Well I've said a lot of things that were worse than what he said. I have my things that make it OK for people when I say them. I have my irony and different levels that I'm working at, so that makes it OK for people around me, for people that come to my shows. And people heard this Tracy shit mostly third-hand. He didn't stand on a public stage and say this stuff. He didn't make these announcements: "Here, America, are my views."
Where you say something makes a huge difference about what you say and what it means and what you let yourself say.
There's a lot of times when I let myself channel bad ideas as a way to do comedy. I think it's something that's a healthy thing to do, honestly. And I think the person who really fucked people up and hurt people with Tracy's words was whoever took it out of that Nashville club and put it on the national stage--whoever called Huffington Post or whoever started this shit, and said, "Guess what Tracy Morgan said," and announced it to the rest of the world. He wasn't trying to say it to the rest of the world.
So when I read stuff like, How are gay people going to feel when they read this? Well they didn't have to read it! They weren't part of that show. Maybe there were gay people there who were laughing. You don't fucking know. Nobody gets to say that they represent anybody and they're offended on behalf of the whole world.
You can see this shit really bothers me. I didn't carefully inspect what he said.
I heard some of it, and it made me laugh. I didn't get the context, but I have to defend it, because if I was in his role, if I was in his situation, which I might be someday--which I already am for having said something on his behalf--I would want someone to step forward and say something. This is a freedom that I live off of. I think, whatever, if Tracy made a mistake, he certainly didn't deserve all of this.
And I don't know him well, but he's a good guy. So I'm using that judgment, of just, hey,
I met him and he's a good guy. And I get a sense of him as a father, and there's no way he would stab his kid. It's a dumb thing to take at face value. You'd have to be a moron. And if you do, you are not allowed to laugh at any more jokes. You are not allowed to laugh at any jokes that have any violence or negative feelings attached to them, ironically or otherwise.
I think there's a lot of hypocrisy in that. If anybody thinks that what he said is true and there's no comedy in it, don't come to my shows. I've said to many audiences that I think you shouldn't rape someone unless you have a good reason, like you want to fuck them and they won't let you. That's worse than what he said! And I didn't wink and say, just kidding. I just said it.
Not that he cares, but I like Louis CK. A lot. I think his show is weirdly, borderline genius and has a kind of introspective brutal honesty that I find really courageous. I think that last joke exhibits what I'm talking about. It sounds like a statement about women, but in fact the absurdism of the claim reveals CK's on-stage persona as the joke's target.
Very few people would (publicly) claim that there are "good reasons" for rape. Many people on the other hand, do believe, and do publicly claim, as Tracy Morgan said, that gay people are not "born this way," that anti-gay bullying is insignificant, and that if gays can "take a dick up the ass...they can take a joke." Moreover, those people tend to hold political power in states like Tennessee.
I think it's also important to understand precisely how this story came out. Kevin Rogers, a fan of Tracy Morgan's, who happens to be gay, went to Morgan's show, was offended by his act, and via Facebook, posted a write-up of what he saw. Louis CK admits that "he didn't get the context," and is upset that "people hear this shit mostly third hand." But Rogers isn't reporting third-hand. He was there, saw the context and was offended. From the write-up:
The sad thing is that none of this rant was a joke. His entire demeanor changed during that portion of the night. He was truly filled with some hate towards us. As far as I could see 10 to 15 people walked out.
Now perhaps Rogers overreacted and missed the joke, but he was present for it. Moreover, Morgan himself apologized and has not challenged Rogers characterization of the actual events.
In terms of those events, I fail to see why CK is any more qualified to say what happened than the "third-hand" listeners he's inveighing against. Louis CK, himself, is a third-hand listener. The person "who fucked up" is not. The person "who fucked up" is a gay man living in a state where the government is actively trying to make it easier for gay kids to get stomped out at school.
All together, I think this defense has a lot more to do with Louis CK than it does with Tracy Morgan. CK makes a living saying impolite things, which by his lights, take us to "scary places." He's damn good at it, but I suspect he could easily see someone taking one of his bits and either out of ignorance, or out of malice, causing him a lot of pain. I understand that fear.
But I also think it's worth pointing out that America is not exactly starved of dissident humorists who take us to those "scary places." This is not 1956. South Park is in its fifteenth season. Sarah Silverman is a star. The right to say impolite things is sacred and essential. Unfortunately, the right to not be misinterpreted is not.
