Look through your Facebook feed and chances are you’ll find a bunch of half-truths, conspiracies, and chain letter–quality hoaxes sharing space with links to reputable news stories. In the past month, I’ve come across links to an article about Chinese people eating soup made of human fetus (a retread of an old racist rumor), a story about how former Liberian president Charles Taylor was a CIA agent (this one was actually reported by the Boston Globe, but later pretty much completely retracted), and a tale of a lesbian ex-Marine waitress who got stiffed on a tip by a homophobic couple (the couple now claims they gave her an ample tip; it’s not clear who is lying or what is going on).
With the exception of that last story, it would have been pretty easy for the sharers to do a quick Google search and determine that the OMG or WTF item they were about to post was outdated or untrue. The whole point of the internet is that you have pretty much the sum total of human knowledge sitting at your fingertips! It takes TWO SECONDS to research the thing you are thinking about sharing and find out that the Daily Currant is a shitty satire site, or that there is no“Abortionplex,” or that those “legal notices” your friends are posting on Facebook don’t do anything—yet even journalists and others who should know better fall for this crap.
America Needs a New Outrage Machine
Yesterday Michele Bachmann—the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota who has been called “controversial,” among other adjectives—announced that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term in the House of Representatives. She was potentially facing an ethics investigation into her campaign spending in the last election cycle, and she only won by a couple percentage points last time, so it’s not surprising she ducked out when she did—she’s basically quitting before she can get fired.
Bachmann being Bachmann, she didn’t frame it that way. In an eight-minute video on her website, the only concrete reason she gave for leaving her post was, “Eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific congressional district.” She went on:
I fully anticipate the mainstream liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term. Since I was first elected to Congress many years ago, they always seem to attempt to find a dishonest way to disparage me. But I take being the focus of their attention and disparagement as a true compliment of my public service effectiveness.
About that “public service effectiveness”—in her role as a legislator, she did essentially nothing. Of the 58 bills she sponsored in her six years (and counting) in the House, exactly one passed and got sent to the Senate, and that was one of the many bills with the goal of repealing Obamacare that have no chance of becoming law.
Bachmann’s role in the political ecosystem has nothing to do with laws though, and hardly anything to do with policy. Her job is to be crazy, and she’s amazingly good at it.
How Many Ways Did the Oscars Offend Everyone?
Ah, the Academy Awards! The four-hour event when the actresses, actors, directors, and producers who create the most popular artistic medium in the world are finally given their due. It’s a time for everyone to gather around their television sets and bask in a night of song, dance, jokes, emotion, and a celebration of films. Haha, just kidding! Like all major events where anyone talks for more than half an hour, it was a chance for people to get extremely angry about what others were saying and doing. Here is an incomplete list of the events that happened during the Oscars that people took offense to. (Some of these are serious things that you should get upset about and some are just some bullshit that you shouldn’t even think about; I’ll trust you to decided which are which.)
The mistreatment of artists who worked on Life of Pi, which won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
Seth MacFarlane doing a song and dance devoted to movies where actresses showed their boobs.
Seth MacFarlane, just sort of in general.
The underlying systemic sexism that Seth MacFarlane’s jokes represent.
Robin Roberts not having hair because she has a rare blood disorder.
Lena Dunham (I don’t know if Lena Dunham was even at the Oscars, but it’s a safe bet that someone, somewhere, is always getting offended by Lena Dunham, and someone else is offended that that person is offended.)
Picking at Scabs - by David Roth
It happens in every NFL game: During a lull in the action, the cameras find the team owner’s private box. These boxes mostly look the same, and the owners—or what’s visible of them behind the light-washed glass that separates them from the rest of the people at the game—mostly look the same. White hair, white (or tanned) faces, the country club casual favored by a certain type of a certain generation of plutocrat, sometimes a fluffy nimbus of poshly soused nephews and in-laws distributed at a respectful difference from The Man Himself. If NBC’s Al Michaels or CBS’s Jim Nantz are doing the game, viewers are treated to a little thumbnail Forbes profile of the owner in question. This will be about the owner’s bravery in sticking with a coach or a GM, his Dedication To Winning, some sort of humanizing you-know-he-actually-flies-his-own-plane detail. If you want it to be, this casual, time-filling handjob artistry can be tacky, actually offensive, or emblematic of the NFL’s high-volume dedication to being as mainstream as possible. But mostly it’s just something that shows up on television when there’s not any actual football happening.
There have been a great many of these lulls in the action, even by the NFL’s usual grunt-and-pause standards, over the first three weeks of the NFL season. This is thanks to the familiar weekly Antietam of injuries, the squirming masses of turf-pounding players with their scrambled knees or steamrolled ankles—or, more frighteningly, the more serious injuries of the stock-still and backboard-loaded sort—which take us solemnly from silent stadiums to commercial breaks where Denis Leary sneers out truck-plaudits from J.D. Power and Associates and Sam Elliott slowly describes a beer that tastes like carbonated bathtub fart as if it was the liquid embodiment of American Exceptionalism.
That’s when football is working like it should. This season’s NFL games have not been up to par; they’ve dragged and slackened into something altogether more static and claustrophobic and chippy and shouty-shovey than most fans have ever seen. That responsibility falls, in the most immediate sense, on the scab officials NFL owners brought in after locking out the referees union over what appears now, in the wake of Monday’s calamitous/amazing “Let Them Eat Cake” game between the Packers and Seahawks, as an amusingly/depressingly small pension-related afterthought of an issue. That’s the game that caused the internet to rise as one and yell, “Are you kidding me?” as a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game resulted in one ref calling an interception and one calling a touchdown, both hip-deep in boos. The (non-scab) replay official ended up upholding the touchdown call as literally every single other person in the football world looked on in disbelief. TJ Lang, the Packers lineman, summed it up nicely in a statementthat got retweeted nearly 80,000 times: “Fuck it NFL. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.”
It’s unarguable, of course, that the scab refs lost the game for Green Bay. The agonizingly slow play and inevitability of suspect results, however, are just as much the fault of the men in those owners’ suites, and those have been occurring all over the league. The replacement refs have struggled bravely and futilely to peel opposing linemen off each other after seemingly every play. They’d throw flags and refrain from throwing flags seemingly at random; last week’s scariest injury—a sniper-shot of a helmet-to-helmet blindside tackle on Raiders wideout Darius Heyward-Bey that ended with the receiver giving the crowd a thumbs-up from a stretcher—was not flagged at all.