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Story wrangler, Senior editor, Longreads.

‘Transforming Craft Into An Act of Protest’: Embroidery In Response to Femicide in Mexico

Photo by Eva Elijas

In “Memory Weavers,” a piece in Hazlitt on the femicide crisis in Mexico, Amandas Ong writes about Bordamos Feminicidios, an embroidery collective that sews the stories of murdered women and, through their handmade creations, raises awareness of female-targeted violence.

There are only three basic requirements to be part of Bordamos Feminicidios, and for Minerva to assign you a story to embroider. First, the embroiderer must tell the narrative in first person. “I want them,” she says, “to really try and imagine the life of this woman, who we only know in her last moments.” To honor her is to build a profound empathy with the fantasy of a life fuller and more complex than a broken body. Second, the embroidery should be done on a pañuelo, a standard white handkerchief, though Minerva has begun allowing deviations to this rule, because she finds it endearing when the embroiderers add personal touches to their work. “I have received tablecloths or fabric of all shapes and sizes, stained with coffee and wine, with little cats and flowers sewn into the bottom,” she says. “I love it. It means that these women are working on the embroidery everywhere and whenever they can, and the decorative details are like little kisses to the deceased.” The third rule, she says, is that the words must be in purple.

Transforming craft into an act of protest against indifference, against the lack of willpower to reverse or address a societal ill, is something that Mexican women, and women around the world, are familiar with. For centuries both in reality and the literary imagination, women have been the faithful scribes of tales revealing personal and social resistance to injustice or oppression. They did not do this with pens, or quills, or rigid implements that were good for scratching script onto stone—all of these were traditionally believed to be instruments that wielded real power in the realm of the public, where only men’s words counted. Instead women spoke through the objects they had created with their hands, some of which would never cross the threshold of the home.

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A Reading List on Travel Influencers and the Politics of a Place

Photo by Oleg Magni

Influencers come in many flavors, including kid stars who make more money than you, self-made online traders involved in shady financial schemes, women hunters of #huntstagram, and COVID-denying wellness experts. At the end of 2019, brands were forecast to spend as much as $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. The pandemic, however, has forced many influencers to shift business models and strategies, especially those whose livelihoods depend on traveling the world.

But even before COVID-19, jet-setting content creators entangled themselves in problematic scenarios, posing questions about privacy, safety, and ownership, among other issues. These seven reads explore the world of travel influencers in the age of Instagram, and the implications of the industry and its content on tourism and politics.

1. How Western Travel Influencers Got Tangled Up in Pakistan’s Politics. (Samira Shackle, November 2020, The Guardian)

In recent years, Western travel bloggers and “adventure tourists” have come to Pakistan to discover the country and write about its beauty, while some — like Cynthia Ritchie — have ended up becoming political voices. Ritchie, who calls her work strategic communications, has received extraordinary access to restricted areas and officials, and her critics accuse her of being “a propagandist for the military with a white saviour complex.” In response, Ritchie and others, like Polish travel vlogger Eva zu Beck, see themselves as truth-tellers and storytellers. At the Guardian, Samira Shackle reports on the politicization of tourism in Pakistan.

The fanbase that has developed around Ritchie can be split into two camps. The first enjoys her travel content, and her sunny portrayals of Pakistan. For the second camp, who actively support the military and spend their time on social media attacking anyone they see as insufficiently patriotic, Ritchie is a useful ally, an outsider who reflects their worldview. “More power to you Cynthia. Keep exposing the filthy culprits who have eaten up this country like mites,” wrote one Twitter user.

In 2019, questions about Ritchie’s links to the army intensified on social media when she posted footage of a trip to Pakistan’s heavily contested tribal areas. She told me that the trip had actually taken place in the run-up to the 2018 election, and that it had been part of an “interview process” at which military officials were “assessing and monitoring me, my experience, and determining my worth and capacity as an individual”, and that afterwards she was offered a big project. It is difficult to know what to make of comments like this, given that at other times Ritchie flat-out denies working for the military.

Having offered this puzzling explanation, Ritchie then dismissed the entire controversy over the pictures as just another fuss about nothing. “Look, if I had anything to hide, I wouldn’t be publishing these things,” she said. She pointed out that anyone who wants to travel to the tribal areas needs army permission: “You can’t access some of these areas without the military.”

