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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: The ethics of true crime obsession, as told by a mother directly impacted by it

Settle down in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. CrimeCon

A mother whose son was murdered attends a true crime convention and finds that she is an unwitting celebrity. An excellent and gutting read about the ethics of the subject which so many people are obsessed with. 

(The New York Times, approx 7 mins reading time)

As word of her son’s case spread via a broad network of YouTube channels, TikTok personalities and Facebook groups, true crime sleuths were captivated by the Idaho mystery, one where a killer had managed to fatally stab four people on two floors of a rental home before exiting into the night. With no suspects emerging and police pleading for tips, thousands of online sleuths went to work.

They uploaded maps of the neighborhood and floor plans of the house, and analyzed photos, including one that some thought revealed blood seeping down its outer walls. They scoured social media interactions, freeze-framing a Twitch livestream video that showed two of the victims stopping at a food truck hours before they were killed. They proposed a series of theories: that an ex-boyfriend had committed the crime, or a roommate of the victims, or a neighbor who had been doing interviews, or a man in a hoodie who was seen in the crowd in the Twitch video.

2. The Swiftie experience

chicago-usa-03rd-june-2023-taylor-swift-performs-during-opening-night-of-the-chicago-eras-tour-at-soldier-field-on-june-2-2023-in-chicago-credit-shanna-madisonchicago-tribunetnsalamy-live-n Taylor Swift performing on the opening night of her Eras Tour in Chicago. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Taffy Brodesser-Akner brilliantly describes what she saw at Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and what it means to be a fan.

(The New York Times Magazine, approx 37 mins reading time)

The organizing principle of the Eras Tour is that it is a celebration of Taylor Swift’s own eras — how, at 33, she has already cycled through so many periods of identity on her public journey from girl to woman. Her life story is one that you could read about in the reams of magazine profiles that have been written about her over the years, one that even the least Swift-engaged young women across at least two generations have learned by sheer internet use and osmosis: She grew up on a Christmas-tree farm in Wyomissing, Pa., where she would listen to Shania Twain and Faith Hill and LeAnn Rimes and watch VH1’s “Behind the Music” and record demo tapes to send to Nashville. At 12, she sang the national anthem at a 76ers game. Soon after, she called her friends to see if they wanted to go shopping with her, but they all said they were busy. So her mother took her to the mall instead, and there were her friends, hanging out together. Her mother turned her around and took her to a different mall, but you can imagine that Taylor Swift died a little that day, and what she was reborn as was someone for whom there was not enough love and approval in the whole world. She would write a song about the experience, and she would feel better. She would realize that this new person she had become was someone whose best work would come from her reactions to the world, her urgent metabolization of her pain into poetry.

3. Israel-Palestine

A powerful analysis about the how we might look at the ongoing conflict. 

(Vox, approx 12 mins reading time)

Currently, the Israeli government is preparing a ground invasion of Gaza that threatens to come with unimaginable human costs. The callousness with which they are talking about civilian deaths in Gaza is appalling. An anonymous Israeli official told Israeli reporter Alon Ben David that their response would turn Gaza into “a city of tents.” A parliamentarian from the ruling Likud party said, on national television, that Israel should not concern itself with the safety of any Gazans who “chose” to stay in the Gaza Strip. (With crossings into Egypt and Israel blocked, Gazans could not leave if they wanted.)

This, too, is evil. I do not pretend to know exactly what the right choice is for Israel going forward. But I know that if the Israeli Defense Forces do slaughter civilians indiscriminately, the Israeli government will be committing abuses on moral par with those of Hamas. I also know that justice for Israelis and Palestinians cannot be found through a mode of thinking that says only one kind of life is holy.

4. The mass protest decade

rio-de-janeiro-brazil-demonstrators-take-to-the-streets-in-rio-de-janeiro-on-the-night-of-june-24-2013-to-protest-against-the-governments-massive-spending-on-hosting-the-2014-soccer-world-cup A demonstration in Brazil in 2013. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

From 2010 to 2020, more people took part in street demonstrations around the world than at any other point in human history. However, as Vincent Bevins writes, many of them failed to achieve what they wanted. 

