Know This: eager Ladyblogs, Assange's brain, Oz Fox News, creepy teenagers & an EU without people
Molly Fischer in n+1 explores the recent history of the ladyblogs. At its launch, The Hairpin announced it “would be 'a women’s website . . . insofar as it is run by women, will feature writing by women (although guys should absolutely feel free to get in touch, too), and will mostly be read by women.' There was none of the self-conscious agenda that Jezebel had brought to the project of running a women’s website. In fact, there seemed to be no agenda at all, just a niche to fill. If the Awl appealed to readers disappointed by the new Gawker, then The Hairpin would be a home for women who used to like Jezebel." Fischer argues that "the ladyblogs are fundamentally mainstream general interest outlets, even if a façade of superiority to the mainstream (edginess, quirkiness, knowingness) constitutes part of their appeal. Neither Jezebel or the Hairpin concerns itself with the harder to articulate, more insidious expectations about women’s behavior. Neither knows how to write for and about women without almost embarrassing itself in its eagerness to please. Jezebel is too painstakingly inoffensive to hurt anyone’s feelings. The Hairpin is too charmingly self-effacing to take itself seriously, too tirelessly entertaining to ever bore a visitor. They bake pies with low-hanging fruit: they are helpful, agreeable, relatable, and above all likable. Surely one can’t, and shouldn’t, strive to like and be liked all the time. In the end, they tell us less about how to be than about how to belong, and they are better at this than Sassy ever was, because no place is better for performing inclusion than the internet."
The Power Index concluded its list of Australia's top ten "thinkers" this week. In a refreshing change from the usual broadsheet list headed by Robert Manne or, lord save us, Andrew Denton, the Power Index handed the top position to Julian Assange. This is a serious proposition, even if the site’s profile by Tom Cowie doesn't wrestle with some of Assange's earnest writing on conspiracy, technology and politics. (Others have done that with some skill.) He's damned to stay in headlines at the moment, as his UK extradition court case continues -- alongside the absurd news of his new TV show for a Russian state-run channel.
On the topic of owner-backed propaganda, is there any truth to the report that newly crowned majority Fairfax stakeholder Gina Rinehart has plans with old-crazy-eyes Lord Monckton for an Australian version of Fox News? Oh tell us, climate skeptic overlord.
Giovanni Tiso in Overland writes about the European Crisis from an (ex-pat) Italian perspective. Looking over the whole scene of the Union, he finds early signs of what would emerge as the problem. A union without people. First stop? The Euro banknotes. "On the five, the window of an ancient Roman edifice. On the ten, a medieval Romanesque portal. On the twenty, two slender Gothic windows, one taller than the other. On the fifty, a detail from a Renaissance building. On the hundred, the ornate entrance of a Baroque palace. On the two hundred, a section of a late-nineteenth-century public building, perhaps a train station. On the five hundred – but who has ever seen one of those? – the front of a contemporary commercial or governmental headquarter in glass and steel. And on the versos, bridges of the same era as the buildings depicted on the other side: a Roman aqueduct on the five, a massive medieval bridge on the ten, and so forth. These are the designs on the euro banknotes: detailed yet generic, plausible yet fictitious structures, a primer of continental architecture that aims to be of no place. The exemplars could exist in any of the countries in the monetary union, the great region state that in this, its nineteenth year, may well cease to exist, at least in the form that we know today. And so the buildings and the bridges – all of them in pristine conditions, no matter how old they are – look like ruins, and the eerie absence of human forms on any of the banknotes becomes symbolic of the failure of the policy-makers to see people in the European picture. The moment it came into being, the eurozone dispensed with key mechanisms and institutions designed to safeguard living conditions in an economic crisis and replaced them with nothing at all, with the devastating results that we see today."
In a region troubled by different concerns, Egypt is passing through its anniversary of revolution – football riots and all. In Al Ahram, Mohamed Abdel-Baky reports on the marginalisation of the youth movements that toppled Mubarak. "Realising that they had done the hardest job in toppling Mubarak, psychologist Ahmed Okasha argues that the expectations of the young are much higher than previous generations who had done nothing but buckle beneath the regime. They are therefore less willing to accept any half solutions on offer. Yet attempts to keep the fires of revolution burning have hardly been successful. Public support for the young revolutionaries, say many commentators, has proved vulnerable to the systematic campaign against them by the military council, who can command the vast resources of the state-owned media, the Islamists and other vested interests. The revolutionaries' problems have also been compounded by internal divisions and their inability to agree on a leader to speak on their behalf. Young activists who talked to Al-Ahram Weekly complain that after 12 months of the ousting of Mubarak public opinion is still swayed by the same old claims, that the revolutionary youth movements are part of a foreign agenda to undermine Egypt."
The blog of History Workshop, meanwhile, explore the broader meanings of those 2011 revolutions and protests. In Poppy Sebag-Montefiore's piece, we read of the four individual stories that sparked protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libyra and the UK: "Each of these four moments of protest was triggered by the death, detention or self-harm of one man, under circumstances of police/official corruption, stop-and-search or brutality. Each of these men: beaten, killed or detained came from the social margins – either through poverty, ethnicity or politics." (Might be worth thinking some more about the real role of police then.) It also raises the question -- how do revolutions spread? That's what Kevin Adamson and Mike Rapport have on their mind. "The parallels between 1848, 1989 and 2011 are particularly striking because of the very rapidity with which the revolutions spread, the broadly shared aims of the insurgents and protesters from one country to the next and the astonishing speed with which the seemingly brick-built old regime bent to the pressure for change (or appeared to do so). One of the clearest similarities lies in the role of technology in spreading the revolutions – steam power in 1848, telecommunications in 1989 and the internet and mobile phones in 2011. The obvious differences have also been mooted: it has become almost a commonplace among observers of the Arab Spring to express the hope that 2011 will turn out like 1989 and not like 1848. "
American teenagers with alarmingly right-on and articulate OPINIONS about things. Is the whole of America a performance school?
In LRB, Perry Anderson has on his radar the first signs of a cynical US approach to China. Anderson notes a new trend for American officials to write self-serving and American-focussed biographies and histories of China. Rather than honestly critique the successes and failures of the nation, all is blended into one celebratory ode to the US-China alliance. Pol Pot, the Vietnam and Korean wars, Tiananmen Square -- all waved away as necessary steps to the geopolitical settlement we have today. We need not be surprised by this to still be shocked by it. "Books about China, popular and scholarly, continue to pour off the presses. In this ever expanding literature, there is a subdivision that could be entitled ‘Under Western Eyes’. The larger part of it consists of works that appear to be about China, or some figure or topic from China, but whose real frame of reference, determining the optic, is the United States. Typically written by functionaries of the state, co-opted or career, they have as their underlying question: ‘China – what’s in it for us?’"
Lastly, some insight into Malaysia's idiosyncratic race problem. "If Malaysia is exceptional, it is not because — like so many other modern nations — it is culturally pluralistic and socially diverse but because official government policy has been erected upon the idea that such diversity is not simply ineradicable but both abnormal and dangerous."