Good morning, Quartz readers!
That American white supremacism once more reared its ugly head last weekend was not shocking; it’s been experiencing a resurgencefor several years. That president Donald Trump equivocated about condemning it was also, sadly, no surprise. What’s troubling is how ambivalent much of America has been about it.
That might not be your impression, if you read the mainstream media, which have relentlessly covered the liberal outrage at Trump’s remarks and the hasty attempts by business leaders, public intellectuals, and certain Republican politicians to distance themselves from him. But many Republican lawmakers have not spoken up, and 40% of Americans, according to one poll, agreed with Trump that both sides were equally responsible for the Charlottesville violence.
For the opponents of racism, this is a difficult moment. As a prominent Democratic strategist observed this week (paywall), a shrill focus on racial injustice risks making the party seem as if it cares only about ethnic minorities. Moreover, the intense public and media attention on what are, in fact, very small groups of extremists both amplifies their message and builds sympathy for them as underdogs. All this risks making that ambivalent 40% even more ambivalent.
And yet, what option is there but to take an unambiguous stand against racism? It’s precisely through tolerance for ambiguity, through the tacit acceptance of moral equivalence, and through the reluctance to challenge hatred that prejudice is normalized. That is how democratic societies accept fascism—not in a joyous embrace but with a quiet, what-can-you-do shrug.—Gideon Lichfield
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
Digging for digital gold in Inner Mongolia. At the heart of bitcoin are miners running massive computing operations to earn the $7 million up for grabs each day for solving complex mathematical equations. Zheping Huang and Joon Ian Wong got access to one of the world’s largest bitcoin mines, Bitmain, and offer a rare look at the lives of its workers, as does a photo essay for Quartz by Aurelien Foucault.
How to succeed at Nafta without even changing it. US border cities are indeed growing slower than their Mexican and Canadian counterparts. But contrary to US president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, the fault lies not with Nafta. Ana Campoy and Youyou Zhou dive into the economic data and find the problem is that US border towns are too often treated as solitary outposts, rather than part of the international hubs of economic activity to which they contribute.
Know your wine without being annoying about it. Transforming into a casual sommelier puts you at risk of becoming totally intolerable. Luckily, Jenni Avins is here to walk us through the journey of wine enlightenment by recounting her own experience, helped along by Marissa Ross’s book Wine All The Time. From ditching the grocer to learning the language of wine itself, see how to live your best wine life without becoming a snob.
There are hundreds of solar eclipse addicts. Eclipse chasers talk about the moon’s shadow the way some people might talk about falling in love. Now they structure their lives around seeing every single solar eclipse, whether it lands in Svalbard, Tahiti, or Antarctica. Zoe Schlanger reports on the people who give up everything for a few minutes of overwhelming awe. (If you’re in the band of totality on Monday, watch out—you might just catch the bug.)
The lessons of Charlottesville. A week after neo-fascists marched in a Virginia university town, millions of Americans are finding they still have a lot to learn about their country. Gwynn Guilford sheds light onhow the alt-right saw the events in Charlottesville; Tim Squirrell sifts through every comment ever made on Reddit—all 3 billion of them—to explain how right-wing trolls are finding a united language and identity; and Christopher Groskopf, David Yanofsky, and Youyou Zhou create a tool that shows where your nearest Confederate monuments are.
FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
How the violent left enables the violent right. Peter Beinart in the Atlantic delves into the tactics of the “antifa” or anti-fascist movement, which uses violent tactics to prevent far-rightists from assembling.This is a slippery slope, Beinart argues; if mainstream leftists tacitly let antifa take on this role, it risks weakening the rule of law and strengthening the resolve of the far right.
“Screen time” is a useless term. Anxious parents are subjected to dire warnings about how too much screen time is bad for kids. But when reading, homework, and conversations with family can all take place on screens, demonizing them tout court is meaningless and unhelpful. At The Conversation, researchers Natalia Kucirkova and Sonia Livingstone argue that what children experience on a device is more significant than the time they spend doing it.
When gestures overpower words. German chancellor Angela Merkel’s body language speaks louder than everyone in German politics. She has vanquished male opponents for decades by allowing them to destroy themselves in a kind of political aikido. One opposition leader Andreas Kluth for Handelsblatt Global that “Merkel’s secret is that she has found a method against the men, but the men have found no method against her.”
In pursuit of the perfect score. The US economy is built on credit, and Suzanne Woolley of Bloomberg delves into the world of “super-prime” borrowers obsessed with maintaining a perfect credit score. Just over 1% of Americans have achieved this feat, which goes well beyond paying bills on time, and opens up a world of financial possibilities unavailable to the average consumer. “The only number that may be more important is your cholesterol count,” she writes.
Irish smugglers’ Brexit bonanza. One of the thorniest issues looming over the divorce talks between the UK and EU is what to do about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In Politico, Naomi O’Leary explores how imposing a hard border could be a boon for the illicit trades that thrived before many restrictions were removed by the EU’s single market. “Locals say there is an overlap between republican paramilitary circles and those in charge of cross-border smuggling,” she notes, ominously.
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