Author: Stephen Elliott

Without and Within, a Fin-de-Siècle Moment

The day after the election, the weather is perfect in New Orleans. The street cleaners have scrubbed Bourbon and the street is looking new and wet. Two older white women stop me to ask if there are any daiquiri places open. “There will be,” I tell them. “It’s only eight in the morning.” The gates are locked at Armstrong Park, so I bicycle down to the river. There are a few people walking near the water. I sit near the boats that have been docked since the outbreak in March, determined to stay away from home for as long as I can hold out. I just got back a couple days ago. I’d been on the campaign trail, interviewing Trump supporters in Arizona and Pennsylvania, my first writing assignment in years. But now I was back to my regular work, trying to make the ends meet. This morning, a washing machine went out. The cleaning lady working on the house next door said she wasn’t feeling well. She’s seven months pregnant and kept holding her …

‘Nobody Likes the Other Guy’: On the Road With Donald Trump’s Diehards

I sent my friend Robert a note that I might not be around when he gets to New Orleans. He’s moving from Kansas to start a new life, arriving November 2nd, the day before the presidential election. I told Robert I had been hearing from some friends that there was going to be armed violence in the streets. These friends are Trump supporters. They work in the housing trade—painters, carpenters, furniture movers. More of them are mixed race than not. A couple are white. The point is, they aren’t media people. They aren’t well-educated, generally. But they’re the main people in my life these days, the people I interact with day to day. They believe things that seem crazy to me. But I spent the last 20 years in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles around well educated, ambitious liberals. And those people aren’t so great either. So when a Trump supporter complains about the racist treatment of Amy Barrett’s children, I understand where they’re coming from. There’s certainly enough racism to go around. …

‘Things You Should Be Aware Of’: A Pandemic Prose Poem

Asymptomatic people are not contagious but pre-symptomatic people are. Most people are pre-symptomatic for one to two days after becoming infected. This, and the first day or two of symptoms, are when they are most contagious. It is 19 times more difficult to transmit the virus outdoors. There are no known cases of re-infection. Epidemiologists say we don’t know if you are immune once you’ve contracted, and recovered from, the disease. But secretly everybody knows you’re immune once you’ve contracted, and recovered from, the disease. You should know that the virus is separate from the disease. A person needs to be exposed to a critical mass of virus to initiate the immune response that is the disease. Presumably everyone has a different threshold for the quantity of viral load required to initiate the disease. More than 98 percent of all deaths from the disease have occurred in people over 44. The more vulnerable you are, the lower the viral load necessary, the more likely you are to catch the disease. In a sick family, the …

Symptoms of Loneliness

I’m a corona believer. I began to panic about two weeks before everything shut down. By panic, I mean I stocked up on food and necessities in case I wasn’t able to go out. I started making all my own meals. Washed my hands constantly and used hand sanitizer when I was outside. I procured face masks while they were still procurable. Just one box. I’m not hoarding. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always bought toilet paper in bulk. I also have reason to believe I might have had COVID-19 already. I was brutally ill in early February, right after traveling to New York and San Francisco. But many people want to believe they’ve already had the disease, and it’s an irresponsible way of thinking. Since I don’t know whether I have or haven’t had the disease, I don’t let it affect my behavior. It could be an excuse to endanger others. Ultimately, I’m less worried about getting the disease than I am about being responsible for someone else’s death. I’ve stopped reading the first-person …

The Man at the Arcade

It was March, 1987, and I was 15 years old. I was in the arcade on Wilson, in Uptown, Chicago, asking for quarters. I’d only recently been released from the mental hospital. I didn’t know where my parents lived. That morning, I’d made my way to the 51st Street Elevated, where I climbed the back of the station onto the platform and caught a train to Loyola. There I met up with some friends. I had new friends at the group home, but I didn’t like them as much as my friends on the North Side. That doesn’t explain how I arrived at the arcade on Wilson, though. Why Wilson, and not Dennis’s place on Clark Street near the 24th District? Maybe I had a meeting with my caseworker at the Department of Children and Family Services office, or something like that. We’re talking 32 years ago. Maybe it wasn’t March. Maybe it was April. I asked a man for a quarter and he said no. The guy kind of sneered at me. He had …

How to Build a Bed

My bedroom is a strange shape. The apartment was added to the house sometime in the last century and the bedroom walls are made of barge board, from the house’s original construction over 200 years ago, when they took apart boats unable to return upstream before the advent of the steam engine. The door to the bedroom was made by opening the wall and allowing it to fold like an accordion. Because of this the door juts into the room, radically interrupting what should be a rectangle. There’s only enough space for a full bed, and I have to squeeze between the bed and the door when I get up in the middle of the night. Most of the space in the room is wasted, and uncomfortable, the way life is sometimes. It seems like the only way the bedroom could work is for the bed to be horizontal, otherwise the space will always seem unintentional, which I suppose it is. I mean, it was intentionally built when they divided the house into two units, …

The Demise of Gawker: An Interview with Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday is the author of Trust Me, I’m Lying and numerous other books about marketing and culture. Holiday dropped out of college at 19, and by age 20 was chief marketing officer for American Apparel. His advisory firm, Brass Check, has counselled companies such as Google, TASER and Complex. Holiday’s most recent book, Conspiracy, tells the story of Peter Thiel’s decade-long campaign against Gawker Media, including his funding of the successful lawsuit against Gawker initiated by Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan. Holiday was interviewed by Stephen Elliott in November, following Holiday’s keynote address to the Athletic Business Show at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Stephen Elliott: I’ve been thinking a lot about deplatforming. Your new book, Conspiracy, is kind of the ultimate deplatforming story. Except instead of what normally happens, where a person is denied a venue to speak, or a celebrity loses their TV show, this is the story of an entire platform, Gawker media, being destroyed by the billionaire Peter Thiel. Ryan Holiday: Right. What we’re …

How An Anonymous Accusation Derailed My Life

In early October, 2017, following the emergence of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, a writer and activist living in Brooklyn named Moira Donegan created a Google Doc entitled “Shitty Media Men.” She sent it to female friends working in media and encouraged them to add to it and forward it on. The idea was to spread the word about predatory men in the business so that women would be forewarned. Anyone with access to the link could edit and add to the list. At the top of the spreadsheet were the following instructions: “Log out of gmail in order to edit anonymously, never name an accuser, never share the document with any men.” In the first column was this disclaimer: “This document is only a collection of misconduct allegations and rumors. Take everything with a grain of salt.” Nobody did. The list had only been live for 12 hours when word reached Donegan that Buzzfeed were preparing to publish a story about it. She immediately closed it down. By that time, there were already 74 entries. …