EL ESPECTADOR

In An Age Of Roaring Internet Trolls, Silence Is Golden

Squabbling online isn't the only way to connect with the world.

'Shouting is what dominates today'
"Shouting is what dominates today"
Piedad Bonnett

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ ⁠— The distinguished Catalan sculptor Jaume Plensa spoke in a recent interview about the problem of what he calls "message pollution" in today's world. "Reflection is needed," he said. "For my part, I propose silence. Because I have never wanted to shout more than the one already shouting."

We are indeed seeing a change in the way people communicate, and the result is a change in the collective psyche. No time has been further from silence than ours. Shouting, or the noise of the crowd, is what dominates today. We wade into the internet making sure to shout louder than the next user, all to attract the collective gaze, earn the yearned-for "like," even draw an insult — anything to confirm our existence. Never did the common man — the rank-and-file — demand so much attention, confirmation and recognition.

Noise is essentially ephemeral.

In her recent book La intimidad pública (Public Intimacy), the Argentine writer Beatriz Sarlo defined her idea of a "common celebrity" as someone who, in the grip of a moment's narcissistic compulsion, will do anything to be noticed. "The hue and cry is one of the current forms of notoriety," she ways. And those who seek it, she adds, "require neither quality nor achievements, only that they become sufficiently well-known as a "somebody"."

"Even the wittiest, most pointed comments online will fade away" – Muhammad Raufan Yusup/Unsplash

How exactly can they become known? By various means. They can strip naked on Instagram or join the verbiage of various online discussions, freely scattering their insults and preferably using eschatological terms.

The troll, a creature of our time that seeks prominence through harassment, is king in this realm. New York Times journalist David Brooks cites studies showing online trolls as displaying more marked psychopathic, sadistic and narcissistic tendencies. There is probably even a paramount troll today: the tweeting president who called Britain's ambassador in Washington a "pompous fool" and chided its prime minister for "the mess' she made of Brexit. With leaders like this, can one expect ordinary folk to be quiet?

But noise is essentially ephemeral. Even the wittiest, most pointed comments online will fade away. This will cause anxiety to the "common celebrities," who must swiftly find another reason to disturb their audience. And the audience avidly, gapingly, awaits its daily ration: It's a two-way drug each side feeds the other, to create a collective uproar.

Can you escape this audiovisual noise without cutting yourself off from the world? I think so. There are other ways of connecting, all of them more gratifying, productive and profound, like conversation, reading or reflection. And there is looking at art of course — though I only mean those works that have overcome art's own temptation to shout.

Jaume Plensa sums it up beautifully: "There is too much noise. Much confusion. Which is why I try to sculpt silences."

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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