Kim Jong Un isn’t stupid: he knows that his impoverished state is far weaker than the US or South Korea or Japan, any of which would just love to see his government collapse. North Korea can only deter those enemies by being more threatening and dangerous. It will never be stronger, so it has to be crazier instead, always more willing to escalate.
This has been effective: Americans consistently rate North Korea as one of the greatest threats to the United States, though it is in fact a frail country with decades-old military equipment and an economy smaller than Jamaica’s. North Korea works hard to convince Americans of this, publishing reams of propaganda portraying itself as a serious threat.
The Sony hack, then, has been a breathtaking success for Kim Jong Un. Americans are so convinced of North Korea’s power, and of its belligerence, that they see the act of simply watching a movie in their hometown theater or streaming online as a show of brave defiance. And they see America as not just in conflict with North Korea, but that conflict as so important that families will spend their Christmas watching a movie perceived to be a part of the conflict. Even Vladimir Putin could never have dreamed of a propaganda victory so resounding.
But I assume this means we can blame Bill O’Reilly for his 28 episodes of invective against “Tiller the Baby Killer” that eventually ended in the murder of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. We can blame conservative talk radio for fueling the anti-government hysteria that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City. We can blame the relentless xenophobia of Fox News for the bombing of an Islamic Center in Joplin or the massacre of Sikh worshippers by a white supremacist in Wisconsin. We can blame the NRA for the mass shootings in Newtown and Aurora.
“They Don’t Care About Us” was denounced by The New York Times even before its release, and did not reach much of its intended audience because the controversy caused by the New York Times article would go on to overshadow the song itself. Radio stations were reluctant to play it and one of the short films Jackson created for the song was banned in the U.S.
Bernard Weinraub, husband of Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal, was the writer of the Times article.
One particularly vicious 1995 Newsday review of this song read in part: “When Michael Jackson sings ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ you’ve got to wonder who he thinks ‘us’ is.”
The Black Lives Matter protestors don’t wonder.
Here is the video filmed in Brazil:
Welcome to Constellation Park, population 5,000. But everyone here — suspended in hanging vessels under New York’s Manhattan Bridge — is dead.
It’s not the set of a dystopian film, but rather a proposed solution to a problem faced by cities around the world: Where can the urban dead rest in peace these days? Constellation Park is one of several concepts by DeathLab, a Columbia University-based research and design space focused on “re-conceiving how we live with death in the metropolis.” This group of researchers and architects are quietly working on ideas that include a looming tower that that holds “pods” (i.e., graves) that light up and above which people can stroll, and a spaceship-like structure on Manhattan’s waterfront that’s like a park where the waking can slip in and out.
“We are running out of space,” says Karla Rothstein, a Columbia professor who is part of DeathLab. It’s not just a New York problem, she says: “It’s happening all over the world.”
Unfortunately racism is still apart of our society, and will most likely be for a long time to come.
There is a bitter debate over racism these days — specifically, whether or not it still exists in a way that actually matters. The argument against goes something like, “Sure, there are neo-Nazis and KKK and YouTube comment sections out there, but we’ve got a black president, for Christ’s sake! Racism has been banished to the craziest fringes of society.”
But science says that’s just not true — the prejudice persists, we’re just less aware of it, and there’s tons of proof that we’ll get into starting … now:
Civilization is imperiled. Demonic dark-skinned criminals exult in seizing property and security. Only a vanguard of brave uniformed officers can take them off the streets and restore order. It is 1835, and whites are finally confronting what Mark Twain will soon call “the satanic brotherhood of the Thugs.”
Nearly two centuries later, those on the lookout for the thug find him everywhere. Toddling in a diaper in Omaha, Nebraska. Trudging along the sidewalk in a hoodie in the Orlando suburbs. Turning his music up outside a Jacksonville gas station. Peddling loosies in front of a shop on Staten. “Charging” a cop on Florissant, just down the Mighty Mississippi a piece from where Twain was born. Chanting on the street not far from a Ferguson school that today bears Twain’s name.
