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Everything wrong with publishing: The Atlantic's Jemele Hill and the non-reading reading experience

Wednesday 11/3/21

Today I saw something about The Atlantic's Jemele Hill on Twitter, where she will trend every so often. The reasons will always be the same. Jemele Hill, whose entire brand is based upon race, and who I would say has no talent—though I'd love for someone to try and make a case as to what talent she does have—is only going to have any valiance because of race. There is no stick too small with which she will attempt to stir the race pot. Sometimes I imagine that her coffers are actually lined with skin, and it is very important what the color of this skin is.

I will avoid, best as I can, looking too much at the concomitant posts, but I did see one in which Hill said that lots of white people tell her to stick to sports, which is as big a lie as one will encounter, because no one wants Hill to stick to anything. She’s not read because of what she has to say, or how well she might say it. She's a post-reading writer.

What I mean by that is that The Atlantic didn't hire Hill because of her writing ability. No one reads Hill to read her. They look to see that she has something out—which is very different. She doesn't know about anything. She doesn't know about sports, which is her nominal background. She's a lightly-spewing figurehead. I say "lightly" because there's nothing real or substantive in what she oozes. Sprays, if you prefer.

But the problem with the likes of a Hill is that reading as an act in society is becoming less about actually reading, engaging in a text, and more about whose head, often in cartoon form, stands to the side of said text. We're not parsing language. We're not engaging. We don't work through sentences, and what is there is not meant to be read at all. It's meant to be tweeted about. We’re not even really taking someone seriously.

Maybe a few lines are quoted, but that's an entirely different matter than traveling sentence to sentence. What we then often have are writers who are not really writers, for a world of post-readers, but with a husk of text that is left behind, as a sort of “excuse” for a personality. But it's not even really a personality. Jemele Hill doesn't have a public personality, because a personality has sides. Components. A true personality is not a one-note endeavor.

So then what is the point of writing, in a case like this, which is becoming more and more common? And, far worse—because this is dangerous for our devolving culture as a whole—what is the point of reading? Especially when many written words aren't even really meant for reading?

What The Atlantic is actually doing is saying, “We like your skin color, Jemele Hill. We like the idea of you as a spewer. We don’t think you have ability, because no one does, but that’s not what writing is about for us, anyway.”

Is this good? Because to me it’s a death knell of sorts, and one that could not only be avoided, but flushed away and de-emphasized—and not hired, certainly—so that we could, you know, actually communicate with each other, and there is a point to reading what a writer writes.

But that’s a brain thing, and decency thing, and a practical application thing, not a skin color thing. And for a Jemele Hill, there’s not enough talent there for it to be a coffers thing.


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