Listen, you nasty little Bushwick troll, go unload the dishwasher.
First of all, before you read this article, go unload the dishwasher. I promise it will buy you at least an hour off from questions about your plans for the future.
Good, now that you have a few free minutes, let's get into it.
So you moved back in with your parents, huh? If it makes you feel any better, as of July 2020, 52% of young adults resided with one or both of their parents, up from 47% in February, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of monthly Census Bureau data.
Pew Research Center
If you're like me, you may find that information alternately depressing or comforting, depending on the day. That means that more than half of people your age are also kickin' it in their childhood bedroom or musty suburban basement.
Like you, I also crash landed at my parents' home when the pandemic started to look really dire. While I was lucky enough to keep my job (now working remotely, of course), I just couldn't justify continuing to pay for my expensive Brooklyn apartment when all the things I loved about living in Brooklyn were no longer available. So here I am, squandering my youth in my parents' spare bedroom in Virginia.
But hey! At least I'm using this time to improve myself! I'm getting into yoga (I've done it twice, three weeks apart), going for runs (every few days I spend 20 minutes walking and compiling a running playlist and then I get tired and sit on a bench listening to the playlist and crying softly), and even learning French (there's a very specific French p*rn site I can't recommend enough).
Moving back in with your parents is a relief in many ways, but it's also hard and weird. I love my parents, something not everyone is lucky enough to be able to say. But even so, readjusting to the way they ran our shared household for 18 years of my life is jarring. I've been out of the house for nearly six years, and in that time I adapted habits and preferences of my own that aren't necessarily compatible with theirs.
For example: I, personally, love to buy an entire rotisserie chicken and eat it with my hands in the bathtub in the dark. Contrastingly, my mother and father prefer that chickens be shared at a table and eaten with cutlery. My father likes to go to the farmer's market as a family every Saturday at 9 AM. I like to sleep until noon and then emerge into the blinding light of day like a rabid raccoon to raid the fridge, bleary-eyed and hissing. My mother prefers the kitchen to be clean at all times. I like to manically bake corn muffins at three in the morning and then fall asleep with batter still on the ceiling. The possibilities for conflict go on and on.
In some ways, since coming home, I find myself regressing into a version of myself that whines, "What's for dinnnnnerrrrr moooommmmmm," demands fruit snacks at the grocery store, and generally craves my parents' attention and approval. Simultaneously, a part of me is desperate to assert my independence and autonomy, suddenly refusing to wear anything but pleather and chain-smoking clove cigarettes just to prove that I am not exactly who they think I am. This veritable frappuccino of feelings and impulses makes for an exhausting mental landscape at the best of times, but pair it with the mental-health-molotov-cocktail of 2020 and you've got yourself a real doozy.
Still, in the midst of a global pandemic, impending culture war, authoritarian takeover, and climate change so drastic that reproduction has become a selfish prospect, it's very comforting to hear my mother's absurdly loud laugh in the evenings as she watches TV in her recliner. Even as my world seems to be coming untethered around me, at least I can count on my dad coming outside to watch me pull the car into the driveway every single time I come home, as he always has. Despite the fog of uncertainty that continues to thicken around the rest of my life, at least my parents still shout "I love you" up the stairs before they go to bed.
While economic strife has surely driven the majority of young people back to their parents' homes, I think there is also something to be said for the irreplaceable comfort of the people or person who raised you. Even through the arguments, irritants, and inevitable differences in opinion that come part-and-parcel with living at home as an adult, moving home also feels like placating some animalistic instinct to return to the beginning, to gather the pack around you and hunker down when tragedy strikes.
And make no mistake: What we're living through now is a cultural, social, and political reckoning that is just as dire and life-or-death as every other major reckoning in the history of humankind. Of course you aren't doing well. Of course you went home.
This moment in time is also necessary. We had to collectively wake up to the truth of racial inequality, environmental devastation, and socio-political corruption at some point, but that doesn't make this period of inevitable rousing any more comfortable. That doesn't make being forced to go home suck any less. That doesn't make the lives lost to COVID-19 or the lives destroyed by wildfires any less tragic. But still, as we fight to make a better world, allow yourself some time to rest and grieve.
Listen to your dad's bad opinions about capitalism and your mom's adoration of Obama and remind yourself that no one has all the answers (not even you, even though you follow several socialist philosophy Instagram accounts). Consider that your parents are just as scared as you are and that they're also doing their best, just like you are. Hang up a poster in your room that makes you feel like yourself and try to (safely) see people your own age frequently, but don't squander this time with your parents, either.
If you're lucky enough to be back home (whatever that looks like for you) with people you feel safe with and with whom you have a relatively healthy relationship, try to think of this as a chance to get to know the people who raised you in a new light. Continue to do the work to make the world a better place for everyone, but consider that maybe some days, the work isn't about doom-scrolling through Twitter or angrily sharing posts to your Instagram story. Maybe some days that simply looks like sitting down with your mom and a cup of coffee.
They don't need our thanks, they need us to continue containing the spread of the coronavirus
In honor of National Nurses Day, Donald Trump invited a group of nurses to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to thank them for their dedicated service to their patients and for the sacrifices they've made in this difficult time.
This comes the day after Trump referred to reopening the country and the "Yankee stadium of death" that will result (a gross understatement of actual projections).