Fear of the thug is a fear of the dark, literal and metaphorical. A pale colonizing soldier or constable—trained, armed, deputized to travel out of the warm confines of the civilization he serves—stares into the night of the frontier, whether in Hyderabad or the suburbs of St. Louis, and sees only shadow. Within the shadow, crimes and perils and swarthy locals all mix together. Perhaps they are all connected somehow, all serving the aims of the criminal, the subversive—whether as a street tough or a dealer or a user or simply a friend or relation who refuses to snitch. Perhaps this is bigger than we think. Perhaps the thug owns the night.
This contemporary anti-thug movement has achieved a funny ironic resonance: Few things today more closely resemble Sleeman’s thuggee brotherhood than does a tea party rally, men’s rights convention, gun show, or armed anti-government standoff. From militias to neoconfederates to 4channing libertarians, a cultural underground has emerged of armed anti-government ideologues dreaming of redemptive violence. Hence a reactionary conservative can proudly call for the shooting of college-age protesters and their “SEIU thug” allies in Wisconsin; Fox News can trumpet a poll that calls for “armed revolution” in America, even as it pearl-clutches over “thugs” getting invites to the White House, again and again and again; and armed citizens can dig in for a “defense” against the “thuggery” of federal and state peace officers.
We continue to see them all around us. We continue to put them down. We continue to put down the protests that grow out of their deaths, to see these events as more proof of thuggishness all around. And we won’t stop, because according to the hardening myth of the American thuggee, he never stops.
More: A History of Thugs
Divorce rates are down, and we have feminism to thank for it. Social scientists have known for a long time that half of all marriages are not actually destined to end in divorce. Even so, the myth that matrimony is in peril persists—and that falsehood is unlikely to die anytime soon.
At the New York Times, Claire Cain Miller has gallantly tried yet again to get it through people’s thick skulls that feminism has not, as conservatives claim, uprooted family life by creating a bunch of marriage-allergic women who seek a divorce the minute their husband farts in front of them the first time. Her piece is incredibly thorough and should be bookmarked to be sent to anyone and everyone who laments how modern marriage is supposedly falling apart.
As always, Fairytale of New York makes me realize what time of the year it is.
In 1978, the legendary comedian addressed police using chokeholds onstage in Long Beach, California, during a bit for his first length feature film, Richard Pryor: Live in Concert.
But the stereotype that African Americans are excessively fond of watermelon emerged for a specific historical reason and served a specific political purpose. The trope came into full force when slaves won their emancipation during the Civil War. Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence. This racist trope then exploded in American popular culture, becoming so pervasive that its historical origin became obscure. Few Americans in 1900 would’ve guessed the stereotype was less than half a century old.
Not that the raw material for the racist watermelon trope didn’t exist before emancipation. In the early modern European imagination, the typical watermelon-eater was an Italian or Arab peasant. The watermelon, noted a British officer stationed in Egypt in 1801, was “a poor Arab’s feast,” a meager substitute for a proper meal. In the port city of Rosetta he saw the locals eating watermelons “ravenously … as if afraid the passer-by was going to snatch them away,” and watermelon rinds littered the streets. There, the fruit symbolized many of the same qualities as it would in post-emancipation America: uncleanliness, because eating watermelon is so messy. Laziness, because growing watermelons is so easy, and it’s hard to eat watermelon and keep working—it’s a fruit you have to sit down and eat. Childishness, because watermelons are sweet, colorful, and devoid of much nutritional value. And unwanted public presence, because it’s hard to eat a watermelon by yourself. These tropes made their way to America, but the watermelon did not yet have a racial meaning. Americans were just as likely to associate the watermelon with white Kentucky hillbillies or New Hampshire yokels as with black South Carolina slaves.
It may seem silly to attribute so much meaning to a fruit. And the truth is that there is nothing inherently racist about watermelons. But cultural symbols have the power to shape how we see our world and the people in it, such as when police officer Darren Wilson saw Michael Brown as a superhuman “demon.” These symbols have roots in real historical struggles—specifically, in the case of the watermelon, white people’s fear of the emancipated black body. Whites used the stereotype to denigrate black people—to take something they were using to further their own freedom, and make it an object of ridicule. It ultimately does not matter if someone means to offend when they tap into the racist watermelon stereotype, because the stereotype has a life of its own.
I’m glad I came across this since I never knew the history. I do remember my mother telling me that as a little girl she was taught to never eat watermelon or fried chicken in public.