This week, CATS in the London tube, Shriver’s cultural appropriation heard around the world, Clinton’s white supremacy explainer, normalizing Trump, Gawken, and more.
Her question was — or could have been — an interesting question: What are fiction writers “allowed” to write, given they will never truly know another person’s experience?
Not every crime writer is a criminal, Lionel said, Nor is every author who writes on sexual assault a rapist. “Fiction, by its very nature,” Shriver said, “is fake.”
There is a fascinating philosophical argument here. Instead, however, that core question was used as a straw man. Shriver’s real targets were cultural appropriation, identity politics and political correctness. It was a monologue about the right to exploit the stories of “others”, simply because it is useful for one’s story.
Shriver began by making light of a recent incident in the US, where students faced prosecution for what was argued by some as “casual racial and ethnic stereotyping and cultural insensitivity” at a Mexican-themed party.
“Can you believe,” Shriver asked at the beginning of her speech, “that these students were so sensitive about the wearing of sombreros?”
The audience, compliant, chuckled. I started looking forward to the point in the speech where she was to subvert the argument.
It never came.
Another writer, Suki Kim, also highlighted the problematic lecture:
For writers of color, this is not an uncommon situation, even if this panel was sparked by what was fast becoming something akin to an international incident. In 2003, I attended my first writers festival, hosted by the Los Angeles Times. I had just published my first novel, a work of literary fiction and the only debut novel that appeared on Farrar, Strauss & Giroux’s list that season. Yet I was placed on a panel for writers of color featuring the authors of a chick-lit novel and a book of gay erotica. We had nothing in common except that we were not white. The panel for debut fiction, meanwhile, featured all-white writers, even one who was invited for a second year in a row, as if you could debut twice.
This time around, the panel presented those who may have been offended by Shriver’s speech with a chance to respond. But as we were paraded before a largely white audience, I began to wonder: Were our roles at the festival to react to Shriver’s speech, or to ease white guilt? Furthermore, the theme of the festival was definitely no longer about “connection and belonging”—it was about being a minority in Lionel Shriver’s world. I had been invited to the Brisbane Writers Festival as a writer, but now I was here, foremost, as an Asian. This was yet more proof, if it was needed, that Shriver was spewing nothing but nonsense: Some of us have no choice when it comes to identity. A black man in America cannot decide on a whim to take off the “black” label and just be a man, whatever that means. An Aborigine in Australia would be equally powerless to control a racial identity that has been thrust onto him by whites.
And writer Celeste Ng has her own responses on Twitter (read the whole thread):
Okay, I have some thoughts, which I’ll share and then I fervently hope never to have to talk about this Shriver talk again.
— Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing) September 14, 2016
You can read Shriver’s speech here.
It took a global campaign — with the editor-in-chief of a Norwegian newspaper running a front-page letter to Zuckerberg, with the Norwegian prime minister re-posting the now-banned photo, and with the world watching — for Facebook to back down, days later, and say: OK, we’ll let the photo stay after all.
… Facebook did not have to remove “napalm girl” under law, according to Thomas Vinje, an attorney in the European Union who represents American internet companies. The idea that anyone in the company had a legitimate concern about liability is “unimaginable,” he says. “Anyone with basic knowledge knows it’s a very famous picture. It’s a strange situation.”
It’s a revealing move about the business. While Facebook maintains it is just a platform (so it’s not liable for the content that users choose to share), the company is also a multinational entity that’s trying to build a digestible product: a digital Coca-Cola that everyone, from hipster San Francisco to conservative Jordan, can enjoy.
That’ll take a lot of editorial judgment.
Some argue that “aggressive” secularism has proven an obstacle to the integration of France’s largest minority, but in the opinion of many French, the opposite is true. The French authorities have tolerated the creeping influence of a minority of Salafi preachers, largely funded from overseas, and their attempts to impose a more rigorous, combative, and exclusionary brand of Islam in certain urban areas. Islam expert Gilles Kepel has pointed to the emergence of an aggressive Salafi brand among the third generation of French Muslims, breaking ranks with a broader tendency toward secularization among the rest.
The French attachment to secularism is not some ploy to oppress Muslims: It is the reflection of a long political history and a very different cultural attitude towards religion than in the United States. While many settlers fled to the New World to practice their persecuted faiths, the development of French democracy and the Republic came hand-in-hand with the fight against the influence of the Catholic Church. French schoolchildren, for instance, are all taught the famed Revolutionary cartoons depicting the oppressed peasant crushed under the combined weight of the priest and the aristocrat.
Wait. Really? White supremacy?
Here’s the short version: Pepe is a cartoon frog who began his internet life as an innocent meme enjoyed by teenagers and pop stars alike.But in recent months, Pepe’s been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists who call themselves the “alt-right.” They’ve decided to take back Pepe by adding swastikas and other symbols of anti-semitism and white supremacy.“We basically mixed Pepe in with Nazi propaganda, etc. We built that association,” one prominent white supremacist told the Daily Beast.
Trump has retweeted his white supremacist supporters with regularity, but the connection between the alt-right and his campaign continues to strengthen. Trump has been slow to disavow support from Ku Klux Klansmen and white supremacy groups, and he recently hired Breitbart.com’s Steve Bannon as his campaign CEO (and Bannon isn’t shy about the fact that his “news” organization is the “platform for the alt-right”).
Now white supremacists have given Pepe the cartoon frog some Trump hair—and the candidate’s own son says he is “honored to be grouped with” him.
The Statue of Liberty’s exterior is made of copper, and it turned that shade of green because of oxidation. Copper is a noble metal, which means that it does not react readily with other substances. The Statue’s copper is only three-thirty-seconds of an inch thick and unusually pure. A copper magnate named Pierre-Eugène Secrétan donated most of it—the sculpture required about a hundred tons. Secrétan probably took it from a mine in which he held an interest on an island off the coast of Norway. Later, he was ruined in the copper crash of 1889.
At the Statue’s unveiling, in 1886, it was brown, like a penny. By 1906, oxidation had covered it with a green patina. The thin layer of oxidation that covers copper (and bronze, an alloy made mostly of copper) can preserve the metal for centuries, even millennia, as shown by objects from the ancient world. A monumental bronze statue, the Colossus of Rhodes, which portrayed Helios, the sun god, provided Auguste Bartholdi with the inspiration for the Statue. The Rhodes Colossus stood for about fifty-six years, until 226 B.C., when it broke off at the knees and collapsed in an earthquake. By then, it probably was a shade of blackish-green. Neither bronze nor copper rusts. Pieces of the Colossus lay for nine hundred years where they had fallen, until the seventh century, when they were sold for scrap.
Indeed, last night Fallon handled Trump as if the latter was merely plugging a new film and not, in fact, poised to assume highest office in the country, if not the world at large. Fallon asked Trump if he knew what a coin is, if he’d ever played the board game, “Sorry,” how he eats so much fast food, if he’d ever gotten a cold on the campaign trail. Fallon asked Trump if he “still want[s] to do this,” as if it’s super cute that this lying, racist, misogynistic, narcissistic piece of shit might be a few months away from getting access to our nuclear codes. Fallon never asked Trump a substantive question, but he did play with that mess that lives on his head.
When you look around today, everyone is excited and optimistic about the future. Silicon Valley engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, everyone, every single person you see is excited to get to the future soon.
But there is one thing that stands between the people who live in Silicon Valley and the future, and that is: the people who live outside of Silicon Valley. This is because the people living outside Silicon Valley are terrified of the future.
“The iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack but the Galaxy literally explodes” is a perfect metaphor for this election.
— Josh Marvine (@JoshMarvine) September 13, 2016
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