• 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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  • 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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