Facebook and “Friends” in the Wake of Ferguson

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Scene from last Wednesday’s protest march (top); detail from a controversial post on the Facebook page of a Central Bucks West guidance counselor.

As a 29-year-old woman, this is how my Facebook feed tends to look: baby picture, wedding picture, baby-at-a-wedding picture, Supernatural spoiler (that last one might be my own contribution).

But over the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed an even less appealing trend: racist rant, thinly veiled racist rant, confusing meme that I suspect is a racist rant.

To clarify, I’m from the Northeast.

This is not, necessarily, to say that my hometown is any more backward than your own hometown. (Unless you’re from Amherst — you guys are pretty squeaky clean.) There’s an ugly, dumb contingent in every group of humans, and most of the time, I love that place. But post-Ferguson, I find myself rethinking my Internet relationship to the (Often, But Not Always) Great Northeast.

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One Bizarre Theory About Shane Montgomery’s Disappearance

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“Saw your post check this out,” the email was headed, so of course I clicked — and found a link, and then this:

i’ve been following this for about 7 years now with the smiley face killers  there is plenty on the internet but this is a start there was kid booth who was found in ridley and another Guevera who was found in a Wachtung NJ lake with the same MO

I used to work for the Trentonian I believe there to be some kind of religious connection and or a native american one as well with the name sinsinawa used often

And there I went, down the rabbit hole.

The post my emailer referred to was a short piece I’d written on the disappearance of Shane Montgomery, the West Chester University student who on Thanksgiving Eve vanished off the streets of Manayunk following an evening of drinking at Kildare’s Irish Pub. My interest in the case was personal — I have kids Shane’s age, and they’d been out drinking on Thanksgiving Eve — and professional: What journalist isn’t intrigued by a disappearance like that?

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Why Do Philadelphians Just Love to Play With the Word “Philadelphia”?

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When I returned to Philadelphia in 2011 after a few years spent in D.C. and abroad, I couldn’t help but notice Philly’s borderline obsession with, well, Philadelphia.

More precisely, the word “Philadelphia,” which we just absolutely love to mess around with. “Philadelphia” finds its way — in part or in whole, one way or another — into countless other nouns in this toponymically infatuated city.
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Home Sweet Northeast for the Holiday

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My trip home for Thanksgiving is barely a trip. Many people have a longer commute to work, and plenty would travel farther for pizza. But because I’m from the Northeast — where moving to another parish or, God forbid, a different Wawa precinct, is taboo — a 35-minute drive counts as something of a homecoming.

And — I-95 construction be damned — it feels good to go home.

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An Open Letter to Whoopi Goldberg

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Dear Whoopi,

On Monday, you expressed confusion on The View about Cosby accuser Barbara Bowman‘s actions after her alleged rape at age 17: “Perhaps the police might have believed it. Or the hospital. Don’t you do a kit when you say someone has raped you?”

You weren’t strident, you weren’t defensive, you seemed — oddly enough — sincere. “I’m going to reserve my judgment because I have a lot of questions,” you said. I believe that you’re genuinely confused.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around the fact that a person can do both horrible things and worthwhile things and occupy the same body. I remember writing a college admission essay about the fact that Charles Dickens, my favorite author, was a terrible husband. Could I separate art from artist? Should I?

Obviously, this is harder. The investment in believing Bill Cosby to be the genial standup comedian, philanthropist, father figure … it’s profound. For that man to also potentially be a sexual predator? All of us slide in and out of selfishness and generosity, kindness and crank. But this is another level. It’s Roman Polanski. Or Oscar Pistorius. Or Lance Armstrong. We are large, wrote Whitman. We contain multitudes. Not all of the multitudes are pretty.

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Why Hunt for Deer When They’re Lying All Over the Road?

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Sunday, on our way home from a trip to upstate New York, my husband and I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts. When we came back out with our coffee, there was a car parked a few spaces down from ours. It had one of those little flatbed trailers attached to the back. And lying on the trailer were two dead deer, gutted and trussed for travel. They were having their picture taken by a passing mom and her 14-year-old son, who were carefully framing the shots on their cellphones.

I’m not sure why they bothered. It’s not like there’s a dearth of dead deer around these parts. On our trip to New York and back, I must have seen several hundred dead deer — lying beside the road, lying on the road, lying a hundred yards back from the road, with their little deer limbs twisted and contorted in a gymnast’s baedeker of positioning. There were deer on their backs, on their sides, on their bellies. There were deer who seemed to be sitting up, human-like, by the roadside, watching the passing cars patiently, unblinkingly.

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South Jersey Radio Station Easy 93.1 Has Been Playing Christmas Music for a Month

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It’s a tiny 4,000-watt station based in Wildwood Crest. But if you’ve happened to catch WEZW 93.1 recently, you probably remember it: Since October 17th, it has been playing Christmas music.

Easy 93.1 was the first radio station in the country to flip to Christmas music this year, the second time it’s been the first country in the USA to go all-Christmas. It was also first in 2011.

Gary Fisher, the owner of station parent company Equity Communications, explains that one of his stations shifted to Christmas music earlier and earlier each year, and it got a good response from listeners each time. They eventually settled on the third Friday in October as the time to make the switch.

“That creates the right combination of controversy, head-scratching and, ultimately, lots of affinity and partisanship,” Fisher says. “And a great deal of affinity to the music.”

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Oh, Won’t Somebody Think of the Rapists?

Robert R. Jennings. Photo | Lincoln University

Robert R. Jennings. Photo | Lincoln University

Last week I wrote about street harassment and why women worry, with particular attention to the threat of the unknown and unfamiliar: the strange men that encroach upon a woman’s personal space in public, the terrifying possibilities that wait in dark patches of sidewalk and around the bend of a street corner. But there is something more pervasive that also causes concern: rape culture.

“We have, we had, on this campus last semester three cases of young women who after having done whatever they did with young men,” said Lincoln University president Robert R. Jennings in remarks to an all-women’s convocation in September. “And then it didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to turn out, guess what they did? They went to Public Safety and said, ‘He raped me.'”

If you weren’t sure what rape culture was before, you should be now: Jennings’ attitude embodies it perfectly. Read more »

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