• 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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  • print • Summer 2018

    Unsettled Territory

    In nineteenth-century America, the word progress signaled limitless expansion and domination: Manifest Destiny was in full force and Americans rushed to exploit the country’s seemingly endless natural resources. In This Radical Land, landscape historian Daegan Miller returns to the era when this idea of progress first took shape. He gives us intriguing counterexamples, writing a history of forgotten communities that advanced a radical vision of what humans’ relationship to the land could be: One defined not by exploitation but by sustainability and interdependence. Surprisingly, it’s a definition

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  • print • Apr/May 2018

    White Lies

    In a country whose literary heritage includes the likes of Gone with the Wind and Atlas Shrugged, it should come as no surprise that the most politically influential novel in America during the past half century is terrible. But the terror in this case is literal, too: neo-Nazi leader William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries has inspired multiple generations of white supremacist terrorists since its publication in 1978. Framed as the memoirs of Earl Turner, engineer and bomber, the Diaries tracks the exploits of the Organization, a revolutionary group devoted to the violent overthrow of the federal

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  • print • Apr/May 2018

    Harlem Renaissance Man

    So for generations in the mind of America, the Negro has been more of a formula than a human being—a something to be argued about, condemned or defended, to be “kept down,” or “in his place,” or “helped up,” to be worried with or worried over, harassed or patronized, a social bogey or a social burden. The thinking Negro even has been induced to share this same general attitude, to focus his attention on controversial issues, to see himself in the distorted perspective of a social problem. His shadow, so to speak, has been more real to him than his personality.

    —Alain Locke, The New Negro (

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  • print • Apr/May 2018

    Declarations of Independence

    Lately I’ve been preoccupied with a strange thought, what one might call a blip of cultural memory: The only human-made object that has reached interstellar space—the Voyager 1 probe, launched by nasa in 1977—is a record player. Though it carries mathematical formulas and graphs and drawings of human figures Voyager’sgold-plated 16 2⁄3 rpm record is the main event: It includes a selection from Glenn Gould’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Stravinsky conducting The Rite of Spring, Louis Armstrong’s “Melancholy Blues,”songs played by traditional musicians of Benin and Australia, shakuhachi flute from

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  • print • Apr/May 2018

    The Unwinding

    Americans and Libya go way back. The opening lines of the “Marines’ Hymn” commemorate the First Barbary War (1801–05), one of the young republic’s earliest forays into international military intervention. During the Reagan era, Libya and its dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, became synonymous with terrorism for many Americans, after the Libyan-sponsored bombing of a West Berlin nightclub frequented by US soldiers. This mistrust was famously dramatized in Back to the Future, in which the panicked cry “The Libyans!” was intended to be both bloodcurdling and somewhat absurd. And during the last presidential

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  • print • Apr/May 2018

    Rocket Men

    February’s test launch of Elon Musk’s new Falcon Heavy rocket was probably the most expensive and most glorious publicity stunt in the history of advertising: flame and smoke, and then videos of the space-suited mannequin in the cherry-red Tesla Roadster, David Bowie on the stereo, Hitchhiker’s “DON’T PANIC!” on the dashboard screen. Behind this promotion was the promise that Musk’s company SpaceX will soon be sending colonists to the planet Mars. But although the car is on a trajectory that will pass the orbit of Mars later this year, it won’t get anywhere close to the Red Planet, and the

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  • print • Apr/May 2018

    Our Men in Moscow

    As relations between Russia and the United States continue to worsen, one of the unexpected twists in the unfolding drama has been the dragging of each nation’s ambassadors into the limelight. Usually, these diplomatic figures spend most of their time hosting parties and attending state ceremonies. But the compulsion to conjure phantoms has made two recent ambassadors—Michael McFaul, Obama’s ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, and Sergey Kislyak, Putin’s ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2017—into the public faces of their countries’ treachery.

    Bizarre as the current situation is, the role

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  • print • Apr/May 2018

    On the Job

    While #MeToo has exposed the pervasiveness of sexual abuse in a handful of high-profile industries, its priorities have so far reflected broader social hierarchies, giving outsize attention to the experiences of a privileged minority. In a Day’s Work shows us what harassment looks like outside Hollywood and the Beltway. A journalist at the Center for Investigative Reporting, Bernice Yeung has been on this beat for years, producing necessary, unglamorous exposés of the abuse suffered by low-wage laborers—mostly immigrants, mostly women—who are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence at work.

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