Links round-up: Aug 2017

I’m getting back into the habit of rounding up links to things I find interesting. Probably this will be done irregularly, but monthly seems like a safe bet for now. We’ll see. If you follow me on twitter, chances are good you’d find these interesting reads too.

Unlearning the myth of American innocence

I know why this came as a shock to me then, at the age of 22, and it wasn’t necessarily because he said I was sick, though that was part of it. It was because he kept calling me that thing: “white American”. In my reaction I justified his accusation. I knew I was white, and I knew I was American, but it was not what I understood to be my identity. For me, self-definition was about gender, personality, religion, education, dreams. I only thought about finding myself, becoming myself, discovering myself – and this, I hadn’t known, was the most white American thing of all.

I still did not think about my place in the larger world, or that perhaps an entire history – the history of white Americans – had something to do with who I was. My lack of consciousness allowed me to believe I was innocent, or that white American was not an identity like Muslim or Turk.

Did This Book Buy Its Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List?

Handbook For Mortals by Lani Sarem is the debut novel from the publishing arm of website GeekNation. The site announced this news only last week, through a press release that can be read on places like The Hollywood Reporter, not a site known for extensive YA coverage. Sarem has an IMDb page with some very minor acting roles, several of which are uncredited, but details on the book are scanter to find. Googling it leads to several other books with the same title, but most of the coverage for it is press release based. There’s little real excitement or details on it coming from the YA blogging world, which is a mighty community who are not quiet about the things they’re passionate about (believe me, first hand experience here).

YA writer and publisher Phil Stamper raised the alarm bells on this novel’s sudden success through a series of tweets, noting GeekNation’s own low traffic, the inability to even buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and its out-of-nowhere relevance.

The Sugarcoated Language Of White Fragility

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about how terms like “white privilege,” “inclusion” and “unconscious bias” all sound just… too nice. Don’t they seem a little on the pleasant side for words used to address a system of racist oppression? It reminds me of how, in Minnesota in January, the meteorologists will say it’s going to be a “cool evening” as they stand in front of a map showing temperatures that will literally freeze your nostrils together when you take a breath.

Something’s definitely up.

I’m reminded of how, in the novel 1984, the creepy futuristic government acts as if it’s “Opposite Day” all the time, using the Ministries of Love, Peace, Plenty and Truth to handle fear, war, rationing, and propaganda. The deliberate distortion of words is called doublespeak and we actually see it frequently in real-life politics (for example, the Clear Skies Act makes it easier to pollute the air and “enhanced interrogation“ means old-fashioned torture). Words are powerful.

I Hate Your “Curvy Wife” Guy Jokes

I’ve been watching people dunk on Curvy Wife guy for twenty-four straight hours and it’s been bothering me the whole time. Not because I feel like he needs to be defended, because I don’t. He’s just another guy who likes a woman who has just enough fat in just the right places. I don’t really feel the need to defend his wife as an individual, because the meanness hasn’t precisely been targeted at her, either. All in all, I sat for a while watching people tweet, and retweet, and joke about it, and felt a little hole in the pit of my stomach that never feels good, that feels like an old well full of stagnant, poison water.

Righteous Callings: Being Good, Leftist Orthodoxy, and the Social Justice Crisis of Faith

· Bullying and Call-Outs: A lot of public debate has already been had about the benefits and drawbacks of call-out culture in activism, so I won’t go too deeply into it. Suffice it to say, a culture in which the majority of political education is done through public shaming neither all that socially transformative nor psychologically healthy. Call-out culture, in my experience, can also spin into dynamics of punishment through bullying and intimidation, ie doxing, online harassment, etc.

· Celebrityism and Mob Mentality: In the absence of formal leaders, social justice culture has built a system of micro-celebrities (and in a few cases, not-so-micro-celebrities) from which to take inspiration and direction: Artists, academics, prolific users of social media, public speakers and charismatic organizers, for the most part — including a certain essay-writing, spoken word-performing, East Asian transsexual. Such individuals occupy a place of high respect among their followers, as well as disproportionate access to the development of political opinion in the movement — their Tweets and status posts, writings and videos, are liked, reblogged, and shared extensively as a part of the performance of wokeness in activist theatre. Their names and quotes are invoked as a part of the gospel of social justice holy texts. They are lionized as living at the cutting edge of activist thought (though it should be noted that some such mini-celebs are only tangentially or not at all connected to actual grassroots activism work), and they are pedestalized as living examples of activist purity — of the righteous calling of our movement. In the United States, there is an entire small industry of social justice celebrities who make their living on the speaking/performing tour circuit, funded mostly by student groups with access to college and university funding departments.

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