• print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2018

    Future Tense

    In the period since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which killed eight hundred thousand people, mostly members of the Tutsi minority, a certain narrative about the country has become inescapable in international news reports. Puny, landlocked Rwanda, it is marveled, has managed to sustain unusually fast economic growth for well over a decade. The journalists often deploy the same tired motif: They are amazed at how the streets of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, are so clean and orderly.

    The question of how this was achieved is answered just as formulaically. A stern but enlightened authoritarian named

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2018

    Army of One

    The first piece in The Souls of Yellow Folk, the collection of Wesley Yang’s journalism, goes in with a bang. “The Face of Seung-Hui Cho,” Yang’s 2008 essay on the mass shooter of Virginia Tech, is a remarkable attempt to trace the author’s kinship with a young man who, one year earlier, had killed thirty-two people and then killed himself. Outlining Cho’s abysmal, toxified, embittered half-life, Yang describes his own as well. Raised American, both have inherited an unfortunate legacy: In the home of the brave, their meek yellowish faces have disqualified them from all human consideration.

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2018

    Rant and Fave

    DeRay Mckesson is a frustrating figure. I don’t mean Mckesson the person, but rather Mckesson the persona, which is what you become once you have achieved his level of visibility. In the span of about four years, Mckesson, an educator and activist associated with Black Lives Matter, has gone from around eight hundred Twitter followers to more than a million. One of those followers is Beyoncé. To give a sense of how big of a deal this is, it must be noted that Beyoncé follows only ten accounts—and none of them belong to her husband, Jay-Z. Mckesson was photographed alongside Janelle Monáe, Donald

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2018

    No Exit

    THE ORIGIN STORY of the 2008 financial crisis is now well known: An American real estate bubble inflated by a risky mortgage business burst. Wall Street got clobbered, spooking lenders, constricting credit, and pushing even low-risk money market funds to register losses. Banks failed; insurers ran out of cash; people—especially minorities and the poor—lost their homes, their jobs, and their money, while the architects of the system suffered few consequences.

    At first, the crisis was presumed by world leaders to be an American affliction, the product of an adventurism particular to Wall Street

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2018

    Mamma Mia

    Every once in a while the psychoanalyst comes across certain deep beliefs in one of their analysands—a knot in the unconscious that sets a pattern and compels the analysand to act a certain way, again and again. Like the deep state, or the giant web of dark matter structuring the universe, there’s no way to tell exactly when or how it’s at work, or if it’s even there. When this knot emerges in analysis, it is visible only for a moment before ducking back under. The analyst’s job is to draw attention to its importance in shaping behavior—a role that is at once surreal and inconceivably simple.

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2018

    Can I Get a Witness?

    For decades, the forbidding bulk of the 808-page hardcover edition of Witness (1952)—Whittaker Chambers’s fam-ous apologia for his life as a Communist spy, his eventual political apostasy and religious rebirth, and his sensational agon with New Deal golden boy and probable fellow agent Alger Hiss—had resided on the bio-graphy section of our bookshelf, the legacy of a long-ago college paper written by my wife. I mentally filed it away in the category of books I was happy we owned (a valuable Random House first edition) and that I might get around to reading one of these years.

    The occasion to

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2018

    Throne of Games

    I’m pretty sure Robert Lipsyte was the first to make the insolent-yet-logical suggestion that the World Series be referred to by a more appropriate name: the North American Baseball Championships for Men. This was back in 1975, when Lipsyte’s SportsWorld: An American Dreamland was first published. It was also the year of perhaps the most riveting of those men’s baseball championships ever, between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. Superlatives were common in sport that year, which also presented for history’s consideration the epochal third heavyweight championship bout between Muhammad

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  • print • Summer 2018

    Digging Deep

    A “Sy Hersh piece,” as readers of the New York Times and the New Yorker have come to know over the past half century, is often met with dread. A dense intrigue unfolds, the unpacking aided by unnamed spooks who unspool salacious quotes, in seeming competition with one another, while the stakes for the body politic build to fever pitch. The tales are arcane, obtuse, and, above all, dark.

    “A bitch to read,” Hersh says of his 2001 New Yorker piece on American oil and Kazakh greed.

    If Hersh gained fame and a lifetime of street cred for his 1969 series on My Lai, the first documented massacre in

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  • print • Summer 2018

    Mine Control

    The Marcellus Shale is a 575-mile-long stretch of sedimentary rock, most of it deep underground, that settled millions of years ago over the imprint of an ancient sea. It lies beneath much of Appalachia, extending up through western and northern Pennsylvania and a section of western New York. Trapped within the rock are vast stores of natural gas, and because it’s so close to existing gas pipelines and the cities of the East Coast, the Marcellus Shale has long been, for energy companies, an attractive prize—“like discovering an underground deposit of beer directly beneath Yankee Stadium,” the

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  • print • Summer 2018

    Commercial Break

    Not since William Steig’s C D B! have I read a book with as many capital letters as Ken Auletta’s Frenemies. Sometimes they appear, without warning, in the middle of names—the “L” in MediaLink, the “M” in VaynerMedia—but mostly they arrive in great alphabet-soup spoonfuls. In the first chapter, we learn that AT&T has dropped WPP, which owns JWT, AKQA, and KBM; later in the book we meet the CEOs of agencies like BBDO and DDB. Auletta sketches out the difference between a creative agency like IPG’s FCB and a media agency like WPP’s MEC; he teaches us that the media agency GroupM—the “M” arising

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  • print • Summer 2018

    Unwell Water

    A grim turn of events briefly overtook the barely modulated insanity of our past presidential election season, around the time when the Steve Bannons of the world were declaring war on “the administrative state.” The city of Flint, Michigan, former home of most of the General Motors empire, was found to be in a state of malign neglect usually associated with developing-world kleptocracies like the Sudan or Haiti, as the city’s water supply was shown to be unfit for any human use. Families in the onetime colossus of US automobile manufacturing—which had, not long before, boasted one of the

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  • print • Summer 2018

    Big-Bang Theory

    In the wake of February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the public American conversation about gun control has been animated by a recurrent theme: the idea of a ban on assault weapons. According to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, these guns—most often AR-15-style rifles, civilian versions of the American military’s primary firearm—are “weapons of war” that have no place on “our streets.” But AR-15s are made here in the USA; their manufacturers are subsidized by tax breaks and contracts championed by legislators from both parties. Schumer once called Remington Arms, the oldest American

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