Finally, I think it's worth flagging CK's point that Morgan is a "good guy" and the attendant notion that the only case for offense is rooted in an obsessive literalism. The "good guy" excuse for homophobic utterances is a cousin of the "good guy" defense for racist utterances. The implicit idea is that only orcs and child-molesters exhibit hateful bigotry. It's a deeply self-comforting line of thought, that allows people to excuse all sorts of evil, unintentional and otherwise, in their midst.
I am sure that Michael Richards is a nice guy too. I'm also sure that he wouldn't actually lynch someone. Does that then make it OK? It's just jokes, right? Mickey Rooney was a "nice guy" too. He still fucked up one of my favorite movies.
MORE: There's also this kind of credentialism which holds that, somehow, real comedians know what Tracy Morgan meant, and as CK says, only "morons" would be offended.
I fault the TN lawmakers. They've created an anti-gay environment. Don't believe Tracy would be so ignorant in LA. I do believe in free speech, but for a youth in TN or any other numerous place, Tracy just yelled, 'Fire,' in a crowded theater.
Ro, [Roland Martin] I love and respect you, so I feel that I can tell you that your column is some bullshit. We can do better. Tracy has the right to say whatever he wants to say, just like we have the right to say, not acceptable. and WE as a country. We used to picnic to watch public hangings, but WE figured out, that was some sick shit.
I wonder what would have happened if, say, Larry The Cable Guy had said this in Tennessee. I'd be very interested in who would line up to defend him.
The MIT economist Peter Temin argues that economic inequality results in two distinct classes. And only one of them has any power.
A lot of factors have contributed to American inequality: slavery, economic policy, technological change, the power of lobbying, globalization, and so on. In their wake, what’s left?
That’s the question at the heart of a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin, an economist from MIT. Temin argues that, following decades of growing inequality, America is now left with what is more or less a two-class system: One small, predominantly white upper class that wields a disproportionate share of money, power, and political influence and a much larger, minority-heavy (but still mostly white) lower class that is all too frequently subject to the first group’s whims.
In 1985, Neil Postman observed an America imprisoned by its own need for amusement. He was, it turns out, extremely prescient.
Earlier this month, thousands of protesters gathered at Washington’s National Mall to advocate for an assortment of causes: action against global climate change, federal funding for scientific research, a generally empirical approach to the world and its mysteries. The protesters at the March for Science, as scientists are wont to do, followed what has become one of the established formulas for such an event, holding clever signs, wearing cheeky outfits, and attempting, overall, to carnivalize their anger. “Make the Barrier Reef Great Again,” read one sign at the March. “This is my sine,” read another. “I KNEW TO WEAR THIS,” one woman had written on the poncho she wore that soggy Saturday, “BECAUSE SCIENCE PREDICTED THE RAIN.” Three protesters, sporting sensible footwear and matching Tyrannosaurus rex costumes, waved poster boards bearing messages like “Jurassick of this shit.”
Silicon Valley’s new member of Congress has some big ideas for combatting wage stagnation.
Ro Khanna has a $1 trillion plan to fatten Americans’ wallets.
The newly elected member of Congress, who represents Silicon Valley, has become a loud progressive voice on the Hill during his brief tenure there. The way he sees it, Democrats have failed by not offering families a radical plan to end wage stagnation and bring prosperity to the middle class once again. He is working on a bill he believes will do just that, by boosting the Earned Income Tax Credit to provide as much as $6,000 a year for individuals and $12,000 for families. (That would roughly double the maximum payout for families, and increase it tenfold for childless workers.) The plan is being heralded as a move towards a universal basic income in the United States, and Khanna hopes to pair it with efforts to move federal jobs out of Washington, expand universities and colleges, and encourage investment in depressed communities. Such a moonshot effort is not going anywhere soon, he concedes. But it would at the very least demonstrate to voters that Democrats had something new and bold to offer them.
“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”
You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.
At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages.
As the president nears his hundredth day in office, he seems increasingly concerned about how he’ll measure up.
As he approaches his hundredth day in office, Donald Trump appears to be suffering—once again—from an acute case of presidential status anxiety.
In public, of course, he has labored to play it cool, strenuously insisting (and insisting, and insisting) that he does not care about the “first hundred days” metric that historians and pundits have used to evaluate the success of new administrations since FDR. Trump has called this milestone “ridiculous” and “artificial”—a meaningless media fixation. And yet, the less-than-laudatory press reviews seem to have left him seething. For evidence, look no further than the president’s pathos-drenched Twitter feed, where he recently took to vent, “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!”