Meanwhile the hashtags #NationalNursesDay and #ThankYouNurses have been trending on Twitter with messages of gratitude. It's the literal least we can do as a nation to acknowledge the crucial role of the people who are at the front lines of fighting a deadly pandemic. Of course, if we wanted to a little bit more for them—just a little bit to honor the people we love to call heroes—we would listen to their desperate pleas for more help and more caution. We would try not to turn their hospitals into living hells.
It’s #NationalNursesDay! Nurses have been essential in taking care of patients during the #COVID19 pandemic. Today,… https://t.co/9dhdJiyIjb— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@Department of Defense 🇺🇸)1588759200.0
Just last week National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the US, issued a statement in opposition to the push to "reopen the country." They insist that we aren't ready and call for significant improvements to hospital safety standards and to the level of personal protective equipment provided, "Otherwise, hospitals will continue to be places that spread infection, and nurses and health care workers will continue to get sick and sidelined, die, and be unable to care for the next wave of patients." They also call on President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act in order to produce necessary equipment. He could do so at any time but has so far deferred to private industry and friendly businesses instead.
The statement goes on to address the real economic hardships that are driving much of the push to reopen and advocates for a set of solutions that would prioritize the collective well-being and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system: "People in America must have enhanced unemployment benefits and paid sick time and family leave; food security; housing; healthcare; and other social supports for people who are unemployed or unable to work … we can organize our society in ways that are beneficial to everyone, as opposed to a handful of billionaires."
It's honestly the least that we as a nation should be doing as the devastating flaws in our system are laid bare by this crisis, but at the state and federal level we continue to opt instead for the least we can do—which is next to nothing.
'Re-Opening America Now is A Slap in the Face to Healthcare Workers' https://t.co/6suKewGxUX #NationalNursesDay https://t.co/xFoIJrqbkj— John Pavlovitz (@John Pavlovitz)1588766640.0
Luke Adams, one of the nurses being honored, traveled from Pennsylvania to New York City to provide much needed help for the city's overwhelmed healthcare system. He slept in his car for days until a local family took him into their home. It's a nice story, and Adams represents the kind of noble sacrifice that good and caring people make in times of unavoidable crisis. But if we accept—as the Trump administration, business leaders, and right-wing pundits continue to insist—that a massive increase in COVID-19 deaths is an acceptable downside to boosting the economy, then we are thrusting that crisis upon healthcare workers and forcing them to make those sacrifices against their will.
While we all seem to have accepted the idea that we've made it past the worst of the pandemic, the reality is that the death toll has barely begun to plateau in most of the country. We are nowhere near the federally recommended guidelines for reopening—14 days of steadily declining cases—and as we continue to pursue an agenda of accelerating economic recovery ahead of any reasonable schedule, we are ensuring that the nurses we are thanking and honoring today will face horrific, traumatizing conditions in the weeks and months ahead.
Already coronavirus deaths in the US outnumber the American soldiers who died in the entirety of the Vietnam war, and the people on the frontlines will likewise carry the psychological damage of the devastation that we are containing to our hospitals—while we push for a return to offices, nail salons, and restaurants as though everything is normal.
This beautiful warrior in the middle has been one of my dearest friends for 30 years. #ThankYouNurses… https://t.co/dyK6kgEAEY— Marie 🆘🗽🌊 🦅 #TheOnlyWayThroughIsBLUE (@Marie 🆘🗽🌊 🦅 #TheOnlyWayThroughIsBLUE)1588751420.0
Here's how far we are from normal: There isn't even enough time to clean rooms as new patients are moved in to replace the dead. Patients are dying in hallways and overflow tents. Nurses and doctors are forced to choose whose life is worth saving while refrigerated trucks are shipped in to store the bodies before they're sent to mass graves. As one doctor in New Orleans put it, "We are in the valley of the shadow of death right now."
These are not experiences that anyone will have an easy time moving on from. In some places it has started to get better, but the worst is ahead if we reopen. They are risking their lives and destroying their mental health for us, and we are telling them it's not enough—that we are fine with making the problem worse for the sake of our comfort.
The voices of the wealthy, the bored, and the ignorant rise up as one to say, "Do more. We want to go back to work, to send our kids back to school, to go golfing again. We want to get back to our lives and back to getting rich on oil stocks and the labor of underpaid workers. If that means you need to enter the next ring of hell, then that's a sacrifice you're just going to have to make."
We can't keep thrusting nurses, doctors, hospital staff into dangerous, traumatic circumstances rather than making necessary, humane changes to the structure of our society. If people can't pay for rent or food right now, then we should provide for them—not push them back to work. We can afford it. We have billionaires who can pay for it. That's the value of being the richest nation in history—of living in a society that produces so much abundance. But we prefer to throw sickness and death at nurses with a patronizing, "Thanks, guys! You're the real heroes."
I don't know who drew this, but this speaks louder than words. #ThankYouNurses #nationalnursesday https://t.co/Kl06ftEYv6— Justin Miner (@Justin Miner)1588759793.0
Enough. We aren't allowed to call these people heroes, or to perform these shows of superficial gratitude, if we want to continue treating them as fodder in a war against minority communities and modest social reforms. We need to give them what they need—what they're asking for—and stop forcing them to sacrifice at the altar of heartless consumption.
