The New York Times, “’60 Minutes’ Chief Ousted for a Threatening Text as Upheaval at CBS Continues”

“There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me, and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem,” Mr. Fager wrote in a text message, which CBS News aired on Wednesday’s “Evening News” in a segment reported by Ms. Duncan.

This story also reports Fager’s co-workers at 60 Minutes stunned that a text message could undo years of good work. How is this a fireable offense? they ask.

Anyone willing to threaten a fellow professional is more a criminal than a colleague. That’s all there is to it. If you’d wield your power as seen above, how else are you brandishing it? I wouldn’t dare work with Fager if he hints at his behind-the-scenes power as a bludgeon. Stockholm Syndrome is real. Get a replacement who would deny allegations without gesturing at violent mythmaking.

(I’m going to lift the point of this essay wholecloth, so you really should read it.)

On a week seeing attempts at rehabilitation of war hero (as in he’s a hero to wars for always supporting them) John McCain and candy-man George W. Bush, I was lucky enough to read about Samar Hassan. She’s pictured above. During the Iraq war, her parents were gunned down in front of her because dad was thought to be a suicide bomber. He was driving a little fast, after all. The photo captures the immediate aftermath.

Samar Hassan was interviewed for a 2017 documentary. Then eighteen years old, she was asked how she would reply if men like McCain and Bush told her they were sorry. She says:

I will never forgive them. I will just leave it to God. God will punish them. If they were in front of me, I would want to drink their blood. Even then I wouldn’t be satisfied.


Jalopnik, “When Are We Going To Address How Paul Walker Had Relationships With Underage Girls?”

Here’s the story.

I think it’s important to de-normalize (“aberrize?”) men lusting after teen girls. It’s too normal. And the fact that this story only slides under the lens after Walker’s death is shameful. His girlfriends’ age was reported in In Touch Weekly while he was still alive; what did the readers think at that time? Did any of them write in? If so, were their reactions published?

And ultimately, do we call him a pedophile? I think this grey area exists because we’re scared to brand people as pedophiles when they aren’t abusing a child younger than 13. But then ephebophilia has been co-opted by those who seek to defend behavior like Walker’s. I guess he’s just a predator, huh? And yet that seems too soft, given men–myself included–are predators.

The New York Times, “An Extremely Detailed Map of the 2016 Presidential Election”

Oh christ I’m half-staff at this map. Gimme that granular data. I don’t even care about what they’re trying to show me, I’m tracking down precincts where like 8 people voted for Trump and 5 for Hillary. Could move there and make an actual difference, change the world. Combine this with Google Streetview. Show me the houses and color them red and blue. I’m an explorer.

EDIT: “Brian what are you rambling on about now, how could you possibly find anything interest-” motherfucker i just uncovered the dark truth that 80% of the Area 51 aliens voted for Trump, how was your Friday evening with wine and friends you cur

area51 vote

Gawker, “On Smarm”

I could post any of the multiple post-mortem pieces from the front page of Gawker today, the day of its final posts. But I found myself dwelling on this article as I scrolled through the rest. It took the internet by storm at the time; enough that, no matter how many angles for or against smarm you found… We were left with the conclusion that smarm must exist. We all knew what it was, but we didn’t have its name until this was published. We had snark, obviously, but we didn’t have the opposition steadily mounting against it.

Peter Thiel is a smarm fountain, gushing at opportune moments. Any Facebook overlord must be, it’s the soulless (just look in his eyes) ethos of Mark Zuckerberg: “we’re a company and our product is relationships.” No, obviously not. A pause for thought reminds us that behind all the goodwill is the data we’re providing, our product, us product. Smarm is what Facebook at large and Thiel (at small) uses to insulate his machinations, like peanut butter smeared in a thick coat around a rotting apple.

I hear that Thiel was mad at being outed in 2007, and I hear the defense that he was in Saudi Arabia at the time, a country where he could’ve been imprisoned and executed for his predilections.

