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: Nasty women, the privacy paradox and intersectional hummus

Thanks to Bim Adewunmi, I know that the world can survive anything, because once upon a time in the ’50s, Josephine Baker (a literal spy for the French Resistance!) and Eartha Kitt (to-Mrs. Johnson’s-face Vietnam critic! this!), two Black women so extraordinary and marvelous as to defy superlatives, were in the same room together and the universe didn’t simply mic drop and shut it all down.

There’s no news peg, this is just wonderful.

Now, onto the other things we have to survive these days.

  • WNYC has been killing it more than usual this week. First, On the Media examines the failed promise of the internet, which has turned into an overstuffed capitalist hellscape &c, not to mention full of privacy problems for its users. (I mean, even your TV is spying on you.) On that front, Note to Self is running a new project called the Privacy Paradox, which explores both problems in today’s privacy frontier and ways you can understand and reclaim your own identity online. For an excellent windup on the matter (and the Fourth Amendment in general), check out their recent episode “The Bookie, the Phone Booth and the FBI.”
  • If you’re on Twitter, your eyes may glaze over at exhortations to read someone’s important thread, but if you want to understand where the alt-right came from, read these from Colin Spacetwinks (“what’s the inside story on these young fascist nazis” a lot of them ended up in shock humor/lonely dude forums that nazi recruiters joined) and Morgan M. Page (Ten years ago I would not have predicted that geek culture would plunge the world into political chaos).
  • I understand giving voice to voices one part of the country may prefer not to hear. In that vein, I totally get why Vox First Person posted an evangelical theologian’s explanation of why pro-lifers focus so much on abortion. It is a long, nicely worded explanation of why the state needs to dictate a woman’s decision-making process about her own bodily autonomy, a position rooted in a Christianity that is not an official state religion nor the faith of millions of Americans. So, in contrast, please read Tucker FitzGerald’s “Intolerant Liberals,” a broadside that begins as a rebuke of the idea that higher education discriminates against conservatives and ends as a full-throated defense of liberalism and what it won’t accept.
  • Which is important to keep in mind, particularly when FLOTUS just filed a lawsuit to leverage the presidency into branding deals for herself.
  • Ending on a happy note, if you haven’t seen Melissa McCarthy as Trump press secretary Sean Spicer, you must watch it. Especially since you know it’s doing what all good journalism should do — comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

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: We’re all inside this blast radius

I’m having trouble pitching. Nothing feels important unless it’s about the election, and I’m already drowning in post-election activism and thinkpieces and horror stories and grief and obituaries of journalists we really needed. (Rest in power, Gwen Ifill.) I’m glued to Twitter and Facebook, I’m frantically spending too much time retweeting advice and interpretations and warnings, I’m scrounging up funds for recurring donations and subscriptions. It feels like doing absolutely nothing and too much all at the same time. Meanwhile:

Let’s just get right into it.

Good luck out there.

Image Credit: Steve Helber/AP. “Graffiti is seen on the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 10, 2016.”