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Links: September 2016

Fear of a Female President

To understand this reaction, start with what social psychologists call “precarious manhood” theory. The theory posits that while womanhood is typically viewed as natural and permanent, manhood must be “earned and maintained.” Because it is won, it can also be lost. Scholars at the University of South Florida and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported that when asked how someone might lose his manhood, college students rattled off social failures like “losing a job.” When asked how someone might lose her womanhood, by contrast, they mostly came up with physical examples like “a sex-change operation” or “having a hysterectomy.”

Because women in positions of power are seen as less legitimate than men in comparable positions, a study led by Yale’s Andrea Vial warns, their mind-set can come to resemble that of “illegitimate authorities.” A “self-reinforcing cycle” develops: In the face of disrespect, a woman’s leadership style can become overly tentative or aggressive. People in turn attack her, and she responds with more self-defeating defensiveness.

Growing paranoid is easy when, because of your gender, people really are out to get you.

A 2011 paper by the University of Michigan’s Nicholas Valentino and Ted Brader found that Obama’s election persuaded some whites that racism had declined, which made them more critical of affirmative action.

In 2015, more Republicans told the Public Religion Research Institute that “there is a lot of discrimination” against white men than said “there is a lot of discrimination” against women. This spring, 42 percent of Americans said they believed the United States has become “too soft and feminine.”

Juanita Broaddrick Wants To Be Believed

In theory, partisan politics shouldn’t play a role in determining whether an alleged rape victim deserves to be heard. But lately, right-wing news outlets and conservative politicians with awful track records on women’s issues have treated Broaddrick’s story with the sensitivity of a Feministing blogger.

Broaddrick presents a dilemma for those inclined to support survivors of sexual assault: Can you believe a woman’s story, on principle, but reject the way she decides to tell it?

The Audacious Plan to Save This Man’s Life by Transplanting His Head

“One could look at this patient in two ways,” Giordano said: “as an idiot or as an astronaut.”

If successful, head transplantation will reignite centuries-old debates about the relationship between mind, brain, and body. Is the you inside you situated inside your brain alone? Or does personhood depend on the specific mound of flesh you call your body?

The surgery would also raise social issues. The body alone produces eggs and sperm, so any children that head transplantees have after surgery would not be related to them genetically. But they would be related to the body donor’s family.

According to Pascalev, the human chimera that awoke from surgery wouldn’t really be the head donor or the body donor anymore, but someone else entirely. In that sense, a head transplant wouldn’t save Valery Spiridonov’s life so much as create a new one. A life with affinities to Spiridonov’s old one, certainly. But in many ways—medically, psychologically, maybe even spiritually—it would be something entirely new, unprecedented in history.

Fury Road - Crash & Smash

Has anyone ever had a better answer to the question “What have you been up to?” than the crew of Mad Max: Fury Road?

Sitcom Men, Grappling With a New Reality on TV

Fear not, oppressed white dudes. In the age of prestige TV, there’s still pedestrian programming to ease your pain.

Latinos for Trump

Oh man, this Full Frontal profile of the Latinos for Trump “taco truck on every corner” guy.

A Timeline of Earth’s Average Temperature

An extraordinary (and frightening) visualization.

Amazon Says It Puts Customers First. But Its Pricing Algorithm Doesn’t

I had fun making animations for Julia Angwin’s story on Amazon’s questionable practices.

Ambidextrous Collection 3

I dusted off my Lulu account to buy Kevin Corenll’s long-awaited Ambidextrous Collection 3. You should too.

It’s 2016. Dad says that he and Ma will leave the country if Hillary is elected. They are big Republicans. What conservative country should they move to?

The best fit for conservatives threatening to leave the US in the event of a Hillary Clinton presidency? Pakistan.

How Breitbart Conquered the Media

For speaking a truth, backed up by data, Clinton was accused of promoting bigotry. No. The true crime was endangering white consciousness.

