Friday links! I declare weekend edition


It’s almost noon in the one true time zone, so it’s basically the weekend. And not just any weekend—it’s the weekend of Memorial Day, a holiday of pure enjoyment uncomplicated by any depressing overtones. It must be party time, because my neighbors have put a smoker in our shared yard, right next to their grill, their fire pit, their canopy tent, their second grill, their chairs, their woodpile and their broken-pieces-of-palettes pile, amid the general distribution of their beer cans. Today is Friday, and I can’t escape my home office quickly enough. Won’t you bang something out and knock off with me?

First, the good news: The Republican Party will be a workers’ party under Donald Trump. Unfortunately, it won’t be the kind of workers’ party that pursues a higher minimum wage or taxes the rich—two policies Trump has explicitly refuted, as Greg Sargent points out in the Washington Post. Instead, Trump’s GOP will attract working-class voters by improving the economy, refinancing the national debt to preserve entitlements, and balancing trade with Asia. Prepare to know this country, whether you want to or not. The 2016 election will tell us whether you can become the president selling outcomes instead of plans.

Meanwhile, Salon sells conclusions instead of inquiry. What happened to one of the web’s first brainy political magazines? It has become the Huffington Post with a darker design, if only literally. Over at Politico, Kelsey Sutton and Peter Sterne consider how it got to this point—specifically, the point at which it suddenly and confusingly lost CEO Cindy Jeffers. Maybe it will change. Maybe it will shut down. Maybe we will never know which Star Wars movies are still sexist ever again.

Just kidding—there’s a whole publication by and for millennials to cover that. On Twitter, Willy brought to my attention this enraging lede from Vox’s explainer of the frog-on-a-unicycle meme:

The internet has produced many strange fads throughout the years, from cats getting scared of cucumbers to the weirdly unsettling Lenny Face. But none of these memes have anything on the latest internet phenomenon — one that’s literally described as a frog riding a unicycle.

Literally described as that! You don’t say—in this sentence where you describe it? Also, we’ll leave it to history to decide whether “dat boi” is more important than cats scared of cucumbers. Let us leave nothing for Vox to decide, particularly the question of what makes the froggycycle meme funny. I quote:

If you take “dat boi” and put him in other random situations, it’s hilarious…If that still doesn’t make sense to you, consider how big of a role randomness plays in comedy. Some of the best-known jokes (“Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side!”) are effective because they play with our expectations to catch us off guard, and we deal with that with laughter. (Yeah, yeah. Vox just explained jokes. Whatever.) A frog on a unicycle called “dat boi” is just an extension of that.

Yeah, whatever—whatever the fuck ever. Vox did not just explain jokes, in fact. The punchline of the chicken joke does not derive its humor from non sequitur, and neither do random elements consistently incite laughter. Having tasked himself with explaining why a meme is significant, German Lopez concludes it’s because it doesn’t signify at all. Just say you don’t understand why it’s funny, bro, and stop using “random” as a synonym for “arbitrary.”

In other unproductive explanations, a statistical survey of Twitter has found that about 50% of misogynistic tweets come from women. That’s how the BBC reports the results of this Demos study, which tabulated uses of “slut” and “whore” and comes with more caveats than a used trampoline. The think tank looked at 1.46 million tweets that used those terms. More than half were advertisements for pornography. Of the 650,000 that remained, quote:

…33%, [or] about 213,000 tweets, were deemed to have been sent aggressively; 9% were used for self reference; and 58% were categorised as other, which included individuals using social media to discuss how to counter behaviour like slut-shaming.

So a third of the minority of users tweeting “slut/whore” who were actual people used the words in a misogynist way, and half of those people were women, and they were vastly outnumbered by the people talking about them. Demos should never have fired Bruenig. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get off the internet and interact with real life, by riding my bicycle through it.

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  1. Question. What comes first, clear writing or clear thinking?

    Second question. If Trump appointed you Secretary of Clear Writing in his cabinet, would you take the position?

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