Saturn devouring his last peach
Weekly Rondo And more stuff about how social media is rotting our brains.
Welcome back to the Weekly Rondo. When I thought this week would be a slow news week, everyone started posting cryptic pictures of peaches. I couldn’t tell if it was some ploy to nab a husband or a joke from some show I don’t watch (I’m always four years late on TV, so I usually have no idea what people are talking about.) Finally, people started posting articles.
But more on that in a minute.
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This whole Peach-gate Scandal tied a nice bow on some of the themes that have been pinballing around my head this week — namely: how social media is rotting our brains (but that’s nothing new); how making one wrong step online or in public can dramatically change the course of your life; the retroactive revision of art and history, and is it even possible to have productive conversations anymore?
So what did I read this week? I thought you’d never ask…
This isn’t exactly a “read” as much as a “watch.” Nevertheless, I have really enjoyed this series. Boghossian used to teach at Portland State University until he was harassed out of his job. He still loved teaching, so he went on tour across the U.S. doing these “Reverse Q&As” where he would ask students how they felt about a controversial statement and ask challenging questions to see if it could potentially change the way they saw the argument.
These sessions ranged from absolutely painful to watch to incredibly insightful, but this last week, he focused specifically on the sessions where he asked about Ibram X. Kendi’s statement, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”
I particularly enjoyed how different these conversations were from my college experience almost a decade ago. I have vivid memories of being eviscerated for pretty middle-of-the-road opinions in front of my classmates by a teacher or (what felt infinitely worse) by another student while the teacher just sat by and didn’t jump in to moderate. As a result, I became pretty bashful about speaking up in tense conversations and didn’t learn much. I would have loved to have more teachers like this throughout my life. My favorite discussion is linked here.
I will admit to a bias on stories like this. However, whenever someone gives one more reason we should just burn Facebook to the ground, you will hear no complaints from me.
I have been keenly aware of Jonathan Haidt’s work for a few months, as this article coincided with my losing a high-stress job in social media marketing. In the article, he goes into three critiques he’s received about his arguments and shows research missing from Meta’s responses to criticism. He also provides a few recommendations for improving the internet to stop chipping away at democracy. (Although, I look forward to a follow-up article where he fleshes those out more.)
This is the second week in a row I’ve mentioned Tara Henley, but I absolutely love her work. I love the unique voices she brings onto her podcast. I love her interviewing style. I love that she keeps her podcast episodes to a tight 30 minutes. And sometimes she shares pancake recipes. Seriously, go subscribe to her Substack.
In this piece, Henley cites a Matt Taibbi piece and lightly touches on journalists being afraid of being the bull in the china shop and asking tough questions. And why wouldn’t they be? When the rumor of being outside a movie theatre can cast negative aspersions on you, it’s best not to try to rock the boat. Unless, of course, the person you are writing about is a heretic. She gives several recent examples of high-profile cancelations. She appeals to journalists to go ahead and be that bull in the china shop.
When I heard the news that Beyoncé was retroactively revising a song because of an internet scuffle over the word “spaz” being ableist, my first thought was, “They know this isn’t how art works, right?”
Needless to say that unless you are Catherine di Medici, you don’t get a vote on how other people do their artwork. Throughout history, the Stravinskys, Puccinis, Vivienne Westwoods and Andy Warhols of the world would usually just say, “Screw you!” if you didn’t like their work and move on with their life. Then, of course, every now and then, someone would paint a little fig leaf over the naughty bits of your painting, but by that point, you were usually excommunicated, exiled or dead.
Rosenfield gives detailed context behind Beyoncé’s decision and discusses the potential fallout for other artists. She says:
“You might think that Beyoncé — a woman who wrote a song called “Sorry” in which she refuses to apologise for doing what she wants; a woman who has never shied away from making art that is steeped in black American culture; a descendant of slaves who was one of the most powerful and wealthy entertainers in the world by the time she turned 40 — would have at least as much gumption as the children’s crayon company when it comes to defending her work.”
Either way, “blasting on that ass” sounds worse than “spazzing on that ass.” Ew.
And now back to peaches. I’ve seen dozens of takes on Mary Catherine Starr’s unfortunate mishap of the internet latching onto a single comic strip that makes a joke at the expense of her husband. The comic shows the difference between her and her husband stumbling upon the last peach. Her first thought is to give it to her kids, and his is to put it in his smoothie. I don’t know why this comic incited so much vitriol (especially since it was first published over a year ago). Since the backlash, she has been dealing with people telling her everything from “Get a divorce!” to “Go kill yourself!”
I appreciated Mandel’s take in the Deseret News1 on this because she did actually express some sympathy to Starr. I try to take the Sister Helen Prejean approach to life and recognize that people are worth more than the worst thing they have ever done. I suspect Starr feels incredibly vulnerable, and no one deserves this kind of harassment. I do also appreciate that Mandel doesn’t completely let her off the hook. The piece is less about Starr and more about the importance of showing respect for your partner.
She takes a page from the Gottman Institute and explains the importance of avoiding criticism and contempt toward your partner. I think everyone has rolled their eyes at some quirk of their spouse’s. Still, I often see people who make jokes at their partner’s expense, harbor resentment or unfairly criticize them. They never seem to end up happy. It is hard to be in relationships where you constantly feel like you’re stepping on eggshells or not measuring up. It’s far better to get into a habit of telling people what you appreciate about them, finding ways to show love and communicating when needs aren’t being met.
At the end of the day, this article was a good reminder that I just need to follow my own advice and not comment on people’s marriages or life circumstances.
Now I’m off to go find some peaches.
I work for the Deseret News. This isn’t an ad. I just genuinely like their coverage.