They've given us enough. It's time for us to give back.
Whether he knows it or not, that is the effect of his rhetoric
In recent days protestors have gathered in Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina to call on state officials to end social distancing and shelter-at-home requirements.
It's understandable. The economy is suffering under the strain of the COVID-19 quarantine. It has decimated the stock market and resulted in an unprecedented spike in unemployment, and people want to get back to their lives. They want to reopen the country, and so does President Trump—whose ardent supporters have been among the most vocal and visible protestors. He's worried that if this situation continues on his watch, the economic damage may hurt his chances at re-election, as businesses small and large suffer losses that threaten their very survival. Leaving aside the fact that reopening too early will result in worse economic damage, there is another group that doesn't seem to concern him as much and whose survival actually depends on continuing the quarantine: People. Hundreds of thousands of people.
So when Donald Trump was suggesting that "large sections of the country" could re-open for Easter, it was cause for concern. But with the impact of the pandemic still far from its terrifying peak in hotspots like New York city, it seemed likely that Donald Trump would back off his overly-optimistic stance—and he did.
That's often how things work with Donald Trump. He will make a show of how tough and no-nonsense he is with some dramatic posturing that seems to fly in the face of the experts and will then be cowed by behind-the-scenes efforts to make him see reason. Unfortunately for the country, most of his followers are not similarly attended to by an entourage of people trying desperately to steer them away from catastrophic idiocy. So now that Easter has come and gone and Donald Trump is continuing to hint that he may soon reopen the country—maybe even against the wishes of governors in individual states—chaos was bound to ensue.
While some of the protesters have remained in their cars—honking their horns and blocking the passage of at least one ambulance—others crowded together to scream their rejection of science in one proud voice and one shared cloud of breath.
Chants of â��recall Whitmer,â�� â��USAâ�� and â��lock her upâ�� outside Michigan Capitol. #OperationGridlock https://t.co/7Q7niiNFUF— Malachi Barrett (@Malachi Barrett)1586967874.0
For Donald Trump, the political effect of his latest hints and ambiguous comments about wanting to reopen the country and authorizing governors "to implement ... a very powerful reopening plan" while telling them, "You're going to call your own shots," is that he can have his cake and eat it too. While taking no direct measures to reopen the country amid continued medical advice to extend restrictions, he can still communicate to stir-crazy and cash-strapped supporters that he's doing everything he can for them and that maybe they should talk to their governors.
And that's just what they've been doing. In Michigan—where Operation Gridlock was so effective that even emergency vehicles couldn't get through—protestors directed their frustration at Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, with chants of "Recall Whitmer" and "Lock her up." In North Carolina, at the ReopenNC protest, more than 100 angry citizens assembled to protest Governor Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order and to spread conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 death toll is being inflated—though the opposite is true.
This looks like a still from a horror movie. It's not. It's yesterday outside the Ohio Statehouse. Incredible shotâ�¦ https://t.co/eaQ3n6c8fI— Shawn Mitchell (@Shawn Mitchell)1586883247.0
In Ohio the scene was particularly disturbing, with dozens of protestors gathering at the statehouse in Columbus with Guy Fawkes masks, Trump hats, and signs reading "This is tyranny," and "Quarantine the sick not the Contitution [sic]." Eventually a group pressed close together against the locked glass doors to shout their feelings with no concern for social distancing.
What these people need is financial assistance that isn't delayed by politics or targeted at millionaires and massive corporations, as well as reassurance that the current approach is necessary and effective—that our leaders are unified in following the guidance of health experts. What they get instead, from Trump and top Conservative voices, is constant waffling and hedging about the cost to the economy and tacit endorsement of these dangerous protests.
Important to remember that #Covid-19 epidemic control measures may only delay cases, not prevent. However, this helâ�¦ https://t.co/vhIVsvMt3Q— Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH (@Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH)1582868853.0
Just as he has had every opportunity to decry violence done in his name, Donald Trump could end these protests. If he were open and honest about the fragility of our hospital system and our country's best hope of getting through this crisis intact, then he could quell much of this unrest and dispel false narratives equating this virus to the flu or car accidents. Instead he feigns careful consideration while effectively encouraging defiance that will inevitably result in more infections and more death.
Stay home and stay safe.
How to save the earth while in quarantine.
Are you angry about the current state of the world and how COVID-19 is being handled by elected officials? Just wait until you hear about how they're handling the Earth.
This month, the Environmental Protection Agency basically late night FaceTimed all of the major corporations and oil companies in the United States and said, "Hey guys, I know this whole quarantine thing is rea–lly harshing your unlimited profit vibe, so here's a free pass to just like, pollute as much as you want–as a treat." Because the country is so wrapped up in navigating this corona chaos, the Trump administration has begun quietly undoing decades of protections against wide range environmental degradation without consequences. This is SUPER bad news, because not only does pollution worsen public health substantially, it also accelerates climate change, which is the chronic illness underlying coronavirus's acute symptoms.
