The Newsletter Thingy

The Sybarite Newsletter: Cavalier Decisions and Half the Story

Also, it’s the end of discourse, but send in your personal essays anyway!

Adeline Dimond
Sybarite
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10 min readMay 28, 2024

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“The Deluge” by Pierre Brebiette, 1630 | Metropolitan Museum of Art, Open Access Program

You guys know I’m one of those nominators for the boost program, right? I ask because no one except the brave

(more on him below) has sent in anything lately, and while I’m willing to spend short amount of time considering whether this is my fault, I always like to start with the idea that when something bad happens it’s everyone else’s fault.

So, in keeping with that strategy, I ask: why haven’t you sent in any stories, even after I announced that Sybarite will now be taking personal essays? I do have a pretty good nomination ratio rate (meaning the Medium gods agree with me a lot of the time), but that’s because I reject a lot of stories and I’m a jerk when I edit. Some people love that, sometimes people slink away and never come back, which lands us squarely in the conclusion that Sybarite’s nosedive — or its failure to launch — is probably my fault.

But what can I do, really? A leopard can’t change its spots. Plus, I don’t write on Medium that often, and by extension I don’t promote Sybarite that much. I don’t churn, ya know?

Speaking of churning, let’s talk about drowning in some waves. This week,

wrote about the experience of almost dying in the waves of an unfamiliar beach, which falls under the category “terrible reality, fantastic anecdote.” Bad news for Geo, good news for Sybarite readers.

When one is drowning, the drowning is only part of the story. The other parts of the story include but are not limited to: how did you get into the surprising position where drowning is an option? And more importantly, who (whom?) do you become when you start to drown? Are you embarrassed by it? Dying is, after, all the ultimate fail. Without answering these questions, you only have half the story, and Geo answers them.

And speaking of half the story, Morgan Spurlock died. For those who are too young to know and or too bored to remember, Spurlock produced and directed Super Size Me, a “documentary,” about what happened to his health when he ate McDonalds for every meal for thirty days straight. He did this to show the horrors of the fast food industry, and the McDonald’s brand definitely took a hit (from which they easily recovered).

When Super Size Me was released, those of us who saw it in the theater pretended to have the requisite outrage at the fast-food industry but in private we shrugged at each other and said “I don’t think anyone ever thought you were supposed to eat it for every meal?” I remember McDonald’s issuing a bewildered statement along the same lines, something like “We never said you should eat cheeseburgers everyday?”

We all knew you weren’t supposed to eat high calorie, fat-laden food for every meal, whether it was brie and french bread or a Big Mac, and yet the movie made it seem like we somehow didn’t know this. Thinking back on it now (with an admittedly fuzzy memory) I remember that the movie semi-accused McDonald’s of preying on the working class, as if McDonald’s “super-size” option was somehow a siren song for people with less money, and as if they didn’t have the same analytical skills about nutrition and diet, and so we — the upper middle class and middle class folks shelling out cash for movie popcorn during our leisure time — should be outraged on their behalf.

If I’m remembering the movie accurately, and I’m right that it hinged on the idea that people with less money somehow know less than the rest of us about what to eat, that’s pretty messed up. The movie also ignored other realities of life: that sometimes the McDonald’s drive-through saves soccer moms; that some of us (me included) love a Big Mac and chocolate shake once in awhile, and that fast food does have its place, especially when you are driving across country with your shitty ex-boyfriend and are stuck in the middle of New Mexico with no food in sight. In that scenario, catching a glimpse of the golden arches is a pretty beautiful thing. Not that I would know anything about that.

To be sure (this is the phrase you have to write in every opinion piece to calm the commenters who are inevitably going to screech that McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants are “killing” Americans) there is a lot to criticize McDonalds for, but there’s also a lot that deserves praise. Yes, praise. There’s Ronald McDonald House, which has plugged a hole in our Swiss-cheesy healthcare system, and the other little known fact is that the widow of McDonald’s founder essentially bankrolled the nuclear disarmament movement in the 1980s.

So, it’s complicated. Even before Spurlock died we knew it was complicated. But then upon his death, we find out that the documentary wasn’t even true. It was probably true that Spurlock ate McDonald’s every day, and it was probably true that he gained weight and his blood pressure went through the roof. But what we didn’t know was that Spurlock was suffering from severe alcoholism, and while his apparent emerging health issues weren’t necessarily attributable to only heavy alcohol consumption, it can’t be ruled out as a contributing factor.

There’s a scene in the movie in which his puzzled doctor says something like “your liver is being pickled,” and Spurlock passes this off as a result of cheeseburgers when in fact it was almost certainly from his alcohol abuse, which started when he was thirteen. And yet suddenly we all wondered if fries could pickle your liver. Half the story indeed.

And speaking again of half the story, not having all the facts, and then repeating the prevailing narrative anyway, I recently departed from my usual content of food, boys and sex to write about the mass delusion that there is an ongoing genocide in Gaza. (I stole the phrase “mass delusion” from this NY Times op-ed, which is worth a read).

The comments on the piece made me realize that discourse is pretty fucked, and may be not be unfuckable. I know people have been saying this for years, and I’ve seen it unfold on X and Facebook, but I thought the problem was primarily limited to people being aggressive jerks, so that people without the appetite for that type of rudeness stopped entering the conversation at all.

But it’s not just that. The problem is more Spurlockinan. People just flow with a narrative now, no matter what the facts are. Both traditional media and and social media contribute to this, and whoever has the loudest voice wins. This is why we now have a prevailing narrative that there is an ongoing genocide in Gaza — really, it’s the McMartin preschool of international law — a narrative that started well before Israel even responded.

