Required Reading

The Tartaria storyline is not directly related to the adrenochrome-harvesting Satanic-pedophile cabal that lies at the heart of QAnon, the unfounded conspiracy theory that crashed into the real world in 2020. But it shares some of what Peter Ditto, a social psychologist at the University of California-Irvine who specializes in conspiracy theories, calls QAnon’s “cafeteria quality:” There’s no overarching narrative or single authorial voice interpreting events. It’s just a gusher of outlandish speculation; adherents can pick and choose which elements they want to sign on to.

The overall premise is an alternative history. A vast, technologically advanced “Tartarian” empire, emanating from north-central Asia or thereabouts, either influenced or built vast cities and infrastructure all over the world. (Tartaria, or Tartary, though never a coherent empire, was indeed a general term for north-central Asia.) Either via a sudden cataclysm or a steady antagonistic decline — and perhaps as recently as 100 years ago — Tartaria fell. Its great buildings were buried, and its history was erased. After this “great reset,” the few surviving examples of Tartarian architecture were falsely recast as the work of contemporary builders who could never have executed buildings of such grace and beauty, and subjected them to clumsy alterations. 

On August 12 the museum announced that the 28 part-time visitor experience associate positions would be eliminated, and eight full-time positions would be created instead, which current employees would have to apply for. As MCAccountable noted in a second public letter, released August 21, this position restructuring was not a part of their demands. The layoffs, MCAccountable wrote, impacted workers “in a majority-BIPOC department” and “seem to functionally retaliate against, divide, and disrupt the organizing of junior-level staff toward real equity and racial justice.”

Maria Gaspar and Aram Han Sifuentes, two artists invited to exhibit in “The Long Dream,” expressed their concerns to the museum, which led to a meeting with Naomi Beckwith, the show’s lead curator, who has since announced she will be leaving the museum in June. The artists, both of whom make work that explores societal inequities, told Beckwith that if they were to participate in the show, then Grynsztejn needed to meet with MCAccountable. The artists got an e-mail from Beckwith the very next day, relaying that Grynsztejn refused their idea, Sifuentes says, because she didn’t “want to prioritize any meeting with any group.”

  • When some of us return to our offices (though someone of us never really left), will it feel like uncovering a long lost civilization? Maura Judkis of the Washington Post writes:

The scene in his office reminded Frahm, in a way, of Pompeii, the city frozen in time in 79 AD, when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city in volcanic ash. Residents who fled or perished left their bread in the ovens; their shops were found mostly intact. In a recent wave of excavations, “Many inscriptions, tangible evidence of daily life, also came to light,” says Massimo Osanna, the archaeological site’s director.

Nonessential workers returning to their offices are now discovering tangible evidence of daily life before soft pants and Zoom meetings became ascendant. Quotidian things were left behind in a hurry.

Using the stage name Lelush, Ivanov told viewers “don’t love me, you’ll get no results”, and repeatedly pleaded with people not to vote for him. His first song was a half-hearted Russian rap, in stark contrast to the high-pop of his competitors. “Please don’t make me go to the finals, I’m tired,” he said in a later episode.

… His pleas went unanswered, however, and he was propelled through three months of competition and 10 episodes, plus supplemental digital content. A fanbase which had taken to his grumpy, anti-celebrity persona, or were perhaps driven by schadenfreude, urged each other to vote for him and “let him 996!” in reference to China’s digital industry culture of chronic overwork – 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

Even if you don’t know the story, you probably have a sense of what happened next. Her lopsided Twitter poll answers quickly indicated she’d expressed A Bad Opinion. The quote retweets started rolling in. The first few seemed like faux outrage at a particularly spicy genre opinion that kept with the spirit of her post — but that eventually shifted, too. People were mad. Hunt logged off and went to bed.

She woke up to angry emails from strangers. Overnight, friends in the U.K. sent concerned messages asking if she was doing alright. She opened Twitter and found her poll had 120,000 votes. Over 6000 people, including filmmakers like Kevin Smith, had angrily quote tweeted her, many demanding that she apologize — to Film Twitter, to prominent directors, to the medium of space itself. The reason? Once the tweet picked up steam, it was elevated into Twitter’s Trending Topics widget in the U.S and U.K.