Climate change is complicated. It's tied into pretty much every system of oppression you can imagine, and its sneaky nature proves hard to communicate because it affects communities in ways that aren't usually overt. There is no global warming mascot, no fire breathing antagonist that clomps up and down your neighborhood screaming, "THE END IS NIGH!" Rather, it shows up disguised as increased respiratory and water-born illnesses, reduced crop yield, and displaced refugees crossing borders— things that belong to other departments in the state house who are much more worried about the here and now than the then and there. Sometimes climate change declares itself like a rude dinner guest: barraging the world with floods, hurricanes, and fires. But as both the US president and the Prime Minister of Australia have attested, that's, like, totally unrelated—except it couldn't be more related.
So, how do we fight this beast with 1,000 heads? Where do we even start? And how the f*ck are we supposed to get anything done when there's a motherf**king GLOBAL PANDEMIC actively ruining all of our lives?
Here is some good news. One: We're all stuck at home, which gives us a lot of time to mess around on TikTok, but it also gives us a lot of time to learn something new. Two: it's Earth Month, which means that every environmental organization is running at 100mph trying to pump out as much radicalized educational content as possible. This is a very specific intersection in history in which you now have both the time and resources to go from a generally freaked out layperson to a radicalized and prepared activist. Knowledge is power, and if you know where to look, the Internet is just teeming with knowledge.
So, as you heat up that fourth box of Mac & Cheese, here are some ways you can learn to dismantle oppressive structures and tear down the establishment without even brushing your teeth.
Congratulations! You opened a book today after staring at it for 2 weeks. Bonus points if it's written by a person with the first name Naomi.
1. This Changes Everything - Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein has been researching the environment since way before it was "cool" and "sexy" to care about the Earth. This book examines the way that major corporations just literally vomit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere without nearly enough measurement or regulation.
2. Merchants of Doubt - Naomi Oreskes
This book shows how the same guys that affected public opinion on cigarettes and health way back when are the same guys who are spewing misinformation about the climate crisis. This book will show you that climate change needs a public relations specialist just as much as any of the Kardashians.
3. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal - Naomi Klein
As our world starts to look like the meme of that dog saying, "This is fine," Naomi Klein delineates how the Green New Deal has the opportunity not only to save our planet, but the livelihoods of the people that inhabit it.
If you're going to be laying in bed in a half-dissociative state, you may as well be learning something. Here are some documentaries that simultaneously ruined my life and radicalized me to make change.
1. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Ya boi, Al Gore, is BACK to remind us that change is possible and that it starts with us.
2. Chasing Coral
Chasing Coral | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix www.youtube.com
I watched this movie while I was working at an aquarium and cried my way through the rest of my internship. This movie features childhood dreams, party boats, and a school bus-turned-education-mobile.
3. Before the Flood
Before the Flood Official Trailer #1 (2016) Leonardo DiCaprio Documentary Movie HD www.youtube.com
This is the movie that made me give up red meat and frat boys. Mostly red meat. Thanks Leo.
4. A Message From the Future
A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez www.youtube.com
This is a short video that explains what the future looks like with a Green New Deal. It may be due to the beautiful stop-motion painting that makes up the film, but if you ask me, the future looks BANGIN'.
5. Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich - Trailer www.youtube.com
THIS IS THE PINNACLE OF ECOFEMINIST CINEMA. JULIA ROBERTS IS A JUSTICE-SEEKING, LEOPARD PRINT-WEARING QUEEN.
Joining a climate org helps makes the fight for the planet feel WAY less lonely and WAY more possible. Here's a list of climate orgs with local chapters across the U.S./World.
"Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse."
"WE ARE SUNRISE. We're building an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process."
"Today, as Climate Reality, we're a diverse group of passionate individuals who've come together to solve the greatest challenge of our time. We are activists, cultural leaders, organizers, scientists, and storytellers committed to building a sustainable future together."
"Zero Hour is a youth-led movement creating entry points, training, and resources for new young activists and organizers (and adults who support our vision) wanting to take concrete action around climate change."
"CCL empowers everyday people to work together on climate change solutions. Our supporters are organized in more than 400 local chapters across the United States. Together we're building support in Congress for a national bipartisan solution to climate change."
"#FridaysForFuture is a movement that began in August 2018, after 15 years old Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every schoolday for three weeks, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis."
"The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone's right to a healthy world."
Sure, you could attend a zoom training on how to increase email capture. Or, you could attend a zoom training on how to DESTROY CAPITALISM. Your choice.
From their website: "Through this campaign, Zero Hour will educate communities around the country and abroad about the systems of oppression that Zero Hour names as root causes of climate change in our platform, including Capitalism, Racism, Sexism, Colonialism, and how these systems intersect with the climate movement to form climate justice."
From their website: "Right now, as this pandemic sweeps our country, thousands of us are out of school and work, stuck at home. But instead of getting trapped, we're seizing this moment to become the leaders we need. Join us at Sunrise School: an online community where we're building the skills and power we need to confront the crises we currently face. At Sunrise School, you can:
- Build connections with other young people who are freaked out about climate change, the coronavirus, and the state of our world.
- Learn about the crises gripping our society and how to confront them.
- Take action online and with small groups of others in your area while social distancing."
From their website: "As part of the response to coronavirus, Extinction Rebellion UK is offering AloneTogether, a Regenerative Rebellion built around:
- Personal and community wellbeing
- Mutual aid, community resilience, care and outreach
- Actions and mobilisation
- Tell the truth
- Community democracy
We are still connected. We are #AloneTogether."
