Required Reading: Academic Cons, UFOs And Abortion Bans

Welcome to “Required Reading,” where BTRtoday writers share the best stories they didn’t write. The stories aren’t necessarily new. They’re just words that might our lives richer or were interesting, moving or simply enjoyable.

Adam Bulger

When Dickens met Dostoevsky
The headline of this Times Literary Supplement story is misleading. Charles Dickens never met Fyodor Dostoevsky and the story isn’t about those writers. Instead, it’s a winding tale of failure and fraud in British academic journals. I’m reluctant to describe it too much. I want people to read it without foreknowledge, as I did, and enjoy its deliberate pace and precise attention to lunatic details.

The 2013 story about disreputable academic writer A.D. Harvey resurfaced in the wake of Naomi Wolf’s sourcing scandal. The Beauty Myth author learned during a live radio interview that she’d misunderstood 19th century legal writing and that her forthcoming book was based on a history that never happened. Defending her research on social media, Wolf cited Harvey as a source, prompting Vox culture writer Aja Romano to tweet out the TLS story, which she called “honestly one of the wackiest things i have ever heard.”

‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers
This excellent New York Times feature exposes how powerful industry leaders targeted New York cab drivers with predatory loans, drove up the price of taxi medallions, and created a speculative bubble that eventually burst and devastated thousands. The Times reports that the exploitative loans and artificial medallion price inflation parallels the conditions behind the 2008 housing market crash and global economic meltdown. Banks and under-regulated private lenders offered cabbies risky loans and encouraged them to refinance often. The drivers, predominantly immigrants, agreed to terms they did not understand and could not afford.

Elena Childers

Trump Took Another Terrifying Step Toward Authoritarianism at His Rally in PA
As someone born and raised in PA, this Rolling Stone article was terrifying. As someone with family members raised under Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, I’m extra terrified. The piece makes it seem all too real that Trump might really take over our country. Read with care, because you will feel scared too.

What Actually Happens When a Country Bans Abortion
I guess this week was just filled with terrifying news for me. This was another great read for perspective on how f’ed up America is right now. It reminds us of when Romania banned abortion completely and shit really hit the fan. This could happen to us, in America. So read this and then maybe watch Handmaid’s Tale for research on how to survive our seemingly possible future.

Joe Virgillito

Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects
This is good headline writing from the New York Times. They opted for “unexplained” instead of “unidentified, the word more commonly used in the acronym UFO, because it’s clear people have seen these flying objects enough time to identify them, even if they can’t be explained. The story is wild enough on its own, but it also unintentionally says something about our current media climate. A credible and robustly-reported story about eyewitness accounts of potential alien spacecraft (complete with video evidence!) fell out of view in less than a day.

Trump’s Tweets Are Losing Their Potency
In part, we pay less attention to alien stories because we’re so focused on our big sloppy president’s Twitter feed. But according to this analysis, Trump’s tweets are receiving less and less interaction over time. Maybe people are tired of his crap and just don’t wanna hear it. Maybe his conservative fans are flocking to alternative social media sites. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is. I just cherish the thought of Donald Trump reading this article and frantically reaching for his phone to fire off an incoherent rant about Democrats, certain it’ll be the thread that brings his numbers back up.