Are you kidding me? No matter what, Thiel gets his way. Nobody would execute him; crime dramas like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and The Wire have explained power’s function to me, that you can always buy yourself out of a dangerous situation. Much more likely that a business deal of Thiel’s fell through, that his homosexuality ruined the potential for that much more money from the Middle East. And just like that, because of Gawker being mean, we’re supposed to support the gay man who wanted to hide his gayness in order to collaborate with the (admittedly arguable) source of contemporary global terror. But I’m just speculating. Rambling, because it’s late and I’m sad, and I’m seeking ideas I haven’t read. Some might call them conspiracies.

But during this mental walkabout, I did just stumble on something that I believe has gone unmentioned: for all the complaints about Gawker’s targeted vivisections, why didn’t any of their unwilling subjects say “no, you’re wrong?” Why didn’t they write into Gawker and say “would you be willing to publish my response?” and even if Gawker refused, why not publish your response on your own goddamned massive platform with a disclaimer that Gawker refused to publish it?

Here’s the answer, and I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out: they’re probably idiots. They are, at least, dumb. They don’t know how to write a retort. They stumbled upwards, lucky enough to be born pretty, or in the right school district, or far away from hard drugs (here’s where I’m coalescing my recent readings of Hillbilly Elegy and How Nonviolence Protects The State) and they bypassed the meritocracy, the one that only really exists on the fringe between the middle and lower class. They cannot bear to be a target because they hopelessly flounder and squirm as a reflex, and their PR people say “oh no we’ll just remind everyone else that they’re being the mean ones, and you’ll be loved.” So they make a Facebook post or a tweet that says “wow some people just are so mean @gawker” And maybe it worked to win us over, but they’re still the dumb ones. They could never hope to refute what was said about them, because they can’t grasp it, because their power is a happy accident. They’re only aware that the meanies were mean. Oh no.

Okay, so in that way, in the way that they can’t compose an elegant rebuttal to a professional writer, they’re the same as the rest of us. I’m not saying they’re lesser people! I’m saying they’re same people! And that shatters an illusion, right? That’s what Gawker, at its best, did: it made the powerful as powerless as us plebeians. Peter Thiel is straight up too fucking dumb, too fucking lazy, too fucking senseless to put hands to keyboard and write “guys, I didn’t appreciate that, here’s why” in a way that promotes his humanity and his sympathetic side. He’s boring, thoughtless, and for all of his airs of technocratic utopia, he’s single-mindedly focused on the simple.

So instead, he sneaks. He sanitizes. He smarms.

EDIT – From a several months old article in The Hollywood Reporter comes this e-mail quote from Gawker founder Nick Denton as provided by one of the site’s targets, journalist Michael Wolff:

“Denton immediately emailed me and, in our exchange, apologized for the Gawker coverage about my girlfriend and forthcoming baby: “That description of Victoria was mean and pointless.” Then he added: “I do wish there was a better way to address insults without storing up resentment … I would love to institutionalize and automate some right of response. Even the most insolent of Gawker bloggers is better and more reasonable in an exchange.

Denton saw it. That Gawker’s victims were unwilling/unable to defend themselves, or saw a public defense as gauche. The onus isn’t on Denton, though. Total morons.

Gawker, “Brands Are Not Your Friends”

The prevailing online marketing strategy for brands in 2015 is to blend in with the children, become just another bae to fave and retweet.

It shouldn’t have to be said out loud to sentient human beings that this is bad. But it is. It is sinister and bad and says a lot about how we have collectively lost our minds as a species. I’m afraid and sad for everyone.

This year-old article is on the banner at Gawker today, which is fortuitous considering it’s one of my favorites, due for a re-read. A quick, crucial message about navigating the funhouse mirrors of the internet, and a read that’s centered around the sort of stunt we should all be pulling (Gawker’s injection of a Coca-Cola bot with Mein Kampf quotes, and the ensuing backlash courtesy of, presumably, non-employees of Coke).

I follow their model. Our relationship with brands should be one of active antagonism. They war for our attention and adoration, and the best tactic we’ve got to counter them is pointing out the thirst for blood behind their grimaces.

(Yes, I am still dwelling on the “death” of Gawker’s independence. But I hate their brand too.)