Welcome to the weekly dingus, my Friday newsletter where I write about someone in the news who really did the worst this week. I also round up my weekly reads and offer a drink recipe. If you want to know more about the dingus, you can read the 2021 round up of dinguses of the year. If you enjoy this newsletter, consider becoming a subscriber.
I’m afraid that the dingus pace at which we started 2022 is unsustainable. First of all, we started off with Ben Smith refusing to divest himself of Buzzfeed stock so hard he left the New York Times to start his own media company. A company that will boldly go where literally every other media company has gone before, serving English-speaking, college-educated readers. What an idea!
Lauren Collins summed it up perfectly.
Then, the very next day, Michael Wolff, who is, apparently, what people describe as a journalist, wrote a very long, mostly unreadable essay that claimed that junior staffers at a publishing company had canceled the publication of a posthumous work of wife-stabber Norman Mailer. Junior staffers have never had more fun than they had creating memes about this obvious lie in their very unpaid, disrespected lives. And Wolff famously credited the “cancellation” to Roxane Gay, well, not exactly, but to all the Roxane Gay avatars who might object. To which, the real Roxane Gay responded,
If you want to read about this whole situation, I recommend Alex Shephard’s write up in The New Republic.
As Wolff’s story fell apart, he tweeted through it. Which is not what I would recommend. But in this case, I really needed to laugh. So, go ahead, Michael, tweet your sweet little heart out, my man. Anyway. His tweets lead to this moment in internet history.
And then, the very next day, the FBI caught the manuscript scammer. And THEN, Joyce Carol Oates logged the fuck on.
Joyce Carol Oates @JoyceCarolOates"bad husband" to whom? like many oft-married men Norman Mailer wound up finally with a much younger, adoring, & altogether quite wonderful wife (Norris Church) whom everyone liked. womanizers all eventually wear out, it just takes time & if you're lucky, you are the last wife. https://t.co/uDcDsx9tfs
And then, the internet decided to discuss Elmo’s beef with a rock. It’s all too much.
Listen, the goal of this Friday newsletter is not to round up the day in news. I simply do not have the stomach or the attention or a sick enough mind for that kind of work. Please subscribe to Today in Tabs if that’s what you are looking for.
I’m just here to tell you, this kind of energy is unsustainable. Seriously, I need everyone to calm down. Except you, Michael Wolff. You, sir, should dance like no one’s watching and tweet like it’s all off the record.
But this leads us all to this week’s dingus and the first dingus of 2022: Nate Silver.
Just because someone can read an Excel spreadsheet, does not mean they can read a room. Case in point: Nate Silver. Nate Silver heads up 538, a site that uses statistical analysis to make political punditry more palatable and listen, it’s not all bad. But it’s not worth as much as people seem to think it is.
The problem is, we have a society that cleaves to an idea that it is possible to have a dispassionate and purely rational view of anything. We foolishly believe that if only we could look at numbers, charts, graphs, we could rid ourselves of all this pesky other business like sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, fat phobia, you get this point. But those numbers, those questions, those polls, those charts, are compiled by flawed human beings with biases and prejudices. Additionally, this is a really white male view of the world that rules out passion and emotion as something inherently wrong. There is nothing wrong with passion and emotion, first of all. But secondly, this analysis is actually entirely ruled by passion and emotion that is unchecked, unfiltered, welded as a cudgel and hides behind the veneer of dispassionate analysis. Enter Nate Silver.
This week, Nate Silver decided to compare school closures to the Iraq War.
Listen, I am not going to get involved in the debate on school closures. Right now, I think the world is a mess. And it’s so hard. Anyone providing easy answers is selling you snake oil, dressed up in the cheap language of scientific analysis. The pandemic has failed on every level. This week, President Joe Biden basically just told us to “Google it” when asked about the lack of testing. Governors are shirking responsibility. The CDC is shirking responsibility, and now we have Omicron running rampant and parents with unvaccinated and at-risk kids worried both about balancing their need to pay their bills and their need to keep their children safe. Teachers are worried and rightly so. There aren’t enough bus drivers. We’ve successfully moralized a pandemic, but failed to manage it. Meaning that we blame people when they get sick, but at this point, everyone is getting sick no matter what they do. And I don’t pretend to know what is best here. You know why? Because while I am good at many things, I am not good at this thing. And I’d rather sit and listen to what other people have to say. A radical concept. I know.
But I can tell you what we don’t need. We don’t need a dingus, who is mildly influential, going around tweeting that shutting down schools is akin to an act of war. There is absolutely nothing similar between Zoom school and murdering Iraqi civilians.
And I say this as someone who hates both Zoom school and murder and war. I don’t like any of them. But fundamentally, they are different things, and also, who and what does it help to use a false equivalency that demeans both conversations.
Silver doubled down, saying that denying kids a “high quality education” was akin to the decision to go to war. And while, on the one hand, what? But on the other hand, no.
Shutting down schools for a bit while Omicron sweeps through is not the equivalent to invading a foreign country and destabilizing an entire region. This seems obvious? But because Silver said it so loudly and so forcefully, he thinks he’s right. It’s exhausting. We are all exhausted.
I understand the internet is a place that lacks nuance. But it lacks nuance specifically because the people who we’ve agreed are our thought leaders (which to this I have to add, I certainly did not agree, but someone must of because we keep putting him on TV), do things like this. Just because some man had a good idea once, doesn’t mean we should continually listen to them on every topic.
And also, one last thing. Perhaps seeing everything as numbers and statistics is partly how we got into this mess. There is a real human loss happening in this pandemic and yet it’s hard to see that because we’ve turned humans into numbers and statisticians into moralists. And right now we calculate tragedy in percentages instead of human life.
Now let’s end on this good word.
Nate Silver @NateSilver538@ClaraJeffery Suppose you think that school closures were a disastrous, invasion-of-Iraq magnitude (or perhaps greater) policy decision. Shouldn't that merit some further reflection?
What I Am Reading:
This analysis of country music’s whiteness problem is so wonderful. It highlights all the new artists I’ve fallen in love with these past couple years and includes this kicker, “The irony is that Black artistry troubles the lie with truth that would save white mediocrity from itself, if whiteness could stop drowning long enough to let it.”
This is a beautiful, haunting, and hard read about violence and what we inherit from this earth.
It’s the New Year, so there is a lot of talk about diets, bodies, and weight loss. But I am here to tell you, there are only a couple of people you should be listening to on this topic. Those are Casey Johnston, of She’s a Beast, and Virginia Sole-Smith of Burnt Toast. I also really loved this op-ed by author and academic Kate Manne that was published this week about how diet culture is immoral.
Anyone else out there telling you to eat less or doing that “but what about the health” song and dance is a jerk. Michael Pollan really did a number on us.
I really loved this article about how to navigate the process of writing about fashion and politics.
And I truly loved this essay by Kaitlyn Greenidge on creating a new narrative of fulfillment outside of marriage.
Meg Conley wrote about what happens when you get sucked in by the cult of Magnolia. (READ IT!)
I also wrote about my vacation and the end of the world.
What I Am Drinking:
Nothing! I’m being a jerk and doing dry January. Well, that is until I go do a writing retreat with my friend and we drink wine in a remote cabin in Wisconsin.
But that shouldn’t stop you. I think you should make an old-fashioned tequila instead of whiskey, with agave simple syrup and spicy chili bitters. Someone please do this and let me know how it tastes. I had the idea for it while on vacation. Also my vacation drink was a Paloma, which at the hotel was basically just tequila and Squirt. And you know what? Fine.
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