Weekend Reading: a friendly reminder that the internet is not real life

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. Orthographic Media (Robin Sloan)

Before electronic media, news was attenuated by the friction and delay of transmission and reproduction. When it arrived on your doorstep, a report of a far-off event had an “amplitude” that helped you judge whether or not it mattered to you and/or the world.

That’s not the case with social media, where even tiny, distant events are reproduced “at full size” on your screen. This has been true of electronic media for a long time—I’m thinking of all the local TV news broadcasts that have opened with the day’s grisliest murder—but/and there was, before social media, at least an argument that it was important to have good “news judgment” if you were responsible for putting events on screens, particularly at the highest levels.

2. Yep, I Did Change (Erick Erickson’s Confessions of a Political Junkie)

The good news is I’ve read the back of the Book. It is supposed to be this way and there is nothing you can do to stop it except to be on the winning team. To be on the winning team requires you to do something you very much do not want to do and that is to love your neighbor. I have read the passage and there are no caveats. If your neighbor is a Democrat or gay or Muslim or your childhood tormentor, scripture says you have to love them. It doesn’t say it will be easy.

Washington is not going to save you. Trump is not going to save the country. But Jesus will save you and I am, at this point in my life, way more interested in eternity than the temporary.

That does not mean I think you or I should surrender. That does not mean we should stay home. I’ll vote and I’ll encourage others to vote. But I’m not going to slip into despair and think the world is over if my side loses because Team Jesus does not lose.

3. Navigating Online Controversy In An Age Of Unrelenting, Exhausting, Ubiquitous Bullshit: The American Dirt Story (Singal-Minded)

There were certain problems with how American Dirt, the novel by Jeanine Cummins that is currently one of the hottest-selling titles on Amazon, and which was chosen by Oprah for her super-famous book club, was written and publicized.

But how severe were those problems? And which of them were actual, you know, problems, rather than the inevitable outrage-overgrowth that instantly sprouts, kudzulike, during any sort of online pileon, suffocating reasoned conversation?

If you read most journalistic coverage of this controversy, you will not be informed. If anything, you will end up more misinformed than you were when you started. And that’s a useful problem to explore given where journalism is right now. I haven’t read American Dirt, so I can’t speak directly to the plot. But the book itself isn’t actually the point I’m interested in: Rather, I want to talk about the nature of how this controversy — and seemingly every controversy, these days — is being covered by mainstream media outlets.

4. The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter (Vulture)

Many members of YA Book Twitter have become culture cops, monitoring their peers across multiple platforms for violations. The result is a jumble of dogpiling and dragging, subtweeting and screenshotting, vote-brigading and flagging wars, with accusations of white supremacy on one side and charges of thought-policing moral authoritarianism on the other.
Representatives of both factions say they’ve received threats or had to shut down their accounts owing to harassment, and all expressed fear of being targeted by influential community members — even when they were ostensibly on the same side. “If anyone found out I was talking to you,” Mimi told me, “I would be blackballed.”

Dramatic as that sounds, it’s worth noting that my attempts to report this piece were met with intense pushback. Sinyard politely declined my request for an interview in what seemed like a routine exchange, but then announced on Twitter that our interaction had “scared” her, leading to backlash from community members who insisted that the as-yet-unwritten story would endanger her life. Rumors quickly spread that I had threatened or harassed Sinyard; several influential authors instructed their followers not to speak to me; and one librarian and member of the Newbery Award committee tweeted at Vulture nearly a dozen times accusing them of enabling “a washed-up YA author” engaged in “a personalized crusade” against the entire publishing community (disclosure: while freelance culture writing makes up the bulk of my work, I published a pair of young adult novels in 2012 and 2014.) With one exception, all my sources insisted on anonymity, citing fear of professional damage and abuse.