2. Instagram Influencers Are Wrecking Public Lands. Meet the Anonymous Account Trying to Stop Them. (Anna Merlan, April 2019, Jezebel)

In the spring of 2019, when areas of Southern California experienced a vibrant superbloom, thousands of tourists trekked to the fields of Lake Elsinore to pose with the poppies. And when the owner of the Instagram account @publiclandshateyou saw a photo of an influencer sitting among (and ruining) the flowers while holding a can of soup, he’d had enough. At Jezebel, Anna Merlan talks with the man behind this account, who educates people on the negative effects of Instagram tourism on the environment.

Right now you’re focusing pretty heavily on damage done during the superbloom. That must be because it’s the hot thing to photograph right now.

Exactly. Previously it was graffiti on rocks in national parks, but the superbloom is the thing of the moment. Influencers see this cool thing, do what they need to do to promote their products or take a cool picture. And then they move on to whatever else is cool, whether it’s, for instance, going out to the California coast, going past “closed” signs and taking a picture under a waterfall. Or whatever. And then Lake Elsinore, where Walker Canyon is, gets stuck with the aftermath. The people who live there. They have a poppy preserve that looks like a checkerboard. The people who did the damage are long gone. They’re on to the next thing.

The pushback you get seems to be a lot of comments like “they’re just flowers,” with the case of the superbloom photos, or comments that you need to calm down and focus on “real problems.”

I do try to respond to that and try to provide my point of view and get people to see, who might have lived in a city their whole life, who might not understand the biology of these areas. I say to them, “You’re not wrong, but I think that a lot of these bigger problems are symptoms of people not thinking about the little things and their impact.” Whether it’s the impact of of me stepping on a couple poppies or me getting my takeout tonight in a styrofoam container, people aren’t thinking about the impact of their actions and that’s applicable to small things like going off the trail, all the way up to big global issues like climate change or microplastics in the water.

3. Selfies and Sharia Police. (Mehr Nadeem, November 2020, Rest of World)

Instagram is the last open social media platform in Iran, where Iranians have felt freer to be themselves. For high-schooler and influencer Roya, this means taking photos of herself on the streets of Tehran, sans hijab, or wearing bright eye makeup or going sleeveless — types of things that are frowned upon by Iranian authorities. But as Instagram evolves into more of a space for organizing and political change in Iran, the government has increased surveillance on the app, writes Mehr Nadeem at Rest of World.

The increased threat of arrest is giving pause to Iranian Instagrammers who once saw the platform as a safe space to post freely.

Vania, a 17-year-old aspiring violinist who created her Instagram account to post videos of her music, saw that her friends were becoming careful of their online activity in the wake of the crackdowns. “One of my friends sings [on Instagram], and she was so worried, she did an encrypted location of another country in the caption so that they wouldn’t think she was Iranian,” Vania told Rest of World. It’s illegal for women to publicly sing in Iran, unless they perform to female-only audiences.

Sahba, an Iranian artist based in Canada, said she has second thoughts before posting to Instagram, even from her home in Vancouver. “I wasn’t really worried until the November protests, when I saw how people were arrested on the streets because of their social media posts,” Sahba said. “I try not to censor myself politically, but it’s something that’s always going to be in my head.

4. Whose Facade Is It, Anyway? (Alexandra Marvar, February 2019, Curbed)

Posing in front of photo-worthy facades like colorful street murals and famous buildings is one thing, but snapping a picture on someone’s property — in front of their pretty pastel door or on their adorable wraparound porch  — raises issues of privacy and etiquette. At Curbed, Alexandra Marvar explores homeownership in the age of the Instagram travel influencer.

Travel blogger and micro-influencer Valerie Furgerson, @redgypsea, says she’s never had a negative interaction with a homeowner: “A sort of influencer photographer’s code that I live by is, if you’re going to be shooting in a residential area, know what shots you want to get ahead of time and be quick about it. Not all tourists live by this code,” she says. “We definitely saw full-on photo shoots happening at Rainbow Row in Savannah, complete with big reflective umbrellas. I have found that if you are respectful of the residents, they will also be respectful of you.” I came across Furgerson’s feed by searching for pictures of Rainbow Row and reaching out to users who did photoshoots directly on the shipping pallet-sized front porches of these private homes.

