Art for Fresh Hell.
Jason Arias
The Baffler,  March 19

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
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Unrelated But Overlapping

Though the United States—that great and storied bastion of entirely benevolent human rights abuse—joined with the other very rich nations of the World Trade Organization last week to block an effort led by over eighty poorer nations to waive patent rights on Covid-19 vaccines, lest we threaten the sanctity of intellectual property rights and their attendant profit margins—this country is not entirely bereft of altruism, especially when it redounds to our benefit. Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced plans to ship 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine—which has not yet been authorized for use in the United States—to its dear friends in Mexico, where nearly two hundred thousand people have died of the virus according to the official undercount. The administration insists there are no strings attached to what is actually a loan; it’s mere coincidence that the offer comes at the exact same time the administration is pressing Mexico to curb the number of migrants coming to the border so that Biden isn’t stuck in the unenviable position of looking like the guy housing over four thousand migrant children in prison-like conditions (which he is). These two things—“parallel conversations, many layers of conversations”—are “unrelated” but “overlapping,” claims White House press secretary Jen Psaki, which is to say they are, in fact, related. 

 

Legally Permissible and Totally Depraved

Absent intervention from that hard-balling septuagenarian in the White House, the federal moratorium on evictions will expire at the end of this month, which means that now is a great time to survey some of the more malicious laws governing dispossession in this killing machine called America. Take, for instance, Mississippi’s Landlord-Tenant Act, amended in 2018 and 2019, which allows a landlord to assume ownership of all of a tenant’s belongings the moment an eviction has been granted in court. Mississippi Today tells the story of Samantha Conner, a mother of two, who was sixteen days late on rent when she was evicted from her apartment and relieved of most of her possessions, including the laptop she used to work as a paralegal, her children’s birth certificates, baby photos, her college diplomas, and the Playstation her teenage son had purchased with money he had earned. She left with a change of clothes in a tote bag and was forced to stand in the rain while waiting for her friend to pick her up. Connor is now suing her former landlord for apprising himself of the cruelest eviction statutes in the nation. “It may sound harsh,” said the lawyer representing the landlord. “And it may be harsh, but they followed the letter of the law.”

 

She’s Not Like Those Other Moms

To Pennsylvania now, where a technically savvy mother has been criminally charged after it came to light that she had manufactured deepfake photos of her daughter’s sworn enemies on the cheerleading squad, picturing the girls in a variety of compromising positions: consuming alcohol, smoking, and even naked, though presumably not all at once. The mother, a one Ms. Raffaela Spone, then sent these photos to the girls and suggested they consider suicide. According to her attorney, though, Spone is innocent of the charges and—worse—has had “her life turned upside down” by the all the publicity and has now “received death threats,” which is actually very scary, much scarier, in fact, than whatever she may or may not have done to those girls, who are mean!

 

NFTs: For Your Vanity

On Monday, Elon Musk informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that he will henceforth be known as the “Technoking of Tesla,” perhaps as a nod to the techno track about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) he dropped on Twitter the same day, which he was offering to sell as an NFT only to reverse course the following day, turning down a $1 million offer from the CEO of CryptoLand. Perhaps he was hoping for a higher figure, closer to the nearly $6 million his partner Grimes has pulled down hocking NFTs of her “digital artworks.”

 

Brain Damage—for Kids!

The dictates of innovation require of mankind the relentless production of evermore pernicious methods of extracting value from human beings while turning their brains to oatmeal. And so it is with great excitement we greet word that Facebook is working to construct a version of Instagram that can be used “safely” by children under the age of thirteen, thereby ensuring that, from the womb to the tomb, each and every human with a smartphone can pickle their brainstem in the content stream. 

 

The Children are the Future

Thankfully, the lobbyists at Canadian Energy Center are dedicated to preventing children from being exposed to malignant, mind-altering media—especially the animated film Bigfoot Family. You see, Bigfoot Family—which follows the improbable story of a human family whose patriarch is Bigfoot—is “brainwashing” children with “anti-oil and gas propaganda” and so must be suppressed. “Our children are the key to the future,” the upstanding and government-funded lobbyists argue, “but they can’t succeed if they’re filled with misinformation.” They are also unlikely to succeed on a planet ravaged by biospheric collapse, but that’s really neither here nor there.

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