Different people have different ideas about what it means to sign an email “XOXO,” what you should use Facebook for, and how long you can wait before texting back.
The meanings we glean in conversation are often, maybe mostly, not found in the words spoken, but in how they’re said, and in the spaces between them. Tone of voice, and cadences created by shifts in speed, volume, and pitch, let listeners know whether “Nice job,” is complimentary or sarcastic, or whether “Wow” shows that you’re impressed or underwhelmed. The literal meaning of words is their message, and everything about how words are said is the metamessage. Metamessages communicate how you mean what you say.
More and more conversations are taking place on screens—via texting, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, email, and myriad other platforms. Some of these written conversations make up for the lack of voicing with conventions that mimic speech, like exclamation points, CAPS, and repetition of words or letters. I can be “so happy!!!!!!!” or “sooooo happy” or “SO happy” or “sosososo happy” or even “SOSOSOSOOOOOO happy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Emoticons, emojis, and gifs help, too. But these visual signals are only the tip of the metamessage iceberg.
If 2016 was the year of populist victories, there are signs this year will be different.
If 2016 was the year that populist protest triumphed in Britain (Brexit) and the United States (Trump), 2017 is shaping up as the year that political normality reasserts itself. Three events in three different Western democracies confirm that some of the familiar laws of political gravity do still operate.
The most spectacular of the events is unfolding in the United Kingdom. The Conservative party under Prime Minister Theresa May is rolling toward a crushing victory over a Labour party that veered to the hard left under Jeremy Corbyn. Corbynjoins radical views and stated sympathies with extremists—IRA, Islamist, and pro-Russian—to a personal befuddlement nicely captured in a Vice documentary that showed him autographing apples in permanent marker to distribute to admirers. (Who wants an autographed apple? You can neither eat it as a snack nor save it as a memento.) The befuddlement might be endearing were it not laid atop a paranoid management team staffed by the hardest of the British hard left. As an incredulous Politicoreported of Corbyn’s chief of communications, Seumas Milne:
President Trump, in an interview with Reuters, also said while he would “love to solve things diplomatically … it’s very difficult.”
President Trump says “[t]here is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.” The comments, which were made to Reuters in an interview, come two days after senior members of his administration, in a joint statement, tried to defuse tensions with the communist state, saying the U.S. remained open to talks.
Trump suggested in the interview that while he would “love to solve things diplomatically … it’s very difficult.” The subject of North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program has been a U.S. priority since at least the Clinton administration—though efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula began during the George H.W. Bush administration. But despite bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts undertaken by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, North Korea’s nuclear technology has improved, and many experts believe that it could be capable of firing a nuclear-armed missile that could reach Seattle in the next few years.
A CFPB investigation concluded that Transunion and Equifax deceived Americans about the reports they provided and the fees they charged.
In personal finance, practically everything can turn on one’s credit score. It’s both an indicator of one’s financial past, and the key to accessing necessities—without insane costs—in the future. But on Tuesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that two of the three major credit-reporting agencies responsible for doling out those scores—Equifax and Transunion—have been deceiving and taking advantage of Americans. The Bureau ordered the agencies to pay more than $23 million in fines and restitution.
In their investigation, the Bureau found that the two agencies had been misrepresenting the scores provided to consumers, telling them that the score reports they received were the same reports that lenders and businesses received, when, in fact, they were not. The investigation also found problems with the way the agencies advertised their products, using promotions that suggested that their credit reports were either free or cost only $1. According to the CFPB the agencies did not properly disclose that after a trial of seven to 30 days, individuals would be enrolled in a full-price subscription, which could total $16 or more per month. The Bureau also found Equifax to be in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which states that the agencies must provide one free report every 12 months made available at a central site. Before viewing their free report, consumers were forced to view advertisements for Equifax, which is prohibited by law.
The sorrow of the March for Science did not hit me until I saw a photo from it—an older woman standing next to a homemade sign adorned with Ms. Frizzle.
You know Ms. Frizzle, if only from a PBS ad. She is the elementary-school teacher with the curly red hair at the center of the Magic School Bus books and television show. In every episode, Ms. Frizzle corrals her small class of diverse kids into the Magic School Bus, which then drives to a local swamp, volcano, or human circulatory system. Then the eponymous magic happens—and the entire class is outfitted in hip waders, floating past a great blue heron; or in SCUBA suits, swimming through a vein past a red blood cell. Ms. Frizzle—not until recently did I notice her egalitarian title—lectures the class on the science of the scene.