This phenomenon was very present in the comments. Commenters would confidently state something as fact that should, according to them, shut down the debate. Except they weren’t facts and didn’t shut down the debate. Examples included:

  • Stating that the ICJ had found there is ongoing genocide in Gaza, when what they instead found that it was “plausible,” in order to find they had jurisdiction over the case. (A ruling on genocide won’t be for a few months).
  • Stating that the ICJ ordered Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah. But the order actually ordered Israel to halt operations that “may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” And because Israel rejects the notion that they are engaging in the physical destruction in whole or in part of the Palestinian people, they are not stopping. (You can read the decision here, and if it’s TL;DR, skip ahead to paragraph 50).

There’s more, but this is already a 9 minute read, and we would be here all day. The latest iteration of this is phenomenon — which last time I checked hadn’t shown up in the comments, but I’m sure will — is that Israel intentionally targeted a safe zone, which the IDF denies. Now, I’m going to believe the IDF over Hamas, but that’s just me. Hamas, after all, can’t be dragged before the ICJ, because it’s not a party to any conventions. (That’s why South Africa has to litigate on their behalf).

In saying that I believe the IDF over Hamas, we reach the point in the simulation where people scream in the comments that I’m a Zionist. To which I say, yeah, I am now. I hadn’t really thought about it until I saw the reaction to the rape and torture of Israeli civilians. Once I saw that people thought teenagers dancing at a music festival deserved to be gang-raped and killed, I thought “maybe there’s something to the idea of a Jewish state after all,” which brings me to the aggressive tone of some of the comments.

Simply put, there were some comments that seemed to be a little more pugnacious than just insisting I had the facts wrong, although pugnacious isn’t quite the right word. Some of the comments were so antagonistic — making it clear that they were furiously googling “Adeline Dimond” and were very pissed when they figured out that I write under a fake name — that I wondered what the point of them were.

I thought that the aggressive comments were designed to get me to back down — because I couldn’t think of any other point — and so I responded a lot more than I usually do. Of course, the more I responded the more the commenters said the same things over and over, and the more I said the same thing over and over, and the dumber it all got.

I brought up this theory — that the point of some of the comments was to get me to take the piece down — to a friend, but he shot the idea down. “I think people are just horrified and they don’t know what to do.” That makes sense. But if there is a comment section somewhere about something both controversial and horrifying where true discourse is actually happening, I would love to see it because I don’t think it exists.

It’s impossible to change anyone’s mind now, we’ve become so calcified and entrenched in our own camps. (For that reason, I’ll resist the urge to share this dissent by ICJ Vice-President Julia Sebutinde, who as a 69 year-old- Ugandan woman, knows something about genocide. Oh whoops, did I just share it?)

I include myself in that assessment; I know it’s almost impossible to change my mind about anything now. But I think I’m at least cooler about it. And by “cooler,” I mean I don’t call people names or say that they’re stupid (although admittedly I have started to call some of the commenters anti-semites, because… they really seem to be).

I’ve been thinking about this question for a long time, specifically whether people from opposite sides of political and cultural spectrums can be civil and even friends. A few years ago, I wrote about a strange fling I had with a Trump supporter, whom I call Maga Man. He wasn’t one of those reluctant Trump who just wanted lower taxes, but one of those Trump supporter who sort of thinks he’s here to save us all from …something. I, on the other hand, cried on a street corner when Hillary lost. We were destined to hate each other in the comment section, but what about in real life? (You can read what happened with him here and here).

I wish the answer were simple. We started out okay, sort of bemused at each other’s polar opposite positions on pretty much everything. But then some issues became too much; when Roe fell I cut things off, explaining that I couldn’t sleep with someone who didn’t think I had autonomy over my own body. He saw it as just another political issue we disagreed on, and was perplexed by my reaction. Later, we became friends again after he was kinder to me during a hard time than any other ex was during that period, which was perplexing for me.

Anyway, writing about something controversial sort of reminds me of all the things I was thinking about during the Maga Man Experience™, except that hanging out with MAGA Man was fun and hanging out in the comment section was not that fun. Not in a “I feel intimidated kinda way,” although again, I sometimes wonder whether that was the point, but rather in a “why aren’t people looking up the facts?” kinda way. Eventually it felt like I was banging my head on a plastic table: not that painful, but very annoying.

So it’s back to writing about boys, dogs, chocolate, sex in American cars, and American chain restaurants. In fact, I wanted to write a piece about the incredible internet sleuthing I recently did about the younger gal who caused the middling comic with whom I was having a very mild romance to stop texting me, but it felt bizarre to do that right after arguing about genocide. But that sleuthing story is important too because I basically found out everything about this woman other than her high school locker combination (working on that) and I think it’s important to share how I did it so that the rest of us who are being ghosted and bread crumbed will have a way to expend all that extra jilted energy. And I want to provide a safe space for other people to admit that they do it too, even if they are professionals, even if they are federal attorneys.

So consider this newsletter a palate cleanser between writing about international law and writing about stupid boys, and another call for some good writing. If you’re already a writer for Sybarite, you know the drill. If you aren’t, send me a draft at adeline.dimond@gmail.com and we’ll go from there.

Until next time Sybarites,

AD, Sybarite-in-Chief

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Here’s a former introduction to Sybarite, before we (I) decided to open it up to personal essays.

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