Some Publishing News

  • Harper Lee is publishing her first novel in half a century. Go Set a Watchman will be released in July.
  • As RadioShack prepares to go into bankruptcy, Amazon is in talks to buy some of their storefronts and turn them into order pickup sites. Remember how well Amazon Lockers turned out? The other side of the plan is to use the stores to showcase Amazon’s growing array of electronic devices, including the nigh worthless Fire Phone. Amazon thinks they can compete with Apple, but the difference is that Amazon makes a decent ereader and a whole bunch of garbage, much of which has succeeded because of the power of Amazon’s media ecosystem.

UPDATE: Madeleine Davies raises questions about whether the publication of Lee’s new novel is true to her own wishes. Last year, Lee claimed in a statement that The Mockingbird Next Door author Marja Mills had approached her under false pretenses. (Mills says Lee  were aware that Mills was writing a book about her.) In 2013, Lee sued her former agent Samuel Pinkus alleging that he embezzled royalties form her. Lee and Pinkus settled out of court later that year.

How Bad Are the Sidewalks in Providence?

Bad enough to warrant their own hashtag. Despite the threat of fines, day after the latest storm, there’s no visible improvement. Unfortunately, the meeting over the proposed fines was cancelled because of the snow. As some have pointed out, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.


The Strange Case of Charles C. Johnson

Like a lot of people who care about politics, I’ve been quietly following Charles C. Johnson for a while, but lately, I’ve become fascinated by him. What sets Johnson apart from other rightwing activist who’ve made trolling their primary form of expression (e.g., Malkin, O’Keefe) is Johnson’s own proclaimed grievance. In every interview I’ve read with him, he says something like, “I’m doing this for people like me, nerds who were bullied.”

I believe him when he says he was bullied. The fact that people in college hated him so much that they made up a story about him shitting on the floor seems like proof enough. On the other hand, these claims are utterly disingenuous. Are we supposed to believe that was bullied in high school by, um, feminists?

But the tough part about all this is that—in college at least—he was still Charles C. Johnson. You’d be hard pressed to find some sort of evolution. Even then, he had his own little news site where his primary mode of discourse was trolling.

Let’s take a break here to stipulate that bullying someone, whether because of their political views or some perceived weakness or anything else, is not okay. Responding forcefully to someone’s public opinions, however, is absolutely fair game.

What makes this hard is that while Johnson may have been regularly picked on, it’s really hard to parse what was real bullying and what was simply reaction to Johnson’s attempts to attract negative attention. After all, Johnson’s whole M.O. is to repeatedly and deliberately do things that draw ire. Johnson may claim that he’s does what he does for the sake of truth, but the contradictions aren’t hard to see. When he broadcasts the home addresses of Times reporters, whines about being kicked of Twitter, and then turns around and threatens anyone who might reveal the location of his own home, it’s like saying, “Truth for you but not for me.” It’s a tacit acknowledgement that beyond any principle, he does this because he can.

It is unusual in modern society for someone to look you in the eye and say in so many words, “Whatever power I have, I will use against you.” Moreover, Johnson isn’t just saying that to his own critics. He’s said it to rape victims, innocent people killed by the police, and journalists doing their jobs. What do you call that if not bullying?

The pathology is intriguing—and like any side show fun to watch—but what is Johnson, really, if not the thing he claims to hate most?