Doppelgängers on TV, Queer Prom, the Paris Accord: This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. This week has been another whirlwind, metamorphosing from the absurdity of “covfefe” to the much graver nausea induced by Trump’s persistent push towards apocalypsefefe with his rejection of all environmental progress. There’s been a lot of good writing not just on Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement — but also on the fact that he’d already far earlier this year gone back on the most fundamentally important aspects of America’s commitments therein, underscoring just how full of room for unprogressive fuckery the agreement was in the first place. That, and much more, in this week’s recommended reading.

Elizabeth Kolbert writes for the New Yorker about Donald Trump’s promise to exit the Paris Climate Agreement, with a keen take on the symbolic danger of this decision, and the fact that the accord itself was itself largely and somewhat disappointingly symbolic, incrementalist, and non-binding — as displayed when Trump rescinded huge elements at the foundation of the agreement earlier this year:

Among the many reasons that Trump’s move makes no sense is that the Paris accord is a fundamentally weak agreement. Designed to avoid the need for approval by the U.S. Senate, it’s not even an official treaty. Under the accord, each country was left to devise its own commitment—or, as it is officially known, “nationally determined contribution.” In March, the Administration made it clear that it had no intention of fulfilling the U.S.’s commitment, which was to reduce the country’s carbon-dioxide emissions by at least twenty-six per cent by 2025 (a figure that relies on a baseline from 2005). The White House did this by rescinding — or, more accurately, indicating its desire to rescind — the two sets of Obama-era regulations upon which the commitment was based: a set of stricter auto-efficiency standards and a series of rules governing emissions from power plants.

Naomi Klein further writes about the shortcomings of the Paris Climate Agreement for the Intercept, noting how it was American lobbying that had already whittled what could have been a much stronger environmentalist proposal down:

Now that it seems virtually certain that Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, and the climate movement is quite rightly mobilizing in the face of this latest dystopian lurch, it’s time to get real about something: Pretty much everything that is weak, disappointing, and inadequate about that deal is the result of U.S. lobbying since 2009. The fact that the agreement only commits governments to keeping warming below an increase of 2 degrees, rather than a much safer firm target of 1.5 degrees, was lobbied for and won by the United States. The fact that the agreement left it to individual nations to determine how much they were willing to do to reach that temperature target, allowing them to come to Paris with commitments that collectively put us on a disastrous course toward more than 3 degrees of warming, was lobbied for and won by the United States.

The piece is fantastic, as it then asserts that “weak is not the same as useless,” and makes a similar point to that of Kolbert, that essentially this was a symbolic gesture — and what social movements do to fill in the empty symbolism is what will be useful. She takes a hopeful tone that states and other countries will be more pressured to counter Trumpism by actually acting towards the collective goal of the agreement rather than allowing people like Ivanka and Rex Tillerson — who wanted to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement insomuch as it is an empty symbol — to exploit the agreement for optics. “Of course it’s still possible that Trump’s withdrawal will provoke global backsliding. But it’s also possible that the opposite will happen — that other countries, under pressure from their populations who are enraged by Trump’s actions on pretty much every level, will become more ambitious if the U.S. officially goes rogue,” she writes.

Medhi Hasan, also writing in The Intercept — in the wake of the murders on a Portland train by a white supremacist — emphasizes the persistently ignored prevalence of white far right terrorism:

For far too long, those of us who have warned of the threat from far-right, white supremacist terrorists have been accused of trying to shift attention away from the threat of ISIS and Al Qaeda — of acting as Muslim apologists. For far too long, a veritable industry of politicians, pundits, and self-styled security “experts” have strived to minimize the domestic terror threat from far-right groups while inflating the threat from foreign jihadists.

In the Atlantic, Sarah Zhang cites a corrective in the New England Journal of Medicine (based on a study by a team at the University of Toronto) about how a brief letter published by the publication from 1980 was distorted within the medical and pharmaceutical communities, thereby leading to the assumption that opioids were non-addictive.

As [the letter] began to accrue citations, its findings also began to mutate. Porter and Jick had only looked at hospitalized patients in regimented settings, but that detail got lost in the push to prescribe opioids to patients at home—an entirely different scenario. Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, starting using the letter’s data to say that less than one percent of patients treated with opioids became addicted. Pain specialists routinely cited it in their lectures. Porter and Jick’s letter is not the only study whose findings on opioid addiction became taken out of context, but it was one of the most prominent.

Matt Baume looks into the (recent) history of queer proms, and touches on to the early history of American proms in general, for a piece in Vice about the evolving inclusive cultural event:

Queer proms are a relatively recent innovation (I was fortunate enough to attend one of the first in the nation), but proms themselves date back to the late 1800s, when they were geared more toward college students. The practice spread downward to high schools by the 1920s, a time when American attitudes toward love and romance were shifting from a pragmatic business arrangement to an emotional celebration. The term “love-marriage” was coined to describe those revolutionary couples who bucked tradition and married for the sake of mutual affection.

For the 125th anniversary of Ernst Lubitsch’s birth, Film Forum is holding screenings of his films from June 2 to June 15, in an event that takes its title from a term commonly used to describe the director’s style — the “Lubitsch Touch.” Writing for the New York Review of Books, Geoffrey O’Brien goes in depth into the “sustained delight” of said “touch”:

The “Lubitsch touch” had by now established itself as a code name for a naughtiness too refined to give offense yet potentially subversive in its implications. But the famous touch was always more than insinuation brilliantly expressed through wordless gags like the complicated ballet of switched and re-switched place cards at the dinner party in The Marriage Circle, the byplay with canes (So This Is Paris) and swordbelts (The Merry Widow), the opening and closing of those doors upon doors that soon became his trademark. Such devices were merely the most overt punctuation marks of a pointed cinematic language in which every object, every glance, every vocal nuance delineates a pulsating network of crisscrossing inclinations and resistances.

As annoying as trend pieces can be, sometimes a trend is just undeniable. Particularly undeniable is the current TV doppelgänger thing: any TV character who’s anyone has one right now. Jen Chaney analyzes the uses and meanings of recent doppelgängers, particularly as they’ve shown up on prestige TV series:

It’s interesting that thinking-person’s blockbusters and serious dramas are having such a field day with this trope considering that it’s so strongly associated with a genre that isn’t usually afforded the same levels of attention and reverence. I am referring to the soap opera, a genre that has never been shy about randomly revealing that a character has an identical sibling or cousin. (Where do you think the original Twin Peaks got the idea to trot out Laura Palmer’s cousin, Madeline, a dead ringer for a dead teenager?)