May 7th, 2012
atomvincent

"U Want Me 2 Kill Him?"

For Vanity Fair in 2005, Judy Bachrach tells the haunting tale of a fourteen-year-old’s stabbing in Manchester and the sordid, convoluted internet fantasy through which the “victim” arranged his own attempted murder.

Four months after the stabbing, the charges were amended. Mark was still accused of attempted murder, to which he ultimately pleaded guilty. But this time John also was charged—with inciting murder. His own murder. This is a legal novelty in Britain, and very likely throughout the world. “Yes, I’m not aware of any other case where somebody’s incited somebody to murder themselves,” Nicholas Clarke, the prosecutor, declares in his Manchester office, each syllable clipped with derision. It is clear he doesn’t have much sympathy for the boy whose brush with death prompted the unprecedented charge. “I would say, of the two teenagers, John was the more wicked and more criminally culpable.”

For months John had corresponded in an Internet chat room with Mark, a bland-featured 16-year-old who possesses as his most striking traits a vast forehead, a tendency to open every sentence with “Ermmm,” and, it would later be claimed, an almost infinite store of credulity. Every story John spun on the chat-room site, every slithering creation dropped into the ocean of the Internet, Mark avidly reeled in. Invention was so easy, “the equivalent of taking heroin,” John thought. The older boy’s gullible nature stirred in him conflicting emotions: love foremost, but very likely also a shade of contempt.

It was “like feeding a dog,” John would later explain.

As for himself, John was a virtual Scheherazade, a gifted fabricator. “Staggering,” said the judge who would hear his case. “Skilled writers of fiction would struggle to conjure up a plot such as arises here.” From John’s laptop emerged what the prosecutor would subsequently describe as “an Internet soap opera moving from one scene to another, each character and story line more fantastic than the last.” The plots were extracted from what John had seen both in films and in life: thick with treachery, villainy, and betrayal. They were empty of hope.

Read the full article here.

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January 10th, 2012
arvindsuguness
How Al Gore Came To Invent The InternetAs Republicans head to the polls in New Hampshire, it is worth reminding ourselves of the role the media will play in shaping the outcome of both today’s election and the presidential campaign to come. In this 2007 piece for Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz recounts how a collection of misquotes, half-truths and transcription errors were fashioned into a narrative of Al Gore as a serial exaggerator willing to say anything to win the presidency: 

 On March 9, 1999, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer conducted an interview with Gore shortly before he officially announced his candidacy. In answer to a question about why Democrats should support him, Gore spoke about his record. “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative”—politico-speak for leadership—”in creating the Internet,” he said, before going on to describe other accomplishments. It was true. In the 1970s, the Internet was a limited tool used by the Pentagon and universities for research. As a senator in the 80s, Gore sponsored two bills that turned this government program into an “information superhighway,” a term Gore popularized, and made it accessible to all. Vinton Cerf, often called the father of the Internet, has claimed that the Internet would not be where it was without Gore’s leadership on the issue. Even former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich has said that “Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.”
The press didn’t object to Gore’s statement until Texas Republican congressman Dick Armey led the charge, saying, “If the vice president created the Internet, then I created the interstate highway system.” Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner released a statement with the headline, delusions of grandeur: vice president gore takes credit for creating the internet. CNN’s Lou Dobbs was soon calling Gore’s remark “a case study … in delusions of grandeur.” A few days later the word “invented” entered the narrative. On March 15, a USA Today headline about Gore read, inventing the internet; March 16 on Hardball, Chris Matthews derided Gore for his claim that he “invented the Internet.” Soon the distorted assertion was in the pages of the Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe, and on the A.P. wire service. By early June, the word “invented” was actually being put in quotation marks, as though that were Gore’s word of choice. Here’s how Mimi Hall put it in USA Today: “A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he ‘invented’ the Internet, didn’t help.”

Read the full article here.

How Al Gore Came To Invent The Internet
As Republicans head to the polls in New Hampshire, it is worth reminding ourselves of the role the media will play in shaping the outcome of both today’s election and the presidential campaign to come. In this 2007 piece for Vanity Fair, Evgenia Peretz recounts how a collection of misquotes, half-truths and transcription errors were fashioned into a narrative of Al Gore as a serial exaggerator willing to say anything to win the presidency: 

 On March 9, 1999, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer conducted an interview with Gore shortly before he officially announced his candidacy. In answer to a question about why Democrats should support him, Gore spoke about his record. “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative”—politico-speak for leadership—”in creating the Internet,” he said, before going on to describe other accomplishments. It was true. In the 1970s, the Internet was a limited tool used by the Pentagon and universities for research. As a senator in the 80s, Gore sponsored two bills that turned this government program into an “information superhighway,” a term Gore popularized, and made it accessible to all. Vinton Cerf, often called the father of the Internet, has claimed that the Internet would not be where it was without Gore’s leadership on the issue. Even former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich has said that “Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.”

