The way Americans cling, almost illogically, to the narrative of upward mobility is dramatized in Conell’s “The Party Upstairs.” Ruby, a recent graduate who attended college on a partial scholarship, has moved back in with her working-class parents in their basement apartment. Her ex-boyfriend encourages her to take an unpaid internship at the American Museum of Natural History, apparently unable to grasp that because she has loans she cannot work for free. He is from a wealthy family, but volunteers with underprivileged schoolchildren. He is so tethered to the idea that education is the key to social mobility that he can see her plight only as a personal failure. As her boyfriend, he once lectured her that his students “came from way more difficult backgrounds than she had, by the way, and turned into real success stories.” Ruby, frustrated, lectured him back. “They don’t turn into stories,” she says. “They’re people. They’ll just keep on being people.”

  • Dirt, which is published on Substack, has a Gen X Guide to Web3 that outlines 5 themes they see in the evolution of the field:

While many are too young to have lived through Prince renaming himself, that most radical act of protesting the artists’ forcible alienation from his work prefigured the greatest art heist of all time: Web2. Creators not only built the audience, but also created the content while reaping minuscule proportions of the gains.  

If it’s difficult to discern ideology— that glue that holds culture together— then describing an emergent subculture, especially when living in it, may be even more difficult.  When my own band got signed as part of the post-Nirvana indie major label gold rush and subsequently squeezed as Napster put an end to all that fun, I would have loved for someone to explain to me what in the hell was going on.  It would have been especially useful to understand the ideology of our digital conquerers, in order to shape a counter-offensive. So that we can launch more unified counter-offensive to the crypto libertarians, I set out to describe Web3 ideology as a participant-observer, a process that has been described as trying to explain water to the fish. (I ask forgiveness from the fish, to whom there’s nothing lamer or stranger than talking about water.)

Around 30 private landlords kindly volunteered their time to speak to me. As is now cliche, the majority claimed to have become landlords due to an unfortunate confluence of circumstances beyond their control. Some accounts – such as a woman who moved in with her partner, but couldn’t sell her own flat as its value had been decimated by the cladding crisis – were more plausible than others. “My now wife and I split up briefly, she moved out,” one landlord in East Anglia told me. “I went to live with my dad and rented the house we’d been living in.”

 So it’s just the one property you rent out? “It is actually five.” 

Around six landlords informed me they hadn’t put up rents. But of those who have, increases ranged from 3% to over 20%, with the typical figure hovering around 15%. I had wondered whether the BoE’s interest rate hikes might have been a driving force behind landlords hoisting the cost of renting, but nobody I spoke to faced the immediate prospect of the cost of their mortgage increasing. Almost every landlord was either on a fixed rate (meaning that the monthly mortgage payments wouldn’t go up for another few years) or owned their properties outright. 

The first thing to note about the Rushdie affair is that it had little to do with theology. While Islamic tradition does proscribe abusing sacred figures, its terms and debates have rarely featured in the controversy or since. Occurring initially among Muslims of South Asian descent in Britain, and then moving back to India and Pakistan, the first protests against The Satanic Verses deployed a nineteenth-century colonial vocabulary that had been enshrined in the Indian Penal Code of 1860. Itself a secular document meant to allow the British to govern a religiously diverse society, the code disavowed blasphemy and penalized hurting religious sentiments instead. It was this specifically South Asian terminology about the hurt sentiments of believers in all religions, not the true faith of one, that was globalized in the Rushdie affair.

Muslim protests and violence over insults to Muhammad first emerged in colonial India during the middle of the nineteenth century. They had to do with the creation of a market in publishing through mass circulation by way of the printing press. Rather than any traditional dispute between theologians, in other words, press stories about Muhammad not only lacked theological import but were addressed to an anonymous public. They were justified on the grounds of free speech, itself modeled on free trade in proposing the market as a site at which true value, whether economic or religious, emerged through the impersonal operation of an invisible hand—that is, through the marketplace of ideas. Given the unavailability of political freedoms in colonial societies, Muslim protesters took the market as their arena of operations. Accepting its non-religious character, they invoked a protectionist argument, asking for their hurt sentiments to be recognized in the same way as libel and defamation laws did for other kinds of offensive speech under British law.

The interesting thing about this particular sort of backlash is that someone is willing to express such sentiments so explicitly. Backlashes against Black actors being cast in prominent genre roles are almost reflexive at this point, but the critics usually avoid stating outright that the integrity of the work requires an all-white cast. Most of the time, they stick to the argument that inserting politics into art diminishes the quality of the acting or storytelling, even if the shows merely acknowledge the existence of people who are not white or straight or men. The benefit of Morse’s candor is his clarity that his demand to keep politics out of art is itself a demand for art to conform to conservative politics.

There are a number of reasons these reactionary backlashes happen so often. The first, obviously, is that some people lack the imagination to see themselves in protagonists they do not aspire to resemble, at least in their mind’s eye. Another is that some conservative outlets see the screen as just another front in the culture war. They aim to convince the corporations that make television shows and films that their products will fail commercially if they do not conform to conservative politics, while convincing devoted fans of these properties that the reason newer interpretations are unsatisfying is because of diverse casting.

Being almost a millennium old, the British monarchy (itself an absurd hangover from feudal times) has carried with it some embarrassing traditions into the 21st Century: The Queen holds dominion over all unmarked swans in open waters, and all sturgeon, whales and dolphins within 3 miles of the British coast. In 2004 a Welsh fisherman was investigated by police after catching a 10-foot sturgeon.

Btw, if you’re curious how all the Royal titles in the UK will change with the ascent of King Charles III, this is a short explainer:

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

The Latest

Required Reading

This week, Godard’s anti-imperialism, in defense of “bad” curating, an inexplicable statue, criminalizing culture wars, and more.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

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