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The Baffler’s Week That Was

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Big doings these days on the Baffler blog, friends. Some salvos and sass from this past week, in case you missed them:

• Bet you didn’t expect to see The Baffler have an opinion on Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian, did you? And why not? We have opinions about everything else. Anne Helen Petersen explained how these divas demonstrate the two extremes of “celebrity labor”—that is, the labor of creating and ceaselessly maintaining one’s own famous, flawless image.

George Scialabba reviewed Simon Head’s new book Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans, a startling reportage of all the ways in which industry, retail, finance, education, health care, and even public administration and corporate management are being pre-programmed and automated. Luckily, “robots need less money to live on and have no selves to express.” Ghastly.

• In an expansive and extensively researched web-only feature, “Traffic and Weather,” debuted this week, Chris Rasmussen put Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” and “Sandygate” into the proper context: namely, three centuries of blatant political corruption and all-but-open graft in the “traitor state” of New Jersey. American history buffs and Sopranos fans alike will enjoy this one.

Brett Max Kaufman illustrated just how “Newspeak”-inspired the NSA’s word games really are. When people describe the NSA as “Orwellian,” they might be thinking of Big Brother, from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. But what we should be talking about is his seminal essay “Politics and the English Language.” Words are powerful; they shape our very thoughts. Let’s take care of them.

Kathleen Geier wondered why everyone who reads, reviews, or appears in the new Michael Lewis book Flash Boys is pulling a Captain Reynault from Casablanca and saying how shocked (shocked!) they are at new revelations about an old problem, high-frequency trading. The problem Lewis describes is “only one small-time hustle,” Geier writes. “The entire financial industry has become a gigantic con.”

• The ever-prolific Jim Newell took on the Christie-Adelson alliance, Obamacare over-simplifiers, and lazy arguments about this week’s Mozilla ouster.

• For April Fool’s Day, we didn’t lie to our readers like those other “online publications” did. (And here we are purposely neglecting to link to the very worst examples.) No, siree. We just reminded you all about The Great Grunge Hoax of 1992, a hoax perpetrated against the New York Times back in the day, and first reported in the pages of The Baffler. Remember, kids, if you do visit Seattle circa twenty years ago, don’t forget your “Wack Slacks” or your “Plats” when you’re “Swingin’ on the Flippity Flop,” whatever the hell that means.

Up next week: some new selections from our current issue, number 24, and newly-published old ones from the Baffler archives, too. Have a great weekend, and say hi some time. And if you’d like to get weekly recaps like this in a Friday-afternoon email, feel free to sign up, way up there in the upper right hand corner of this page. Ciao.