The press didn’t object to Gore’s statement until Texas Republican congressman Dick Armey led the charge, saying, “If the vice president created the Internet, then I created the interstate highway system.” Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner released a statement with the headline, delusions of grandeur: vice president gore takes credit for creating the internet. CNN’s Lou Dobbs was soon calling Gore’s remark “a case study … in delusions of grandeur.” A few days later the word “invented” entered the narrative. On March 15, a USA Today headline about Gore read, inventing the internet; March 16 on Hardball, Chris Matthews derided Gore for his claim that he “invented the Internet.” Soon the distorted assertion was in the pages of the Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe, and on the A.P. wire service. By early June, the word “invented” was actually being put in quotation marks, as though that were Gore’s word of choice. Here’s how Mimi Hall put it in USA Today: “A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he ‘invented’ the Internet, didn’t help.”

Read the full article here.

December 16th, 2011
arvindsuguness
Is the Mind of God A Black Hole?
Christopher Hitchens was both an ardent critic of religion and a keen observer of American society. In this 1992 piece for Vanity Fair he discusses, Stephen Hawking, politics, and religion’s peculiar place in the American psyche:

One thing, however, does emerge as certain. The forces set off by the big bang, the great redshifts and waves of radiation that send the galaxies and nebulas speeding apart from one another, are morally neutral. These forces do not know or care whether you are a Baptist, a snake handler, a Druze, or a Hindu. They are indifferent to the ingestion or otherwise of pork, to the practice or otherwise of self-abuse, to the line you take on the termination of pregnancy, to the success or failure of the Patriot missile. Hawking approvingly quotes the physicist Alan Guth: “It is said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But the universe is the ultimate free lunch.” There is no lesson on continence to be learned from the promiscuity of the big bang, no sermon on the postponement of gratification.

Read the full article here.

Is the Mind of God A Black Hole?

Christopher Hitchens was both an ardent critic of religion and a keen observer of American society. In this 1992 piece for Vanity Fair he discusses, Stephen Hawking, politics, and religion’s peculiar place in the American psyche:

One thing, however, does emerge as certain. The forces set off by the big bang, the great redshifts and waves of radiation that send the galaxies and nebulas speeding apart from one another, are morally neutral. These forces do not know or care whether you are a Baptist, a snake handler, a Druze, or a Hindu. They are indifferent to the ingestion or otherwise of pork, to the practice or otherwise of self-abuse, to the line you take on the termination of pregnancy, to the success or failure of the Patriot missile. Hawking approvingly quotes the physicist Alan Guth: “It is said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But the universe is the ultimate free lunch.” There is no lesson on continence to be learned from the promiscuity of the big bang, no sermon on the postponement of gratification.

Read the full article here.

December 16th, 2011
chasewhiteside

Read This, Not That: Trial Of the Will - Christopher Hitchens

The late Christopher Hitchens, who died today, wrote this essay about his fight with cancer and his feelings on mortality:

I am typing this having just had an injection to try to reduce the pain in my arms, hands, and fingers. The chief side effect of this pain is numbness in the extremities, filling me with the not irrational fear that I shall lose the ability to write. Without that ability, I feel sure in advance, my “will to live” would be hugely attenuated. I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking.

Read the full article here.

December 11th, 2011
atomvincent

Read This, Not That: Our Stagnate Culture

Writing for Vanity Fair, Kurt Anderson wonders if we’ve mired ourselves in a bog of nostalgia and technology. Are we just in a twenty-year rut, or is this the slow death of our culture?

Ironically, new technology has reinforced the nostalgic cultural gaze: now that we have instant universal access to every old image and recorded sound, the future has arrived and it’s all about dreaming of the past. Our culture’s primary M.O. now consists ofpromiscuously and sometimes compulsively reviving and rejiggering old forms. It’s the rare “new” cultural artifact that doesn’t seem a lot like a cover version of something we’ve seen or heard before. Which means the very idea of datedness has lost the power it possessed during most of our lifetimes.

In our Been There Done That Mashup Age, nothing is obsolete, and nothing is really new; it’s all good. I feel as if the whole culture is stoned, listening to an LP that’s been skipping for decades, playing the same groove over and over. Nobody has the wit or gumption to stand up and lift the stylus.

Read the full article here.

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