Required Reading

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‣ A team of philosophers used AI to parse through 369,000 “Am I the asshole?” Reddit posts. Sigal Samul discusses the study and changing perspectives on relational morality in our global world for Vox

Next, they wanted to find out whether certain types of dilemmas were more likely to pop up in certain types of relationships. Will some dilemmas arise more often with your sister, say, than with your manager? 

So the researchers examined how often each dilemma popped up in 38 different relationships. Surprise, surprise: The likelihood of encountering different dilemmas, they found, does depend on whom you’re dealing with. If you’re hanging out with your sister, you’re more likely to be worrying about relational obligations, while interactions with your manager are more likely to get you thinking about procedural fairness. 

The truth is, you don’t need a fancy study to tell you this. If you’ve ever had a sister or a manager — or if you’ve ever had the experience of being, you know, a human — you probably already know this in your bones. 

It’s probably obvious to most of us that relational context is super important when it comes to judging the morality of actions. It’s common to think we have different moral obligations to different categories of people — to your sister versus to your manager versus to a total stranger. 

So what does it say about modern philosophy that it’s largely ignored relational context?

‣ Author Wendy Brenner reflects on her time working at an art-framing shop, coinciding with her mother’s declining health, in an essay for Oxford American:

At the frame shop there is so much beauty, it can’t be real. Maybe this is the afterlife, I think. Or purgatory.

The work is taxing. I stand all day, or walk around and around the worktable. I carry huge sheets of glass to a cutting machine and cut them. I smash unusable pieces loudly into a metal bucket, then tote the bucket to the dumpster out back. My hands grow strong and scarred.

A few blocks away, my mother dreams, awake or asleep. She plays Uno with an aide or naps in her wheelchair, wearing one of my old sweaters. Hand-me-ups, we joke. She can still joke. But I don’t understand how she can forget so much of her life so quickly. Or where a life goes after you forget most of it. She hasn’t forgotten me yet. Not yet.

‣ Everybody knows media is in crisis. As editors and journalists race to conceive financially stable newsrooms, a crew of privileged nepo babies (under the helm of big-name publisher expats) has created perhaps too sustainable of a model: a hedge fund with an investigative journalism branch. Clare Malone has the story for the New Yorker:

Horwitz insisted that Hunterbrook is not a short-selling firm, not least because it sometimes goes long. The organization also publishes stories even if it’s not making trades on them and, Horwitz added, its investigators reach out to the targets of their investigations “in good faith” before publication. But Horwitz was slightly evasive when I asked what Hunterbrook pays its journalists. No one was making less than a hundred thousand dollars as a base salary, he said. “The upper limit is potentially incredibly high because it’s based on the performance of an investment fund, which is not an upside opportunity that reporters have had access to.” Another side market for Hunterbrook employees, he went on, is filing whistle-blower reports with the S.E.C. (Termine and a second, unnamed reporter on the U.W.M. story have filed one such report.) If the S.E.C. fine on a company is greater than a million dollars, whistle-blowers can collect ten-to-thirty per cent of the money. But there are also punitive consequences if a Hunterbrook journalist gets something wrong in a story: they could be sued for securities fraud. Errors in an article, Horwitz told me, “can trigger a clawback of a bonus.”

‣ A tenured professor of genocide studies at the University of Southern California says the school’s crackdown on student protestors signifies a step toward authoritarianism. Constanza Eliana Chinea delves into the recent events at USC for the LA Public Press:

On April 19, just four days after the school announced Tabassum had been barred from giving her commencement speech, the university’s newspaper the Daily Trojan published a letter from Gruner in which he condemned the school’s decision. “I write to protest in the strongest possible terms your decision,” he wrote. “As a university you are obligated to protect your students — including the valedictorian — and to guarantee academic freedom and the freedom of speech. By canceling the speech, you failed to adhere to all of these principles.”

After the arrests on April 24, Gruner shared his thoughts on the escalating situation in an interview with LA Public Press. “What I found appalling is, to send armed riot police means you practically take into consideration that students might get harmed. So the university, again, kind of failed to protect its students,” Gruner said.

Gruner grew up in East Germany under a dictatorship and feels strongly about the developments he’s seeing on campus. As the founding director of the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research, and the co-founder and academic advisor for the Resistance to Genocide minor, he said that from his personal experience and expertise, Folt’s decision, “is the opposite of promoting democratic values, which is the worst you could have done in these fragile times, where we face a rapid development toward authoritarianism.

