Noam Cohen is a journalist who reports on the digital information ecosystem – in other words, how we know what we know about the world and how this has changed because of the Internet. His work often mixes on-the-ground reporting with historical research.
His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Wired. He wrote a column for The New York Times, “Link by Link,” where he was among the first to report on new projects like Bitcoin, Twitter and Wikipedia. His book, The Know-It-Alls, tells the history of Silicon Valley by tracing the toxic combination of the “hacker culture” that took hold of computer labs in American universities in the 1950s and 60s and the venture capitalism centered around Stanford University. Noam lives in Brooklynwith his family.
North Platte, and the Dark, Hidden History of America
I want to re-examine the life of Annie Cook, a Russian-Jewish immigrant who in the early 20th century became a wealthy farmer in North Platte, Neb., then a rough-and-tumble railroad hub. Cook is still remembered in North Platte as the personification of evil – she is said to have worked to death the destitute people she was paid by the county to host on her farm; said to have run a large brothel in Omaha, where she trafficked her own daughter to influence and blackmail local politicians; said to have used her wealth to take advantage of neighbors who experiencing tough times. To this day, the town re-enacts her life at the cemetery, an actor in a rocking chair next to her grave, who barks out her story to the people who pay $10 a ticket.
The story is so black and white, so cut and dry, that it makes one wonder. Was this Jewish woman with an uncanny business sense, born Anna Maria Petzke, really evil? What does her story look like from a 21st-century perspective?
What only comes out at night?
NIGHT is when you make sense — and nonsense — of what happened during the day.
What only comes out at night? NIGHT is when you make sense — and nonsense — of what happened during the day.