  • Would you believe Hollywood and its defense of copyright is one of the reasons the World Trade Organization is suspending certain intellectual property rights related to the vaccine? Lee Fang of the Intercept has the story:

Neil Turkewitz, a former Recording Industry Association of America official, blasted the proposal on Twitter, claiming it will harm musicians, performers, and other cultural workers who are already struggling. 

“As COVID has undermined the livelihoods of creators around the [globe emoji], you want to further expand their precarity — in the name of justice?” Turkewitz wrote.

Industry sources say the lobbyists are concerned that the waiver will be too broad in scope and could open the door for increased piracy. But the copyright industry push relates to a provision of the proposal that would waive copyright enforcement for the “prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19.”

  • The internal report about the January 6 insurrection that Facebook didn’t want its employees to read. Buzzfeed News has the news:

“Is there a reason the Workplace Note has been taken down?” one employee wrote on the message board after the report became restricted. “I suspect employees would prefer to read it for themselves and draw their own conclusions.”

“It’s pretty common that critical writing about the company gets removed under some trumped-up excuse if it gains any internal or external traction, it’s not about the public visibility but the morale effects I imagine,” another worker said.

Given the newsworthiness and historical significance of the report and its revelations about the events of Jan. 6, BuzzFeed News is publishing the full text below.

On a recent episode of his livestreamed show, the 22-year-old extremist Nick Fuentes repeated a formula that has won him a following with some of the youngest members of the far right. He went on an extended, violent and misogynistic rant, only to turn to the camera and add with a smirk, “Just joking!” 

In this case, from the April 22 edition of Fuentes’ show, America First, a viewer wrote in to ask Fuentes for advice on how to “punish” his wife for “getting out of line.” 

Fuentes responded, “Why don’t you smack her across the face?”

The rant continued for minutes. 

“Why don’t you give her a vicious and forceful backhanded slap with your knuckles right across her face — disrespectfully — and make it hurt?” Fuentes went on. At one point, he pantomimed punching a woman in the face.

He then added, “No, I’m kidding, of course. Just kidding. Just a joke.”

Fuentes was following a playbook popular among domestic extremists: using irony and claims of “just joking” to spread their message, while deflecting criticism. 

  • A former student of an English professor who has since been accused of rape and sexual harassment writes about why she not only stayed silent for so long but even gave him letters of recommendation, which in retrospect seems unbelievable. It’s a study in denial. Eve Crawford Peyton writes:

And so on that night in June 2003, when I was a month away from my wedding and I happened to be in New Orleans at the same time Bailey was there on a book tour, I met him for drinks. (It was supposed to be in the afternoon for coffee; he changed it at the last minute to drinks at night, a detail that now turns my stomach because it makes me realize how carefully he’d planned this.) When he asked me to go back with him to the place he was staying, I really didn’t expect anything would happen. In fact, when he kissed me, my first reaction was to laugh because it was so bizarre to me that Mr. Bailey had just kissed me. I think I was in complete shock as the rest of it unfolded. First, the unwanted oral sex and me trying to squirm away. Then I remember pushing down on his shoulders as hard as I could as he penetrated me, thinking if I just pushed hard enough, I could push him out of me, but he pinned me down and continued to have sex with me as I cried and said a panicked collection of “no” and “stop” and “don’t” and “please.” He finally stopped when I told him I wasn’t on birth control, and as he rolled off me, he hissed in my ear, “What is wrong with you? You just don’t know how the game is played.”

Can you imagine how that felt? To have a man who has been your greatest source of external validation since early adolescence betray your trust in that way and then mock you for being naïve? And to realize that this wasn’t a man who actually valued you or respected you or was impressed by your talent? It was just another man who wanted to fuck you. I thought he was different. He wasn’t—he was just more patient. He was playing the really long game. And I may not have known how it was played, but he certainly did.

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.

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