Things I’m Verbing: Innovations in linguistics, the history of fear and TSA-proofing your phone

Yet again, where do we even start? Before we dive in, let me share a good hour of nature sounds you can play in the background as you absorb the news. This one’s only an hour, as opposed to 10, but it’s lovely:

My very favorite is the crackling fireplace, but I’m always on the lookout for a good forest sounds ambient mix. Let me know in the comments if you have any recs.

  • Sure has been a week for talking about antisemitism, hasn’t it? Trump, for instance, shouted down an Orthodox Jewish reporter for asking an “unfair question” about how Trump planned to push back on rising antisemitism. Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg wrote up the handy “Five myths about antisemitism” for the Washington Post. For those still confused and angry about it, Chaim at Return of the Judai discusses the fine (or really, not-so-fine) line between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
  • Earlier this week, I shared an essay from a psychiatrist who felt comfortable armchair-diagnosing Trump with a mental disorder, even though both journalism and psychology/psychiatry strongly discourage this as unethical. I shared the essay because the writer goes into the discourse surrounding the topic, even though I couldn’t agree with her conclusion. As it turns out, however, the doctor who codified Narcissistic Personality Disorder has a few strong words about why Trump doesn’t fit the profile.
  • Quincy Larson, a teacher at FreeCodeCamp, shared advice about maintaining your digital privacy on international flights — namely, don’t give security the option of the simplest workaround: physically forcing you to access your data.
  • This is a big, ambitious link, but worthwhile. From the New Republic, check out “Fear: The History of a Political Idea,” a series of five essays about short-circuiting all your best intentions.
  • Bless the Scots. Not only has #PresidentBawbag become a worldwide phenomenon in part thanks to Richard “Toby Ziegler” Schiff, but Scotland may also have given us the latest addictive epithet to get us through the chaos: “shitgibbon.” Turns out there’s a whole grammar behind constructing these kinds of insults, and it’s all pretty brilliant.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Insurance conspiracies, gatekeeping whiteness and how linguistics could save the republic

I love getting to kick off with an announcement of new work, and I’ve been especially excited about this piece for a while. Earlier this year, while I was trying to find a psychiatrist who actually took my insurance, one doctor sighed and said that I didn’t hear it from her, but insurance companies definitely pad their online networks to make it look like they provide exponentially more coverage than they really offer. I got curious, especially because my insurance is very, very low-income, and I wondered if this was a feature of low-income versus high-income plans.

Turns out it was something else entirely, much less sinister but immensely more frustrating. And that story found a home at Vice’s new health section, Tonic, which — I can’t state enough how good the work has been there. I’m so looking forward to seeing how it grows. For now: Why It’s Such a Struggle to Find an In-Network Therapist.” Please feel free to share far and wide, obviously, and I’d love to hear what you think.

And if any outlets out there want to hire me and give me better insurance, by all means, let’s please chat.

  • Yesterday I finally had the experience of being not at all bothered by a story that was sending my Twitter feed up in arms. However, if you understand that antisemitism is racial hatred and that the Holocaust was about racial purity, it will not shock you very much that “Are Jews White?” is a real question the Atlantic is asking. It’s an excellent piece by Emma Green, and it’s a question many Jews online have been discussing for some time. Green addresses concerns from the left and the right in a follow-up post with poise and precision; this article is not what you think it is going in, and I applaud it.
  • On a related note, the Guardian’s “Google, Democracy and the Truth About Internet Search” starts off with a simple question: Are Jews evil? It autofilled in the search field, after all. And so Carole Cadwalladr takes us down a rabbit hole about who owns and controls information, as well as the literally viral nature of the right-wing web. An absolutely phenomenal piece, which has already — well, had some real-life effects.
  • Meanwhile, you’ve got to read BuzzFeed’s wonderful Charlie Warzel on where Donald Trump gets his news. This is a visual, data-driven effort that just…. well, it proves a point about wide-ranging media diets, while also pairing with the above piece on the right-wing web rather well.
  • There will never not be a place for post-election processing. I refuse to believe “we’re all moving past that now” and that people are sick of it. Exhibit A: Aliza Layne’s comic about queer artists and the forces that want to shout down their art, their self-expression and their very being. Exhibit B: author Chuck Wendig’s explanation of the “white working class” psyche, as exemplified by his father. Exhibit C: my photo up top; people haven’t stopped leaving encouraging post-its all over subway stations along 14th Street in New York. I do hope this continues.
  • On the Media spoke to a cognitive linguist this week about how the very act of talking about Trump normalizes him. It sounds horrible, but it’s fascinating, and more than that — there’s something actionable within it that journalists and citizens can do to fight.

Good luck out there, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Slack channels, bear-punching and sweet home Chicago

Even if you’re not from or familiar with Chicago, I really want to make sure everyone reads Dan Sinker’s look back at the legacy of @MayorEmanuel. This was a fictional but real-time Twitter account of a much better version of Rahm Emanuel in his quest for the mayorship in 2010–2011. It was foul-mouthed, aggressive, surreal and intensely in love with the City of Big Shoulders. To be living there as it unwound was an incredibly special experience, and like virtually all of his followers, I was heartbroken when @MayorEmanuel vanished into a time vortex during a clap of thundersnow five years ago this week.

Sinker, who has maintained the tweets on Quaxelrod.com (trust me, it makes sense) and released an excellent annotated book version, also seemingly flirted with bringing @MayorEmanuel back. But in his Medium post, he explains why that could never be. It’s a sober, elegiac look at what both Twitter and Chicago have lost in the half-decade since, and it’s an entirely grown-up reflection on what fiction can’t and can offer us. Sinker also reveals how the story really continues, and it’s magnificent in a way only the world’s &($%(#%*ing greatest cup of coffee can be. You really should read it.

I’m also heading back to Chicago next week for the first time since I moved away, a week before Halloween in 2014. It’s the longest I’ve ever been away from the city in my adult life, and I can’t wait to go back. In the meantime… well, I can’t say this is the fluffiest set of links I’ve ever shared, but: