beyond clear at this point that so many people are unable to quit it, and unfortunately for us a lot of those people work at the Pentagon.

Gripping mystery.

I found this piece indescribably comforting because my brain has felt so broken for months now. Long COVID, “brain fog,” and other descriptions don’t come close to explaining it, even though both are accurate. My ability to focus is shot to hell right now.

Ouch. Right in the feels!

Nope, but I’m willing to bet the Catholic church gets there before the Mormon one does.

Nicely done, Guam. ‘Bout time.

HOOOOO BOY. Let’s talk about that Oprah + Sussex interview. There is literally no one better at interviewing than Oprah, no one.

A comprehensive take on the wider context.

For two generations, women who marry into the Royal Family have been expected to be thin, fertile—and silent. Meghan embodies all the negative stereotypes Britons have about our distant cousins across the Atlantic: too loud, too brash, too much. It will be beautifully ironic if this American can, by speaking out, change the tone of royal coverage in Britain.”

Much like No 10, the Palace has an undoable PR and comms job most days…but still, it took two days to come up with this hilariously inadequate response?

Couple complain about perceived abuses of media, media figures displays the exact same behavior in question, media figure loses job. IT’S THE WOMAN’S FAULT, SURELY. Full disclosure, I hate Piers Morgan and his particular brand of offensive oppinutainment and provocation. I like to think this sort of approach is on the decline but there are holdouts.

Misogyny is flying fast and thick this week, between the Sussex vitriol, the horrible murder of a woman here in the UK sparking discourse on women’s safety, and Tucker Carlson getting his ass handed to him by the Pentagon after he decided to turn his provocateur gaze on women in the military…and separate to his sustained and targeted attacks on a female journalist. Like Morgan, I can’t wait for this noxious brand of personality media to die.

And finally, our political system is WHOLLY INADEQUATE for this, but far from soundbites, we need actual deep philosophical discussions and substantive challenges on a number of political and policies. For example, what do we actually want out of a justice system? Because whether your ambition is “deter crime” or “rehabilitation” or ” appropriately retribute…” our political and social status quos aren’t necessarily aligned with our stated aims. Anyway, Abby puts it a lot better and more creatively than me:

Weekend Links – the Cataline Conspiracy, only stupid

Hi kittens, still depressed but getting better slowly.

Also, since I seem to be something of a statistic…are we all hitting a wall, or are we all just coming to grips with a series of crippling failures on top of one another? Strongly starting to suspect it may the latter.

First and foremost: how to help people in Texas right now.

Another crowdsourced masterdoc on how to help.

Long live Larry.

The best description I have for my ovearching feeling about Trump is contempt, he’s so pathetic and unworthy as both a person and a leader that I’m loathe to give him more credit than he’s due (even though I believe he’s responsible for so much damage). But I have no hesitation in saying that I hate Minority Leader McConnell. He’s very good at wielding power, and is a savvy politician, for which even I can admit to having a bizarre sort of grudging respect for sheer Machiavellian instinct. Years ago I told my brother that I thought he was the most important politician in DC and I stand by that…which is why I hate him so much. I hate him for choosing power over principle and if not embracing then condoning the very worst in our society if it kept him in power. More than anyone else in the Trump years, he could have chosen and steered a different path for our institutions, and every single time he didn’t. And even now, he tries to thread this needle as though the timing of the Senate trial wasn’t dictated by himself and I hate him for it.

Tl;dr: McConnell is clearly pulling a Ceasar as told by Sallust…and yeah, how did that go in the long run, Julius?

If they think they can just pretend he’ll go away, they’re delusional. And anyone who has ever known a malignant narcissist in a bad relationship will tell you, he will need to reassert control over you to protect his own self image (brand, if you will). And like a malignant narcissist in a bad relationship, he will compel you to do a lot of horrible things that in the long term are utterly against your own and everyone else’s wellbeing to keep you tied to him and in line.

Yeah…this is straight up eugenics.

Grim indictment of leadership.

PROTECT ELIZABTH ANN AT ALL COSTS.

More important Black History Month journalism, this time first person slavery accounts. I find it jarring but vitally important to see images of former slaves taken in the 20th century, similar to Civil War vets driving around in Model Ts. We are not nearly as far away from this history as people find comfort in thinking we are.

Pinning the blame for political violence on the lunatic fringe, rather than ordinary members of society, is a comforting lie folks tell themselves to avoid the reality of our political situation, how we’ve gotten to this point, and the possible futures leading forward from here.”

