Friday Reading S10E02

It’s back. My weekly newsletter of … things

QAnon is, in and of itself, nothing. A nonsense “Deep State” conspiracy theory created on internet message boards to generate intrigue and give people a uniting banner under which all manner of wild conspiracies can come together. It does not deserve a further backstory or legend in any credible analysis and forms part of an ongoing political influence operation designed to mainstream the far-right.

A simple Google search of “What is QAnon?” will return tens of thousands of articles from trusted media outlets, from the New York Times to the BBC, spanning many months, updating hourly, and bringing news of something which is really nothing to new audiences across the world.

SocInt: Social media intelligence report on QAnon

This is interesting in that it essentially blames the media for spreading awareness, and specifically has a pop at fact-checking operations. As I always argue, that’s fine, but of course if you don’t write about it then it becomes “it must be true because the media are suppressing all reference to it, “YOU WON’T SEE THIS ON THE BBC” etc etc. Also it quotes Alex Hern so YMMV ;-)

Here’s QAnon explained by my colleague Julia Carrie Wong by the way. When did life become “The forever #gamergate”?

More from the internet’s wastelands:

Level one involves rejecting long-term relationships, while level two extends this to short-term relationships. Level three requires economic disengagement (reducing taxation as far as possible, in order to avoid paying towards the support of other groups, from “elite alphas” to “single mothers”). As one MGTOW manifesto puts it, as well as fighting to “instil masculinity in men”, MGTOW must “work toward limited government”.

Level four is described as “social rejection”. “The MGTOW drops out of society altogether,” says the MGTOW blogger the Observer Watches. “For all intents and purposes, he does not exist. A urbanite might keep to his own apartment, while someone further out may simply head into the wilderness and go off-grid.”

Those who achieve this ultimate isolation are known as “ghosts” and treated as legends within the community.

Men going their own way: the rise of a toxic male separatist movement – Laura Bates

I spent a while researching the MGTOW for a comedy project I doing. Taking Peanuts cartoons and it was Charlie Brown sitting at Lucy’s booth, and the first three frames would be Charlie Brown spouting real quotes from MGTOW message boards, and the fourth frame being Charlie sat at the booth on his own because Lucy had just walked off because he was a prick. But after a few weeks of harvesting the quotes I just found it too depressing to keep reading the websites.

I think if you write a column or article insisting everybody needs to be in the office you should have to declare whether you wrote it in an office.

Anyway on to nicer things. This is a lovely interview from Ellie Mae O’Hagan with Samantha Cristoforetti, the first female Italian astronaut, who has a book about her experiences out.

Coming back is, she says, the hardest part. “The six months after, when you’re still wrapping up the mission … you’re back but you’re not done.” While she writes of feeling at home even as she is about to take off, the “undeniable risk of a sudden and violent death tonight” looming, what she refers to as “ordinary life” is clearly the scary part: “The fact you have to grocery shop, sit in traffic, all those things that you just don’t have up there, cook your food – it’s not just a packet where you add some water and it’s ready.”

This is just a blinding write-up of making terrible decisions while being a small band on tour in the UK in the 90s by polymath Rhodri Marsden. It starts with the fact that they are doing the tour in a rented removals van:

Given that you could probably be arrested for transporting livestock in this manner, it was hardly surprising that the police took a dim view of trying to covertly smuggle two indie bands across the Northamptonshire border. Our nerves became frayed further when we remembered that Warren, our drummer, had been driving the van without insurance. The police made it clear that this state of affairs could not continue. We would have to exit at the next junction and proceed to the nearest railway station, where seven of us would have to buy train tickets for the onward journey. Contrite and apologetic, we agreed to this plan. We got back in the van, but as no one had enough money for a train ticket, it was clear what was going to happen: we’d proceed up the motorway with the back door shut properly and keep our fingers crossed that we weren’t stopped for a second time. Sure enough, that’s what we did.

