FOR FREE PEOPLE

FOR FREE PEOPLE

Handlers pull the Betty Boop balloon past Macy's department store during the 96th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. (John Levy via Getty Images)

TGIF: Thanksgiving Edition

Hall monitors on Mastodon. Black supremacists in Brooklyn. CBS on Hunter's laptop. And much more.

Happy Thanksgiving. This week’s going to be short, but I couldn’t skip it. Who would ever give up an excuse to be useless in the kitchen? Can’t clean up tonight, team, I’ve got . . . my column. 

Every week I learn something new by writing this column, and it’s because you, the readers, have started adding your own TGIF items in the comments. This week let’s make it a community TGIF. I’ll start with a few but then it’s turkey-time, and I leave it to you. 

What’s the most absurd thing you’ve seen in the last month or so? Think: a jarring new study, a ridiculous CNN segment. Remember to punch a little left and punch a little right so no one gets too comfortable. Keep it tight, keep it bright.

What I’m most thankful for this year (other than my child, my family, my small dogs, and my beauty) is this community. TGIF. 


→ The narrative is messy in Colorado Springs: There were three mass shootings this week, a dark entry to the holiday season. One has dominated the headlines. In Colorado Springs, a white man went into a gay bar with a gun and killed five people last Saturday. Colorado Springs is a major hub of evangelical Christianity. You can imagine how the story’s been covered. 

It was clear-cut homophobia. It was: “Club Q and the Demonization of Drag Queens.” It was the fault of conservatives like Chris Rufo or TERFs or comedians. Cable news spun into action. My Instagram filled with friends announcing they stand with their gay friends (thank you). The term stochastic terrorism (demonization of a group that leads to violence against them) started getting used to describe anyone who’d ever taken a skeptical stance regarding subjects like youth transitions. Here’s the SPLC running with that

That story, however, had one annoying snag.  

The suspect—Anderson Lee Aldrich—is not a man at all, according to filings from Aldrich’s public defenders. The suspected mass killer goes by they/them pronouns and uses the honorific Mx. 

Could Mx. Anderson Lee Aldrich be pretending to identify as nonbinary as a troll, or to be a jerk? Definitely. But there’s no official nonbinary badge given out by the bureau. Reporters who talked about this as a right-wing hate crime pivoted on a dime: Mx. Aldrich is the victim, “harassed by online edge-lords,” according to NBC. (Read a great take-down by friend of Common Sense, Jesse Singal, here.) 

It might all be true. Mx. Aldrich may have been driven by self-hatred and by homophobia. Mx. Aldrich may have been bullied. Mx. Aldrich may also be trolling the community he went in to kill. Life’s complicated, and pundits who see the world as a video game of good and evil are quick to make fools of themselves. 

One thing to note here is the bravery of the good people inside Club Q, including one dad, Richard Fierro, who pounced on the gunman, and a performer who attacked him with her high heel. 

→ Black Hebrew Israelites hold a huge rally that goes ignored: Hundreds of black supremacists marched through Brooklyn this week chanting: “It's time to wake up. I've got good news for you, we are the real Jews.” Videos here and here. They were marching to support basketball player Kyrie Irving who was briefly suspended after promoting a movie that argues the Holocaust is fake. Kanye West, meanwhile, was spotted in Miami with white nationalist Nick Fuentes, a proud antisemite. I hate to say it, but you should watch a Fuentes video to understand how extreme his beliefs are and how alarming this moment is. Here’s one. Here’s another.

Was there major coverage of the Brooklyn march? Of course not. 

→ The brave Iranian soccer team: At the World Cup, as their nation’s anthem played, the Iranian soccer team did not sing it. It’s another sign of how deep the rebellion is going in Iran. And it’s unbelievably brave, since there’s a good chance those young men join the tens of thousands imprisoned (or far worse) when they get home. Remember their courage next time the Biden administration insists we need to make a deal with their oppressors. 

→ Is there a media company that’s not in bed with SBF? The Intercept, founded as a fierce group of independent reporters, has a big budget shortfall. They were relying on disgraced crypto mogul and Democratic mega donor Sam Bankman-Fried to give them $4 million in funding this year and now, well, now it was all a Cayman mirage. “As of today, we have a significant hole in our budget,” the publication explained to readers. Meanwhile, Elon Musk and Ben Smith, the former Times media critic, are sparring over the fact that SBF was one of the investors in Smith’s new media company Semafor (“How much of you does SBF own?” Musk repeatedly asked Smith). 

So, let’s review. The media companies SBF funded are: ProPublica ($5 million); The Intercept ($4 million); Vox; Semafor, and The Law and Justice Journalism Project. 

My only question: where is our SBF money? Do you people think TGIFs grow on trees? TGIF seems like a natural partner for FTX. We’re both just two overextended frizzy-haired moguls trying our best, and I’m happy to do three (3) articles to that effect every fiscal year. Where do I send my routing number? 