“I don’t mind people just taking photos,” said T’s pink-shutters neighbor (whom I’ll keep anonymous), “but really I find it an invasion of my space when it’s on my porch.” If she’s returning on foot to her home and sees someone on her porch taking pictures, she hangs back until they’ve wrapped up their activities. But on more than one occasion, she’s been startled to open her front door to a person, or a group of people, posing in front of her. “The other thing,” she says, “is that it opens up liability issues that I don’t even want to think about.”

5. What I Learned at the Most Instagrammed Outdoor Places. (Lisa Chase, July 2020, Outside)

While visiting Arizona’s iconic landmarks and tourist hotspots like the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, Lisa Chase, writing for Outside, examines our obsession with documenting ourselves in nature, and the evolving art and process of photography in the era of iPhone-toting outdoor enthusiasts.

There have to be 75 to 100 of us here, all with smartphones in hand, tapping away. One teenage girl positions herself in warrior one pose on a rock, her back to the sun, slender arms overhead, taking a selfie. Nearby there’s a group of French guys murmuring “C’est magnifique” as they take photos of themselves in the gloaming. I think about an article I’d read by Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor who has studied the psychology of selfie culture. “A selfie, like any photograph, interrupts experience to mark the moment,” she wrote in The New York Times in 2013. “The selfie makes us accustomed to putting ourselves and those around us ‘on pause’ in order to document our lives. It is an extension of how we have learned to put our conversations ‘on pause’ when we send or receive a text, an image, an email, a call. When you get accustomed to a life of stops and starts, you get less accustomed to reflecting on where you are and what you are thinking.”

6. Travel Influencers, Meet Authoritarian Regimes. (Krithika Varagur, October 2020, Rest of World)

In December 2019, celebrities and Western travel bloggers were invited to attend a music festival in Riyadh, put on by Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, in order to promote tourism to the region. “The Instagram posts coming out of the festival looked more Coachella than Sharia,” writes Krithika Varagur, and for those who attended the event, criticism was harsh. At Rest of World, Varagur asks: How could these influencers accept a paid trip from a repressive monarchy?

Despite this, several prominent influencers turned down the MDL Beast trip on ethical grounds, including American actress Emily Ratajkowski and American model Teddy Quinlivan. Quinlivan, who is transgender, said on her Instagram story: “If you have any semblance of journalistic integrity, maybe it might be a cute idea not to take money from foreign governments that, um, I don’t know, openly kill and assassinate journalists [and] LGBTQ+ people. Suppress women’s rights, suppress religious rights – I mean the list of shit goes on.”

“Every traveler has an obligation to think about the ethical consequences of their trip. … But it is even more critical for influencers because they are such important role models, especially for young people,” said Dr. Ulrike Gretzel, who researches technology and social media marketing at the University of Southern California. “Uncritically spreading political propaganda is unethical under all circumstances and especially in the form of branded content, where the lines are very blurry, and the audience might therefore not recognize it as such.”

7. The Digital Nomads Did Not Prepare for This. (Erin Griffith, November 2020, The New York Times)

“If you’re going to work from home indefinitely, why not make a new home in an exotic place?” In the New York Times, Erin Griffith shares the stories of those privileged enough to escape lockdown by joining the globe-trotting, remote-working set. But they eventually realize it’s not what they expect it to be. These digital nomads may not call themselves travel influencers, but the idyllic, away-from-home settings they work in — as they wait out the pandemic — are the same.

They Instagrammed their workdays from empty beach resorts in Bali and took Zoom meetings from tricked-out camper vans. They made balcony offices at cheap Tulum Airbnbs and booked state park campsites with Wi-Fi. They were the kind of people who actually applied to those remote worker visa programs heavily advertised by Caribbean countries. And occasionally they were deflated.

Others are struggling with the same vacation fatigue experienced by Mr. Malka, the Cabo-to-London-to-maybe-Bali wanderer. According to research conducted at Radboud University in the Netherlands, it takes eight days of vacation for people to reach peak happiness. It’s downhill from there.