Yay, science!

Photo of the day.

Brava to FKA Twigs for confronting domestic abuse and violence as it should be done.

Control over our own bodies and reproductivity is foundational and fundamental to almost every other autonomous right women claim. It is the historical difference between our ability to be free individuals and citizens (it’s not a mistake that suffrage and reliable birth control came along at roughly the same time) and actual legal property. Anytime women lose this control, demand how, who did it, and why they did it or allowed it to happen. Wherever it happens.

Look, let’s be blunt. Ted Cruz, an anti-immigrationist, climate change denying, healthcare legislation enemy and bad faith blowhard needing to just “get a little break” from the ravages of huge weather catastrophe battering the area of the country it is quite literally his job to protect and represent, and so fleeing to a country he routinely derides for a luxury vacation…all against the BACKDROP of a once-in-a-generation public health crisis is almost too perfect an example of irony. Like, this was cooked up in the cosmic writers’ room in the ninth circle of hell, it’s that spot on. It’s objectively hilarious alongside being grim.

Much like Rush Limbaugh in passing, he deserves the derision he’s getting NOT because it’s fun to whale on people. Even if Senator Cruz seems to have made himself so unpleasant that even his allies have very little to say that’s positive about him. It’s because when you make it your entire lifelong career and personality to take public and powerful positions, and use actual power to back those positions ups, your actions and behavior can and should be judged against that body of work. And if the lens of attention is harsh, that’s truly on you to examine why that may be and make choices accordingly. Either do better, or double down into your own villainy; repent or commit. But for god’s sake stop whining to us all about cancel culture in bad faith.

Speaking of media literacy, journalist specializing in the topic of misinformation Charlie Warzel has a fascinating piece on the subject that made me think this week:

Weekend Links

Hi darlings, your internet aunty is deep in the throws of a depression spiral over here, so this note won’t be as perky or as snappy as usual. Like everyone else, I seem to have hit some kind of horrible wall recently. Must be the upcoming one year anniversary of our LATEST bout of existential threat or something. Seasonal depression, meets pandemic depression, meets normal depression.

In between multiple bouts of crying every day, I’ve slapped together a surprisingly good bunch of links for your reading pleasure. Seriously, there is a lot of great and fun stuff for you this week, just in case like me you are completely unable to summon any serotonin.

The Senate of the United States, having a normal one over here…

Our building has seemed suspiciously quiet for a while now

My long term thirst for Henry Cavill over most of the competition was and remains solid evident of my good taste. And is there any more petty but thrilling pleasure than when your aesthetic preference is also acknowledged to have been The Correct Choice? It’ so satisfying. The Man From UNCLE is still a great and underappreciated movie, though.

REDWALLLLLLL!

Oh good, only a year and change too late.

Friend of the Blog Caitlin Kelly strikes again, on how Bridgerton’s influence is only beginning, and how it’s giving whole communities of experts and enthusiasts their due.

Speaking of costuming, let me recommend a couple of channels and creators to truly send you down a rabbit hole this weekend:
Abby Cox, a dress historian specializing in the 18th century and not afraid to Go There when it comes to stuff you really want to know about boobs, periods, corsetry, and more. She’s also hilarious, historically rigorous, and just an overall feminist delight. Bernadette Banner, an Edwardian expert and former Broadway costumer who uses her personal experience with scoliosis to delve into dismantling myths about shapewear, highlights traditional craftsman and houses, and roasts fast fashion using medieval tailoring. She’s a babe. I particularly recommend her latest vid about the effects of Bridgerton on athleticwear. Yes, really.

Overdue but still very welcome for Black History Month. We would not have almost any genre of American music, much less global dittos, without the unique heritage of Black culture and pioneers.

Well well well, if it isn’t the consequences of our actions

What a badass.

Likewise, what a gent–even when no longer with us.

As per usual, Ronan Farrow (speaking to Amanour and Company) breaks down the differences in the insurrectionist mob of January 6th, what separates them, and what unites them in thoughtful and accessible ways. Worth a watch:

My honest to goodness reaction at seeing this story was, “OMG look at the itty bitty dinosaur!”

Anti-Asian racism and racist incidents are on the rise, including for Pacific Islanders and many ethnic and racial groups that come under that broad category. Don’t forget that we can and must advocate for several communities individually as well as under broad umbrellas such as “immigration” and “people of color.” If your privilege protects you against certain bigotries, stand up for individual communities as well as broad groups. These are not mutually exclusive.

