New England Fishery Drama, Self-Care, and the Curation Nation: Recommended Reading

Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing excellent content, but also keeping an eye on other great writing from around the web. This may be a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, but given the immediate gravity of U.S. politics, we’ve been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well as the occasional culture piece.


Moze Halperin: Talmon Joseph Smith spoke with both Campaign Zero founder/Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and Megan Phelps-Roper — Fred Phelps’ granddaughter who left the Westboro Baptist Church — and continued the ever-challenging debate about strategizing resistance towards persuasion:

“Being right is never enough,” DeRay Mckesson, a prominent activist in the Black Lives Matter movement and founder of the Resistance Manual, told me. “The left sometimes faultily believes that the best idea wins, but what we know to be true is that the idea that is repeated over and over, that is able to be said at the dinner table, that uses imagery and shared stories—these are the ideas that win.”


Tom Hawking: Who’d have thought the day would come when we’d see a friend of Flavorwire on the cover of TIME magazine? It’s true, though — on the cover of this week’s issue is Marie McGwier, who is a Brooklyn-based LGBTQ activist and one half of Gender is Over (If You Want It), who make the awesome shirts and hoodies that we’ve discussed here before. The cover story that accompanies the picture is a basic but surprisingly nuanced examination of the rising visibility of non-binary people in America, presented for TIME‘s mom-and-pop readership:

With gender, the identity breakdown seems newer to many people [than with sexuality] — and in some ways tougher to unpack. There is one’s anatomy but also other traits, from facial hair to chromosomes, that may not “match” those body parts. Then there is gender identity (sense of self), gender socialization (how people are expected to act) and gender expression (how a person dresses or styles their hair and so on). “While all these things exist and for a lot of people, they line up, in some people they don’t,” says Julia Serano, an author and transgender woman. “One of the things the average person doesn’t really appreciate is just how holistic gender is.”

As it becomes more common to be nonconforming — and as slang spreads at lightning speed online — the list of labels people use has grown. In one large-scale survey released in 2016, respondents were asked to write in the term that best fits their gender, and researchers received more than 500 unique responses.


MH: For Mother Jones, Ben Goldfarb went deep into corruption in the New England fishing industry, centering his story on Carlos Rafael, a fishing mogul who was arrested last year and “indicted on 27 counts of fraud.” He’s often referred to as “The Codfather.”

“The Codfather” is the local media’s nickname for Carlos Rafael, a stocky mogul with drooping jowls, a smooth pate, and a backstory co-scripted by Horatio Alger and Machiavelli… In the 1980s he was sentenced to six months in prison for tax evasion, and in 1994 he was indicted—and acquitted—for price-fixing. In 2011, federal agents confiscated an 881-pound tuna that had been illegally netted aboard his Apollo. “I am a pirate,” he once told regulators. “It’s your job to catch me.” Law-abiding rivals resented him and grudgingly admired him. “He has no compunction about telling you how he’s screwing you,” says one ex-fisherman.


TH: A rather less in-depth piece than the ins and outs of New England fisheries, but one that’s still worth reading, if only because it seeks to answer the question of why the Democratic party would apparently rather disembowel itself slowly than acknowledge that Bernie Sanders and his politics are the way forward. The Guardian‘s Trevor Timms, predictably, finds no sensible answer:

[The Democrats have] steadfastly refused to take giant corporations head on in the public sphere and wouldn’t even return to an Obama-era rule that banned lobbyist money from funding the DNC that was rescinded last year. And despite the broad popularity of the government guaranteeing health care for everyone, they still have not made any push for a Medicare-for-all plan that Sanders has long called for as a rebuttal to Republicans’ attempt to dismantle Obamacare.

Democrats seem more than happy to put all the blame of the 2016 election on a combination of Russia and James Comey and have engaged in almost zero introspection on the root causes of the larger reality: they are also out of power in not the presidency, but both also houses of Congress, governorships and state houses across the country as well.


MH: Jordan Kisner writes in the New Yorker about the online surge of the term “Self Care.” She gets into its history, emphasizing its use in the 20th century in communities of color and queer communities, and examines the ways it has, across social media, been repurposed as an activism-adjacent hashtag more often propagating lifestyle porn, to often commercial ends:

After decades of disuse, the term was repopularized in the seventies and eighties by people of color and queer communities—this time as a gesture of defiance… The irony of the grand online #selfcare-as-politics movement of 2016 is that it was powered by straight, affluent white women, who, although apparently feeling a new vulnerability in the wake of the election, are not traditionally the segment of American society in the greatest need of affirmation. Naturally, the movement has become a market. Further investigations of Papaya Girl showed that her picture was #spon, or sponsored—in this case by a beauty company. In fact, #selfcare is often #spon. When I looked closely at another post, of a blogger having coffee and enjoying a “smooth and balanced” moment, I saw that it was paid for by McDonald’s to promote its new “smooth and balanced” coffee blend…All of this might serve a rather different notion of American individualism than what Audre Lorde had in mind.


TH: And finally, The Baffler‘s founding editor Thomas Frank returns to write about the rise of “curation” as a concept in the 21st century (and in doing so, introduces me, at least, to the word “curatolatry”):

When Facebook replaced its curators with an algorithm last summer, “fake news” seemed to blossom. All of a sudden, there were reports of Facebook mainlining preposterous, easily debunked right-wing news items into the national bloodstream. The most infamous specimen, of course, was the “Pizzagate” saga, which posited that Hillary Clinton and Democratic operative John Podesta were running a child-sex ring out of a Northwest D.C. eatery—a libel that later created an actual news sensation when a diligent soul from North Carolina “self-investigated” the claim by turning up at the restaurant with a loaded rifle in tow…

And then, a short while later, Donald Trump was elected president, a shock supreme to the sort of people who listen to TED talks and take things like cupcake curation seriously. What could explain this horrifying turn of events? Representatives of the prestige media thought they knew what had happened: It was fake news that did it, fake news abetted by the Russian propaganda machine. This had not merely been a choice between a Republican and a Democrat, they moaned; it was the eternal war between true and false. And “the truth is losing,” as a memorable Washington Post op-ed headline put it. Another way of describing this situation might be as a conflict between the counterfeit and the curated.