When the pandemic hit, Mr. Stylianoudis, the lawyer, was on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand. At first, he couldn’t complain about the tropical locale. Each day, after work, he swam in crystal-clear water. But after five months, he was itching to get out. He had become a regular at the island’s 7-Eleven. He even grew tired of the beach — something he hadn’t thought was possible.

The feeling of being trapped in paradise was hard to explain. “I started to feel like I was in a sequel of ‘Lost,’” he said.

‘My Tongue Swallowing the Taste of Home Soil’: On Filipino Food, Family, and Identity

WASHINGTON DC - September 5TH: Sisig from Purple Patch shot on September 5th, 2017 in Washington DC. (Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

At The Margins — the online magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) — writer, filmmaker, and photographer Jill Damatac explores identity, colonalism, and memory through the lens of family and Filipino food. In “Dirty Kitchen,” Damatac shares two recipes — tinola, a ginger chicken soup; and sisig, a diced-up pork dish seasoned with calamansi juice, onions, and chili peppers — and weaves cooking instructions throughout sharp, sensory prose.

On the taste of tinola, and memories of her childhood:

When I was little, before I departed the sunny, Pacific chaos of our world for the chilly, Atlantic silence of the new world, we often had tinola for Sunday lunch at Lolo and Lola’s house, where I would spend weekends. In the early mornings, Lolo and I would stroll the barrio streets to buy fresh pandesal from the local bakery, me skipping along in mumbled song with the roosters, him punching the air with calisthenic fists, just as he had done with the American GIs during the war. In Pennsylvania, where he had followed us a year after we left, he would walk me to and from school, the two of us passing a bag of sticky, sour sampalok between us, spitting out the smooth, shiny seeds into our palms. He always wore his pristinely white Reeboks and sometimes his ten-gallon cowboy hat. I still remember my shame on the days he would arrive in that hat.

It was during those early years in the land of the free and the home of the brave that I first felt shame, which is a hunger for pride, and loneliness, which is a hunger for belonging. Tinola’s plain, clear-brothed, ginger-laced embrace helped to sate these hungers, my tongue swallowing the taste of home soil.

Sauté the garlic, ginger, and onion in oil in a large pot, stirring until soft. 

On sisig, but also colonialism, home, and identity:

“You want to know why my sisig is special?” Tito asked me recently over a sizzling plate. We were sharing a meal next to the volcano, Taal. I had just returned to the islands after twenty-two years of undocumented American exile.

“Because I make it with pork belly. Usually it’s made with the cheap parts of the pig, ha. Why should we eat only cheap parts? And love. I cook it with love.”

Sisig is no longer made with just the discarded cuts, but its poisonous effects remain. The Americans are gone, but their imperious scars linger. No longer trapped by our colonizers, we trap ourselves. We transform to survive, but we still bear the boiled, charred, gristled remnants of our past. I will continue to exist in a hungry space between longing and belonging, for my body, exported from its country of birth, deported from its country of growth, now has only sense and memory to call home.

Serve immediately, using two large spoons to stir in the eggs to cook. Enjoy with garlic fried rice. 

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‘Social Media Managers Are First Responders’

INDIA - 2019/08/30: In this photo illustration online social media logos are seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Constantly navigating a 2020 news cycle that eats itself and a Twitter stream that endlessly flows, “social media managers are first responders,” writes Marta Martinez. The people tasked with handling social media at a company are expected to stay abreast of what’s happening in the world, react swiftly, and act as an official voice for a brand. Yet individuals in these roles are not always provided the support and resources to do their jobs well, and the time and effort involved in this type of work, including strategy, content creation, and community management, is often dismissed as trivial. Hey, can you whip up a few tweets? Can you promote this on our accounts? Let’s launch more channels! Let’s build a community! 

Under “normal” circumstances, social media management is hard work that requires a varied skillset. In 2020, it’s a stressful and hazardous job, says Matthew Kobach, who worked as the New York Stock Exchange’s social media manager, and one that should be paid accordingly.

