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A group of WGA members picket in front of Paramount Pictures gate in Los Angeles, California. (Carolyn Cole via Getty Images)

TGIF: Writers of the World, Unite!

Goodbye and good luck to Vice, Steven Crowder, and late night. Plus, the stone of scone, the strike of the scribes, and much more.

I’m back. Home with my family, sure. But more importantly, back with you, my real family. 

One Easter egg for next week: I’m going to start posting some links at the very bottom of our homepage (TheFP.com). I’ll share what I’m reading, what our friends are writing, stories and columns that we’re arguing about in Slack. It’ll be an experiment for two weeks. And if people are enjoying it—and if I’m enjoying it!—we’ll keep going. Expect more experiments like this on our homepage as we play around with bringing it to life. Last thing: remember to encourage the teens in your life to submit to our Free Press Essay Contest. Now to the news. 

→ Covid is finally over: The Biden-Harris administration announced on Monday that they plan to end the Covid vaccine requirement for federal workers as well as international travelers. The original idea behind the policy was that the unvaccinated would spread Covid, while the vaxxed wouldn’t. (Recall that Fauci said the fully vaccinated become “dead ends” for the virus.) Well, it’s only been a few short months (correction: two years) that we’ve known this is not quite true. And given that we’re all super-spreaders, vaxxed or not, the administration is finally giving up. Anyway, Novak Djokovic, come back

→ King Charles will sit on a special stone: I love the British. Here’s from National Geographic: “When Britain’s King Charles III is crowned in London on May 6, he’ll sit on an ancient chair housing a 335-pound boulder cloaked in mystery. Used for British coronations since the late 14th century, the Stone of Scone is of unknown origins and age.” The Stone of Scone also goes by the Stone of Destiny. It’s like a cheesy comic book about royalty, and I love it. 

→ Britons should accept that they are poor, says chief economist: They may have the Stone of Scone, but they do not have enough good business to sustain all their social services. Bank of England’s chief economist, Huw Pill, had some tough talk (a bitter pill from Mr. Pill, if you will) for his people this week: “So somehow in the UK, someone needs to accept that they’re worse off and stop trying to maintain their real spending power by bidding up prices, whether higher wages or passing the energy costs through on to customers. . . . And what we’re facing now is that reluctance to accept that, yes, we’re all worse off, and we all have to take our share.”

The British may be poor in money, but do you know what they are rich in? Restraint. Which brings us to our next item. 

→ Elon Musk vs. NPR: Musk is apparently upset that NPR has stopped tweeting. Out of the blue, he wrote to an NPR reporter: “So is NPR going to start posting on Twitter again, or should we reassign @NPR to another company?” Now, technically Twitter has a definition of inactivity (someone not logging into their account for 30 days) and NPR is technically active, but LOL Elon Musk owns Twitter now and he makes the rules. Given previous Musk antics (“Titter,” I’m looking at you), I can only assume he’s going to award the acronym and its 8.8 million followers to a manure company or a QAnoner. 

After NPR wrote about Musk’s threat to reassign the handle, Musk sent an email at 2:19 a.m. EST with no text in the body and a simple subject line: “You suck.” Classy. 

So yes, though they may be at the end of empire, I’d like to bring some old WASPs over from bonny England to help our noblesse learn a little oblige. 

→ Not the hero we wanted, but: Twitter’s Community Notes are becoming pretty great at fact-checking public officials. It’s nice to have a new fact-checking movement to push against the legacy media’s fact-checking. I’m in the “let’s arm the rebels” phase of the disinfo war. For example, Community Notes this week fact-checked Randi Weingarten, who (falsely) claimed she was desperately trying to open schools up during Covid. 

Actually a few people fact-checked that one, including outgoing Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, who this week said Randi Weingarten is not being honest. “That’s not the reality that was happening on the ground in cities like Chicago, like Los Angeles and other places.” And: “the union needed to work with us and they never did that.” Lori Lightfoot, welcome to The Free Press! We have hats. 

→ Thomas family news keeps coming: It looks like Ginni Thomas, the extremely outspoken wife of Clarence, was being paid by folks who wanted to keep it a little secret. Leonard Leo, the powerhouse behind the Federalist Society, directed “another $25,000” to Ginni but specified “No mention of Ginni, of course.” Now the funny thing is, Ginni works in conservative politics, and there’s nothing illegal about that. But a false invoice to a tax-deductible charity could be. Anyway, if you want to hide something, don’t write a memo about hiding it!