Ignoring the headline, which I expect will put some people off, this is an excellent discussion on the role of conservatism can play in preserving democracy or breaking it. Ardent and die-hard leftist that I am, I actually agree with the thesis that it’s the behaviors of the right that really determine the path of governments because they are often the institutional guardians of what we retain and why, while the left’s role is (broadly speaking) to push for change. Both of the institutional tensions need to exist in healthy ways for democracy to work.

Good. Because I have no faith that the Senate will impose any consequences. Literally none.

This week I learned a fascinating piece of history for the first time, and one that showcases the complexities of racial privilege in America. Mixed race families, slavery and sexual consent, “passing,” and class differences all rolled into one, and a Second Lady you have never heard of.

I AM NOT A CAT. The 2021 battlecry of everyone who has utterly lost the Zoom plot.

Weekend Links

After a series of bizarre and bad decisions which has made the per capita infection rate in the UK the worst in the world there for a while, the nation does actually seem to have a grip on the vaccination efforts. LONG LIVE THE NHS.

We’re still likely to be stuck inside until the end of summer. …Hooray?

I’m still amazed no one was removed from office or public life because of this. We live in the upside down.

If you’ve been paying attention to the, uh, utterly ugly and bonkers “Rothschild space lasers” discourse, you may be asking, “Why is antisemitism present in practically every conspiracy theory?”

Extremism, [Mark] Pitcavage said, “is a perennial problem and needs to be dealt with institutionally.”

Grim. Jobs need to be lost over this.

RIP, Sir Tom Captain Moore.

One ecological disaster a time, please?!

If this is the future of influencers, I’ll take it.

If I never hear the screeching retort of, “What about ANTIFA?!” again, it will be too soon. It’s not an organized movement, it’s mostly a few whack job anarchists (opposed to organization by…design?), no leader, no comprehensive agenda, no common cause besides the superficial, and a hilarious amount of discordant ideas amongst the various factions who get slapped with the lable. They are NOT the equivalent of organized, hierarchied, and known fascist or extremist groups.

See above: left and right protests are not managed or policed in the same ways. I’m pretty sure I shared some links to reporting on research on this in a previous links post.

So, we can’t trust our elected government to ensure consequences? Thank goodness we have the…ridiculous US legal system – which has become one of the few ways to enforce personal and now corporate responsibility? Love that for us… (Hope it was worth it all, Fox News.) (ETA: hoo boy, trying HARD to avoid that lawsuit now, aren’t they?)

This post from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on how we must use the current moment to really reconsider our thinking about global health – often a euphemism for rich, western, white countries benevolently giving to poorer, non-European-descended ones to avoid having to think about the discrepancies in the first place – is worth your time. Globally and locally, public health is something that affects us all, it requires collaboration and participation – and for the love of god, adherence to science and research and not the feelings of a few people who are lucky enough to not have to worry about most communicable diseases and therefore think that means they aren’t really, or something.

Weekend Links

Kittens, I suspect even my mild case of COVID hit me harder than I thought it did. One month on and a persistent feeling of exhaustion remains, and I’m trying to figure out it it’s just the usual January blues, the pandemic lockdown blues, or the widely touted longer term effects of the disease which has officially killed over 100,000 people in the UK.

Chicken and egg, eh? Am I broken…or is the world just kinda like this now?

I have no conclusions. Scholars remain divided.

Anyway, in spite of…everything…there are moments of joy to celebrate. Hannah’s THIRD book was announced, and X got engaged! Truly friendships are the balm of the soul, I’m so delighted for my girl squad I could just bust. Here’s your usual mix of Deep and Dumb from the internet to get you through the last weekend of the first month of this sure-to-be-cursed year.

We are still finding out more about the Capitol raid and ProPublica has a great (if somewhat distressing) compliation piece on the POV from Parler before it lost its hosting options. Sidenote, the whole attempt by the GOP to just pretend that January 6th never happened is sort of making me lose my mind.

And as America has exported QAnon conspiracy theories across the Atlantic, European conspiracy theories and disinformation are also making their way to the United States.”

I think people aren’t nearly concerned enough with the Fermi paradox overall, but that’s just me. If the universe is empty but for us…why? And if it’s not…where is everybody?