At OneZero, Martinez reports on the experiences of social media managers and strategists during the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, at organizations like DCist, the University of Michigan, and Mount Sinai Health System.

Brown has not been able to meet most of her co-workers in person yet and, as a social media manager and a young Black woman, she often wonders whether she is being taken seriously as an equal professional within the newsroom. Social media managers are in high demand. But these jobs are often performed by young people who are underpaid. The national average salary of a social media manager is about $57,000, considerably less than what marketing managers make — over $135,000.

Social media managers are making important — and very public — decisions all the time. They need to respond to news and conversations quickly to be effective. The public voice and image of companies, media outlets, public figures, and institutions are in their hands at a very delicate time. Yet their job is still often seen as something anyone could do, or left to those who are just getting started in their careers.

“It’s like putting an intern to be your press secretary,” says Alan Rosenblatt, a social media consultant for political campaigns who teaches digital and social media strategy at George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

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‘You Just Have to Have a Strong Mind’: Shantonia Jackson on Working in a Nursing Home During the Pandemic

Photo by Matthias Zomer / Pexels

This summer, Gabriel Winant, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago, interviewed Shantonia Jackson, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) who works at City View Multicare Center in Cicero, Illinois. CNAs like Jackson provide general care (making sure patients eat and shower) and are often the only people that offer support and companionship when residents need someone to talk to.

City View experienced a major COVID-19 outbreak: 253 residents out of 315 contracted the virus, and many of them died. Jackson’s colleague, a 64-year-old woman named Camelia Kirkwood who was supposed to retire in June, was among those who contracted COVID-19 and died. Before coronavirus, the two oversaw 35 residents apiece. Now on her own, Jackson provides care for 70 men in an all-men’s unit.

Winant and Jackson’s conversation in Dissent reveals what it’s like to work in a nursing home, and the challenges and exploitative conditions hardworking healthcare workers like Jackson face, especially during the pandemic.

She describes how she felt after her colleague, Camelia, died from the virus, and the lack of support from the nursing home’s management:

It just devastated me when she passed away. I really, really took that very hard. But I had to come back and explain it to the residents, because they wanted to know where she was. They were hearing that she was sick or she died, but one by one I would talk to them and let them know she was in a better place. And you have to do that with psych and behavioral patients, because they can kill you. They could take the fire extinguisher off the wall and just bash it up the side my head, you know what I’m saying? So I develop a rapport with them.

Management never came upstairs on the floor with me to see what I was dealing with. They would come upstairs and yell at me, “Well, you need to give a shower.” I already gave thirty showers out of seventy people. I can’t make sure seventy take a shower. Because I’ve got to still pass trays. I’ve got to still make beds. It’s hard.

Even with the kitchen. Even with laundry. Who wants to have bugs? It’s supposed to be clean, but the nursing home industry is so cheap. We sometimes don’t have a housekeeper on our floor. It’s like, really? Call somebody in. But you don’t want to, because you don’t want to pay them. That’s crazy.

It’s common for nursing home workers like Jackson to juggle more than one job, often at other care facilities or in people’s homes, which is one of the ways the virus spreads.

I took a leave, because I felt like I didn’t want to take the virus from City View, with 253 infections, to Berkeley, which didn’t have one case. So I took it upon myself. And the nursing home industry is so fickle, and selfish, and disrespectful, because they were actually angry at me for leaving. I thought my director of nursing would be appreciative, because what if I came over here and I transmitted to all these elderly people? They all would have died. And they have the nerve to be mad at me, and calling me, saying, “You’re not going to come back?” No! I’m dealing with 253 cases over here. I want to be careful for the grandmas and the grandpas.

Later in the interview, Winant asks: “If you could make nursing homes change in any way, what would be your vision?” Jackson describes:

My vision would be to make sure that every CNA had at most only five residents. I would make sure it would be properly staffed. And that way we can comb their hair, brush their teeth, lotion their body, change them every two hours, make sure they get their needs, so we can do what we were put there to do, when their family members couldn’t do it. The residents would get proper food. You should see some of the food that they feed them. I wouldn’t feed that to my kid. Why would you feed them this? In America, we don’t care about the elderly; they’re about to die anyway, we don’t care. We should have respect, because they have wisdom.

