Sights, Sounds, and Smells of Elizabethan Theater

Somewhere during my education I picked upon the meme that “Shakespeare’s contemporaries referred to ‘hearing’ a play, not ‘seeing’ a play,” and I regularly trot it out to emphasize how growing up in an auditory culture meant that the average Elizabethan probably got a lot more out of casually attending a Shakespeare play than the average student gets from studying an annotated script. Practically speaking, I encourage students to listen…

The YouTubers who blew the whistle on an anti-vax plot

While rational minds worry about the impact of biased cable TV channels, and as the Delta mutation spreads globally, a mysterious marketing agency is offering to pay social media influencers to post anti-vax disinformation. Mirko normally ignores offers from brands asking him to advertise their products to his more than 1.5 million subscribers. But the sponsorship offer he received in May this year was unlike any other. An influencer marketing…

Journalists should not amplify the ableist biases of untrained sources

Being a cop, lawyer, patriot, protestor, or journalist does not qualify you to diagnose mental illnesses. Journalists are trained to cite credible sources, which would not include citing a random ableist conjecture voiced by a decision-maker or witness. If the source has verifiable knowledge of an actual diagnosis, and the diagnosis is legitimately relevant to the story, that’s a different matter. (Verify or duck.) Avoid unsubstantiated statements from witnesses or…

Vaccine hesitancy morphs into hostility, as opposition to shots hardens

What began as “vaccine hesitancy” has morphed into outright vaccine hostility, as conservatives increasingly attack the White House’s coronavirus message, mischaracterize its vaccination campaign and, more and more, vow to skip the shots altogether. The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful — or perhaps even a government plot — is increasingly an article of faith among supporters of former president Donald Trump, on a par with assertions…

A WWII Propaganda Campaign Popularized the Myth That Carrots Help You See in the Dark

Yet another widely held cultural myth falls to the cold hard power of actual research. During the 1940 Blitzkrieg, the Luftwaffe often struck under the cover of darkness. In order to make it more difficult for the German planes to hit targets, the British government issued citywide blackouts. The Royal Air Force were able to repel the German fighters in part because of the development of a new, secret radar technology. The on-board…

How Nasty Was Nero, Really?

In The New Yorker, Rebecca Reed reports on modern historians’ efforts to rehabilitate the Roman emperor Nero, whose name has become synonymous with corruption. Depictions of Nero as notorious are “based on a source narrative that is partisan,” Thorsten Opper, a curator in the Greek and Roman division of the British Museum, told me recently. The museum has just opened an exhibition that, if not quite aiming to rehabilitate Nero,…