It turns out that all my life, jigsaw manufacturers have been lying about how many pieces there are in the puzzles we do.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces are typically arranged in a grid, so the number of pieces along a side has to be a divisor of the total number of pieces. This means there aren’t very many ways to make a puzzle with exactly 1,000 pieces, and most have awkward aspect ratios.

Martin Belam, Lego®️ Detective (with a little help from Ed): Was Ivanka Trump telling the truth in Lego White House anecdote?

This is old but has been doing the round on social again. An art project from Taiwan that took samples of water from polluted urban rivers, creeks and ports, froze them and used resin to convert them into permanent lollipops that look delicious but which presumably would poison you if licked.

While on a foolish errand to do some ‘experimental’ link building, I found a credit company exposing peoples’ payslips, bank statements, and more online. They didn’t seem to care much.

Mark Williams – How I accidentally found people’s bank statements online while trying to build links

Includes by-the-by this all-too-accurate observation: “During my paternity leave last year I found out that a large part of paternity leave was just kind of sitting close to a baby waiting for it to do something.”

I liked this too: “Generally, if I discover you have some kind of security problem, it’s probably super basic and you’ve really outdone yourself.”

Absolutely incredible turn of events claimed over here on Reddit: “I’ve discovered that almost every single article on the Scots version of Wikipedia is written by the same person – an American teenager who can’t speak Scots”

The problem is that this person cannot speak Scots. I don’t mean this in a mean spirited or gatekeeping way where they’re trying their best but are making a few mistakes, I mean they don’t seem to have any knowledge of the language at all. They misuse common elements of Scots that are even regularly found in Scots English like “syne” and “an aw”, they invent words which look like phonetically written English words spoken in a Scottish accent

This is going to sound incredibly hyperbolic and hysterical but I think this person has possibly done more damage to the Scots language than anyone else in history. They engaged in cultural vandalism on a hitherto unprecedented scale. Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites in the world. Potentially tens of millions of people now think that Scots is a horribly mangled rendering of English rather than being a language or dialect of its own.

It’s either 1) one of the longest game trolling operations of all time by someone who just doesn’t think Scotland has its own language or 2) we will all ultimately end up feeling bad about bullying someone with metal health issues. Or as Rob Manuel pointed out, it is just 50 lines of code that has slowly and stealthily been doing bot word substitutions for years.

A few months after I started my job as a political reporter, I was at a reception being held on the terrace at the Houses of Parliament. I stood, chatting with a small group of people when an MP standing nearby suddenly turned in my direction, gave me a quick glance, then handed me his empty glass before turning away and continuing his conversation. I was a young (ish) black woman at an event where every other person of colour in the room was wearing a black and white uniform. The MP had basically mistaken me for a waitress, not thinking for a moment that I could be a politician or even a journalist.

“Why Our Democracy Needs More Black Political Journalists” – by Anne Alexander, Senior Political Producer, Good Morning Britain

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who appeared at the Republican convention this week while facing charges for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, smashing up the beehives of a next-door synagogue.

Russian atomic agency Росатом has published forty minutes of archive film footage of the largest nuclear test explosion ever. The 50 megaton explosion in October 1961 was the equivalent to something mental like 3,800 Hiroshima bombs. Shit starts being blown up about twenty minutes into the footage.

The part-manifesto, part-license started as a social media joke by Nasser about a license that required the user to “dedicate a portion of their life, resources, and energy to the destruction of capitalism and the liberation of all people.” It was clearly a shitpost, but Pipkin took it seriously, and following the suggestion that they actually write it, the ACSL was born.

The Path to Destroying Capitalism Might Go Through a Software License – Patrick Klepek, Vice

I really feel like buying the reissue vinyl LP of that incredible Kevin Rowland “My Beauty” record to support it – and him – and show how much I still love it after all these years, but this also feels like a slippery slope back into collecting vinyl things…

This is a lovely piece about an artist that I adored but ooooof this line is just too raw for words “When your friend kills himself you go through different seasons of how to manage it emotionally but you never recover from it.”

My best shot – a smile from Elliott Smith

I’ve lost too many friends that way for it to ever stop hurting.