I was an active Boy Scout as a teenager because I had strong motivation: getting myself the hell out of the Scouting movement. It was a cultural rite and a family thing, one I hated—but the rule was that I couldn’t leave until I’d reached the highest rank. My older brothers were Eagle Scouts, as were most of my cousins and nephews. Now the Boy Scouts of America areRead More
That the world is a mess is a proposition with which the left and the right can both agree. Conservatives look around and see a heathen culture degraded by “cultural Marxism” and the tyranny of social justice; leftists, on the other hand, see a society brought to the brink of collapse by capitalism, patriarchy, and corporate greed.
In 1999, the German colossus Deutsche Bank was poised to acquire Bankers Trust. This purchase would give Deutsche a foothold in the United States and dramatically expand its investment banking business. The price was $10 billion, the largest foreign takeover of a U.S. bank in history. It would make Deutsche one of the largest financial institutions in the world. But there was a problem.
A young woman—observant, self-conscious, harboring literary aspirations, though not quite sure where she wants to end up—meets an older novelist, and they start dating. He is as famous as it’s possible for a contemporary writer to be. He is obsessed with his privacy: She is not to draw any attention, occupying a hidden corner of his life. In fact, he sets all the terms of their relationship; the age gap benefits him.
On a remote island in eighteenth-century France, a woman is about to be married off to a rich Milanese stranger. Her portrait must be painted to ensure she meets his requirements; he had agreed to wed her elder sister, but the sister has died, perhaps in an effort to avoid her fate, so now it falls to Héloïse (Adèle Haenel).
It’s standard practice to begin a text about photography by citing Roland Barthes or Susan Sontag. In the introduction to This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers, Jeff Sharlet opts for the former: “Cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing.” We might need a new theorist of the photograph; among other reasons, both those thinkers died before the 2007 debut of the iPhone.
In January 2017, Kellyanne Conway, at that time President Trump’s press secretary, coined the term “alternative facts” on Meet the Press. The term was part of a broader move by President Trump and others on the right to discredit journalists, taunting them as “enemies of people” and purveyors of “fake news.” In this environment, the mainstream press doubled down on its commitments to truth-telling and objectivity.
These are boom times for multitasking, boom times for alienation, and, thus, boom times for content. Audiences need entertainment (give me more to do with my phone!), and capital has made the safe bet: If you build it, they (advertisers, subscribers) will come. The podcast harnesses the authority of Voice of America–style radio but updated for the spirit of our times: You choose what (and to whom) you listen.