When Winant asks how Jackson manages to care for all her patients, she responds, “I’ve got a strong mind. You just have to have a strong mind. It’s all I can do.”

Read the interview

The Mysterious Case of a Nameless Hiker

Big Cypress National Preserve, Naples, Florida. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

He was known on the trail as “Mostly Harmless.” He started his journey in a state park north of New York City and simply went south — down to Virginia, then to northern Georgia, and finally to Florida — his route pieced together through accounts from fellow hikers and others he encountered. At Wired, Nicholas Thompson recounts the story of this friendly nameless hiker, eventually found dead in a tent at Nobles Camp in Big Cypress National Preserve on July 2018, 600 miles south of where he started.

Since the discovery of this man’s body, no one has been able to figure out who he is. But now, with advanced DNA testing technology and cutting-edge genomics from a company called Othram, the mystery may soon be solved.

She told him everything she knew. And she shared the original post, and her photo, all over Facebook. Soon there were dozens of people jumping in. They had seen the hiker too. They had journeyed with him for a few hours or a few days. They had sat at a campfire with him. There was a GoPro video in which he appeared. People remembered him talking about a sister in either Sarasota or Saratoga. They thought he had said he was from near Baton Rouge. One person remembered that he ate a lot of sticky buns; another said that he loved ketchup. But no one knew his name. When the body of Chris McCandless was found in the wilds of Alaska in the summer of 1992 without any identification, it took authorities only two weeks to figure out his identity. A friend in South Dakota, who’d known McCandless as “Alex,” heard a discussion of the story on AM radio and called the authorities. Clues followed quickly, and McCandless’ family was soon found.

Now it’s 2020, and we have the internet. Facebook knows you’re pregnant almost before you do. Amazon knows your light bulb is going to go out right before it does. Put details on Twitter about a stolen laptop and people will track down the thief in a Manhattan bar. The internet can decode family mysteries, identify long-forgotten songs, solve murders, and, as this magazine showed a decade ago, track down almost anyone who tries to shed their digital skin. This case seemed easy.

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‘These Were His Mountains, After All’: Remembering One’s Father While Cycling in the Swiss Alps

Susten Pass, Canton Uri, Switzerland. (Photo by Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

James Jung describes riding through Switzerland, his childhood, and his relationship to both cycling and his father in a recent essay at Bicycling Magazine:

Ever since I first thought about this alpine mission, I knew I’d want to write about it, and I’d been trying to fuse my father to these rides. I’d pick a mountain peak in the distance and imagine I was looking at the gravestone he didn’t allow us to give him. I’d see a piece of farm equipment in a field and daydream that if I waited there long enough, maybe Dad would reappear to fetch it. I swatted flies from my face on the Pragelpass and saw my hand as his hand, the one that, three days before he died, moved back and forth for 16 straight hours as if he were conducting some hallucinogenic symphony from his deathbed. I remembered, too, the rough way I put his arm into a sling the night he broke it and the sad look he gave me when I did so, or how I sometimes avoided sitting beside him because I couldn’t stomach the smell of his dying body. I thought that maybe these rides were punishment for having betrayed him like that, as if my suffering on climbs could somehow be commensurate to the ways he’d suffered. But those are bullshit, half-baked ideas meant to convey some poetic vision of life; the type of self-indulgent writing that should be struck from any story before it goes to print. To be more truthful, those are simply ideas and emotions I don’t trust. The fact of the matter is my father wasn’t on those rides with me. He is dead now, and much of the missing I have done of him is missing I have done for myself, a mourning for who I was when I was his boy, for all the time I can’t get back. So, in answer to my wife’s question, I had done these rides for myself.

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‘It’s An iPad, Not An usPad’: Douglas Rushkoff on Digital Isolation

At OneZero, author and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff asks: how much are the privileged allowed to use their wealth, fancy devices, and fully wired houses to insulate themselves from the troubles of today’s world?

