- I’m going to start with this because it makes me very angry. Anyone could’ve told you nuclear tests had the potential to contaminate one of the most pristine ecological regions of the world but the French decided to do it anyway. Now, researchers are saying that the French nuclear tests, which took place from the 1960s until the 1990s, effected 110,000 people in French Polynesia:
According to the investigation, the resulting radiation from the French tests was between two and 10 times higher than estimates given by France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in a 2006 report.
One reason, according to the findings, is that the CEA “did not always take into account the drinking of contaminated rainwater” when calculating the dose of radiation individuals were likely to have been exposed to.
Catherine Serda, who was a child at the time of the tests, told France Inter radio that eight members of her family contracted cancer. “This is not normal. Why do we have so much cancer there?”
The CEA study was used as the basis for determining whether people were eligible for compensation from the French government.
… The report, however, said only 63 Polynesian civilians had received compensation so far.
- Is the new series from Disney+ WandaVision part of a Pentagon propaganda campaign? Akin Olla writes:
Captain Marvel wasn’t the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first dance with our government. Marvel agreed to allow the Pentagon to screen Iron Man before its release in return for access to F-22 Raptor fighter jets. The two sequels got similar treatment. Captain America: The First Avenger easily secured support from the US army, given the movie’s positive depiction of the United States as the hero of the second world war. The Avengers was poised to receive similar support but was rejected due to the unclear nature of the secretive government agency Shield and how it might have been perceived by the public. The military returned for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which earned the Pentagon’s approval because of its positive portrayal of veterans. Again, the studio received free military equipment, and again the Pentagon received the power of final approval on the movie.
The end credits of WandaVision imply that the Pentagon had a final say on the script, and it makes sense that the inclusion of a friendly government agent as a character could offset the show’s otherwise negative portrayal of the country’s agencies. WandaVision’s helicopters and humvees were most likely provided free of charge by the US government. Of course this equipment isn’t actually free. The American public is effectively paying Hollywood to create propaganda that aims to sugarcoat the crimes of its military and intelligence apparatuses. Funding that could be used for disaster relief and healthcare is being used to recruit young people to die and kill in other countries for the sake of corporate interests.
- In LA Review of Books, Marcos Gonsalez writes about documenting the Queer Latinx Ordinary and Reynaldo Rivera’s work:
Accounts of queer and trans people of color’s lives in mainstream culture typically center on narrative presentations of trauma, theatricality, and racialized liveness. I have elsewhere written on the limitations of narrative stakes and demands in relation to queer and trans of color life as portrayed in Paris Is Burning, arguing that we might allocate some of our aesthetic attention to the ordinary and banal, the everyday joys and pleasures preserved only as deleted scenes. Rivera’s photography avoids this common representational quagmire, allowing us to make of them what we will, reading their immediate context (such as the title) and, if so inclined, researching the historical, geographical, aesthetic, and political dimensions in which they are enmeshed. By bringing into focus the joy, smiles, raucousness, contemplation, zaniness, pleasure, and overall human ordinariness of his subjects, Rivera’s photographs are free to be different from trauma, sensationalism, pain, excessive liveliness, or suffering.
- Sarah Douglas talks to Helene Winer of Metro Pictures art gallery about why they closed up shop this month. This quote is insightful:
Many have claimed that mega-galleries such as Hauser & Wirth are making business difficult for mid-size galleries like Metro Pictures. Winer called that the phenomenon of mega-galleries “a specter that is hovering over the commercial art world.”
“We are not situated to finance big exhibitions at museums,” Winer said. “We just cannot be an open-ended resource. And that was a consideration. We can’t say to our artists, ‘Here’s your open bank account. Here’s your five assistants to help you.’
“Financially,” Winer continued, “artists really cannot say no to the kinds of opportunities or offers these mega-galleries can make. They can’t afford to—and they shouldn’t.” As for the multitude of locations had by the David Zwirners and Gagosians of the world—“selling pods,” as Winer called them—Metro Pictures couldn’t offer that either.
