The Sad Machinery of Controversy Creation
Ben Haggerty is having a tough week. The artist known as Macklemore is coming off one hell of a year, however. His breakaway hit ‘Thrift Shop’ has amassed more than 533 million views. He went home with two Grammys this year after an incredible performance in which 33 same-sex marriages took place. In short, dude’s got heart.
But like any ascension, numerous detractors are trying to drag him down. Earlier this week this one website, more concerned with hits than content, helped create a controversy over Macklemore’s costume at a surprise EMP performance in Seattle. Charges of anti-Semitism blew up Twitter in seconds.
You can see the costume in the picture above, alongside a shot of Greg Jacobs’s costume in a video for his band’s 1990 hit, ‘The Humpty Dance.’ Both involve equally irrelevant masquerading. As far as I’m aware, Shock G’s enlarged nose never sent people into a downward spiral of racism and retorts. Then again, this was pre-Internet when journalists, for the most part, were actually writers.
I’m not here to defend Macklemore’s music. I like ‘Thrift Shop.’ It’s a fun pop song with an inspiring message. In fact, all of his music has an elevating quality, which is why he’s become so immensely popular. Before this past year—the man’s been releasing independent albums and touring since 2000—he was predominantly confined to America’s heartland and northern territories, dropping rhymes about dealing with addiction, supporting same sex marriage and the lunacy of brand name retail.
Critics railing against ‘Thrift Shop’ probably never took the time to watch the 15-minute documentary on the making of the video—perhaps the length was beyond their capacity for attention. The origins of this self-funded project, with the rapper himself loading up the rental truck with equipment, offer an insight into his creative integrity. He had no idea the track would blow up like it did. He was following his passion.
That gets lost in moments like the response to his EMP performance. Logic flies out the window. Why would someone who has spent fourteen years building a career uplifting his culture out of a tragic history of racism and bigotry decide to throw it all away to take a jab at Jews? He wouldn’t, and didn’t, yet people are more concerned with bolstering their own public image by taking down those who have achieved more success than them. And that’s a shame.
In his book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr reports on the ways that the screen is different than any other technological medium in the past. The myriad distractions make it challenging to focus for long periods of time, resulting in what he calls an inability to engage in ‘deep thinking.’ As he writes,
With writing on the screen, we’re still able to decode text quickly—we read, if anything, faster than ever—but we’re no longer guided toward a deep, personally constructed understanding of the text’s connotations. Instead, we’re hurried off toward another bit of related information, and then another, and another. This strip-mining of ‘relevant content’ replaces the slow excavation of meaning.
Hence, Macklemore is a racist. No worries about what he’s stood for all this time.
I experienced this last week when writing about my recent experiences dealing with cancer. While the support was overwhelming, on the website’s Facebook page I read a number of such comments: my cancer had to have been caused by inner guilt; prayer would be more effective than doctors; magnets could prove more helpful than chemotherapy.
I’m predominantly immune to nonsense like this, but it does point to a deeper cultural problem. Instead of thinking through what is being written, people respond with whatever is in their head at that moment. This is a longstanding issue with the comments section on websites and blogs, detracting from substantial progress that could be made with constructive criticism and honest dialogues. 'Look at me' replaces 'let's investigate this.'
Hence, Macklemore. As long as he’s on the scene, others will continue to promote their own agendas at his expense. That says much more about them than him. Instead of standing on the shoulder of giants, it once again points to our sad trend of trying to bring them down to our level.
Step inside the unlikely friendship of a former ACLU president and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice.
- Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were unlikely friends. They debated each other at events all over the world, and because of that developed a deep and rewarding friendship – despite their immense differences.
- Scalia, a famous conservative, was invited to circles that were not his "home territory", such as the ACLU, to debate his views. Here, Strossen expresses her gratitude and respect for his commitment to the exchange of ideas.
- "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.
- Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
- There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
- "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.
Erik Verlinde has been compared to Einstein for completely rethinking the nature of gravity.
- The Dutch physicist Erik Verlinde's hypothesis describes gravity as an "emergent" force not fundamental.
- The scientist thinks his ideas describe the universe better than existing models, without resorting to "dark matter".
- While some question his previous papers, Verlinde is reworking his ideas as a full-fledged theory.
TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, has also engaged in test programs with the United States Postal Service and Amazon.
PAUL RATJE / Contributor
- This week, UPS announced that it's working with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple on a pilot project to deliver cargo in Arizona using self-driving trucks.
- UPS has also acquired a minority stake in TuSimple.
- TuSimple hopes its trucks will be fully autonomous — without a human driver — by late 2020, though regulatory questions remain.