‣ The next census will have two more race categories: MENA (Middle Eastern or North African) and Hispanic or Latino, which was formerly classified under “ethnicity.” Cristian Arroyo-Santiago explores what this means and why it matters in an opinion piece for CNN:

There’s no getting racial labels right, at least not in any technical or biological sense. Instead, we try to get their political significance right and to capture how these terms are actually used and lived. It has never felt right to say that an Arab American is white, or that some people must belong to racial and ethnic groups. Our feelings about these labels and identities, including who ought to claim them and using what criteria, change with time because race is “a human-invented, shorthand term” that never fully corresponds to differences we think we see like skin tone and hair texture. Categories are revised, not because a population has been discovered or lost, but because of pressure to describe it better.

These distinctions are impossible to get right but too much of American society is organized around racial differences to stop counting, despite its imprecision and troubled history. Even in countries like France where such data is not collected, entrenched racial disparities persist but are harder to mobilize around.

‣ In an interview that’s almost too embarrassing to read, writer Steve Braunias reveals that New Zealand Art Council’s spokesman can barely name an author or book from the country he’s supposed to represent (although one time he saw Hamilton in the Big Apple!). Newsroom printed the mishap:

What about New Zealand books?

That’s an area I want to kind of learn a bit more about. It’s something I’m hoping to develop as part of being arts spokesman. I haven’t actually got into talking to anyone from the literature community yet, but that’s on my list of areas I want to kind of get to know a bit more as I get into this portfolio.

Are there any New Zealand authors who you’ve read?

It’s been a long time, to be honest, Steve. I’m just trying to think of the last one I would have have read. Can I come back to you on that? I’ll give that some thought as we’re talking.

No one’s coming to mind? Not a single New Zealand author?

Not immediately. Let me come back to you.

Well, this goes to why I’m a little bit mystified as to why you’ve chosen this spokesman role when your knowledge of the arts seems to be just about zero to negligible.

Well, look, Steve, that’s part of why I want to start to get around stakeholders. I’ve talked to a prominent New Zealand actor. I’ve talked to a screenwriter. I’m going to be speaking to a movie director shortly. And I’m actually getting out to a meeting with a creative centre in Queenstown later this week.

So I want to start to get around the community and find out a bit more about what they see as the issues and what they think government should or shouldn’t be doing.

‣ As romance novels continue to gain popularity, Madeline Ashby writes for Wired about one unlucky author who got locked out of her Google Doc drafts and the impact of automated online content moderation:

While it’s still unclear what exactly happened to Renee’s docs, or if it’s just a fluke, the effects of mishaps like this are complex. Even though it’s now commonplace, there can still be unease around letting major corporations store personal writing. For authors who write about sex, say, or queer people trying to find a voice, hearing that your content could be flagged as “inappropriate” can have a chilling effect. The problem, says bestselling pseudonymous author Chuck Tingle, is that companies like Google now function like utilities. “It’s the same as water and electric,” he says.

Tingle would know: His “Tinglers,” erotica pieces he releases as Kindle Singles, led to his contract at Macmillan for the queer horror novels Camp Damascus and Bury Your Gays. Those early singles were written without the benefit of editors, often within a matter of hours. They’re sloppy. “They’re punk rock,” he says, but they also helped him build a community around the “underdog genres” of erotica, horror, and comedy that his work falls into. If Amazon decided to stop selling his Tinglers, it would be a big blow, even though he now has a book deal.

‣ The View co-host Sunny Hostin classifies today’s student actions as “anti-war protests” and laments the equation of anti-government criticism with antisemitism:


SunnyHostin: “I think it’s very distressing that we are framing these as pro-Palestinian protests or pro-Israeli protests. These are anti-war protests.” #TheView

♬ original sound – The View

‣ X algorithm mainstay @dieworkwear delivers a well-researched counter to insidious influencer Tristan Tate’s assertion that he dresses like Carey Grant (Tate and his more famous brother were arrested on allegations of human trafficking and rape and are wanted in the UK for sexual offenses):

‣ If you’re at a counter-protest and see Angela Davis on the other side, you have a lot to unpack:


anywayssss now is a great time to read or reread freedom is a constant struggle by angela davis

♬ original sound – Ocean

​‣ “Beany leeky greens with greeky rampy beans” à la New York Times Cooking (if you know, you know):


Thank you Twitter #nytimescooking #food #radicchiosalad

♬ original sound – Radicchio Salad

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