Now that you've gleaned all of the materials to make you angry, it's time to act. Instead of giving yourself bangs or trying to put on a T-Shirt while doing a handstand, here are some actions you can do to impact the fate of the world.
In this era of "economic uncertainty," the last thing you want to think about is probably your investments, but one of the most powerful ways to bring about a just transition to renewable energy is to divest from fossil fuels. So if you partake in the capitalist crapshoot that is the stock market, it is possible to take any investments you may have had in oil/coal/natural gas and transition them to sustainable industries. An awesome resource for that is right here.
2. Grow Food
During WWII, victory gardens—which were planted in every available plot of land across the U.S.—produced around 40% of the fresh vegetables for the country. Citizens started their own grass-roots movement in the most literal sense of the word, and small-scale farming brought communities together in one of the most uncertain times in modern US history. Flash forward to today, when going to the grocery store feels like stumbling into the gates of Mordor, growing your own food ensures a cheap (read: free) healthy meal and a more intimate relationship to the natural processes that produce it. You could also start composting too, if you really wanted to get crazy. Here's a link to help you grow food from scraps.
3. Contact Elected Officials
Think about how many emails you get from Macy's or Oriental Trading and how annoying they are. Now think about how annoying 50,000 emails about your elected duty to protect the literal earth we live on would be. You can find your local elected officials here.
4. Virtual Strike
WE'RE TAKING TO THE STREETS! AND BY THE STREETS I MEAN OUR LAPTOPS! This year is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a day in which youth (and non-youth!) across the world were planning on flooding public places, disrupting the peace, and demanding that business NOT continue as usual. Now that business is most certainly not continuing as usual, the strikes are taking place virtually–with speakers, trainings and performances from all over the world. The demands remain the same, the delivery is just a little more socially distant. More info here.
Obviously, there are 85,000 other ways to get involved, fight the power, and save the planet. But, hopefully this millennial list will be just enough to open Pandora's sustainably sourced box and send you tumbling into the beautiful, chaotic, brave world of climate justice.
Welcome to the age of digital activism–don't forget to unmute your mic.
Zoom offers us the opportunity to connect with each other, but at a price.
Digital platforms are becoming vehicles for new ways of life during quarantine, offering new methods of loving and working and connecting with people who we can no longer see in person.
In particular, the video platform known as Zoom is quickly becoming integral to many of our quarantine routines. But where did Zoom come from, and is it helping us—or hurting us?
Like everything on the Internet, it's most likely doing a little bit of both. And like everything on the Internet, there's a lot going on behind the scenes.
Zoom was founded in 2011 by Eric Yuan. As of 2019, the company is valued at $16 billion. In the era of quarantine, most classes and meetings have been shifted over to its servers. Family dinners, dates, classes, revolution-planning sessions, intimate events—all have been shifted over to the online world.
Zoom is an oddly universal experience for many of us in quarantine, a strange third party in between our solitude and the buzzing outside world we used to know. A whole social culture is cropping up around it, filling the void left by concerts and bars—things like "Zoom Parties" and "Zoom Dates" are becoming common social activities, and as with all phenomena of the digital age, it's generated a fair amount of memes. ("Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens" is just one of the Facebook groups dedicated to the strange parallel reality that is a Zoom video call).
There are fortunate aspects of Zoom. It's allowed businesses to continue and has kept families connected across continents; it's broadcasted weddings and concerts and rallies. Video conferencing services also vitally allow differently-abled people to participate in events they couldn't have attended otherwise.
But there's a darker undercurrent to all this Zooming. The problem with the Internet is that nothing is ever really private. In some part of our mind, we must know this. We know that everything we post on the Internet will live somewhere forever, impossible to scrub away. We know that the firewalls intended to block hackers are just as thin as a few lines of code, as easy to break as a windowpane. Yet now, many of us have no choice but to burn our data at the altar of the web, and to face the consequences that may come.
Zoom-Bombers Inundate Synagogues, Classrooms, and Meditations with Racist Torments
In March, a Massachusetts teacher was in the middle of a Zoom class when suddenly she found her lesson interrupted by a string of vile profanities. The interloper also shouted her home address. In another Massachusetts-based case, another trespasser invaded a Zoom meeting and displayed swastika tattoos on camera.
Cases of so-called "Zoom-bombing" have grown so common—and the attacks are sometimes so heinous and malicious—that the FBI's Boston Division issued a formal warning on March 30, 2020. "As large numbers of people turn to video-teleconferencing (VTC) platforms to stay connected in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, reports of VTC hijacking (also called 'Zoom-bombing') are emerging nationwide," their website reads. "The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language."
This phenomenon is certainly not relegated to Massachusetts. "Zoom-bombing" (or invading a Zoom call) may seem like just another form of trolling, but so far, many Zoom-bombers have delivered racist, hateful invectives during their intrusions onto video calls.
Also near the end of March, an online synagogue service was hijacked by racist accounts, who filled the Zoom group chat with "vile abuse" and anti-Semitic sentiments, according to the rabbi.
"It is deeply upsetting that at such a difficult period we are faced with additional challenges like these. We will be keeping the security of our online provision under review through the weeks ahead," stated the rabbi.