The pool for my daughter wouldn’t have gotten here were it not for legions of Amazon workers behind the scenes, getting infected in warehouses or risking their health driving delivery trucks all summer. As with FreshDirect or Instacart, the externalized harm to people and places is kept out of sight. These apps are designed to be addictively fast and self-contained — push-button access to stuff that can be left at the front door without any human contact. The delivery people don’t even ring the bell; a photo of the package on the stoop automagically arrives in the inbox. Like with Thomas Jefferson’s ingenious dumbwaiter, there are no signs of the human labor that brought it.

Many of us once swore off Amazon after learning of the way it evades taxes, engages in anti-competitive practices, or abuses labor. But here we are, reluctantly re-upping our Prime delivery memberships to get the cables, webcams, and Bluetooth headsets we need to attend the Zoom meetings that now constitute our own work. Others are reactivating their long-forgotten Facebook accounts to connect with friends, all sharing highly curated depictions of their newfound appreciation for nature, sunsets, and family. And as we do, many of us are lulled further into digital isolation — being rewarded the more we accept the logic of the fully wired home, cut off from the rest of the world.

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The Seattle Police Shooting of Native Woodcarver John T. Williams, 10 Years Later

Photo by Chait Goli

A decade ago, Seattle police officer Ian Birk shot and killed John T. Williams, a well-known Ditidaht woodcarver in the community — because he carried a pocketknife. For Seattle Met, James Ross Gardner shares the story of John through the eyes of his older brother turned family spokesperson, Rick Williams.

WALK ACROSS IT NOW. Follow John T. Williams’s steps. Go west on Howell, until you reach Boren. Where 10 years ago on that August day everything was bright, the colors and contours practically bleached out by the sun, now a canyon of shiny new skyscrapers casts long shadows—testaments to the speed at which this city erases its past.

On one side, before you reach the crosswalk, towers an apartment complex. Next to it, an Amazon office. On the other side of Boren, the side upon which the woodcarver took his last breath, stands a Hilton. Below your feet the old crosswalk is gone. In its place are painted three white deer. A small plaque affixed to the new hotel, feet away from where he died, reads “This crosswalk dedicated as: The White Deer Crossing…to honor John T. Williams, Native Carver.”

His life and death reverberate in other, less visible ways. The shooting triggered a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in the consent decree that placed SPD under federal monitoring. And in June 2020, when a police standoff with protestors for Black lives resulted in a 23-day occupation known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, leaders invited Rick Williams to participate. He carved there with one of his sons—and told protestors he was proud of them and that they should remain peaceful.

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‘I Mostly Feel Like My Voice Matters’: A Portland Journalist on Protests, Police Violence, and Enduring Trauma

Two protesters flee through tear gas after federal officers dispersed a crowd of about a thousand at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Karina Brown, a reporter for Courthouse News Service, has covered protests since Donald Trump was elected. In this personal essay, she describes “the hours of cat-and-mouse” between protesters and local and federal police on a recent Friday night in the streets in Portland, Oregon. Taunted and chased by cops, she was ultimately unhurt, but still shaking days later. The fear she felt reminded her of a night 26 years ago that she will never forget.

I’ve done a lot in my life to be okay with having that happen to me. I’ve had long bouts of feeling like everything I do is beyond pointless and I should just give up and never get out of bed ever again. Sometimes it feels like the destructive will of the world will never be overcome. But I battle that feeling with an aggressive pursuit of beauty and connection. And I mostly feel like my voice matters — that’s why I’m a journalist. So it was weird to feel that pointlessness so strongly again over the last few days. And I think the reason it came back was the reason it was there in the first place, decades ago. I’ve never been able to understand one thing: how could he have done that to me? To ME? As if I don’t matter at all. As if his whim, or compulsion was all that mattered and I was worthless.

The cops who taunted me as I ran from them were an echo of that trauma. Over the weekend, as I grew angrier, I kept circling back to one thought: don’t those fuckers know I’m sacred? That every one of us out there is?

* * *

I know. I’m supposed to be objective. I’m not supposed to say my personal feelings about what I’m covering in public — ideally in the minds of some, I wouldn’t even have feelings about what I cover. But to me, objectivity in journalism creates a disembodied voice. It fails to come from both everywhere and nowhere and instead encapsulates the perspective of the powerful rather than afflicting it. I come from somewhere. I come from right here.

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