Required Reading

This week, New York Times‘s Facebook bombshell, a critic’s nightmare, Black Athena revisted, a fake band gets found out, a banned commercial from Iceland, and more.

Jony Ive and Marc Newson designed an all-diamond ring for an upcoming (RED) charity auction at Design Miami on December 5. It’s quite lovely. The finished ring will have between 2,000 and 3,000 facets, and Dezeen has the full story. (via Dezeen)
  • The New York Times exposé about Facebook was one of the biggest stories of the week. They revealed that the heads at the social media giant practiced the same shady behavior that gets others banned from the platform. The entire article is essential reading:

While Mr. Zuckerberg has conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

Five months later, in a story in The Oregonian, restaurant critic Michael Russell detailed how Stanich’s had been forced to shut down. In the article, Steve Stanich called my burger award a curse, “the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.” He told a story about the country music singer Tim McGraw showing up one day, and not being able to serve him because there was a five hour wait for a burger. On January 2, 2018, Stanich shut down the restaurant for what he called a “two week deep cleaning.” Ten months later, Stanich’s is still closed. Now when I look at the Stanich’s mug in my office, I no longer feel light and happy. I feel like I’ve done a bad thing.

  • Remember Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization? That volume, first published in 1987, attempted to radically alter our understanding of the Ancient World, but the backlash that resulted fr0m it created attitudes that Denise Eileen McCoskey believes contributed to the cooption of Ancient culture by white nationalists and neo-nazis. She writes:

Classicists at the time openly condemned Afrocentrism for its perceived political bias (this gem from 1989 illustrates well the tone, asserting in a review of Black Athena that the university was under attack from “black racist attempts to impose indoctrination in the place of teaching and scholarship”). Of course, they left unsaid what Page duBois has shown, namely that there were broad links between conservatism and Classics during this time. In his review of Lefkowitz’s volume, Bernal himself highlighted the fact that she received funding for her research from foundations that also contributed to right-wing organizations like the Heritage Foundation and National Association of Scholars.

  • This is easily one of the strangest music stories of the year. Threatin was a “fake band” that appears to have scammed their way into a European tour:

The Los Angeles musician plays under the name Threatin and had been touring the UK, with tickets for the shows seemingly selling well.

However, it’s alleged that Threatin faked a Facebook fan base to entice venues to book him and his band… and, as a result, it’s turned into a chaotic mess with no one showing up at any of his shows.

The NME report that The Underworld in Camden posted on Threatin’s Facebook page: “What happened to the 291 advanced ticket sales your agent said you’d sold?

As Trumpism and other authoritarianisms become powerful, their liberal critics engage in a kind of moral blackmail based on a spurious history: “Are you against the ‘liberal order’ which guaranteed peace and stability, and other wonderful things for so long?” The obvious answer is that your much-cherished liberal order was the incubator for Trumpism and other authoritarianisms. It made human beings subordinate to the market, replacing social bonds with market relations and sanctifying greed. It propagated an ethos of individual autonomy and personal responsibility, while the exigencies of the market made it impossible for people to save and plan for the future. It burdened people with chronic debt and turned them into gamblers in the stock market. Liberal capitalism was supposed to foster a universal middle class and encourage bourgeois values of sobriety and prudence and democratic virtues of accountability. It achieved the opposite: the creation of a precariat with no clear long-term prospects, dangerously vulnerable to demagogues promising them the moon. Uncontrolled liberalism, in other words, prepares the grounds for its own demise.

Dylan denied forcing Tank to get injections. “This was his fetish,” he said. “I did not make him inject silicone. On the contrary, I helped him get some removed.” He said Tank got silicone injections by himself in Mexico in 2014, and again in Sacramento during a period when they were broken up in 2016. Dylan said this showed Tank’s “strong personal motivation to pursue silicone,” and called him a “proud exhibitionist.” In May 2018, Dylan said he brought Tank to a plastic surgeon who removed some silicone.

Because silicone injections to the penis and scrotum are illegal and dangerous, silicone enhancement of male genitalia is uncommon. However, there’s a small scene of mostly gay men interested in it. On Xtube, a popular site for amateur porn, there are a handful of men with silicone-enhanced genitals posting video clips, including one in which a man self-injects using a thin needle, some rubber tubing, and a plunger of silicone. The most popular video has amassed about 30,000 views.

As a wave of radicalism swept Britain in 1945, Mr. Levitas was one of 10 Communist candidates elected to his borough council. He remained a councilor for 17 years — and when I first met him in 2012, he was still able to point out housing estates that had been built as a result of local campaigns. Two years after our meeting, he was still at it, leading a delegation from his apartment block to protest unfair charges for repair work. “He still spoke with all the fire of the young man at Cable Street,” one of his neighbors recalled. “It was astonishing, and none of the officials present dared to challenge him.” He was 99 at the time.

Like all trolls, the debate-starting man is there to suck away your time — something of which he has only too much. Don’t let him. The bogus aura of ceremonial dispute is his lone alternative to his primary pastime: intellectual masturbation. Until he figures out that he’s not entitled to anyone else’s labor, he can keep on shouting his idiocy into a soiled gym sock. By which I mean you ought to mute him instead of blocking, so that he has nothing to screenshot and feels ignored rather than censored. That way, perhaps, he will be cursed to roam far afield for the thrill of annoying a stranger. The utopian possibility is that in the end, the “debate me” dudes will be trapped in a purgatory of their own making, with only one another to debate.

Sea cucumbers—there are some 1,700 species globally—are echinoderms, along with urchins and sea stars. Only a few species have sensory organs; none have brains, merely ganglia of nerves for coordinating movement. Essentially sedentary, the animals are easy to collect, particularly in shallow water. This leaves them vulnerable to overfishing for the black market.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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