→ Et tu, Sotomayor? Meanwhile, Sonia Sotomayor has been paid more than $3 million by Penguin Random House—and didn’t recuse herself from several cases involving the publisher.

Vice goes bankrupt: Vice Media—at one point valued at $5.7 billion—is headed toward bankruptcy. This, along with the end of BuzzFeed News, signals the end of a certain era of media. I worked at Vice for a spell as on-camera talent (TFP did NOT respect my rider for blue M&Ms and Fiji water, and they will be hearing from my counsel) and actually loved it and loved the people, so I’m sad that the project has failed. Media thinkers are in a frenzy pointing to complex causes for Vice’s demise. But here’s what happened: the content got bad. Vice stopped telling great stories in enough quantity to be a profitable storytelling business. That’s it. 

For whatever reasons, the staff decided that the company’s raucous, wild, transgressive early fans were, in fact, their primary enemy. I think this was in part because one of the Vice founders went on to start the Proud Boys. Over the years, the new Vice target consumer became the small community of thirtysomething hipsters who want niche identity politics viral rage content. These readers don’t actually want any vice at all; transgression sounds like, hmm, transphobia? And there is limited appetite for 10,000 they/them think pieces (What if you’re nonbinary? What if your partner is nonbinary? What if you’re nonbinary in India?). This community of readers couldn’t sustain the tiny team at Gawker. There was no way they could sustain a whole Vice, especially given how much free food and booze I personally consumed in my time there. 

→ Steven Crowder getting his comeuppance: Popular right-wing shock jock Steven Crowder is getting reamed in the public sphere this week and, well, he very much deserves it. His wife (or someone on her team) released video of an argument between the two of them recorded via home security camera. The video shows Crowder with his feet up, chomping on a cigar, chastising his wife—who was then eight months pregnant with twins—saying she needs “discipline” and to fulfill “her wifely duties.” Candace Owens over at The Daily Wire, which tried to hire Crowder only months ago, has been tearing into Crowder for it, calling it “horrific” and “abuse.” Crowder, meanwhile, seems mostly to be focused on the injustice of no-fault divorce. 

Now, you could say divorces are messy, and I’m sure there’s a video that would make Hilary Crowder look bad, too. To me, the real Crowder scandal of the week is the video he released all on his own. It’s his riff making fun of Mattel for releasing a new Down syndrome Barbie. He’s having a good laugh over a video of a young woman with the condition holding the new Barbie. It’s the woke mob out of control that. . . a little girl might find joy in a Barbie who looks like her. These are the people who lecture us about family values? 

→ Broad support for gun control: Next time someone tries to make the gun control debate about simple left/right politics, show them last week’s poll from Fox News showing Americans are largely in favor of common sense gun laws and enforcement of existing laws. I was pretty stunned by this:

Just like the topic of abortion, Americans are actually pretty moderate and are in broad agreement when it comes to gun control. The problem right now, as readers of this blog know, is there’s no appetite to enforce the existing gun laws. As Larry Krasner, the ur-progressive district attorney of Philadelphia, has said in explaining why he won’t prosecute illegal gun possession: “The current intense focus on illegal gun possession without a license is having no effect on the gun violence crisis and distracts from successfully investigating shootings.” The familiar NRA argument, in other words: it’s not guns, it’s what people do with guns. But now you have that argument coming from the left, who are saying you know what? This focus on guns is a little “intense.” Like, get a hobby much? Meanwhile, 80 percent of Americans think. . . actually, gun laws oughta be enforced. What a world. 

→ Summer is coming: Something happened on a New York City subway car that caused three men to restrain a homeless man and subway dancer, Jordan Neely. One of those men was a Marine, and he held Neely in a chokehold until Neely passed out and later died. There’s a video of it all. It’s been ruled a homicide. Jordan Neely had 42 prior arrests, including four for assault, but we have to wait to learn what actually happened in that car. That’s not stopping AOC, who as usual was a model of restraint: “Jordan Neely was murdered. But bc Jordan was houseless and crying for food in a time when the city is raising rents and stripping services to militarize itself while many in power demonize the poor, the murderer gets protected w/ passive headlines + no charges. It’s disgusting.” (NYC Mayor Eric Adams called AOC’s comments not “very responsible.”) Protesters are already gathering in the subway. I’m too old for another 2020. 

