Crusty intellectual types are fond of expressing disgust with what they see as social media’s corrosive effect on our culture of Letters. Recently, we heard about it from deposed New Republic sage Leon Wieseltier in a mostly maddeningly opaque New York Times Book Review cover essay about disruption. “As the frequency of expression grows, the force of expression diminishes: Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements,” he wrote. “It was always the case that all things must pass, but this is ridiculous.” (The latter sentence would fit fabulously in a tweet, I thought ashamedly.) … Read More
Scattered throughout the history of Western art, one finds dozens of portraits of girls reading. In this popular pose, the male (or female) artist’s gaze focuses on the female subject, while her own gaze rests modestly on her book, unaware of the watcher. Now, a self-described “group of tight-knit friends” has reversed that classic male gaze — along with the troubling trend that has people turning away from reading books on the train in favor of screens. … Read More
After their affair almost took down the Clinton presidency, Bill Clinton stayed in the White House, seemingly invincible, while Monica Lewinsky slunk out of public view.
But not for long. At age 27, Lewinsky arrived in New York as one of the most infamous women in American history. It was the age of post-millennial excess, the New York City of Candace Bushnell and designer everything. Into this glamorous universe, Monica — no last name necessary — was ushered. She became an “It Girl,” but also an object of constant surveillance, and the subject of a memorable profile by Vanessa Grigoriadis in New York Magazine. … Read More
How do you distinguish between a real death threat and a joke death threat? The all-in-good-fun, we’re-on-the-same-side-here death threats? The ones that look like death threats, sound like death threats, and certainly feel like death threats — but are actually death threats for a cause? It’s a trick question, of course, because you don’t. Brianna Wu certainly didn’t, which is why she reported a man named Jace Connors to the police earlier this month. … Read More
Someone is always watching.
For the longest time, that idea underpinned grim visions of a totalitarian future in books and movies, from Nineteen Eighty-Four to The Hunger Games — cautionary tales about the fate awaiting a citizenry that allows itself to be deceived by the people in power.
Then the future arrived, and it turned out those bleak fantasies of an all-seeing surveillance state weren’t so farfetched: in the post-9/11 world, someone really is watching, be it Facebook mapping your life’s history for the sake of advertising dollars, or the National Security Agency keeping tabs on your phone calls and text messages in the name of freedom. … Read More
Harassment of women who share their opinions online are so common, pervasive, and frightening that it’s practically irresponsible to talk about “infighting” on the left, particularly around identity politics issues, without understanding that broader context. This morning, Michelle Goldberg published a painful but important piece in the Washington Post about the way Gamergate-style threats and harassment have chased many prominent feminist bloggers out of the public sphere, or at least made them consider quitting. The reporting-heavy piece describes a sort of PTSD that being heavily trolled inflicts on writers, sometimes until they leave the Internet. … Read More
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
As ridiculous as it may sound, there are grown men whose entire ideological worldview has been shaped by the above quote from the 1999 film The Matrix. These men are known by many names (“men’s rights activists,” “meninists,” “red-pillers,” “pick-up artists”), and while there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of nominal continuity, their core belief remains constant: men are being oppressed. … Read More
The Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself includes a clip, taken from a TV appearance in 1980, in which the Pulitzer Prize winner explains the station of the movie critic. “I sit at the desk next to our music critic at the Sun-Times,” he explains. “People are very worshipful of him — ‘Oh, what did you think of Solti’s conducting last night?’ And then he will say, and they will nod like this and go away. Then they’ll turn around and come up to me and say, ‘I totally disagree with your review in this morning’s paper!’” In the clip, he’s discussing our inflexibility regarding our film opinions, but he’s also commenting on the degree to which film reviews are seen as second-class criticism. And that view has never been clearer than in the newest, weirdest trend in online film commentary: people writing about movies they haven’t bothered to see. … Read More
One of the more ironic aspects of entrenched male opposition to feminism is this: living by feminist principles could genuinely improve things for men. Yes, male power and privilege will be surrendered when patriarchy recedes, but so will outsize expectations about masculinity. In fact, a lot of the complaints that MRA types clutch to their chests about an allegedly unfair world would be irrelevant in a feminist utopia. … Read More