• print • Feb/Mar 2019

    We Screwed Up!

    When did Facebook start to seem evil? Was it last March, when United Nations investigators accused the platform of enabling the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar? Or was it a few days after that, when it was revealed that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested millions of people’s personal data to target votes, momentarily sending Facebook’s reputation (and stock) plummeting? Or in 2014, when researchers revealed that they had conducted a massive psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 users—without their consent—to determine whether manipulating feeds to

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    Long Division

    Michael Tomasky wants his readers to understand right up front that If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed and How It Might Be Saved isn’t just another liberal screed provoked by anguish at Donald Trump’s presidency. “Chapter for chapter, most of this book could have appeared just as it now stands” if Hillary Clinton had won the White House, he tells us, and he began mulling the project in the full expectation she was going to do just that. Since Tomasky has written generally favorable books about both her and Bill, it’s a safe guess that she’d have been his beleaguered heroine in that

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    Frontiers for Fears

    If you’d asked me, fifteen years ago, to picture a group of activists up in arms about illegal immigration, I might’ve imagined a small gathering of eccentrics at some suburban restaurant, passing around xeroxed pamphlets. At least in Texas, where I live, immigration was a marginal concern. Conservative activists here considered gays and lesbians more of a threat than laborers from Mexico. There were two main channels of Republican politics, pro-business and Christian-right, and to be a hard-core nativist was to subscribe to a fusty extremism not really embraced within either one.

    So what

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2019

    Rude Awakening

    When I was in seventh and eighth grades, my class’s newfound maturity was channeled into learning about the most difficult moments of the twentieth century in a unit called Facing History. A central focus of the course was on the culpability of ordinary citizens in the worst crimes of human history. During the Holocaust, we learned, ordinary Germans, whether by ignorance or complacency, paved the way to genocide by not speaking up. The resistance to authoritarianism requires constant vigilance by citizens alert to even the tiniest erosions of society’s morals.

    The presidency of Donald Trump

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2019

    A House Divided

    IN HER 2007 MEMOIR, Flying Close to the Sun, radical leftist Cathy Wilkerson describes feeling perplexed by women’s liberationists in the late 1960s. Wilkerson, who lived on oatmeal in a group home, had renounced her family’s wealth to devote herself to student organizing. Though she agreed with the feminists’ analysis, she couldn’t relate to their unwillingness to make similar sacrifices:

    Many of the concerns of women in the group seemed self-indulgent. I found it confusing to be in discussions about the ways in which business used women, manipulating ideas

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2019

    Vlad Handing

    For the past several decades, the overwhelming majority of Western reporting about Russia has rested on a specific historical narrative about the fall of the Soviet Union. In this story, the USSR collapsed largely from its own economic contradictions. But the heroes were the thousands of ordinary Russians who first supported perestroika and then, in August 1991, turned out in the streets of Moscow to successfully oppose a hard-line Communist coup, precipitating the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union. Though derived from the Cold War school of understanding Soviet citizens as

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2019

    Look Before You Veep

    It was sometime during the fall of 2010, a dismal mid-term election season, that I found myself waiting and searching for a passionate voice among progressive politicians that could effectively counter what turned out to be a resurgent conservative Republican wave retrieving both houses of Congress that November—and continuing afterward to obstruct any meaningful legislation on behalf of poor and marginalized Americans.

    I didn’t think I was asking for much; just somebody (besides the then-incumbent and beleaguered president) capable of not just speaking truth to power, but of summoning

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  • print • Dec/Jan 2019

    We’re in This Together Now

    The closest thing to a consensus explanation for Trump’s election that has emerged in the wake of November 2016 is the notion that “the Left,” in relying on appeals to “identity politics” rather than to economic class, contributed to the GOP victory by provoking a backlash among white men and workers. In Mark Lilla’s The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics and Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s The Coddling of the American Mind, centrist liberal academics showcased their predilection for battling the Right by punching left. Scornfully arraigning the campus thought police and mobs

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  • 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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