Everything Is Broken. “If…the idea of mass brokenness seems both excruciatingly correct and also paralyzing, come sit with me. Being on a ship nearly 4 million square miles in area along with 330 million other people and realizing the entire hull is pockmarked with holes is terrifying. But being afraid to face this reality won’t make it less true. And this is the reality.”

100,000 people are dead in the UK and still these people

If you want it in a sentence, I guess it goes something like this: The GameStop saga is a ludicrous stock mania born of pandemic boredom and FOMO, piggybacking off of a clever Reddit revenge plot, which targeted hedge funds, who made a reckless bet on a struggling retailer—and it’s going to end with lots of people losing incredible amounts of money.” It was a wild week on Wall Street, fam.

Facts may not care about your feelings, but your partisan view does not care about facts. That’s bad and scary for all of us.

Trauma-bonded nostalgia for the 90s and how the 30-year cycle of reboots displays itself in pop culture and politics. Also summarized generational anxiety in its current form more succinctly than anything else I’ve come across: “…and young people don’t feel trapped by the future, because nobody believes in the future anymore.” But also a plea to give up on nostalgia and try brave and terrifying alternative possibilities instead.

My freshman year roommate at university and I had a theory, that The Emperor’s New Groove is the most quotable movie of all time and that there is a quote for practically every occasion. I have yet to be proved wrong.

The gamers are at it again.

Natalie strikes again. This video is nominally about TERF doublespeak, but as per usual, is also a parable for so many more issues related to bigotry and what underpins it. It’s also a timely examination as to how all kinds of groups use specific language techniques to have the conversations they WANT to have (“Why should I be forced to think trans identities are valid?”) instead of the conversation that actually IS happening (“Do people deserve respect, legal autonomy and human rights?”).

Weekend Links

It’s amazing how much better I have felt this week after the US inauguration. I didn’t realize until it was over how frightened I was for something ugly and dramatic to happen and disrupt or derail the day.

Now, the background buzzing dread of a pandemic badly handled in both my native and adopted countries, heightened political tensions, and general instability is still humming away. Don’t get me wrong, things are still bad, but I am enjoying the sensation that the institutions that govern a large portion of my and my loved ones lives aren’t actively making things worse on purpose.

In other words, I’m excited to return to a world of unintentional mistakes instead of willful ignorance or malicious intent. Humble goals, fam.

This week I’ve found plenty of fun things to read, but I’m clearly still concerned about the next phases of extremism and alternative realities which have taken over too many people’s lives. It’s a mistake to think that these worldviews or behaviors are going away.

Well, yo ho ho.

This article is a profile of a single person, but is an excellent perspective into the wider movement. “For her, QAnon was always less about Q and more about the crowdsourced search for truth. She loves assembling her own reality in real time, patching together shards of information and connecting them to the core narrative.”

I’ve shared this before but it’s worth reupping right now. Particularly the aspect of “forcing the end” in extremist movements, and in the wake of the Capitol storming. Yes, it’s the length of a film. Get some popcorn and watch it anyway.

So, what is going on with QAnon you ask? Well, predictably, some people are going through a faith and grief crisis…and already others are doubling down again. And they are already being targeted by other extremists groups for recruitment. Again.

A really interesting interview on why too many people (guilty!) are looking to European fascism in the 20th century to explain radicalism in the US and we need to look closer to home in our own Civil War and Reconstruction.

How to create a healthier media environment for yourself in 2021.

Honestly, just grim. Necessary (for both military and law enforcement more generally), but grim:

Oh look, that thing I’ve been worrying about for a long time now and fully anticipate we’ll have to deal with next.

WE’VE BEEN SCAMMED INTO BELIEVING Q!!!” a Telegram user declared. “WHAT NOW?!?!?! Indeed, random QAnon Avatar.

Palate cleanser of pure delight.

I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more VP coverage in general, as (not entirely unlike the role of First Lady), it’s a job that seems to get a lot of ceremonial attention but less practical. And in the last administration the coverage was frankly tabloidesque – understandably. That being said, I ate up this insight into the temporary VP residence with a spoon. I need that 18th century teal wallpaper.

And in a typical display of howling hypocrisy from me, loved this insight into inaugural fashion for Dr. Biden.

I’m still awash in delight at the Moment that Bridgerton has produced in the cultural zeitgeist. More fantasy! More women’s POV! More sex positivity! More over the top fluff just because it feels good and is fun to enjoy! At some point I’m going to have to do a full post on it. In the meantime, if over embellished tops and embroidery on the Zoom calls, tea sets, and thirsting over male forearms is the new normal, I’ll take it.

