December 26th, 2012

Gone Writin’

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much going on here lately. I’ve taken some time away from my journalism and opinion work to focus on fiction. Stay tuned…

March 19th, 2012

These American Lies

We now know that Mike Daisey’s This American Life segment about Apple’s factories was full of fabrications. I wrote a piece for GOOD about what it means to be told something is true, and then find out it’s not:

Nothing is more depoliticizing than being lied to, and a close second is being condescended to. An exaggeration, oversimplification, or lie is not a persuasion tool; it’s a form of coercion. It’s a way of treating adults like children—of taking away our power to make up our minds independently. When people feel forced, they don’t want to comply; they want to rebel.

Here’s a link to my chat with BBC World News about the topic.

March 19th, 2012

The Absurdity of Online User Ratings

Is it time to kill the Five Star user review system? I explore the topic for New York Magazine:

When Yelp’s stock shot up 63 percent on March 2, its first full day of trading, commentators couldn’t resist pointing out that investors had given the user-generated ratings site “a five-star review.” The one-to-five scale is everywhere on the web, inviting surfers to become critics: Amazon, Netflix, and the iTunes app store also employ it. There’s just one problem: This democratization of reviewing tends to produce aggregate scores that reveal nothing much at all.

March 15th, 2012

Review of John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead

Here’s a different kind of piece - it’s a review of a book of essays and reporting that I really loved: John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead. An excerpt:

Reading John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.00) is like walking through pristine woods: just when you begin to get lost in the beauty, you hear a strange noise, and you turn around, startled, with a sped-up heart, and take stock of the fact that the woods, while beautiful, are full of terrifying mystery. You don’t forget where you are; you reconsider where you are and why you’re there.

Seriously, read this book.

February 18th, 2012

Why Super PACs might be good for the grassroots

My somewhat counterintuitive take in the Guardian on Obama’s campaign’s decision to cooperate with Super PACs: 

The majority of Obama’s fundraising haul in 2008 came from online donations of $100 or less; without them, Obama would never be in the White House today. But this time around, why on earth would a hardworking mom from Ohio donate $25 of her paycheck to Obama, when a billionaire supporter like Jeffrey Katzenberg could easily cut a check for $25m to Priorities USA?
 
But soon, it hit me: ironically, thanks to Super Pacs, a small donation in 2012 is even more meaningful than it was in 2008.
 
Here’s why: with billionaires lining up to help Obama neutralize GOP Pacs in the war over the airwaves, Obama’s campaign can leave much of that dirty work to Priorities USA – and spend more of its small-donor cash on the far more wholesome ground war.

I am a writer currently pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts in fiction at Columbia University.

I was Barack Obama's blogger. I have delivered keynote speeches on storytelling, social media, and social movements at conferences, universities, and events around the world. Interested in having me speak at your event?