→ Not altruism, but definitely effective: Sam Bankman-Fried received accolades around the world for championing a movement called effective altruism, which is supposedly a more pragmatic charitable practice, driven by data not emotions. So SBF was going to make all this money for the purpose of giving it away! (Media coverage highlighted his casual clothes and lack of haircut to say, this dude is the real deal.) Well, he, his senior staff and his parents bought about $300 million in Bahamian real estate. There was a little Capitol Hill townhouse for his brother just to be safe. Now, SBF is holed up in one of those Bahama pads. Who’s with him? Just two Stanford professors who are some of the world’s top experts on financial crimes: his parents. (I’m obsessed with his parents and the whole family operation.)

From his father Joseph Bankman’s Stanford bio: “A leading scholar in the field of tax law . . . He has gained wide attention for his work on how government might control the use of tax shelters and has testified before Congress and other legislative bodies on tax compliance problems.” And from his mother Barbara Fried’s bio: “She has written extensively on questions of distributive justice, in the areas of tax policy, property theory and political theory.” I need to be inside that war room. 

While American law enforcement leaves SBF to the conference circuit, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is hard at work indeed. This week, they proudly announced that they had seized $33,000 in cash from one man on his way to Egypt. The guy’s crime: he said he was carrying $20,000. But since it was more, Customs just took it all. Then the cops arrayed their new cash on a table and took a picture to show how good they’re doing. Congrats to all thieves for winning the week. 

→ Merrick Garland appoints a special counsel for the Mar-a-Lago investigation: If you thought the Dems were done doing Trump-related special counsels, you’d be wrong. Now there’s a DOJ special counsel for the Mar-a-Lago document situation. Garland cites: “recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election.” 

I think we can all accept that Trump likely did some not-so-legal document keeping, and also that setting up special councils and raiding a country club is not going to give the country the closure Garland thinks it might. Maybe I’m wrong and this will be the special special counsel. 

→ Balenciaga’s pedophilic photoshoot: Balenciaga put out an ad campaign for their Spring/Summer 2023 collection featuring young children on beds holding teddy bears in S&M outfits. That was weird. But it’s the Easter eggs in the photos that make it chilling: One photo features some scattered sheets of paper with type on them. Look closer and the text is about child porn laws. One showcases a book by Michaël Borremans, who famously painted naked toddlers. Balenciaga has apologized, but the whole thing is still, to put it mildly, troubling. I’d rather this not be a subject I have to check in on each week. 

→ CBS tells us we can finally talk about Hunter Biden’s laptop: Breaking news from CBS this week: “Copy of Hunter Biden laptop data appears genuine,” the news network soberly announced. The discovery comes only 768 days after the New York Post broke the story about the laptop. Former Vox staffer and professional tsk-tsker Aaron Rupar had this to say: “Pathetic stuff from CBS. They literally flew the former Fox News staffer who did this story around the country for a total nothingburger.” 

→ If you hate fun, go to Mastodon: Speaking of tsk-tskers, a wonderful thing has happened. Furious about Elon Musk’s acquisition of their favorite platform, a group of major pro-censorship Twitter personalities have decided they need to leave the place altogether. They’ve gone en masse to a new platform called Mastodon. And there they are (what else) yelling at each other. As the pollster Nate Silver put it: “Mastodon seems like a honeytrap for hall-monitor personality types. Honestly if Elon gets all the hall monitors to migrate to Mastodon that might be his greatest contribution toward the betterment of humanity.” Unfortunately it’s hard to imagine they’ll stay away for long. CBS got big applause after saying they’d be getting off Twitter, only to quickly return: “After pausing for much of the weekend to assess the security concerns, CBS News and Stations is resuming its activity on Twitter as we continue to monitor the situation.” 

→ People like eating real meat: Fake meat products like Beyond Meat are hitting financial trouble as growth slows. That their COO was arrested for biting someone's nose wasn’t great for their public persona, but I’m guessing it’s more that potassium chloride, beet juice color, methylcellulose, and pea protein does not have the same power over the palette as: steak. 

That said, I’m a longtime fake meat consumer—Boca, Morningstar, Impossible, you name it, I’ve microwaved it—and would hate to see the whole thing come crashing down.  

→ Here’s cash to take a nap: There’s a lot of injustice in this country, and there’s a lot of funding for DEI efforts. But nary the two shall meet. Across the west coast, DEI funding is now going toward giving rest time for the black and trans friends of DEI officers. “Our coalition is dedicating $1.37 million to support 32 BIPOC leaders with sabbatical and respite opportunities,” announced the Washington state-funded BIPOC Eds group. It’s “the radical act of rest.” And in San Francisco, the city is instituting a new universal basic income just for trans residents. Gotta love my hometown.

TGIF and see you in the comments. Make me proud.

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