The Sunday Post for October 23, 2016

“A Honeypot For Assholes”: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment

Charlie Warzel, in BuzzFeed, on the history and intention of Twitter's abuse problem.

“What was once lauded as a virtue has now become the company’s Achilles’ heel — it’s the axis around which all this shit with harassment rotates,” a former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. Nearly all former employees BuzzFeed News spoke to in the course of reporting this story said the same thing. “The whole ‘free speech wing of the free speech party’ thing — that’s not a slogan, that’s deeply, deeply embedded in the DNA of the company,” Twitter’s former head of news, Vivian Schiller, said. “The people that run Twitter … are not stupid. They understand that this toxicity can kill them, but how do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line? I would actually challenge anyone to identify a perfect solution. But it feels to a certain extent that it’s led to paralysis.”
Small Island, Big Experiment

Anna Maria Barry-Jester's long, and fascinating, story on the politics of eliminating an insect species by genetic tweaking.

There are 48 breeds of mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, the string of islands that sweep off the southern tip of Florida and toward the Gulf of Mexico like a flyaway hair. Several of the mosquito types are an extreme nuisance, swarming and biting with fervor. The one Ryan was looking for, however, stands out for its stealth, affection for residential areas and ability to carry viruses that infect humans: the Aedes aegypti. It was the cause of a 2009–11 outbreak of dengue fever, a virus that can cause flu-like symptoms and debilitating pain, in Key West. And it’s the same mosquito that’s wreaking havoc in southern Florida, where the Zika virus is hitching rides between humans in tourist-filled Miami Beach and other nearby neighborhoods. Ryan found 10 breeding sites on this single property.

The species is also at the center of an intense debate about genetically modified mosquitoes. In November, a small group of Florida voters will wade into the center of that debate and make a decision that could have lasting effects in the U.S. and around the world.

Donald Trump Is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene

I know, I know — we don't want to hear more about Trump (although, Ezra Klein's piece about how Hillary played him like a fiddle in all three debates is a satisfying read), but stick with this piece. There is more subtle things going on here.

In short, this is an important piece, by Robinson Meyer, a preview of what's to come, and an alert — but, also a process of how to deal with it. Erin Kissane broke down the 5 ways she thought this piece was important on Twitter, and I stand behind what she says 100%.

Spend enough time with some of the worst-case climate scenarios, and you may start to assume, as I did, that a major demagogue would contest the presidency in the next century. I figured that the catastrophic consequences of planetary warming would all but ensure the necessary conditions for such a leader, and I imagined their support coming from a movement motivated by ethnonationalism, economic stagnation, and hatred of immigrants and refugees. I pictured, in other words, something not so far from Trump 2016.

I just assumed it wouldn’t pop up until 2040.


Trump is, in essence, a double case—a preview of what’s to come and a way to practice dealing with it. He represents a test that the leaders of a major American political party are failing, and that the electorate may only narrowly pass. He is showing us how ill-prepared the United States is for post-climate demagoguery, and he gives us an opportunity to improve our societal immune response.

How might we do that? His rise also suggests a number of defense mechanisms. Obviously, the first is that climate change must be mitigated with all deliberate speed. But he also suggests certain cultural mechanisms. Some Americans may favor more restrictive immigration policies, but—in order to withstand against future waves of mass migration (and humanely deal with the victims of climate change)—racist fears must be unhooked from immigration restrictionism. In other words, as a matter of survival against future authoritarians, white supremacy must be rejected and defeated.

Hannah Gadsby: why I love the Arnolfini Portrait, one of art history’s greatest riddles

A great appreciation of one of my very favorite paintings.

The Arnolfini Portrait is one of those paintings that everyone swears they’ve never seen nor heard of until they see it. “Oh! That one!” they always say. “The one with the pregnant lady wearing that heavy green dress!” They are right about one thing: the dress looks equal to the task of curtaining a large bay window. But they are wrong to assume the woman is pregnant.

Not only did Van Eyck have a habit of painting women to look like they were with child even when they were without, but it was also fashionable at the time to look pregnant when you were not. Faking the harvest to attract the seed, so to speak. It’s untidy logic but still makes more sense than thigh gap.