The Sunday Post for October 7, 2018

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

Brett Kavanaugh and the Information Terrorists Trying to Reshape America

You’ll remember most of the events covered by Molly McKew in this piece — Gamergate, Pizzagate, QAnon — but here’s a chance to see them outside the punch of outrage and understand the social movement that ties them together, a movement that elected Donald Trump and confirmed Brett Kavanaugh. Actually “social movement” is the wrong term: McKew’s point is that the enabler here is a kind of information system that’s entirely new, and which the old systems are entirely unprepared to fight.

This has all taken on a new heady energy as pushback to #MeToo — and riding the coattails of the conspiracy bandwagon. But the intent is the same: to demonize the opponent, define identity, activate the base around emotional rather than rational concepts, and build a narrative that can be used to normalize marginal and radical political views. It is, after all, very convenient to have a narrative positing that all your political opponents are part of a secret cabal of sexual predators, which thus exonerates your side by default.

This is the ideological landscape that has been so swiftly leveraged in the defense of Brett Kavanaugh.


Now move into Greg Afinogenov’s analysis of the scholarly hoax revealed by its perpetrators last week and aimed at undercutting what the hoaxers call “grievance studies,” which is to say academic studies related to sexism, racism, and other kinds of marginalization. We’ve lost track of the difference between punching up and punching down. A convenient confusion for people terrified of fighting on a level playing field.

The orthodoxy these men represent is not an orthodoxy of scientific legitimacy but rather the emerging consensus of tech bros, Davos billionaires, and alt-right misogynists. Each of these groups has its own reasons to hate feminist and other critical scholarship—whether for ideological reasons, positivist data fetishism, or the perception that they are uncommodifiable and hence worthless. It has thus been easy for them to find common cause in fighting the old Sokal specter of academic postmodernism that supposedly still dominates academia. At stake in the hoax, then, is precisely the question of whether it is “grievance studies” that is Goliath and methodological “common sense” that is David, or vice-versa.
It's OK to Be a Writer and a __

Laurie Patton, college president and poet, debunks the idea that it’s more courageous, or proper, to be solely one or the other. A gentle essay, but resolute against the idea that there’s anything a “real” writer does or doesn’t do.

The Tanpura Principle in writing is the idea that much of writing occurs while doing something else, because the base of poetic inspiration, the supporting drone, is always there. It's what my friend meant when she quipped that even a budget could be a poem. She did not mean that one had to ruthlessly integrate identities in order to make oneself intelligible to the outside world, but that in poetry there was a kind of harmonic listening that could occur anywhere, and in any way.
The Woman Who Made Aquaman a Star

Gwynne Watkins interviews comics legend Ramona Fradon, the artist who created one of Aquaman’s most iconic looks. Fradon worked in the 1950s and 1970s, and you get the feeling the tidbits she drops about observing the male-dominated profession are just the tip of an iceberg of tasty gossip.

Fradon has talent and guts and cuttingly quick wit — and a healthy skepticism of certain segments of her audience.

Fradon couldn't be nicer, but she has the canniness of a woman who survived the some of the nation's hardest decades — and the pressures of an all-male industry — by her own wits. I confess to her that I'm only a casual comics reader; my husband is the one with a passion for superhero stories. "Could you explain that to me?" she asks with a smile. "I just do not understand the grown men who are so into comics."

An absolutely engrossing excerpt from Brian Phillips’ Impossible Owls about searching for tigers in India. As Phillips re-traces the route of a famous hunter’s most famous kill, the great cats emerge from the negative space, an absence forced into bloody presence by the encroachment of human habitat (and human poaching). What is natural and what is not? Does “conservation” apply to an animal that hunts us?

One day I had been shown a newly built wall. It separated, I was told, the reserve from one of the villages. If a tiger killed a cow or an ox outside the reserve, the villagers were entitled to compensation from the government. If it killed one inside the reserve, they were not. Villagers whose cattle were killed in the reserve had been caught dragging the carcass into their own yards in order to claim the payment, and so the government had built the wall, not to stop tigers from attacking the villagers or their cattle, but to stop the villagers from claiming payments they were not owed. Until 2006, it had been illegal for forest dwellers even to own the land they lived on; the law had been changed over furious objections from conservationists. I was beginning to perceive that not everyone living in this scenario might feel a strong passion for wildlife conservation. I was beginning to think that preserving nature for the next generation might seem a less academic notion in New York than on the threshold of the actual jungle  —  how under certain circumstances it might sound like a mystifying collection of words, and how it might in fact sound more mystifying the closer to "nature" one came.