Webtacular World Issue # 341, September 20, 2020

Hey. Sorry it’s been a while. I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but I can explain. Or at least try to. The current news cycle (and by current, I mean basically since 2016), to be perfectly blunt, is depressing. When I started this whole thing way back in 2013, the idea of there still being a “fun Internet” was relatively true. Sure, there where important, impactful things that occurred, as well as things that were definitively NOT fun, but the overall state of the world was still somewhat digestible, especially over the course of a year, and, perhaps embarrassingly, they were not MY problems.

“Sure,” thought 2014 me, “The annexation of Crimea by Russia is a bad thing, but, also, kind of quaint? Like who DOES that? Oh wow, here are some super cute cats. Man, the internet can be fun and educational at the same time!”

That is no longer the case. The same strain authoritarian fascism that caused the annexation of Crimea is now redecorating the White House. Yes, Trump is unequivocally authoritarian. Democratic leaders do not say things like

YOU CANNOT HAVE THIS GUY AS YOUR PRESIDENT. MAYBE I WILL SIGN AN EXECUTIVE ORDER, YOU CANNOT HAVE HIM AS YOUR PRESIDENT. [CHEERING] BUT YOU KNOW THIS. EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS.

Authoritarians do. Attorney General Barr is also authoritarian, and therefore antidemocratic. So is State Secretary Mike Pompeo. So is every Republican leader who is shoveling the pile of shit that is their words into their constituents’ gaping maws that a president cannot appoint a Justice during an election year. We knew this was coming, and failed to stop it.

The pillars of democracy are quickly eroding, and by eroding, I mean being actively demolished by sycophants who have no honor, decency, or desire for anything but power for the sake of itself. We are being decimated by a national plague, and people whose sole purpose is to protect American lives are happily adding to body count. Voting is something many Americans no longer believe is a verifiably way to elect our leaders, both because of real reasons (gerrymandering, the Electoral College, voter suppression, not enough ranked choice voting, disenfranchisement, and electronic voting security issues) and fake ones (mail in ballots are not secure, people voting multiple times (not a thing), and people being encouraged to vote multiple times (a definite thing). Our most cherished Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died after fighting HER WHOLE LIFE for the potential she saw in her fellow humans, and whose individual effort and work has created a more equal and just United States. RBG’s death is already one of the most destabilizing events of the election cycle, in the same year of a complete failure of a “public safety system” where cops routinely kill people (which is a large enough problem all on its own, but considering the constant use of deadly force against people of color [ESPECIALLY BLACK PEOPLE] is at an insanely higher rate turns it into a complete mockery of the term “justice”), and record breaking fires, record breaking storms, and a fucking PRESIDENTIAL IMPEACHMENT.

I did mention a balance of fun, above, so I’ll address that. The “fun” part of the Internet exists in two parts in my mind – social and discovery. The social part is not even close to what it was when I first started using it. Social Media, which as far as I remember was created for me to tell people what I was doing and share pictures of partying with my friends in college. Now it is a weapon. Sure, it still is a place where I share pictures of my kid, but now have to listen to see my friend’s idiot cousin be wrong. At the same time, real news is being decimated by actual fake news. Social Media presents my friend’s idiot cousin’s take on international policy as an equivalent authority on international policy as my friend, who’s an actual international policy scholar. It is easier for fake news to make a winning but baseless argument in my friend’s idiot cousin’s mind than for my international policy scholar to make the argument to the idiot cousin, because there is only one of my international policy scholar friend, while there are thousands of voices re-parroting the baseless argument in the first place. In other words, the idiots have more microphones, because fake knowledge is easy, and real knowledge is hard. Social Media knows this, but since its value is derived from people sharing content, it can’t be too concerned about what that content actually is, or else it hurts its own bottom line – which means my friend’s idiot cousin gets to keep having an equal voice to my international policy scholar friend, and thus the truth dies. I wish it stuck to party pictures.

The discovery part doesn’t really count as discovery anymore. Over the years, I have built up a decent collection of sites I routinely visit. These sites at this point are either entrenched into the zeitgeist of the Internet, or have been destroyed by the Internet’s ecosystem. That ecosystem consists of a few social media companies (see above), and a few search engines. What is left are the things that have been created for or by advertising, which is a smaller pool of total things that are discoverable than ever, even as the amount of creators allegedly grow. For example, if you take a look at Internet Thing Of The Week for the last while, the number of those things that have no monetization attached to them is essentially zero – they are products that solely are supported by advertisements, or an advertisement itself. Webtacular World, this very thing you are reading, is something I do at a loss for myself, but probably makes some amount of money for wordpress and mailchimp through advertisements. This isn’t even mentioning the countless articles and websites and sale pages of things I direct you to on (what was) a weekly basis for hundreds of weeks, which again, only mostly exist for advertisement’s sake.

