The Antisocial Network

Back when we were learning our trade as a reporter, in the late Seventies, conversation would sometimes turn to the concentration of media, and the power resulting from it. In retrospect, the landscape we observed was simple: Three broadcast networks, three national news magazines, one-newspaper cities, multi-city newspaper chains. Not only were their audiences concentrated, reaching those audiences otherwise required an enormous capital investment. Freedom of the press, the joke went, belongs to those to who own one.

The media were the gatekeepers of public information. “News” was what reporters and editors (and owners) decided it was. There were “alternatives” — alternate weeklies, alternative magazines — but their audiences were small, and thus their funding and resources were limited. Advertising, then and now, paid the bills, and the larger your audience, the more attractive you were to advertisers.

The power that arose was the power to control the public conversation, as well as the power to avoid accountability and the power to stifle competition. And despite the revolutionary changes in media and communications over the ensuing forty years, we’re finding ourselves back where we started.

Perhaps even worse.

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Seven Simple Steps to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

1. Always use different elaborate passwords when signing up for online accounts.

2. Check your monthly credit-card statements for suspicious purchases.

3. Monitor your FICO score.

4. Don’t access your bank or credit card websites using public wifi.

5. Shred all financial statements.

6. File tax returns as soon as possible.

7. Fuck it, Equifax is just going to leak your name, Social Security number, birthdate, address, and driver’s license anyway, then generously offer one year of credit monitoring for something that will screw up the rest of your life.

Why the Equifax breach is very possibly the worst leak of personal info ever [Ars Technica]

On Antifa

First off, the name. Really? You’re branding it? And with a meaningless trio of syllables that at first glance (or first dozen or two glances) look like something Julie Andrews would sing to a family of Austrian children? You’re going with that?

Really, kids, it’s not self-evident. Is antifascist too musty, too redolent of the past, even though the echoes of that past are the very thing you oppose?

Or is antifa, like, cool? Honestly, it sounds straight out of Valley Girl, but Moon is 49 now, and you don’t even know what we’re talking about, because we’re even older, and we obviously don’t get it, so never mind us and our old-fashioned Quest for Meaning. Call it what you want.

Just don’t call us that.

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Among the Hooligans

The worst part of all this is that there will be no justice.

A man was elected to the highest office in our land with the support — and perhaps collusion — of a hostile foreign government. Months into office, that man could not find it in him to simply condemn the murder of a woman in broad daylight. Two weeks later, he has pardoned a former sheriff who defied a court order to stop jailing people on the mere suspicion they were undocumented immigrants.

And there will be no justice.

The man is not acting alone. He enjoys the support of craven men, also elected to high office, who, whether through fear or venality, refuse to abandon him. And he enjoys the support of the party of those craven men, and the members of that party, who themselves cannot see him and his actions for what they are.

And there will be no justice.

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Has America No Sense of Decency?

Last Saturday, in broad daylight, a man drove his car at full speed into a crowd of people. After crashing into another car, he then hit reverse and drove backwards as fast as he could. One woman was killed.

And that’s it. Nothing else. Just that.

The action was deliberate. The man driving the car was not from Virginia, where it happened, but Ohio. To get from Ohio to Virginia takes an eight-hour drive. One does not take that drive casually.

The man was among a larger group of men, men with guns, men who had also traveled great distances to be in Virginia that weekend. We are told they were there to protest the removal of a statue, but that was not why they were there. You do not protest the removal of a statue with guns. You do not protest the removal of a statue by chanting slogans that have nothing to do with the statue. You do not drive eight hours to protest the removal of a statue.

The men with guns were there to proclaim their dominance over others. The driver of the car that plowed into a crowd of people and killed a woman was there to demonstrate it.

And that’s it, too. Just that. Nothing else.

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The Fountainhead

We’ve always been drawn to satire. From Mad to SNL to Spy and beyond, satire has been the refreshment for our soul. We drink it in, savor it, remember it for decades.

Satire makes sense of the world. It brings order to chaos, the rational mastering the irrational. Satire gets at the truth, by revealing the lies. Like jazz, the genius of satire is in what remains unsaid.

We have practiced satire whenever possible. We wrote a satire column in college. We helped produce a tabloid with a satirical undertone. We launched a blog whose dominant theme is satire.

And yet we have produced little satire for a long time.

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President Littlefingers

On Tuesday, July 25, Donald Trump sat down in the Oval Office for an interview with five reporters and editors from the Wall Street Journal. Fresh on his mind was the reaction to his speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree the night before. One of the reporters in the room had called it “mixed”.

“There was no mix there,” Trump said. “That was a standing ovation from the time I walked out to the time I left, and for five minutes after I had already gone. There was no mix.”

But this wasn’t sufficient. It wasn’t enough for Donald Trump to observe the response to his speech from the audience itself. He needed to nail the point.

“I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them,” Trump said.

And there it sat, largely unknown, until Politico published the full WSJ interview transcript this past Tuesday. Now aware of the claim, the Scouts denied any phone call had taken place.

This fascinates us.

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