Top 5 Longreads of the Week

PS_0214_Cover.FIX.indd

Here are our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also save them as a Readlist.

1. Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet

Amanda Hess | Pacific Standard | January 6, 2014 | 28 minutes (7,188 words)

Women who are harassed online through social media sites like Twitter and in the comment sections of media sites have found it difficult to seek help from law enforcement agencies:

So women who are harassed online are expected to either get over ourselves or feel flattered in response to the threats made against us. We have the choice to keep quiet or respond “gleefully.”

But no matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment—and the sheer volume of it—has severe implications for women’s status on the Internet. Threats of rape, death, and stalking can overpower our emotional bandwidth, take up our time, and cost us money through legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages. I’ve spent countless hours over the past four years logging the online activity of one particularly committed cyberstalker, just in case. And as the Internet becomes increasingly central to the human experience, the ability of women to live and work freely online will be shaped, and too often limited, by the technology companies that host these threats, the constellation of local and federal law enforcement officers who investigate them, and the popular commentators who dismiss them—all arenas that remain dominated by men, many of whom have little personal understanding of what women face online every day.

More Pacific Standard: “The Prophet” (Helaine Olen, October 2013)

 

2. Creepypasta

Will Wiles | Aeon | December 2013 | 13 minutes (3,300 words)

On the online cultural phenomenon of posting and disseminating horror stories in online forums:

I had unwittingly stumbled into the world of ‘creepypasta’, a widely distributed and leaderless effort to make and share scary stories; in effect, a folk literature of the web. ‘[S]ometimes,’ wrote the American author H P Lovecraft in his essay ‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’ (1927), ‘a curious streak of fancy invades an obscure corner of the very hardest head, so that no amount of rationalisation, reform, or Freudian analysis can quite annul the thrill of the chimney-corner whisper or the lonely wood.’ These days, instead of the campfire, we are gathered around the flickering light of our computer monitors, and such is the internet’s hunger for creepy stories that the stock of ‘authentic’ urban legends was exhausted long ago; now they must be manufactured, in bulk. The uncanny has been crowdsourced.

More Aeon: “Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Grandparents’ Lives” (Samanth Subramanian, October 2013)

 

3. Dear Charlie: Fan Letters to a Troubled Country Music Star

Joe Hagan | Oxford American | January 7, 2014 | 32 minutes (8,114 words)

Joe Hagan stumbles onto old fan mail sent to 1970s country-R&B star Charlie Rich. The fans share their most intimate secrets with a musician who had his own troubled life:

I felt drawn to Charlie Rich. For me, he was part of the landscape of family road trips in the late 1970s, lonely days driving with my parents in a VW van through the muggy Southeast in summer, across Louisiana and Alabama, up to the Carolinas and Virginia, as my father, a Coast Guard officer, moved me and my sisters from one military station to another. In memory, the sun sets in a Polaroid-orange glow over an Interstate horizon as the opening piano rolls of “Behind Closed Doors” come through the radio. Years later, Charlie Rich’s voice seemed to plumb some blue depth in me, a subterranean loneliness. But he was long dead by then and, unlike Tara, I was in thrall to a forgotten singer, left to chase a ghost: Charlie Rich, the tragic soul man whose legacy was largely forgotten after his brief period of fame. He was a major American artist whose life had traced the history of rock & roll, r&b, and soul; the definitive missing link between Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.

More Oxford American: “Long Way Home” (Rosanne Cash, November 2013)

 

4. Last Words

Linda Vaccariello | Cincinnati Magazine | January 2, 2013 | 13 minutes (3,252 words)

Researchers are attempting to identify suicidal people using data gleaned from suicide notes:

A computer databank may sound like a soulless repository for something so personal. But Baker sees it as a place where important remnants of Brian’s life—his words—have a place. Working with a research team at CCHMC, Pestian is looking for clues in language that can help reveal when a person is bound for self-destruction. In the complex, confounding mystery that is suicide, an early detection system like that could be revelatory. “This means the world to me,” says Baker.

More Cincinnati: “The Book of Roma” (July 2013)

 

5. The Hidden Man

Christopher Goffard | Los Angeles Times | December 29, 2013 | 12 minutes (3195 words)

In the fall of 2011, Army Captain Stephen Hill was booed by audience members at a Republican presidential debate for coming forward as a gay soldier and asking the candidates if they would reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The story of what led Hill to that moment:

He learns that Google and YouTube are hosting a nationally televised debate in Orlando, Fla., for the nine Republican presidential candidates. They are accepting questions.

He closes his door. He strips his name and rank from his uniform. He hides his face. He would like to disguise his voice, but he doesn’t have the technology.

I am a gay soldier, and I am currently serving in Iraq, he says to the camera. The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is going to be taking place in six days. Then it will be legal to say, ‘I’m gay, and I’m here.’ I wanted to know what the rights of gay people will be under a presidency of one of you, and if you’ll try to repeal any progress that’s been made for gay people in the military.

He sends it in and waits.

More LA Times: “From Student to Spy, And Back Again” (Louis Sahagun, March 2013)

***

See all our recent Top 5 picks

***

We need your help to get to 5,000 Longreads Members.

Join Longreads now and help us keep going.