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Required Reading

‣  After a speaker shared the title of his talk on Gaza for a London Review of Books lecture series, the Barbican backed out of hosting the event altogether. Lanre Bakare of the Guardian has the story:

A description of Mishra’s talk on the LRB website reads: “A powerful western narrative holds the Shoah to be the incomparable crime of the modern era. But we find our moral and political consciousness profoundly altered when Israel, a country founded as a haven for the victims of genocidal racism, is itself charged with genocide.

“What is the fate of universal values after Israel’s collapse into violent nationalism?”

In a statement, the LRB said: “We were disappointed that the Barbican withdrew from hosting the lectures at a late stage but are glad that this important series is going ahead at St James church, Clerkenwell.”

Mishra criticised the Barbican’s decision, saying a “pervasive sense of fear and panic” is closing down debate on the issue within cultural spaces.

‣ Writing for Mother Jones, art world convicted wire fraudster Ezra Chowaiki writes about his experience selling art to the super-wealthy:

I also feel a bit salty for having become the poster boy for corruption in the art business, when most of the industry is about hiding money, misrepresentation, and general malfeasance. But now, the world is a beneficiary of my fuckup, as I’ve decided to share my arcane knowledge so that less-rich people can learn about the shit that goes down with the ruling elite. And shit does go down—all over the world.

We think of oligarchy as a foreign concept, but the truth is that American oligarchs abound, and many of them collect art. It’s a time-honored strategy. The robber barons of old took time between amassing their wealth and industrializing our cities to build world-class museums—the Frick, the Carnegie, MoMA. We can only hope that the new oligarch collectors follow suit.

‣ Phillip Longman writes about how fighting corporate monopolies may be able to save journalism for the Washington Monthly:

A key first step to understanding what’s gone wrong with the business of journalism is to focus on the largely forgotten history of the First Amendment. Most Americans learn in school that it prevents the government from abridging freedom of speech and of the press. Less well known is that until about 40 years ago, both the courts and public opinion viewed the amendment, and the spirit of the Constitution generally, as also requiring that government take positive steps to protect these freedoms from interference by monopolists.

This tradition in America’s political economy found early expression in the Postal Act of 1792. Reflecting the founding generation’s belief that a democratic republic required an informed citizenry, the law stated that the largest and most crucial communications network of the era had to treat all users equally by offering the same prices and terms of service to everyone. It was the same principle that in much later debates over the governance of the internet would be known as “net neutrality.”

Congress also importantly set rates for the mailing of printed material low enough to make the production and distribution of newspapers, pamphlets, and books economically viable. The result was a spectacular flourishing of media in early-19th-century America. As the sociologist Paul Starr has noted, “When the United States was neither a world power nor a primary center of scientific discovery, it was already a leader in communications,” thanks to public investment in a universally accessible postal system and the innovations of its flourishing free press.

‣ Political philosopher Ingrid Robeyns suggests that we should not stop at billionaires and that no one needs more than $20 million. She writes in the LA Times:

To set the political limit, each society has to ask: What is the level of wealth at which a rich person can significantly undermine democracy? What is the level of wealth at which the rich person’s corresponding lifestyles harm the environment? What limit could be justified based on what we deserve? What limit would be high enough so that it would keep incentivizing people to innovate and contribute to the economy? What is the upper limit above which personal wealth starts to turn into wasteful spending? We need to estimate the answers to these questions, and then strike a balance. This gives us the political limit.

‣ For the Nation, Palestinian writers Noura Erakat, Ahmed Moor, Noor Hindi, Mohammed el-Kurd, and Laila al-Arian ruminate on a single question: “What does it mean to be Palestinian now?” Hindi, best known for her poetry, writes:

One night last year, I dreamed of Palestine. In the dream, I was kneeling alongside my father, a handful of Palestine’s soil in my mouth. I awoke gasping for water, an emptiness in my throat, a hollowness in my body.

I am familiar with emptiness, the cavities of its grief, its hands around my neck. I called my dad later that day.

“We are going to Palestine,” I said. “October 2024.”

He made one simple demand: He wished to go in August. “For fig season,” he said, and I could hear his smile through the phone.

I want to taste Palestine’s bitter earth. For years, I have grieved its soil without ever having touched it. I want to find the exact location of my hurt, the coordinates of my emptiness. I want and I want. Lately, I have been demanding.

‣ Ryan Kailath reports for Gothamist on a confrontation at a lesbian bar in Manhattan, which went viral over the weekend and raised questions about comfort and belonging in queer spaces:

“Slowly, over time, as these incidents take place, it does erode the safe queer spaces,” Pypes said. “Queer women have responded saying, ‘Something similar happened to me and now I no longer engage in these spaces at all, because it was traumatizing for me.’”

Jack Jen Gieseking, a research fellow at Hampshire College who has published extensively on queer and trans spaces, said this is an old conversation in the queer community.

“Go back and scroll through the comments of any lesbian bar that’s ever existed that had an Instagram,” Gieseking said. “I would not be surprised if you didn’t see some sort of incident like this.”

Still, he said that the magnitude of the online reaction to the Cubbyhole incident was surprising.

‣ The largely unknown story of Judy Singh, the Black-Punjabi-Canadian singer from the mid-20th century:

‣ Your useful guide to gay bathhouses in Japan:

‣ Deconstructing RuPaul’s Confederate flag dress:

‣ “I’m your formerly incarcerated coworker …”

‣ White-on-White micro-aggressions:

‣ Are you ready for this? And from what I’ve been seeing, many of these videos are part of a marketing campaign:

‣ Businesses and universities, the face-off!:

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, 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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