According to the Los Angeles Times, some University of Southern California classrooms have been Zoom-bombed with "racist taunts and porn." The stories go on and on. Morgan Elise Johnson's virtual morning meditation sessions were interrupted with graphic sexual material, which devolved into racist taunts when she tried to mute the hackers.
"I just exited out right away," Johnson said. "For it to be at a moment where we were seeking community and seeking collective calm … it really cut through my spirit and affected me in a very visceral way." Johnson's digital media company, the Triibe, has moved its meditations to Instagram live.
You can find plenty of additional examples of Zoom-bombs on TikTok and YouTube, as many gleeful hackers have uploaded footage of themselves interrupting various meetings. And if you're so inclined, you yourself can easily find information about how to hack Zoom calls yourself. On April 2, ZDNet reported that there are now 30 Discord channels related to Zoom hacking, at least three subreddits—two of which have been banned—and many Twitter accounts broadcasting Zoom codes.
If you're tracing Zoom-bombing to its origins, the online text and voice messaging server Discord is the place where it all began. Many of the hackers are less than subtle, often posting requests for hacks. "Can anybody troll my science class at 9 15," wrote one user in one of Discord's forums, according to pcmag.com. Another user linked to a since-deleted YouTube video that showed someone sharing photos of the Ku Klux Klan to an Alcoholics Anonymous Zoom meeting. The Discord forums are also full of information about hacking Facebook livestreams and Google Hangouts calls.
While many online hackers are seeking lucrative gains like credit card numbers, Zoom hackers seem to be motivated purely by a desire for mischief and chaos–as well as racism. Essentially, they're Internet trolls, AKA the scourge of the virtual earth. But the maliciousness of these racist attacks, which are hate speech through-and-through, can't be underestimated or taken lightly.
How to Protect Your Zoom Account
There are ways to protect yourself against the trolls. pcmag.com recommends creating your own individual meeting ID rather than using the one Zoom assigns to you. They also recommend creating a waiting room so the meeting organizer can choose who to let in, an option that can be found under "account settings," and requiring a password when scheduling new meetings, which can also be found in the account settings under "Schedule Meeting." When all participants arrive, you can "lock" the meeting by clicking "Participants" at the bottom of the screen window.
In addition, The Verge recommends that users disable the screen-sharing feature. Other sites advise turning "attention tracking" off—which can prevent call organizers from seeing whether you're looking at other tabs during your meeting—and you can use a virtual background to disguise your living space.
The Anti-Defamation League has synthesized all this into a list of handy tips, all of which are explained in detail on its website.
Before the meeting:
- — Disable autosaving chats
- — Disable file transfer
- — Disable screen sharing for non-hosts
- — Disable remote control
- — Disable annotations
- — Use per-meeting ID, not personal ID
- — Disable "Join Before Host"
- — Enable "Waiting Room"
During the meeting:
- — Assign at least two co-hosts
- — Mute all participants
- — Lock the meeting, if all attendees are present
If you are Zoom bombed:
- — Remove problematic users and disable their ability to rejoin when asked
- — Lock the meeting to prevent additional Zoom bombing
Zoom itself has faced scrutiny and questions for quite a while, and its problems extend beyond a vulnerability to hacks. "Things you just would like to have in a chat and video application — strong encryption, strong privacy controls, strong security — just seem to be completely missing," said Patrick Wardle, a security researcher who previously worked at the National Security Agency, per NPR. Wardle discovered a flaw in Zoom's code that could allow hackers to watch video participants through a webcam, a problem Zoom says it has fixed.
And of course, like most big tech companies, Zoom is in cahoots to the evil mastermind behind tech's greatest data suck—Facebook.
Zoom Has Been Quietly Sharing Data with Facebook
Many websites use Facebook's software to enhance and facilitate their own programs. For its part, Zoom immediately connects to Facebook's Graph API app the moment it opens, which immediately places data in the hands of Facebook's developers, according to Motherboard. The app lets Facebook know the time, date, and locations of every zoom call and additional device information. The problem is that Zoom never asked its users for their permission to sell data to Mark Zuckerberg.
Following the Motherboard report, a California Zoom user sued the company for failing to "properly safeguard the personal information of the increasing millions of users," arguing that Zoom is violating California's Unfair Competition Law, Consumers Legal Remedies Act and the Consumer Privacy Act. "The unique advertising identifier allows companies to target the user with advertisements," reads the lawsuit. "This information is sent to Facebook by Zoom regardless of whether the user has an account with Facebook."
In response, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan published a blog post in which he stated, "Our customers' privacy is incredibly important to us, and therefore we decided to remove the Facebook SDK in our iOS client and have reconfigured the feature so that users will still be able to log in with Facebook via their browser." Still, users are questioning whether one CEO's word is enough.
There are other eerie realities about Zoom. For example, call organizers have more power than we think. Using certain settings (which can all be turned off), hosts can read their call participants' messages and can see whether attendees clicked away from the call.
Based on its own technical white paper, Zoom falsely marketed one of its features as making meetings "end-to-end en… https://t.co/Lh1KLYBidT— WIRED (@WIRED)1585936146.0
The contents of thousands of video calls made on the app Zoom were exposed on the open web, and easily available vi… https://t.co/5s1QYRanG2— Xeni Jardin, #stayathome (@Xeni Jardin, #stayathome)1585933927.0
Certainly in the future, more dark truths will emerge about Zoom. For now, many tech companies are advising users not to say or do anything on Zoom that they wouldn't want to be broadcast to the public. Of course, Zoom is probably no more or less safe than the rest of the Internet, a thought that could be comforting or nightmarish depending on what you've been up to online.