- Anne Applebaum and Peter Pomerantsev have some recommendations about how to put out “democracy’s dumpster fire.” They write:
We know alternatives are possible, because we used to have them. Before private commercial platforms definitively took over, online public-interest projects briefly flourished. Some of the fruits of that moment live on. In 2002, the Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig helped create the Creative Commons license, allowing programmers to make their inventions available to anyone online; Wikipedia—which for all the mockery once directed its way has emerged as a widely used and mostly unbiased source of information—still operates under one. Wikipedia is a glimpse of the internet that might have been: a not-for-profit, collaborative space where disparate people follow a common set of norms as to what constitutes evidence and truth, helped along by public-spirited moderators. Online collaboration was also put to impressive use from 2007 to 2014, when a Brazilian lawyer named Ronaldo Lemos used a simple tool, a WordPress plug-in, to allow Brazilians from all classes and professions to help write an “internet bill of rights.” The document was eventually inscribed in Brazilian law, guaranteeing people freedom of speech and privacy from government intrusion online.
All of that began to change with the mass-market arrival of smartphones and a shift in the tactics of the major platforms. What the Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain calls the “generative” model of the internet—an open system in which anyone could introduce unexpected innovations—gave way to a model that was controlled, top-down, and homogeneous. The experience of using the internet shifted from active to passive; after Facebook introduced its News Feed, for example, users no longer simply searched the site but were provided a constant stream of information, tailored to what the algorithm thought they wanted to read. As a few companies came to control the market, they used their monopoly power to undermine competitors, track users across the internet, collect massive troves of data, and dominate advertising.
- This is a fascinating podcast series that focuses on the audio diary kept by former first lady Lady Bird Johnson during her time in the White House. Highly recommended, as it offers insight into some of the major decisions into that influential era, sometimes challenging official narratives.
- Moya Bailey, who coined the term “misogynoir,” writes about Meghan Markle for Bitch Media:
What makes Meghan’s near-death by suicide a particularly damning case of misogynoir is the degree of privilege she has as a light-skinned, class-privileged Black woman. In response to my tweet calling out the misogynoir she experienced, some people countered that it wasn’t misogynoir because Meghan has self-identified as mixed race and as a “woman of color.” I emphatically disagree. Whether Meghan calls herself a Black woman is irrelevant, as the animus she experiences has everything to do with her being read as a Black woman. In my forthcoming book, Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance, I make clear that misogynoir is directed at anyone perceived as a Black woman despite how they identify. In the context of the book, I was thinking about agender, nonbinary, and gender variant Black folk who are read as Black women despite how they identify and subsequently experience misogynoir in a number of ways including this initial misgendering. Identifying as mixed race, or biracial, or as a “woman of color” didn’t protect Meghan from the British press or the living legacy of hypodescent. Additionally, these terms aren’t mutually exclusive from Black identity. Separating people who have historically and currently been read as Black into a distinct racial group because they also have a white parent does not end racism, nor does it mitigate misogynoir. My tweet was a call to consider how much worse the experience of negotiating misogynoir is for Black women with different facial features, darker skin, and less wealth than Meghan Markle.
- What do we do with the New Yorkers who left during the pandemic to very quietly return now? Luke Winkie has some ideas:
First things first: City Hall should immediately move to enforce a resettlement tax on all returning New Yorkers. The levy will be determined at the very moment they touch down at J.F.K., determined by both their income level and how flagrant their desertion was. (If an exile spent the entirety of the pandemic on the crystal waters between Monaco and Sardinia, they can expect to pay up.) That money will be used to fund a public good ascertained, through a special election, by those of us who never left. I can imagine several issues on the ballot, but I’d cast my vote to finally retrofit the Great Depression-era tech powering our subway, ensuring that no man, woman or child will ever again wait 20 minutes for the M train.
- Now that’s partnership:
- Your other laugh today is this acerbic response to the latest British Royals controversy by writer Patrick Freyne over at the Irish Times. The lede is one of the best of the year:
Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.
Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.