(The Guardian, approx 22 mins reading time)

The protests of the 2010s, like many waves of political revolt before them, were contagious. Hong Kong’s “umbrella movement” was inspired by Occupy Wall Street, which was an attempt to replicate Tahrir Square in Egypt, which was inspired by the uprising in Tunisia. In fact, on the night of 13 June 2013, the crowd in São Paulo erupted into a chant as it was teargassed: “Love is over. Turkey is here!” They were referring to the protests and repression going on at the same time in Istanbul. I put this on Twitter and – in one of my first experiences with the ups and downs of social media – it went viral. Over the next few weeks, I received photos and messages from people in Gezi Park, the site of the Turkish protest, holding signs saying things like “The whole world is São Paulo” and “Turkey and Brazil are one”.

But was that right? Was the whole world really São Paulo? Was it actually correct to affirm that “everywhere is Tahrir”, as an Egyptian slogan had claimed earlier? By taking a truly global approach to the protests of 2010-2020, we can begin to see which factors were common across the many different locations, and which were crucially different. To understand what happened during that decade – and to learn from it – we need to pay attention to both.

5. Ambition-focused parenting

An interesting read about how the pressure to succeed can affect children and why they should look at achievement differently. 

(The Cut, approx 5 mins reading time)

As adults we’ve been reckoning with how we work since the pandemic, yet from speaking with other parents, that same existential shift isn’t making its way down to how we view achievement when it comes to our kids. So much of what we’re told to focus on with kids is based on an ideal of career success that, honestly, doesn’t even exist now, let alone will be true for them in 10 or 20 years. Working in media, I’ve seen it firsthand, having spent the entirety of my career watching my industry crumble. Entire outlets have come and gone, giants of publishing have folded, and any sense of job security was long gone by the time I got my first real job. I’ve lived through countless layoffs and restructuring, buyouts, and new owners, all for fluctuating pay that was often demeaning. The burnout from years of this triggered my own breakup with the kind of ambition that was pushed on me in childhood.

6. The human cost of seafood

An in-depth look at the impact China’s often illegal fishing is having on the world’s seas and fisheries, and the human rights abuses being committed against those who work on its vessels. 

(The New Yorker, approx 43 mins reading time)

In the past few decades, partly in an effort to project its influence abroad, China has dramatically expanded its distant-water fishing fleet. Chinese firms now own or operate terminals in ninety-five foreign ports. China estimates that it has twenty-seven hundred distant-water fishing ships, though this figure does not include vessels in contested waters; public records and satellite imaging suggest that the fleet may be closer to sixty-five hundred ships. (The U.S. and the E.U., by contrast, have fewer than three hundred distant-water fishing vessels each.) Some ships that appear to be fishing vessels press territorial claims in contested waters, including in the South China Sea and around Taiwan. “This may look like a fishing fleet, but, in certain places, it’s also serving military purposes,” Ian Ralby, who runs I.R. Consilium, a maritime-security firm, told me. China’s preëminence at sea has come at a cost. The country is largely unresponsive to international laws, and its fleet is the worst perpetrator of illegal fishing in the world, helping drive species to the brink of extinction. Its ships are also rife with labor trafficking, debt bondage, violence, criminal neglect, and death. “The human-rights abuses on these ships are happening on an industrial and global scale,” Steve Trent, the C.E.O. of the Environmental Justice Foundation, said.


sa-majeste-des-moucheslord-of-the-flies1963real-peter-brook-collection-christophel-two-arts-ltd Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

A longread from 2020 on what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months in the 1960s, and how it was quite different to William Golding’s classic novel The Lord of the Flies.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

The article did not provide any sources. But sometimes all it takes is a stroke of luck. Sifting through a newspaper archive one day, I typed a year incorrectly and there it was. The reference to 1977 turned out to have been a typo. In the 6 October 1966 edition of Australian newspaper The Age, a headline jumped out at me: “Sunday showing for Tongan castaways”. The story concerned six boys who had been found three weeks earlier on a rocky islet south of Tonga, an island group in the Pacific Ocean. The boys had been rescued by an Australian sea captain after being marooned on the island of ‘Ata for more than a year. According to the article, the captain had even got a television station to film a re-enactment of the boys’ adventure.

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