A Much Larger Problem: The Internet Is Not a Safe Space
The prospect of a Zoom hack or data breach is scary, and it's absolutely not what any of us want to worry about during these unstable quarantined times. Yet it also reveals a dark truth about the Internet: nothing is safe online—and pretty much everything we post is being used to sell us things. Unless you're a super-famous person or the unlucky target of a bored troll, you should be less afraid that someone will go through your Google search history and more afraid of what's happening to all the times you put in your home address and email on a website's pop-up questionnaire.
Zoom's encryption may be shoddy, but it's certainly not the only site that's selling your data to Google, Facebook, and their cohort of advertising companies. In fact, every ad you see is based on your web search history, demographics, location, and other factors individual to you.
Data—which includes but is not limited to the numbers, emails, and information you put in on all those online forms—is one of the most valuable commodities of the Internet age. Every time we do anything online, or carry our phones anywhere, someone is collecting data, and typically that data is filtered into massive data-collection artificial intelligence programs that synthesize data and use it to sell products.
"We are already becoming tiny chips inside a giant system that nobody really understands," writes historian Yuval Noah Harari. "Every day I absorb countless data bits through emails, phone calls and articles; process the data; and transmit back new bits through more emails, phone calls and articles."
And what will happen to all this data? It's hard to say—but conspiracies are thriving. "Dataists believe in the invisible hand of the dataflow. As the global data-processing system becomes all-knowing and all-powerful, so connecting to the system becomes the source of all meaning," adds Harari. "Dataists further believe that given enough biometric data and computing power, this all-encompassing system could understand humans much better than we understand ourselves. Once that happens, humans will lose their authority, and humanist practices such as democratic elections will become as obsolete as rain dances and flint knives."
That might be extreme, but perhaps not. During this coronavirus quarantine, we will all be pouring much more information onto the Internet than ever before, providing the Internet with intimate knowledge of our every move—more than enough to create pretty accurate digital representations of our own minds. Whoever finds out the best way to harness and sell this data (be it an AI program, a human, or Elon Musk and Grimes' cyborgian child) may just be our new god.
Widespread rent strikes may be the best way to help struggling families in an unprecedented crisis
Yesterday the rent was due for millions of Americans for the first time since they were put under quarantine.
We are being told to remain indoors as much as possible and to maintain a safe distance from other people. For some of us, that means working from home. For millions of others, it means they can't work at all. On top of that, the quarantine is causing steep drops in revenue for most sectors of the economy, which means that even a lot of people who can work remotely are being laid off and losing their employer-provided health insurance amid a deadly pandemic. The result is that, for millions of people, paying the rent would require foregoing food or other basic necessities. For others, paying the rent isn't even on the table.
In just the last week, 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance. That doubled the new record set the week before, making for a total of 10 million newly unemployed Americans in a span of two weeks—and that doesn't even include employees whose hours have been drastically cut or workers removed from the so-called gig economy.
Fortunately, there are some understanding landlords who are offering massively reduced or eliminated rent payments. Others, sadly, are issuing statements threatening tenants with eviction if they don't pay, or insisting that any payments that are deferred will have to be paid in full when the crisis is resolved—despite the obvious fact that the economy is never going to provide back-wages for people who are newly out of work.
My landlord said he sympathized with my roommates and I losing our jobs. He then suggested we move out now since we… https://t.co/esQNvjiZb5— gabi (@gabi)1585271520.0
Meanwhile, the government payments that are supposed to help people through these difficult times are being given out based on 2018 tax returns—so if you made a lot of money that year but are flat broke now, you're out of luck. Worse still, if you aren't already signed up to receive direct deposits from the IRS, your check could take up to four months to arrive. Coupled with a broad lack of necessary protections from eviction and foreclosure, the whole situation is looking grim.
With all this going on, a lot of people are not going to be able to pay their rent. The idea that all those people should face eviction or be buried in debt as a result is absurd—who would move into all those empty apartments at a time like this, anyway? While landlords may want to believe that they can be insulated from the economic effects of quarantine, that's just not how this is going to work.
Obviously, many landlords have mortgages that need to be paid—the fact that a mortgage freeze has not already been implemented throughout the country is shameful. But in the case of rental properties, that kind of relief is not nearly as urgent as the need for all housed people to keep their homes—and for adequate housing to be provided to the homeless. Landlords must be made to see that they have a duty to relieve some of the burden on their tenants. Even those of us who are able to pay rent: Should we?
So the company we pay our rent to sent out a very condescending mass email to all tenants about paying rent and for… https://t.co/5UY367ZXZ9— Nai (@Nai)1585711758.0
Each situation is unique. Are you renting a few rooms in a nice old couple's house and still getting your usual paycheck? If so, you should probably give them rent. But if you are living in a large apartment complex and receiving threatening mass-emails from the management company, then you should talk to your fellow tenants and—even if you're able to pay—consider participating in a rent strike. Likewise, if you are struggling to make payments and feel like you're alone, reach out to your fellow tenants. Find out if they're struggling too, or if they're willing to stand with you.