POW. Right in the feels

Weekend Links

How do we reattach people to reality and facts? This is the big philosophical thinking I’ve been debating in my own brain this past week and have no earthly idea what the answer is. Whether the need to behave in specific ways and take certain actions to control the spread of the pandemic, or the political unrest founded on outright conspiracy theories…how do you reach a consensus on truth when it’s the very thing that’s being “debated?” My brain hurts.

As you may have surmised, this week’s batch of links is a mix of grim current affairs and abject silliness wherever I found it. It will not solve any of your philosophical conundrums, but it will clear your skin and help you lose five pounds.

Who knows, it might. Truth is relative, after all.

Heh.

Yes, let’s talk about police response to broadly leftist and rightist protest activity in the US:

“Their hearts, minds and wallets were taken advantage of,” Ms. Mace said, her voice rising in fury. “Millions of people across the country who were lied to. These individuals, these hardworking Americans truly believe that the Congress can overturn the Electoral College.”

Take a moment to educate yourself about the memes and iconography that identify specific ideologies and groups.

Patriarchy is a big part of the problem, but it requires women’s involvement to work. See also, Trumpism.

He resigned before making these statements. (And reminder, they are not actually pro-police so much as they think the police are “against” they same groups they are, and the moment this is questioned, they turn. If you’re not with them, you’re against them. Because they’re fascists. Obligatory trigger warning.)

Oh, and theocratic nationalists…those too. Ultimately, the point it to have enough power to exert your power, regardless of being a minority, because you feel you are morally right to do so and that there is a genuinely a risk to society if you aren’t able to enact your agenda.

Brief palate cleanser time, let’s learn about peanut butter!

Meanwhile, in Britain, an optimistic timeline means Jeff and I will be vaccinated by…September. Woof.

National mythology is powerful and the stories we tell ourselves ABOUT ourselves are important. We need to rethink the framing of those stories. Desperately.

Damn, I might have to use Signal instead. And still I somehow justify using Instagram. I am hypocritical trash…

Shock. Surprise. Whomst could have guessed, etc. etc.

WOMB CANNIBALS.

Something something, “a few bad apples,” something.

Jesus. The long term effects of COVID on mental health are just starting to be understood but I feel that the final toll is going to be grim.

Influencers will be the end of us.

So…this is just going to get worse, huh?

If you have been feeling physically done in recently, you are not alone; and yes, Ms Rona is doing this to us.

Weekend Links – Expletives Abound

It’s been another rough week, kittens. Have some links to help make sense of the world and zoom out from the individual things that might be stressing you. Also, should you be so inclined, check your voter registration, request your ballot, and donate to a cause you care about. For me it was ActBlue’s “Get Mitch or Die Trying,” for what by now should be obvious reasons.

Cool archaeological news!

BLEEDING HELL

The Venn Diagram of those who think climate change is a hoax and those who oppose immigration is largely a circle. One of these perspectives is going to HAVE to give.

The problem of pandemic commerce doesn’t lie simply with low supply or high demand. Instead, the coronavirus has eaten away at the entire system by which things are bought and sold in America, and few signs of improvement are on the horizon.”

The president also expressed surprise that Washington could not demand payment from the companies in exchange for approving any agreement.” Because that’s called corruption, my dude.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s America’s–oh no!

Speaking of image control, Emily Ratajkowski penned an incredible essay this week. Major trigger warning.

Fascinating piece on consumer behaviors right now, and something that is probably extremely good for society and the planet whilst being extremely bad for the economy. Which is kind of the thing our political system is struggling with right now: the literal choice between lives and GDP.

This is both extremely interesting from a scientific and cultural perspective and very gratifying for someone who thinks that all the odd Nordic worship of some of the weirder portions of our society could use this little reality dose.

FUCK.

May her memory be a revolution.

No shit.

No shit again.

Understanding “flat earth,” how it rose and propagated, how it evolved, how algorithmic media fed it, and how it’s not actually about the shape of the earth is…really helpful in understanding a lot of other things in our media right now. From memeification, gameification, collective identity and media as community, the pervasiveness of apocalyptic thinking, and what happens when people have to justify the impossible and need a reason for why the world is the way it is. (Spoiler, it’s not just about flat eartherism.)