Journal of a Journalist

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Over fifty years ago, a group of pranksters founded a satiric religion devoted to creating conspiracy theories so insane that nobody would ever believe in conspiracies again. They called themselves the Discordians. And their weird ideas are still influencing us today.

Welch’s reaction when he received a letter on Bavarian Illuminati stationery in 1970. Welch was the founder of the John Birch Society, a conservative group with a paranoid bent, mostly focused on communist conspiracies but also willing to expand its gallery of villains to include other secret cabals. The Illuminati are an 18th-century secret society whose alleged efforts to control the world were regularly decried by groups like, well, the John Birch Society.

Welch may have been a nut but he wasn’t a fool, and he was probably pretty sure someone was pulling his leg by the time he saw that the note had been written by “Ho Chi Zen, Cong King of Gorilla Warfare.” But I like to imagine that curiosity compelled him to read on.

The Greatest Fake Religion of All Time

Filed under religion history

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One of the most offensive critiques of the argument for paying reparations to African-Americans is the notion that black people are owed nothing because they are better off in America than they would be in Africa.

Slavery reparations: Cutting through the nonsense | The Economist

If you’ve read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article on reparations for slavery in The Atlantic (and if you haven’t, DO IT RIGHT NOW! SERIOUSLY, DUDE. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?), this is your next must-read.

Filed under history america

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Long before the Civil Rights movement allowed black Americans to freely patronize white-run establishments, Clifton’s restaurants were integrated. In response to a complaint about his progressive policy, Clinton wrote in his weekly newsletter, “If colored skin is a passport to death for our liberties, then it is a passport to Clifton’s.” Regardless of income or skin color, Clinton wanted everyone who ate at his restaurants to be completely satisfied, so the phrase “Dine free unless delighted” was printed on every check. Though many patrons ate for free, enough customers gave significantly more than they were asked to keep the business afloat. (via L.A.’s Wildest Cafeteria Served Utopian Fantasy With a Side of Enchiladas | Collectors Weekly)

Long before the Civil Rights movement allowed black Americans to freely patronize white-run establishments, Clifton’s restaurants were integrated. In response to a complaint about his progressive policy, Clinton wrote in his weekly newsletter, “If colored skin is a passport to death for our liberties, then it is a passport to Clifton’s.” Regardless of income or skin color, Clinton wanted everyone who ate at his restaurants to be completely satisfied, so the phrase “Dine free unless delighted” was printed on every check. Though many patrons ate for free, enough customers gave significantly more than they were asked to keep the business afloat. (via L.A.’s Wildest Cafeteria Served Utopian Fantasy With a Side of Enchiladas | Collectors Weekly)

Filed under history los angeles thiswonderfulstrangecity

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Consider today’s online world. The Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board, allows anyone to post messages across the nation. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen. How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.
Clifford Stoll: Why Web Won’t Be Nirvana (1995)

Filed under history tech

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The SDS carried on its undercover activities against any organizations that they believed threatened Britain’s social order. This include animal rights organizations, unions, and anti-Nazi, and anti-racism groups. They were also allegedly involved in the planting incendiary devices at branches of department store Debenhams in Luton, Harrow and Romford in 1987; and one member was later involved in writing the pamphlet that led to the famous “McLibel” trial of the 1990s. The workings of the SDS were on a “need to know basis,” and only a handful of police knew exactly what this little club were up to. But their presence fueled genuine fears amongst the British Establishment that there were “Reds under the beds,” and that revolution was a literal stone’s throw away. This was all going on behind-the-scenes, while out front, muppets like the councillors and journalists lined-up on this program, pushed the hysteria of Punk Rock riots and civil disobedience, that reflected the very genuine fears at the heart of the UK Establishment. (Note London councillor Bernard Brook-Partridge mention of “MI5 blacklists.”) So, that’s the background to this fascinating archive of the year that politicians (and even the BBC) thought Punk Rock was a torch-bearer for bloody revolution.
Dangerous Minds | Anarchy in the UK (for real): British establishment’s fear of an ACTUAL punk rock revolution, 1977

Filed under history britain punk

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One thing everyone can agree on is that Isaac Newton’s mind was shaped by his miserable childhood. He was born in 1642, into a prosperous farming family in Lincolnshire, but his father was already dead, and his mother had other things on her mind besides her son. Young Isaac found consolation wherever he could: he dreamed of killing his mother, and burning the house down around her, and he took revenge on the other boys at Grantham grammar school by doing better at lessons than them. His mother wanted him to become a farmer, but he defied her by getting a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge at the age of 18. He remained surly and solitary throughout his four undergraduate years, and insisted on reading modern authors like Descartes rather than the Aristotelians he was supposed to be studying. He was befriended by an enlightened professor of mathematics, Isaac Barrow, but showed no signs of intellectual distinction, and when the university was closed in 1665 – on account of the Great Plague – he had no choice but to slink back to his mother’s house. He was still refusing to take any interest in farming, and devoted his next two years to making notes on everything he saw and messing around with glass prisms in darkened rooms.
Jonathan Rée reviews ‘Newton and the Origin of Civilisation’ by Jed Buchwald and Mordechai Feingold · LRB 10 October 2013

Filed under science history

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whykoshertacos:

http://www.kvia.com/news/kosher-taco-truck-highlights-crypto-jew-history/-/391068/21119168/-/h3cqrr/-/index.html

ABC 7

Kosher taco truck highlights crypto-Jewish history

An El Paso artist hopes to highlight the history of crypto-Jews in the Southwest through a kosher taco truck.

About six years ago, artist Peter Svarzbein started photographing crypto-Jews, Hispanic or Latinos of Jewish descent who had to keep their faith a secret after the Spanish inquisition, and their descendents.

Svarzbein wants to show the stories of those families through his taco truck, which was serving the fusion food at Congregation B’nai Zion and Hope and Anchor over the weekend.

On Monday, the truck was at the Foodville food truck spot in Downtown El Paso, on the corner of Mills and Mesa. Along with serving up tacos, the stories of crypto-Jews are projected on walls….

Just learned about this amazing Texan history art-and-food project about the Crypto-Jews. Sounds delicious and (crap) educational.

Filed under food history texas jewish art