Trump’s Hurricane Plan Tops This Week’s Internet News Roundup
Greetings, and welcome to another edition of While You Were Offline, the column that dares to ask, “If it happened on the internet and I missed it, did it ever really happen at all?” This past week has been a busy one. For starters, there are apocalyptic fires in the Amazon and protests in Hong Kong. Also, the United States reactivated Space Command. Scientists released some interesting findings about the role genetics play in queerness. Elsewhere, Joe Biden’s memory proved to be particularly untrustworthy, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is shrinking, and the Republican race is … a thing that exists, kind of. No wonder, then, that people would rather talk about the final trailer for Joker and Missy Elliott’s triumphant VMA performance. Given the choice, wouldn’t you?
Could a Bomb Stop a Hurricane?
What Happened: There’s thinking outside the box, and there’s “Hey, let’s nuke a hurricane.” Last week, we found out which one accurately describes President Trump’s thinking. (Spoilers: It’s the latter.)
What Really Happened: As of this writing, the East Coast is bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, which may hit Florida as a category 4 storm at some point in the next week. As it approaches, the storm has prompted multiple preparation tips aimed at those in the region, as well a lot of good information intended to help people understand just what’s coming. There’s one question that explainers avoided, though. Namely, why doesn’t someone come up with an unexpected new way to deal with the threat of hurricanes in the first place?
Thankfully, the current President of the United States is on that.
Well, when we say didn’t go anywhere, we mean in the real world.
Perhaps we should remain a little alarmed, however, about some of the details in the actual reporting. For example…
…and then there’s the fact that, apparently, not everyone was against the idea.
The idea that the report was fake news was just as quickly rebutted by the reporter behind the story.
So the president denied it again.
His denial of knowing what Axios is rang particularly false, for somewhat obvious reasons.
But we know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, could the plan work? Reader, the answer is no.
The Takeaway: Somewhere, there are people who think that the president wanting to reenact the plot of Sharknado counts as being a political disruptor. Just think about that for a second.
Apparently the Wall Is Still Happening
What Happened: Turns out, America is still building that wall—at least in the president’s mind, it’s not as if construction is actually underway—but the methods by which the wall is being built may come as a surprise.
What Really Happened: While we’re on the topic of things the president has been discussing in the White House lately, let’s check back in on the wall he wants to build along America’s southern border. It’s been a while since anyone has really been talking about it, so maybe everyone’s just quietly moved on and forgotten about it. That’s not impossible, right?
Indeed, new reports revealed that not only is the wall still in the works, but President Trump wants it to be painted black, is willing to seize private land in order to make it happen, and has already offered pardons to anyone who’d break the law making sure it happened. (One official, though, told The Washington Post Trump was joking about that.) Let’s see what people had to say about this.
Here’s the thing, though: If Trump is joking about the pardons, that doesn’t make anything better.
The Takeaway: Oh, as it turns out, other reporters managed to back up the story.
So there’s that.
Breaking News Broken
What Happened: There’s a time and a place to drop a bombshell piece of news that would significantly change the political environment. That time, for those uncertain, is “after you’ve double-checked your sources.”
What Really Happened: If we’re revisiting the hits of the Trump era, let’s take a moment to think about the somehow-still-ongoing issue of the president’s tax records, which managed to cause quite a stir last week, thanks to a couple of unexpected, but connected, new twists. Firstly, there was a development in the ongoing legal battle to actually see the tax returns in the first place. And it was quite the development, indeed…
All of that, then, is a pretty big deal. But just hours after this news broke, it seemed as if something even bigger was about to break. On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted that a Deutsche Bank source claimed Trump’s tax returns “show he pays very little income tax and, more importantly, that his loans have Russian co-signers.” That was quite the claim. Enough of one to get the president’s lawyers involved, in fact.
There was just one problem. And it was a significant one, as it turned out.
O’Donnell eventually responded, in suitably embarrassed manner:
Indeed, he apologized for reporting the story, noting that it hadn’t gone through the traditional vetting process—something that is, at best, embarrassing to O’Donnell and MSNBC, if not enough to end his career. The next day, he withdrew the original tweet, to the delight of some—
—but, notably, he didn’t actually retract the story itself. The distinction didn’t go unnoticed.
This one appears to be ongoing. Stay tuned.
The Takeaway: This one appears to be ongoing. Stay tuned.
What Happened: For those who thought that Brexit wasn’t that bad because at least Parliament is there to keep everyone in line—that might not actually be the case anymore. Well, not in a week or two, anyway.
What Really Happened: Here’s a word that most people likely hadn’t heard before this week: “prorogue.” As in, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shocked the United Kingdom last week by announcing his intent to prorogue Parliament. It’s a somewhat archaic term to describe the act of, essentially, closing down government for a short period ahead of the next session, which is inaugurated with a speech by the Queen. Given that the British government is already on its summer vacation—set to end next week—and the Brexit deadline is at the end of October, it would be unexpected to say the least to prorogue Parliament when there’s so much work to do and so little time to do it in. And yet…
So, OK; that happened. For anyone wondering exactly what that means in practice, the answer is … not good for people who might have wanted to prevent a No Deal Brexit, where the United Kingdom runs out the clock on its negotiations with the European Union and has to withdraw without an agreement being reached, something that could be disastrous for the UK.
There had been plans for MPs from different parties to join forces to oust Johnson, and therefore put the brakes on a No Deal exit, but it’s hard to put any of that into action with parliament suspended, which may be the point.
Response to the decision to prorogue Parliament came quickly from all parties in the British political system.
And I really do mean all parties, with even some from Johnson’s own Conservative Party speaking out.
Also speaking out? John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons—a former member of Johnson’s Conservative Party—whose role traditionally means that he doesn’t get to pick sides on subjects such as this.
So, what does this mean, in reality? Opinions differed, based on which side of the ideological spectrum commentators seemed to be.
The Takeaway: As of this writing, Parliament is still going to close down in early September, and Brexit is still going to happen October 31. How much of this will change by this time next week is open to question.
Why So Buggy?
What Happened: There’s no way to win at the internet, but sending letters of upset to someone who has made a joke at your expense and then disappearing from Twitter in a snit is definitely not the way.
What Really Happened: The last story of the week is a simple one, and a reminder of the power of social media. It all started with one itchy update from the New York Times newsroom at the very start of the week:
This prompted one wag—who happened to be an associate professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC—to offer a small bit of snark.
Apparently, Stephens, a New York Times op-ed columnist, doesn’t much like jokes at his expense, although he does apparently like searching for his own name on social media.
To say that the internet was interested in this would be an understatement. Outside of the appearances by Karpf across the internet that resulted from his sharing the email, or the multiple thinkpieces this situation unleashed, because, well, internet, Twitter had a few things to say on the subject.
Many pointed out that bedbug was a very polite insult considering some of the many alternatives available and commonly used.
As the responses piled up, Stephens quit Twitter.
Oh, and the provost CC’d on Stephens’ email complaint in the first place? He also took to Twitter to respond, because that’s the kind of story that this is, apparently.
The Takeaway: There is, surely, another way to tell this story…
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