This Week’s Best Of: LSD, Queer Theory and Self-Harm Chic

Lil Miquela Sharp Objects Pose

What happened this week?  Seriously, we’re not sure.  Trump wobbled (predictably) in his trade war with Europe, blithely reversing his positions as only a truly vacant sociopath could.  (Check out this utterly hilarious story.) Facebook took a hit on the stock market, at least in part because of the EU’s new regulations on privacy.  (TPM’s Josh Marshall thinks this is the beginning of the end, or at least the end of the beginning, for the social media colossus.)  The deadline to reunite kidnapped immigrant children with their families came and went, and the Trump administration just gave the world a big shrug emoji.

Perhaps the biggest global story of the week is the historic victory of cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, who looks set to be Pakistan’s next Prime Minister.  It is noteworthy for a variety of reasons.  First, this represents the third straight (sort of) democratic election since the end of General Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship, and the second peaceful transfer of power* between democratically elected ruling parties in the country’s history (no small feat in a nation that has faced perpetual military coups).  Second, the success of Khan’s PTI party at the polls represents a break from the noxious, decades-long tug-of-war between Pakistan’s dominant parties, the PPP and the PML-N, which was most recently in power.  Control of government has shifted back and forth between the two parties — or, rather, the Bhutto and Sharif families — throughout much of the country’s democratic history, with one party looting the public coffers before its leaders are overthrown, arrested, executed, or some combination of the three.  (Pakistani politics are notoriously difficult for Americans to map on to our own domestic conception of a left-to-right spectrum, but the PPP has historically been viewed as the party of the left.)  Third, Imran Khan is a singular figure in Pakistani culture and politics: a beloved athlete, expertly coiffed and jet-setting celebrity, patron of causes, and political outsider who finally fought his way into power.

However, all is not rosy.  Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, of the then-ruling party, were arrested earlier this month; the country’s powerful military establishment reportedly bullied newspapers and TV stations to tone down their political coverage, and the popular GEO TV was even forced off the air; and opposition parties are calling the vote illegitimate due to irregularities.  Most importantly, Khan is viewed by most observers as the military’s preferred candidate; even when democratically-elected leaders are in office, the vast phalanx of the Army and the ISI (the nation’s intelligence agency) wields power and influence behind the scenes.

My wife and I happened to see Imran Khan speak back in 2006 or 2007 at Columbia University.  I was very open to the idea of his quest for reform; knowing a little bit about how venal Pakistani politics were, I figured any newcomer pledging to fight corruption and shake things up was a welcome prospect.  Alas, he came across like a vacuous poodle to me, mouthing airy platitudes and unable to answer basic questions about policy.  He has subsequently cozied up to Islamists and Taliban-adjacent figures.  It remains to be seen what this sea change will mean for the people of Pakistan, the country’s relationship with the US and India, or any number of other issues.  But for a nation whose leaders have routinely failed to keep their hands out of the public kitty or even keep the lights on (literally), change is a promising thing.

* It could be argued that PMLQ handed power over to PPP in 2008, but it was the party of the self-installed dictator and it is debatable whether one can say its government was truly democratically elected.

The Realness of ‘Pose’ (Black Perspectives)

Today’s Voter Suppression Tactics Have a 150 Year History (TPM)

Voter Suppression Is Warping Democracy (The Atlantic)

The U.S. Housing Market Looks Headed for Its Worst Slowdown in Years (Bloomberg)

At East Bay Express, racism charges prompt resignations and a reckoning (Columbia Journalism Review)

Tronc to Daily News: Drop Dead (FAIR)

Why Some Companies Are Turning To CGI Models To Sell Products (Here and Now)

Why Americans hate government — even though they benefit from it more than ever (Salon)

Why Charlotte (and Only Charlotte) Wants the 2020 RNC (CityLab) — a truly epic and hilarious exercise in Tarheel hubris

Foreign media’s take on 11th general elections in Pakistan — and ‘PM in waiting’ Imran Khan (Dawn)

The Queer Art of Failing Better (The Baffler)

Chapo Trap House Drops Acid and Goes to OZY Fest:

 

 

‘Miseducation Of Cameron Post’ Creators Take Aim At Gay Conversion Therapy (Fresh Air)

All of the Hidden Words You Missed in Sharp Objects (Vulture)

Beyond Orientalism: Photographing Tunisia (NPR)

Oliver Sacks on Nature’s Beauty as a Gateway into Deep Time and a Lens on the Interconnectedness of the Universe (Brain Pickings)

Author: Alex Sayf Cummings

Alex Sayf Cummings is an associate professor of history at Georgia State University, whose work deals with technology, law, public policy, and the political culture of the modern United States. Alex's writing has appeared in Salon, the Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of American History, the Journal of Urban History, Al Jazeera, and Southern Cultures, among other publications, and the book Democracy of Sound was published by Oxford University Press in 2013 (paperback, 2017). Alex can be followed on Twitter at @akbarjenkins.

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