MEN! Accentuate parts of your body you like e.g. good legs, to draw attention away from problem areas e.g. the things you do and say.
— manwhohasitall (@manwhohasitall) November 17, 2015
After the Paris attacks, Facebook quickly activated the useful and widely-praised “safety check” feature for people in and around Paris, although they hadn’t done so for Beirut the day before. When asked to explain that, Facebook VP of Growth Alex Schultz took a deep drag on his Gaulois and explained that, in an existential sense, “it’s impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe.’” He then stared pensively at the rain streaming down the window of his atelier and sighed.
Facebook also activated the less obviously useful French flag profile picture overlay, which I know about because I googled “French flag” yesterday and fell through a trap door into a seething take pit that was unexpected but, in hindsight, narratively inevitable. Apparently everyone had a Take on the flag overlay, whether it was Mic explaining how to do it or vitriolic rants against it from USA Today, The New Statesman, or Stanford Arts Review. “Self-indulgent social media performance!” –Salon. “Corporate white supremacy!” –The Independent. “The hypocrisy behind the filter!” –Some student at Brown. Some opted to teach the controversy, by aggregating criticism or just askin’ questions. Easier than paying for an opinion was publishing a letter to the editor. But easier still was aggregating French Facebook user Charlotte Farhan’s Facebook post against the Facebook profile picture overlay, so that’s what Tech Insider, The Sun-Times Network, The Daily Mail, The Independent (again), Mic (again), and Elite Daily all did.
Wired’s Molly McHugh stood out in this nest of takes by doing at least some reporting. But the story was maybe the purest take-bait I’ve ever seen. It was linked to a major news event with enormous public interest but little real information available. All of the one and a half billion people on Facebook were qualified to have an opinion, no further reporting or research was required to express an opinion, and literally no one’s opinion mattered at all. In conclusion:
I think Matt Bors put it best in this cartoon for The New Republic.
The Verge spent some time unraveling the Uber rumors and Motherboard debunked the stupid report that ISIS was using Playstation 4 to send secret messages, which is still being repeated by credulous idiots. But the only thing you really have to read today about ISIS and the Paris attacks is this story in NYRB by Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid, which is everything the previous three paragraphs are not.
Bad news about Quaker Steak & Lube – and a grim sign for the entire steak and lube industry. https://t.co/jtxR7T56D8
— Tom Gara (@tomgara) November 17, 2015
Meanwhile, Very Much Elsewhere: “Man Pulled Heroin From Butt & Snorted It During “Zombie McDonald’s” Shooting Interrogation.” Overstock.com is hoarding gold in Utah? Urban Outfitters is buying a pizza chain? Bloomberg is launching a Business Insider-wannabe called Gadfly, and seems to think “takes” is short for “takeaways.” Not The Girl On The Train, perhaps, but A Girl On A Train (of a generation). The 2015 Goop Gift Guide is out! And I don’t know how I missed this but the 2016 Erotic Carp Calendar is also out!
The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is: “,” the “face with tears of joy” emoji, which narrowly beat runners-up “the distant sound of weeping” and “question mark, all by itself, just like: ?” Congratulations to our rapidly expanding sense of the futility of human communication!
Today’s Podcast: This American Life unwittingly gave birth to the prestige podcast 20 years ago today. Listen to the first episode here. The parts where Ira Glass doesn’t talk are surprisingly boring!