Webtacular World was meant to be a fun (there’s that word again) thing where I could share my thoughts and views on the world as presented by the Internet to you all. The news is no longer not personal, while the Internet has simultaneously become more weaponized and monetized. I’m not sure any of this is fun anymore.

Sorry for the ramble. On to the news.

STORY OF THE WEEK (long read)
What: May The Memory Of The Righteous Be A Blessing
Why: Because I am almost out of the hope this amazing individual created for so long.

ECONOMIC THING OF THE WEEK (long read)
What: The COVID Economy
Why: Because inequality will be driven to even greater heights, especially based on how the US has decided to respond to the crisis.

LAW THING OF THE WEEK (∞)
What:  Just Google Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Why: Because there is more she has done for America than I can include here.

SCIENCE THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. read)
What: We Will Face Our Reckoning
Why: Because we (humans) have killed 2/3 of all wildlife in the last 50 years.

SPORTS THING OF THE WEEK (∞)
What: Time To Defect
Why: Because the Artists Formerly Known As Unnamed Temporary Sports Blog Formerly Known As Deadspin [link not provided because as far as I’m concerned, Deadspin is still dead] But Now Known As Defector are back. They are the best thing about sports. Do not bother watching actual sports. Regardless of what I wrote above, it is worth supporting these writers.

MOVIE THING OF THE WEEK (5 min. read)
What: Thinking Of The Ending
Why: Because I can’t tell if I’m Thinking Of Ending Things actually works as intended. I’d love to discuss this with someone after you’ve seen it.

TELEVISION THING OF THE WEEK (long watch)
What: The Things I’ve Seen (Also, The Emmys Happened)
Why: Thanks to being on parental leave / staying inside due to COVID and deadly air quality / fires, I have watched an inordinate amount of shows. These are the good ones, along with a single fact.
Community (I had never seen it [I KNOW])
Pen15 (Massive flashbacks to the insecurity and awkwardness of middle school, some of which I’m not entirely sure I ever grew out of)
Breaking Bad (I had never seen this as well [I KNOW!!!])
Better Call Saul (Lawyers are the worst)
The Umbrella Academy (Based on a comic by the guy who was the lead singer of the band My Chemical Romance)
Westworld (This show is somehow managing to maintain control of its ever expanding scope – so far)
High Maintenance (Way more touching than a show sort of about a weed dealer should be)
Jessica Jones (If only the characters made their final choices the first one, most of the problems in the show wouldn’t exist. Still well acted and enjoyable).
Bob’s Burgers (AKA Archer Cooks)
Archer (AKA Bob Kills)
High Score (Narrated by the voice of Super Mario)
Band Of Brothers (Still the most compelling mini series I have ever seen)
Flight Of The Conchords (Almost as dumb of a name as the Beatles, but not quite)

MUSIC THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. read)
What: MTV Still Does Music In 2020
Why: Because the Video Music Awards happened at some point between a little while ago and now.

LITERATURE THING OF THE WEEK (3 min. read)
What: On Treason
Why: Because my Constitutional Law professor knows a thing or two about how law works, or at least theoretically should work. It’s hard to say at this point.

VIDEO GAME THING OF THE WEEK (long reads)
What: A Boon For Reimagining What Was
Why: I demand comfort food, and that comfort food takes the form of old video games updated for the modern man. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 lets me McTwist into oblivion like it’s 1999, Microsoft Flight Simulator lets me pilot a plane from SFO into my backyard, and Super Mario 3-D All Stars lets me stomp on goombas in the miraculous THIRD DIMENSION in three different games. Each of these is a remake or re-release of decades old games that demonstrate just how perfect each of these titles were, and how much better they are when they actually look like how we imagined they did at the time.

INTERNET THINGS OF THE WEEK (∞)
What: Rick and Ryan (ad); Re-Animaniacs (ad); Blaseball, The Baseball For These Times (product). ALSO – Mud Water Project was fully funded, so thank you if you donated. If not, you’re still ok too.
Why: Because Internet.

THING YOU SHOULD GET BRIAN OF THE WEEK
What: I think I should stop asking to make the world better, because that is obviously not happening.
Why: Because Brian deserves it.

Webtacularly yours,
Brian
Managing Editor, Webtacular World
The Internet You Didn’t Know You Needed™

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