This $150,000 medical bill for snakebite is not fake

The image above shows the bill for an emergency room visit that a man without insurance incurred after he was bitten by a snake. It’s been floating around Twitter, where a lot of users assume that it is fake—particularly users from countries that offer some form of socialized medicine, if anecdotal reading is any indication. But this bill is real. CBS News confirms that Todd Fassler got it in 2015, when he posed for a selfie with a rattlesnake and got bitten. That’s a very dumb thing that Fassler did. But the stupidity of taking a picture with a rattlesnake pales in comparison to the evil of charging $83,000 for the antivenom CroFab, which Fassler required to live.

Only one US manufacturer makes antivenom for rattlesnake bites, so they can charge what they want. So can the hospital, which first treated Fassler in its emergency room before moving him to intensive care for a few days. All this stuff is expensive because of concrete market forces, but from the perspective of the person who actually buys health care—the guy with a puffy arm whose heart will stop if he doesn’t agree, in advance, to pay whatever the hospital charges—the system is completely arbitrary.

Imagine if a man dragged himself to your door in the night, dying of an injury that you had the power to treat. “I’ll save your life,” you say, “but you have to buy a house and give it to me. Alternatively, you can become my indentured servant.” You would be an asshole. It’s immoral to extort dying people for more money than the median American household makes in three years. But because this process happens through a series of billing companies and office functionaries, we think of it as unavoidable. No single person is responsible, so it’s nobody’s fault. We have invented a system that ruins lives in the process of saving them, because the alternative is to do the difficult work of overhauling a broken system.

But what about personal responsibility? If Fassler didn’t want so much debt, he shouldn’t have gotten bitten by a snake. I say unto you, dear reader, that this kind of appeal to personal responsibility is a dodge. People are going to get bitten by snakes. They’re going to do really stupid stuff and incur injuries they easily could have prevented, because this is the way of the world. Saying sick people are responsible for what happens to them abdicates our responsibility to treat the sick. It posits an imaginary world without illness, when illness has been an aspect of human life since the beginning. The problem is not that people need medical treatment. It’s that we refuse to think of a fair and decent way to give it to them.

Searching for the elusive Bernie bro

Okay, those are bros.

Bros who love Bernie Sanders

Bernie bros are like raccoons. We know they’re out there, but we have a hard time actually laying hands on one. On Friday, Mashable ran a story headlined The bros who love Bernie Sanders have become a sexist mob. Emily Cahn writes:

[W]ith the Iowa caucuses now days away, a subset of Sanders supporters has become extremely vocal. Their messages, which are oftentimes derogatory and misogynistic, are geared at Clinton supporters (or anyone who disagrees with Sanders for that matter). They’ve even become prominent enough to earn a nickname: the “BernieBros.”

As examples of Bernie bro behavior, the story screenshots two Facebook comments on a photo of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Hillary Clinton. The first is from Carol Jean Simpson, who writes, “I am no longer voting for you. You should have supported someone with integrity instead of a lying shitbag like HRC. #FeelTheBern.” That’s derogatory. But it’s not misogynist(ic), and the astute reader will note that Carol Jean Simpson is a woman. The second commenter, Scott Lockhart, writes, “Their vaginas are making terrible choices!” Now that’s the kind of cartoonish misogyny we’re looking for. Unfortunately, Scott Lockhart turns out to be a parody account.

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Is it wrong to question Shia LaBeouf’s rape narrative?

Shia LaBeouf does even this unnaturally.

Shia LaBeouf does this unnaturally, somehow.

More than one of you sent me news that Shia LaBeouf says he was raped during #IAMSORRY, the performance-art apology for plagiarizing Daniel Clowes that was itself plagiarized from Marina Abramovic. Sorry—we got sucked into a Baudrillardian whirlpool there. The important part of the sentence is that somebody raped Shia LaBeouf, or so he said in an interview with Dazed. His description of events—a woman entered the exhibit, lashed his legs with a cane, and raped him while her boyfriend waited outside—conflicts with reports from his fellow artists. Also, it is insane. But to even allude to these issues is to question the narrative of a victim of sexual assault, which is wrong. I quote the AV Club’s Sean O’Neal:

But to question any of these details…is to enter into the always-uncomfortable arena of casting doubt on a sexual assault allegation…to blame the victim. Timed as it is in the midst of the continued controversy surrounding Bill Cosby, LaBeouf’s story could also be seen as commentary on the way society treats rape accusations, particularly when they involve a celebrity. But, again, to even suggest there may be some other, “artistic” purpose to LaBeouf coming forward with this would be to trivialize a charge of sexual assault.

I swear, if that son of a bitch made us think about this on purpose…

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“Rolling coal” a knockout game for environmentalists

A Ford Powerstroke diesel, modified to produce extra smoke and marketed to men with perfectly normal penises

A Ford Powerstroke diesel, modified to produce extra smoke for the normal-penised gentleman

The problem with internet journalism is that you never know whether you’re reading about a thing that is happening all around you or just hearing an echo. Case in point: “rolling coal,” the practice of modifying a truck to force extra fuel into the engine and produce billows of black smoke. Much like the knockout game, it is either a thing that jerks across the nation are doing because they hate the environment, or a legend we’re embracing because we consider ourselves victims of a world gone mad. Rolling coal is news or hysteria. It started with this article in Vocativ, which Dave Weigel wrote about in Slate on Thursday, causing everybody to write about it over the weekend.

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Ouroboros alert: “Brooklyn girl” is a fake trend, say reporters of trend

Om nom nom. Ouroboros art by Musta Aurinko

Om nom nom. Ouroboros art by Musta Aurinko

The problem with reporting on pop culture is that you’re really only reporting on your personal pop culture experience. If you see, for example, an article in New York Magazine about the new chick-lit book Brooklyn Girls,* you are forced to decide whether the “Brooklyn girl” is a real trend or just something Yael Kohen used to pitch a feature to her editor.Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.17.04 AM This question is impossible to answer. Presumably there is a set number of people out there who are familiar with the concept of the Brooklyn girl and believe it describes real humans, but that number is unknowable. The trend writer is therefore forced to either risk reporting a specious trend as actual, a la the New York Times, or to present the new trend as a fake trend, ironically undercutting it even as she perpetuates it. Guess which option Jezebel chose?

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