Good morning, Quartz readers!
Another week, another crude Twitter outburst from the US president, another torrent of outrage from his detractors. But what if we just agreed to ignore the man?
At Quartz it’s already our policy not to write stories about how crazy the latest crazy thing he said is. But even the not-crazy things he says are increasingly irrelevant. The president has essentially ceded foreign policy to his generals and his son-in-law, and when he does speak on such issues as NATO or Qatar he only creates confusion. His staff manage him like a child. Foreign governments go around him (paywall). NATO has learned to look like it’s doing his bidding, increasing its budget just slightly faster than before. State and local governments set their own policies when they don’t like his. When he promises to build a wall with Mexico, punish China, or cancel Nafta… well, we don’t need to tell you.
A normal US president is like a creature in the middle of lake, his every move creating far-reaching ripples. This one is like a rock in a stream; he creates turbulence and is to be avoided, but everything flows on around him.
OK, he has nuclear codes. You don’t ignore a man with nuclear codes. But you don’t have to lavish attention on him either. Actually, attention is what gets him riled up.
It’s time to stop being outraged. It isn’t even really outrage—it’s gloatrage, when you’re secretly thrilled that he’s proving himself to be just as bad as you thought. (Admit it.)
The president of the United States is an irrelevance. Pay close attention to those around him, but ignore the man himself. We can do it. We have the technology.
Look, we didn’t even say his name.—Gideon Lichfield
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
Uber does business with some shady car dealers. In recent months, scandals in Uber’s management have overshadowed its shabby treatment of its drivers. Alison Griswold investigated the burdensome, subprime car leases towards which Uber pushes poor and immigrant drivers in New York City. After she raised questions, Uber said it would pause the program and conduct a review.
A portrait that speaks volumes. French president Emmanuel Macron’s official portrait, unveiled this week, was a masterclass in soft-power symbolism. Design reporter Anne Quito tracks what elements of the photo, such as the placement of the French and EU flags, two carefully stacked iPhones, and multiple Photoshop tweaks, say about the 39-year-old centrist leader’s politics and worldview.
America is united by pseudoscience. The two sides of the American political spectrum may be sharply be divided, but they share one thing: selling “wellness” products with questionable health benefits. Nikhil Sonnad identified the alternative-medicine supplements sold—under entertainingly different names—on both Infowars, a bastion of far-right conspiracy theorists, and the likes of Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s brand that is a favorite of coastal elites and Hollywood celebrities.
We’re teaching sexual consent too late. The prevalence of assault and rape on US campuses has led to a rash of consent-teaching programs. But kids start navigating those issues way before college. The best way to equip them, argues Cassie Werber, is to start talking about consent with children as young as five years old.
Hong Kong’s milestone. Twenty years after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule, Quartz reporters examine the state of affairs in the former British colony, reflecting on the people that shaped the agenda over the last two decades, the border that reflects relations with mainland China now, and a historical record that is rapidly vanishing.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
Understanding Erdogan. What’s behind the Turkish president’s dictatorial power-grab? Shadi Hamid set out to explore how much one person can shape the course of history. As he writes in the Atlantic, he came to understand Recep Tayyip Erdogan as both a singular leader, on a par with Ataturk, and an avatar of Turkish Islamists’ long-held ambition to undo Ataturk’s project of secularization.
Why some Russian nationalists fight for Ukraine. In Coda, Leonid Ragozin tells the backstory of some truly paradoxical figures—“internationalist” ultranationalists. These neo-Nazis denounce the Kremlin for its ideological impurity and channel their rage against it by joining Kyiv’s side in the battle for eastern Ukraine. This exposes the mind-bending complexity of the conflict after the annexation of Crimea, due to the fluid loyalties of far-right militias drawn to the fighting.
Our own private Iceland. Traveling to a new country is an exercise in finding out how your expectations match up—or don’t—with reality. Writing for Afar, Taffy Brodesser-Akner beautifully captures this process in her quest to hang out with some puffins in Iceland—and her encounters with flocks of fellow American tourists, each seeking their idea of an authentic Iceland experience.
Cracking cartography. GPS has dimmed our innate sense of direction, as well as our appreciation for physical maps and their history. Clive Thompson revives that appreciation with a deep dive into the history of maps for Smithsonian Magazine, exploring the inaccuracies they contained, and the power they conferred, as civilizations used them to try to make sense of and stake their place in the world.
Tumblr proves it: You can’t monetize internet culture. The 10-year-old social network, bought by Yahoo for $1 billion in 2013, is still wildly popular among young people, and continues to shape how we communicate with each other online. But its inability to make money says a lot about the value of those characteristics, notes Brian Feldman in New York magazine.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, badly drawn maps, and unrealistic expectations to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android