Running the Nickelodeon obstacle course of ‘90s nostalgia with Sugar Ray and Pauly Shore

Do they love those songs, or do they know those songs? Ultimately, the point of 90sFest is that it doesn’t ask you to know the difference.

Colin Kaepernick’s Critics Called Him an Idiot. Who’s the Idiot Now?

A 2015 congressional report revealed that the Department of Defense had paid $5.4 million to NFL teams between 2011 and 2014 to stage on-field patriotic ceremonies; the National Guard shelled out $6.7 million for similar displays between 2013 and 2015.

Kaepernick’s gesture worked because it was divisive—because his supporters celebrated him for giving voice to the voiceless, and because his detractors amplified that voice by trying to shout it down with ad hominem attacks. His protest, striking at the heart of America’s most cherished pieties from the stage of its favorite sport, was precision engineered to accomplish exactly what it’s accomplished, and the response has only proved its necessity.

Donald Trump’s New Anti-Abortion Letter Should Terrify You

One of Hillary Clinton’s most exciting and progressive choices this election cycle has been her open call to abolish the Hyde Amendment, the legislative rider that prevents any taxpayer money — including the funds that many Americans rely on for health insurance through Medicaid — to pay for abortions. The Hyde Amendment means that American women — many of them women of color — who cannot afford health insurance are effectively prevented from availing themselves of a legal medical procedure that is their right and that is fundamental to their ability to exert autonomy over their reproductive lives and thus their economic and familial futures. Yes. Hillary Clinton opposes the Hyde Amendment, because it is one of the policies that exacerbates economic and racial inequality in this country.

Corey Feldman and the battle for the internet’s soul

A thoughtful essay from Sean O’Neal on Corey Feldman and the internet’s blurred line between bullying and criticism.

the debate over Corey Feldman this week has become an unlikely symbol of this cultural cold war we’re in, where the old, Gen-X-bred instincts to ridicule our media figures as a way of fighting back against their presumed superiority have brushed up against a new generation, steeped in “Haters To The Left” empowerment and enough variety of entertainment to wonder why anyone would ever waste the energy talking shit about something they don’t like. Theirs is a world where Kim Kardashian, waist trainer spokesperson, should be lauded as a role model for body positivity, and YouTube and Snapchat have made anyone who practices any self-expression—no matter how banal or self-serving—into someone to be admired on some level. It’s a world where our radios are littered with anthem after anthem about fighting through the nameless, faceless “them” who are always trying to bring you down.

What O. J. Simpson Means to Me

The poor are enthralled by Houdini not because he organizes on their behalf, but because his exploits resonate with them: They know that their lives are trapdoored and trip-wired, that they too have been jailed, imprisoned, chained, and tossed into the sea. A Houdini performance was their life in miniature, with one heroic difference—he escaped.

Thus the Simpson defense team presented an ironic alchemy—an activist tradition that Simpson had rejected, fueled by funds that he’d garnered rejecting it.

The virtue of equality does not always feel like a virtue, because equality does not always run on the same axis as morality. Equality for African Americans means the right to be treated like anyone else—whether we’re doing good or doing evil. Simpson’s great accomplishment was to be indicted for a crime and then receive the kind of treatment typically reserved for rich white guys. His acquittal, achieved as incarceration rates skyrocketed, represented something grand and inconceivable for blacks. He had defied the police who brutalized black people, the prosecutors who tried them, the prisons that held them. He had defied them all, and in the process, much like Houdini, he escaped.

Why a Silicon Valley Founder Is Funding a Factory for Trump Memes

The purpose of trolling is not the abuse, not directly, anyway. Its purpose is to demonstrate an ability among the ostracized to exert control.

For the nerds, it’s not the twilight of mainstream, white power that terrifies. Rather, the endless night of dorkship’s impotence. This is also why libertarianism mates well with computationalism (the idea that the world is best understood and operated through computers). Both adopt a burn-it-all-down attitude toward the institutions that have held them back.

