The Racism Beat

Mutation Vectors is a weekly rundown of my media diet, along with other random thoughts.


I started a Twitter sabbatical this week. I gave someone the passwords to both the klintron and techn0ccult accounts, had her change them and promise not to give my access back until July 10. I don’t want to write a lot about why I did it, or what’s like living a month without Twitter or whatever. Let’s just leave it at this: I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by media inputs, and Twitter has started to feel like more of source of aggrevation and distraction than a place that I can keep up with friends and colleagues or find links or information that I wouldn’t find elsewhere. So it’s time for a break. I’ll come back to it with fresh eyes next month and decide what I want do with it then.


This week’s must read is “The Racism Beat” by Cord Jefferson. Snippet:

For several years, I made my unofficial beat the stories, struggles, and politics of blacks in America. I wrote about other things, also, but never with the same frequency or interest. I was pretty good at it, and, more than that, I enjoyed it. Eventually, people began to assume that I’d comment when a particular kind of news story bubbled up—generally one about something bad happening to a black person—and I often times would. I wasn’t surprised when a website I liked asked me to write about the case of a white man of little note in New Hampshire calling a hugely powerful black man a “nigger.” But then I realized I didn’t have anything to say.

Or maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say. Maybe it was the realization that writing anything would be to listlessly participate in the carousel ride: an inciting incident, 1,000 angry thinkpieces, 1,000 tweeted links, and back to where we started, until next time. Perhaps it was a feeling that writing anything would finally be too redundant to bear, a pursuit of too many sad and obvious words to heap onto so many other nearly identical words written down before, by me, by thousands of others.

I read Felix Salmon’s entire interview with Huffington Post and Buzzfeed co-founder Jonah Peretti, and it was worth it evem though he didn’t talk about Deleuze and Guattari. I hadn’t realized how tightly knit Eyebeam and the NYC startup seen was back in the mid-00s. The thing is, though, this article is hella long — Medium estimates it will take 91 minutes to read — and it’s sorta inside baseballish. So if you’re not willing to commit that much time, Nielsen Journalism Lab has a few choice excerpts.

In a much quicker read, Alexis Madrigal points out that most of the hot new journalism startups — like Vox, FiveThirtyEight, Circa, etc. — are focused on how they cover the news, not what they cover. He concludes: “I will say that it seems absurd to say that we need some more publications that are about something. But that’s where we’re at.” My prediction? We’re in for lots of “vertical” publications out of these startups next years.

OK, I think that’s enough media about the media for this post. In other news, scientists say cool kids turn into loser adults. I wonder exactly how the researchers identified which kids were “cool” and/or populor. But more importantly, how can you actually sell kids on this research? I mean, what sort of dork cares about what their life is going to be like when they’re 22? (See also: Rethinking Bullying).

More, more more:


I’ve been listening to the new Atari Teenage Riot album all week.

Also: Buckethead: Day of the Robot, Comets on Fire: Avatar, Suuns: Images du Futur, Merzbow and Jamie Saft: Merzdub, Zomby: Where Were U in ’92?.