→ Speaking of urban chaos: Fentanyl deaths are spiking, according to a new report released by the CDC. Now, I’m not a doctor, but it doesn’t look like our current system is working. Maybe politely asking people to stop dealing fentanyl isn’t slowing them down? And I guess giving addicts clean needles and fresh food and saying “bye bye, have fun” isn’t stopping them from using? Much to consider. 

→ Oregon Democrats want to decriminalize homeless encampments: Oregon is filled with tent cities, and now the state’s Democrats want to make it officially legal. This one’s a little like California legalizing weed, in that it was already completely legal. But now, Oregon lawmakers want to fine you if you ask a homeless encampment to form elsewhere. Yes: you will pay a $1,000 fine if you so much as ask for someone to clear off the sidewalk. “Excuse me, but your pitbull is gnawing my son’s—” That’ll be ten Benjamins, NIMBY!

I used to walk whole blocks of San Francisco where sidewalks were taken over by encampments, not an inch of space free, which was fine because every morning I just hopped off the curb and into the street for a couple blocks. So, I hope no one plans on using a wheelchair in any Oregon city because that would be another grand every time they require a tent to move. The disabled really need to think about not being disabled! Kind of rude to want cities to have sidewalks.

Parks? Did someone mention public parks? Okay, now you’re basically a Nazi. We’re gonna need a bigger fine. 

→ AOC and Matt Gaetz collab: The two hotheaded congresspeople—one a Democratic Socialist from New York, the other a paleoconservative from Florida—have come together to try and ban members of Congress and their spouses from owning and trading individual stocks. It’s called the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act

“When Members have access to classified information, we should not be trading in the stock market on it. It’s really that simple,” said Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez in a joint statement about the effort. TGIF heartily agrees!

One of my favorite Twitter accounts is the Nancy Pelosi Stock Tracker, which simply tracks her trades, and wow, she really makes good choices! It’s almost as though she has special insight into broader economic decisions and upcoming legislation. What a head for the market that one has.

Twitter, under the old regime, briefly banned the stock tracking account because, well, I’m assuming Nancy asked them to. I’ve gambled a bit in the ol’ stock market and would do the same thing as Nance, were I in her position (so would you), which is why it ought to be illegal. 

→ Hollywood writers on strike! The Writers Guild of America has declared a strike. Basically, Hollywood writers have gotten crunched in the era of streaming. From what I can tell, their grievances are fair, and the studios have done everything they can to squeeze those writers into smaller and smaller deals. It’s a union town, and the strike is real. The men of late night—Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, the other two suits—have turned off their shows. The last strike was in 2007–2008 and lasted 100 days. People got so desperate, Conan O’Brien filled airtime by spinning his wedding ring (it was great). We also got a lot more reality (sorry, unscripted) TV because of it, including the first season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, then later Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant, all of which boded really well for the culture at large. 

The difference now might be that studios turn to artificial intelligence for their writing, and truthfully, there are a few shows where you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway. 

Luckily, we can’t afford to pay our resident cartoonist, David Mamet, a salary anyway, so he’s not on strike. Take a long look people, this is your new TV:

→ I thought banning gas stoves was a conspiracy theory? Now, hold on. I was told just in January of this year that the gas stove ban was a fake right-wing culture war thing. 

NYT: “No One Is Coming for Your Gas Stove Anytime Soon” 

Time: “How Gas Stoves Became the Latest Right-Wing Cause in the Culture Wars”

Salon: “Rumors of a gas stove ban ignite a right-wing culture war”

MSNBC: “No, the woke mob is not coming for your gas stove.”

AP News: “FACT FOCUS: Biden administration isn’t banning gas stoves”

The Washington Post: ​​“GOP thrusts gas stoves, Biden’s green agenda into the culture wars”

Which is why it’s so weird because just this week, New York state lawmakers banned gas stoves from all new construction. So it definitely does seem like Dems are coming for gas stoves, in that they just banned them in one of America’s most populous states. 

There’s usually a slightly longer lag between when the mainstream press tells us something is a crazy lie and when the press says okay, fine, it’s not a lie, it’s actually true, and also it’s a good thing—so this is surprising. I’ll be over here huffing carbon oxides and vapors.

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