America’s long dream of electing a business leader as president (Perot, Romney, Trump, etc.) dovetails so well with Silicon Valley’s belief in entrepreneurial success as the ultimate sign of prowess and competence. It’s more surprising that everyone in the Valley doesn’t support Trump than that Thiel and Luckey do.

Successfully exerting force of any kind on the universe is the ultimate goal of nerddom. Silicon Valley just institutionalized the idea. That common mantra—“change the world”—means nothing more than “witness myself the force I can exert upon it.” This is also why political values are always only accidental in the orbit of the technology industry, and why its ultimate political value is the libertarian drive to end politics entirely, anyway. Technocracy is meant to take its place, with Silicon Valley gripping the scepter.

Donald Trump, Peter Thiel and the death of democracy

What Thiel calls the ‘oxymoron’ of ‘capitalist democracy’ is resolved – by jettisoning democracy.

Inside the Night President Obama Took On Donald Trump

A Trump staffer acknowledges what his candidacy is really about: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump.”

How Trump Lowered Expectations for the First Debate

the important thing is to watch out for either candidate being graded on a curve, to spot it when it happens, and to account for it.

LA Gifathon

Law and Disorder: The Naked Gun (1988)

My dad is gone six years this month. The hardest I ever heard him laugh was at The Naked Gun.

My Distraction Sickness — and Yours

A thought-provoking, refreshingly non-Luddite take on mental and spiritual health in the “era of mass distraction.”

When someone next to you answers the phone and starts talking loudly as if you didn’t exist, you realize that, in her private zone, you don’t.

Has our enslavement to dopamine — to the instant hits of validation that come with a well-crafted tweet or Snapchat streak — made us happier? I suspect it has simply made us less unhappy, or rather less aware of our unhappiness, and that our phones are merely new and powerful antidepressants of a non-pharmaceutical variety.

We didn’t go from faith to secularism in one fell swoop, he argues. Certain ideas and practices made others not so much false as less vibrant or relevant. And so modernity slowly weakened spirituality, by design and accident, in favor of commerce; it downplayed silence and mere being in favor of noise and constant action. The reason we live in a culture increasingly without faith is not because science has somehow disproved the unprovable, but because the white noise of secularism has removed the very stillness in which it might endure or be reborn.

If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation. Christian leaders seem to think that they need more distraction to counter the distraction. Their services have degenerated into emotional spasms, their spaces drowned with light and noise and locked shut throughout the day, when their darkness and silence might actually draw those whose minds and souls have grown web-weary. But the mysticism of Catholic meditation — of the Rosary, of Benediction, or simple contemplative prayer — is a tradition in search of rediscovery. The monasteries — opened up to more lay visitors — could try to answer to the same needs that the booming yoga movement has increasingly met.

The Problem with Trump Isn’t His Debating Skills

Yet Trump continued last night his self-congratulations for compelling the President to do this, along with the grotesquely racist notion that it was “good for him” (i.e., for the President). It slowly dawned on the listener that this was all of a piece with the rest of Trump’s racial attitudes: he believes that, as a rich white man, he had a right to stop and frisk the President of the United States and demand that the uppity black man show him his papers. Stop-and-frisk isn’t just a form of policing for Trump; it’s a whole way of life. The idea that he had a right to force a black man to go through what Obama rightly saw as the demeaning business of producing his birth certificate showed his fundamental contempt for any normal idea of racial equality. It was of a line with his equally bizarre notion that owning a country club that doesn’t actively discriminate against black people is not a minimal requirement of law but a positive achievement of the owner. This isn’t the case of someone misarticulating an otherwise plausible position; it was just a case of someone repeating, once again, not only a specific racist lie but also the toxic underlying set of assumptions that produced it.

Again, this wasn’t a problem of how he chose to present his beliefs; the problem is with the beliefs. This wasn’t a question of preparation. It was that the things he actually believes are themselves repellent even when coherently presented. This was not a bad performance. This is a bad man.

President Trump’s First Term

His belief in the power of the threat, which he has used in private business, takes on another meaning if he is the leader of a country with national-debt obligations.