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Required Reading

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Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.

Post-truth wears away the rule of law and invites a regime of myth. These last four years, scholars have discussed the legitimacy and value of invoking fascism in reference to Trumpian propaganda. One comfortable position has been to label any such effort as a direct comparison and then to treat such comparisons as taboo. More productively, the philosopher Jason Stanley has treated fascism as a phenomenon, as a series of patterns that can be observed not only in interwar Europe but beyond it.

He also spoke to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, which is worth watching.

… [Thomas] has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million.

The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin. While the price of Bitcoin dropped sharply on Monday, it is still up more than 50% from just a month ago, when it passed its previous all-time high of around $20,000. 

The problem is that Mr. Thomas years ago lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations — to no avail.

  • Robert Bettmann, writing for the Washington City Paper, reports about the loss of Lou Stovall’s print studio, Workshop, Inc., in DC. He begins:

Artwork from Lou Stovall’s print studio, Workshop, Inc., is ubiquitous in local galleries and museums. Pieces populate institutions like the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as the American University Museum, DC’s Art Bank, the Phillips Collection, and Addison/Ripley Gallery. But unlike many of the artists he created prints for and with, including Sam Gilliam, Josef Albers, Alexander Calder, Gene Davis, Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, and Jacob Lawrence, Stovall’s name has yet to seep into the mainstream. And though Stovall has produced his own artwork — mainly silk-screen prints, but also collages and assemblages — along with prints for other artists from his backyard studio for decades, now, due to the artist’s age and an act of nature, his future output is in jeopardy.

The lack of color has the effect of draining some of the ebullience from Williams’ work; though always an elegant designer, he also knew how to create the sorts of spaces that encouraged a buoyant gathering. But “Regarding Paul R. Williams” isn’t about creating a literal catalog of Williams’ work.

Instead, it’s more about meditating on the forms that materialize in his buildings. Ireland doesn’t label her images in the book, nor does she place them in a systematic order. Instead, the viewer is guided from one image to the next by the curve of a line, the tone of a wall, the juxtaposition of a Classical column against a Spanish-style beamed ceiling.

Repeatedly, when Black people and others aligned with the cause of civil rights have attempted to tell the truth about their country, they are demonized as un-American: Communists. Socialists. Subversives — whatever dog whistle of delegitimization happens to be in vogue at the time.

Nevertheless, artists have been showing us the hypocrisy of the United States for as long as it has existed, through writing, visual art, dance, opera, film, television — take your pick of mediums. Whether it’s Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1920) or Watchmen (2019), there have always been those who have refused to fall prey to the gaslighting efforts of Gone With the Wind (1939) or The Birth of a Nation (1915).

As a critic, when I watch a show like Outlander, which heavily focuses on the English brutishness that eventually leads to the bloody Jacobite rebellion of 1745, part of my brain is also wryly considering how Black people and Scots could be natural allies with a common enemy in the British crown, were it not for the fact that when the Scottish came to America, they, too, assimilated into a whiteness that defines itself by the subjugation of Black people.

“She’s part of this. She can be silent, but she’s part of this,” the source said.

“This” being the recent activities of the President, the denial of his loss, the complicity of inciting inflamed supporters with lies and conspiracy theories, and the abject abdication of an official role. The outgoing first lady hasn’t done anything of significance as the weeks of her tenure come to a close. She hasn’t established an office for continuing her platform in the post-White House years, according to a source familiar with her activities. Nor has she helped with the onboarding of incoming first lady Jill Biden — with whom she has still not made contact, the source said.

The only thing Trump has done, besides pack the White House, work on photo albums of her time as first lady and oversee photo shoots of a rug and decorative items, is make a convoluted statement about the events of last Wednesday, five days after they occurred.

Days before the ER visit, he had decided to use mushrooms by first boiling them down into what he called “mushroom tea,” then filtering the mixture through a cotton swab and intravenously injecting it. Soon after, he developed symptoms including lethargy, jaundice, diarrhea, and nausea, along with vomiting up blood.

By the time he was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit, multiple organs had started to fail, including his lungs and kidney. Tests revealed that he had both a bacterial and fungal infection in his blood, likely meaning that the mushrooms he injected were now literally feeding off him and growing, the doctors wrote (the fungus found in the man’s blood was the same species of psychedelic mushroom he had injected). 

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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