• print • Dec/Jan 2020

    It’s Not Easy Being Green

    Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything (2014) is animated by a counterintuitive insight: It has long been conservatives, rather than the Left or the environmental movement, who have best understood the political implications of global warming. In a chapter titled “The Right Is Right,” she describes attending a Koch-funded conference on climate change in 2011 and hearing a conservative politician warn the crowd that the climate movement was really “a green trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine.” If only, if only, Klein sighed. If the greens joined forces with

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    The Thick Blue Line

    The first test call using America’s 911 emergency system was placed on February 16, 1968. To fanfare in the press, a state legislator sitting in the City Hall of the small Alabama town of Haleyville dialed in to the local police station. His call was answered by a group of august notables—a US representative, a telephone-company executive, and president of the Alabama Public Service Commission Theophilus Eugene Connor. Better remembered today by his nickname, “Bull” Connor was an outspoken white supremacist who believed desegregation was a communist plot; just five years earlier, as commissioner

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    Preaching to the Choir

    An unseasonable snowstorm hit Casper, Wyoming, the day of Matthew Shepard’s funeral. The twenty-one-year-old gay University of Wyoming student had been robbed, beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead in a homophobic attack by two men. His parents, Judy and Dennis, were able to fly from Saudi Arabia, where Dennis was working, just in time to be by his side as his heart failed. As they pushed themselves through “a week when absolutely nothing made sense,” they were told that a group they’d never heard of, the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church, was planning to picket their son’s funeral.

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    The Grand Reckoning

    Readers in the distant future will surely note that a good number of books published in the late 2010s registered how dramatically the political landscape shifted while they were being written. Philosopher Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans is a case in point. The director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Neiman decided to take a fellowship in Mississippi midway through Obama’s second term, not long after the murder of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston. In the shooting’s wake, Republican governors of South Carolina and Alabama got rid of the Confederate battle flags that

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    Both Sides Now

    Shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the journalist Lewis Raven Wallace posted a short piece on Medium with the provocative title “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it.” In those first surreal days of the new regime, mainstream media outlets were reacting to Trump’s shock-and-awe tactics by doubling down on their own self-regard. Even as they rushed to normalize the new administration, news purveyors like the New York Times and NPR suggested that their own unbiased, verifiable content—in a word, their objectivity—was the best antidote to the president’s unchecked mendacity.

    Wallace—who

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    Troll Call

    Whatever injuries Silicon Valley has done to the journalism industry over the past decade, it has also bequeathed to us a fine new cottage industry: the “bad-guys-on-the-internet beat,” as Andrew Marantz puts it in his new book, Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation. The terrifying rise of the extreme right wing, squealing from its perch on our strange new megaplatforms, has created a market opportunity for journalists who can walk the confused and nervous through the dangers and insufficiencies of our media ecosystem. As techies and

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2020

    Green Miles

    The signage of segregation, terrible and tangible, left us with a deficient vision of Jim Crow America. The cruelty of a whites only placard may seem like the bookend to Bull Connor’s gross brutality, but such signage implied that the dangers and humiliations of Jim Crow always came labeled. White supremacy drew its power from the ritualized humiliation of black people having to ask if a public service was available. Even sundown towns—communities across the nation that violently banned African Americans after dark—didn’t always advertise their own rules. For mid-twentieth-century black Americans,

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  • review • November 14, 2019

    Prepare to Merge

    Monopolies have long been a fixture of American life. Since the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan’s free-market policies reshaped the economy, they have become especially persistent. Today, companies with outsize market shares—from Big Tech and large investment banks to retailers and food conglomerates—dominate the US economy. The doctrine incubated by Milton Friedman and others at the University of Chicago, which emphasizes economic efficiency and deregulation, continues to prevail. This laissez-faire approach, presented in Friedman and Anna J. Schwartz’s A Monetary History of the United States,

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  • review • October 03, 2019

    Archive Fever

    “Are we going to burn it?” A question about the fate of the future concludes Hazel Carby’s Race Men (1998), a powerful academic book about suffocating representations of black American masculinities based on a lecture the author delivered at Harvard. In her newest book, Carby is already burnt, the result of a smoldered past. “Imperial Intimacies is a very British story,” she writes in the preface. It is also her story: about growing up after World War II, about her childhood in the area now known as South London, about the family histories of her white Welsh mother and black Jamaican father,

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    New World Borders

    In 2009 Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the Maldives, the island nation sinking into the sea, put on a wet suit and an air tank and, along with several of his ministers, held a cabinet meeting underwater. Nasheed hoped to give the world a sense of its collective future. At an event at Columbia Law School he later said: “You can drastically reduce your greenhouse gas emissions so that the seas do not rise so much. Or when we show up on your shores in our boats, you can let us in. Or when we show up on your shores in our boats, you can shoot us. You pick.”

    The rest of the world has long warned

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Irrational Man

    Something is happening out there in the dark fields of “the discourse.” Incoherence is now a virtue. Rather than irony, modesty, discernment, ambivalence, or the mental sprightliness needed to parse conflicting views, a proud refusal to make solid arguments may be the cure for our divided times. Incoherence strikes a blow to partisan bickering and campus groupthink. Incoherence recoils from “tribes.” If an opinion sounds half-baked, or a claim brashly obtuse, it’s simply plowing through your pieties and wrenching open your padlocked mind. Incoherence is courage, incoherence is pluralism,

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2019

    Method to the Madness

    TAKE A MINUTE NOW to write down the first associations that come to your mind regarding Clarence Thomas. You might note that he represents the extreme right wing of the Supreme Court and that, beginning his twenty-ninth term this fall, he is its longest-serving justice, not to mention Donald Trump’s personal favorite. No doubt you’ll think of his alleged sexual harassment of Anita Hill during his tenure at the Department of Education and when he was head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Ronald Reagan, of the ordeal she went through when forced to testify about it during his

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