HEWN, No. 301
"All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom" -- Mary Oliver
|Audrey Watters||Jan 19, 2019|| 5|
I thought I’d write something today about the Fyre Festival — how, much like the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, the Fyre Festival demonstrates that the hustle of tech entrepreneurship is deeply intertwined with deception and fraud; how investors lose money, sure sure, but how also people’s lives and safety and pocketbooks are put at risk. But I’ve only watched the Netflix documentary, and I am not sure I have the stomach for the Hulu one, and I don’t know that I want to write about the topic without seeing both. Nor am I sure I have the energy right now, today, to write about the ways in which all this reminds me of education technology and the promises its influencers make, backed up by hashtags but rarely by research, about their beautiful apps and beautiful classrooms and beautiful visions for the future of education.
(I wrote a lot of words in the book draft — more than I’d anticipated for a Saturday. As such, I don’t have the energy right now to write much more today.)
Grift capitalism. I suppose that’s what we could call the Fyre Festival and its organizers, investors, promoters, and attendees. It’s what we could call Theranos too. It’s what we could call this whole tradition of performance and profit-seeking and disruption and scam. A decidedly American tradition. A grift is a swindle, often a petty swindle, according to the dictionary — but these scams aren’t petty; and I think they’re structural. Backwards baseball-cap wearing Paul Ryan was part of that swindle. Read Maria Bustillos on how those iconic photographs of the so-called policy wonk came to be. Grift capitalism is different, no doubt, than surveillance capitalism, but I am certain they’re connected. (In LARB this week, Nicholas Carr reviews Shoshana Zuboff’s new book on the latter, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.) Grift capitalism is on display at the White House, most obviously. (“Impeach Donald Trump,” says Yoni Appelbaum, making the historian’s case for starting the Congressional process. Serving fast-food to unpaid student athletes feels somehow part of this Trump grift, NCAA grift too. Read Helen Rosner on “The Pure American Banality of Donald Trump's White House Fast-Food Banquet.”) The grift is so American, it’s banal.
This week’s pigeon is not banal: the Nicobar pigeon.
RIP Mary Oliver. I think I’d rather reread her poems than watch that other Fyre Festival doc.
Yours in struggle,