Good morning, Quartz readers.
It is five minutes walk from the corner of Lamar and Main streets in Dallas, where a sniper killed five police officers this week, to Dealey Plaza, where another sniper killed president John F. Kennedy in 1963. What connects these events, other than guns and geography, is the raw, grainy footage that captured each.
If the silent, 27-second film of the Kennedy assassination made by Abraham Zapruder, inadvertent witness to history, became a symbol of America in the 1960s, it was also the precursor of what has sadly become a symbol of America in the 2010s: the ever-more-frequent cellphone videos showing shocking violence toward innocent men. This week, graphic footage of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile led to the Black Lives Matter protest at which the Dallas officers were shot. At least one of the officers’ deaths was also captured on video.
Since Zapruder, technology has granted us vast increases in both the quantity and quality of these acts of witnessing. What it has not granted is greater access to truth. Just like JFK’s death, the deaths of Sterling and Castile may well remain disputed—as with the death of Eric Garner, which went unpunished despite being captured on camera in plain sight. We are still learning, painfully, that while the camera never lies, it never tells the whole truth, either.
Transparency and accountability are not the same thing. We should not confuse them, just as we should not confuse truth with evidence.Technology gives us ever more of the latter, but getting to the truth requires a very different process, which is still as susceptible to power and influence as it ever was. Until we understand and learn from that distinction, the camera footage won’t stop the killing. —Gideon Lichfield
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
Calculate the true price of your wardrobe. Buying a few “investment” pieces you’ll wear a lot is better for both your wallet and the environment than a lot of cheap fast-fashion items you’ll wear only a few times. Marc Bain and Michael Tabb—with a delightful video cameo from Ken the doll—reveal the shocking data behind the average closet and offer a formula for more sensible shopping.
The high style of Eid al-Fitr. You might associate Ramadan with privation. But as Nushmia Khan shows in a photo essay from Chicago, the end of the Muslim fasting month is a chance for Muslims to show off their best clothing, making for a dizzying parade of global fashion.
Venezuela’s brutal options. The country is in economic meltdown and racked by shortages and food riots. But if a reformist president took over, what would it take to halt the collapse? Ana Campoy asked experts and came back with some grim answers: Bad as things are now, they would likely get worse before they got better.
Understanding the world helium crisis. The recent discovery of a large new helium deposit in Tanzania merely delays by a few years the day when world supplies will run out. Mun Keat Looi explains why helium is so vital, how it got so badly mispriced that we used it to fill party balloons, and what we can do to husband it.
The history of China’s “nine-dash line.” Ahead of a key UN ruling next week, Steve Mollman explores the dubious background of China’s claim to most of the South China Sea, and how its confrontations with other countries in the region could gradually escalate towards war.
FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
Why “Remain” failed—the inside story. The Guardian’s Rafael Behr narrates how the group campaigning for Britain to stay in the EUthought they had captured voters’ imaginations with their plea for economic security. But they failed to grasp just how potent resentment of political authority was in the UK—something their rivals seized on. Read it in conjunction with this view from behavioral economics on why that resentment led voters to act against their own interests.
The lost history of the “gay cure” experiments. The story of the prominent neuroscientist who tried in the 1970s “to use pleasure conditioning to turn a gay man straight” is by turns horrifying and hilarious. Robert Colvile tells it for Mosaic, in a jarring insight into how much both medical ethics and social values have shifted since then.
Attachment theory rules our relationships. When Bethany Saltman became a mother, she began to worry that she wasn’t doing enough to make her daughter feel safe and loved—and to reflect on her own upbringing. Writing for New York magazine, Saltman explores the science of attachment theory and how our experiences as babies shape relationships for the rest of our lives.
The death of leisure. Facebook, Snapchat and even TV shows teach us to treat time as something we need to kill. As a result, Stuart Whatley writes in the Los Angeles Review of Books, we’re failing to take advantage of our leisure time—and spending our evenings and weekends waiting to go back to work.
Who are Trump’s supporters? For the New Yorker, George Saunders—who self-identifies as a “sentimental middle-aged person who cherishes certain Coplandian notions about the essential goodness of the nation”—traverses the country in hopes of understanding what drives the Donald’s fans. Like Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford not long ago, he encounters vitriol and fear, as well as a few human moments that transcend politics.
AND A BOOK THAT MADE US SMARTER, TOO
Pssst, we’re still at war. This week, we learned that 8,400 US troops are staying in Afghanistan, and that Tony Blair majorly flubbed things in Iraq. But there’s more to war than the politicians who wage it. In Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Mary Roach applies her insatiable curiosity and signature wit to everything from the fabric of army uniforms to the logistics of amputation. The Los Angeles Times calls it “wildly informative and vividly written.”
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Eid al-Fitr outfits, and leisure-time ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.