North Korean defectors who have spent years countering Communist propaganda now find themselves at odds with the South Korean government
A New York moment:
The advertisements for the semi-pornographic Fifty Shades Freed are everywhere in New York: on taxis, on billboards in Times Square, at bus station stops, in subways. Thankfully, this is the final film of the trilogy, so our eyes will get a break soon. I can happily say I don’t know much about the film except that it has an 12 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and The Hollywood Reporter called the series “one of the worst film franchises in recent memory.” But it’s also grossed almost a billion dollars, even before this latest installment.
Freed has also received attention from a handful of women’s groups, like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation—an organization that got its start in New York City in the 1960s and has long argued that pornography is a public health crisis. The organization has criticized both the Fifty Shades books and movies for glamorizing sexual violence against women, and this year its executive director, Dawn Hawkins, argued that the latest film release is “hypocritical” amid Hollywood’s #MeToo campaign. NCOSE says the film “sends a message that an abusive relationship can eventually turn into a loving one and suggests money and prestige permit a person to sexually exploit people at will.” The organization has urged filmgoers to donate to women’s shelters instead of paying for tickets to the movie.
Worth your time:
A hilarious rundown of one man who harasses internet scammers, keeping them on the phone for hours as they try to steal his personal info. What’s great here is his compassion in the end for the people working the scam, whom he urges to stop doing what they’re doing. “For his last question of the night, Kitboga asked John with kindness in his voice: ‘How’d you get caught up in that?’”
This week I learned:
Douglas Laycock, a religious freedom lawyer who had supported legalizing gay marriage, filed a brief arguing in favor of the Christian T-shirt printer in Kentucky who had referred an LGBT organization to another printer after the group asked for gay pride shirts. The local human rights commission instead ordered the Christian printer to make the gay pride shirts.
“The question in this case is whether Americans will be allowed to live according to diverse moral views, or whether the government will instead pick one ‘correct' moral view and punish those who disagree,” Laycock wrote in the brief along with several Becket Law lawyers.
A court case you might not know about:
The Supreme Court just agreed to hear South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., a case on whether states can require internet retailers like Amazon to collect sales taxes.
Culture I am consuming:
I finally finished Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875), one of those serialized Victorian novels that is about a million pages long. But I emerged from the novel with a greater appreciation for Trollope, who wraps together dry humor and cutting social insights in a way that feels very modern. The noncommittal young men of 1875 London display some traits currently attributed to millennials, for example.
One of the main characters, shady businessman Augustus Melmotte, seems like a modern character too. At one point in the story the political outsider runs for office. Trollope writes that “the working classes were in favor of Melmotte, partly from their love of a man who spends a great deal of money, partly from the belief that he was being ill-used—partly, no doubt, from that occult sympathy which is felt for crime, when the crime committed is injurious to the upper classes … [to] pull down the mighty from their seats.”
Postscript: Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org