You may feel it's too late to start this approach, but April 1st was just the beginning. In situations where one person has power over a large group of people—as in employee-employer and tenant-landlord relationships—collective action is necessary to correct that imbalance. Any individual tenant could easily be intimidated by a hard-nosed landlord or a large management company, but if all the tenants are able to communicate—either over the phone, through email, or in person from a safe distance—and coordinate their action, they have the power to negotiate terms. Organizations like the Los Angeles Tenants Union, with the "Food Not Rent" campaign, are helping in that effort, but as individuals we also need to step up.
Landlords, as well as the banks that collect their mortgage payments, must all be made aware that they can't bully working people into giving up more than they can afford right now. This is not business as usual. This is a crisis. Solidarity among renters, workers, and everyone at the bottom of the food chain will be necessary if the people with the power in this country are going to be prevented from pushing all the negative consequences downstream. If that means rent strikes, sick outs, appropriation of empty houses for the homeless, then that's what we'll have to do.
As much as we are isolated in this quarantine, we have to find ways to come together and support one another if we're going to get through this.
You must be very concerned about what your favorite companies are doing during this global crisis.
For most Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned life as we know it upside down.
From school and restaurant closures to quarantines and social distancing, the American people are largely waking up to the fragility of our social systems. But for corporations, and especially marketing professionals, a new art form has emerged from amidst the chaos—the COVID-19 e-mail.
The COVID-19 e-mail, as an ideological concept, is quite simple. If major corporations are your friends, as American culture has attempted to establish time and time again, it follows that you must be very concerned about what they're doing during this global crisis. Sure, you might be a bit worried about how to feed your children when your paychecks aren't coming in and the schools are closed, but how could you sleep at night without knowing that Chipotle is safe? And yes, while it sucks that your grandpa might die without you even being able to enter his room for fear of spreading the virus to others, imagine how much more it would suck if GameStop didn't let you know what they were up to during these perilous times?
But fear not. All of your favorite corporations are right there in your e-mail inbox, detailing exactly what they're doing to prevent the coronavirus from spreading (short of shutting down while continuing to properly pay their employees).
While many Chipotle employees were upset that Chipotle was continuing to disregard sick leave laws even after the pandemic had already reached New York, Chipotle kindly assured us that their protocols were already "industry-leading." So even though it's scary that your significant other is coming down with an awful cough, hopefully knowing that Chipotle already supplied Purell sanitizer to their employees can take a hefty weight off your shoulders.
As an asthmatic, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that learning about GameStop's newly assembled "internal COVID-19 taskforce dedicated solely to this issue" is like aloe to the lingering burn of realizing that my compromised immune system makes dying a whole lot more likely. There's only so much that we can do to protect ourselves, so it's comforting to know that GameStop's "taskforce" is watching over everyone.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Indeed, this deadly pandemic has arrived in the middle of tax season, so it makes sense that many of us have been waiting on pins and needles to hear from our good pal TurboTax. Happily, they are continuing to "closely monitor, assess and respond to this situation" and, by all accounts, are planning to stay functional as a business with products that exist entirely online. I was upset enough about my brother being homeless after his out-of-state college dorm closed down, so it's great to know that at least TurboTax has their sh*t together.
Even while we're socially isolated, it's incredibly important for us to maintain our sense of community. After all, we're still a social species. Sadly, many of our human friends have been too ill or preoccupied with their lives falling apart to spend hours chatting online. There are few feelings quite as painful as wishing you could help the people you care about but knowing that doing so very well might make everything a whole lot worse. Free People understands this. "Whether you have questions about a pending order or shipment, where to find a coveted dress, or are simply looking for someone to talk to, we are always here for you," they promise. I hope that none of my loved ones die during all of this, but if they do, I'm genuinely grateful to know that Free People is there for me.
There's no reason that being stuck alone in your apartment needs to mean that you can't go all out. That said, if you want to keep your make-up supply stocked through an indefinite period of isolation, you're going to need to hit up Sephora while you still can. Yes, logically a company whose store model revolves around sampling shared display make-up should probably stop that practice for the good of literally everybody at the first sign of a global pandemic. But that's why Sephora wants you to know that they are "cleaning all display testers with disinfectant multiple times per day and replacing as needed." Who would Sephora be if not your fun, trendy friend who lives life on the wild side. If looking good means spreading just a little bit of coronavirus, so be it.
Personal story: One time before human society started imploding, my girlfriend and I were walking around New York City and had a sudden craving for cookies. A quick Yelp search directed us to a nearby cookie shop called Schmackary's. While checking out, I entered my e-mail for their reward point system or something, thinking that if the cookies were good, I might come back at some point. I do live in New York, after all. In truth, I don't crave cookies often and, in time, I forgot about Schmackary's. But that's the thing about long lost friends; even after years, they were still a part of your life, and sometimes it's nice to have the peace of mind that, while the sky falls down around you, an old friend is doing okay. Even as I run out of food and worry about paying my rent, even as my loved ones fall ill around me, even as paranoia sets in, my heart is filled with joy thinking about how Schmackary's is going "above and beyond in order keep our bakery safe and clean."