One, called “correct the record,” would have retroactively notified users that they had interacted with false news and directed them to an independent fact-check. Facebook employees proposed expanding the product, which is currently used to notify people who have shared Covid-19 misinformation, to apply to other types of misinformation. But that was vetoed by policy executives who feared it would disproportionately show notifications to people who shared false news from right-wing websites....

“Facebook salaries are among the highest in tech right now, and when you’re walking home with a giant paycheck every two weeks, you have to tell yourself that it’s for a good cause,” said Gregor Hochmuth, a former engineer with Instagram, which Facebook owns, who left in 2014. “Otherwise, your job is truly no different from other industries that wreck the planet and pay their employees exorbitantly to help them forget.”

Stunts like Gal Gadot’s crowdsourced famous-person cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” are tone-deaf in more ways than one. Most of these people cannot even sing; their contributions suggest that the very appearance of a celebrity is a salve, as if a pandemic could be overcome by star power alone.

“Of course you can measure happiness,” says Will Davies, a senior lecturer of politics at Goldsmiths University of London and author of the book The Happiness Industry. “Measurement is always a type of abstraction and a type of simplification, and you can apply it wherever you like. The question is whether it’s useful or not.”

Maybe some Incels do just think it’s all a joke. But when your ideology has a body count, whatever it started out as, it’s not laughable anymore.

“Ronald Reagan merrily told us all that the nine scariest words in the English language were ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,’” he sums up, “but it turns out the scariest words in the English language are either ‘We’ve run out of ventilators’ or ‘A hillside behind your house caught on fire’—and neither of those yields to individual solutions. They require working societies.”

Women are socialized from childhood to blame themselves if they feel undesirable, to believe that they will be unacceptable unless they spend time and money and mental effort being pretty and amenable and appealing to men. Conventional femininity teaches women to be good partners to men as a basic moral requirement: a woman should provide her man a support system, and be an ideal accessory for him, and it is her job to convince him, and the world, that she is good... Men, like women, blame women if they feel undesirable. And, as women gain the economic and cultural power that allows them to be choosy about their partners, men have generated ideas about self-improvement that are sometimes inextricable from violent rage.

Later, a team of researchers set out to replicate this study and uncovered something profound. Once they adjusted for factors such as household income, mother’s education, and home environment at age 3, the effect disappeared. Further variations of the study showed that whether the children judged the promise to be reliable made a great difference in whether, and how long, they were willing to hold off for the reward. Indeed, access to a consistently well-stocked pantry makes it easier to believe those who say that a bigger reward awaits those who can resist eating the marshmallow right away. The precarity and instability of poverty encourage people to live in the moment, simply because the future is so uncertain. Willpower and grit are not merely personal characteristics, existing in a vacuum devoid of social reality.

Andrew Bosworth, one of Facebook’s longtime executives, has compared Facebook to sugar—in that it is “delicious” but best enjoyed in moderation. In a memo originally posted to Facebook’s internal network last year, he argued for a philosophy of personal responsibility. “My grandfather took such a stance towards bacon and I admired him for it,” Bosworth wrote. “And social media is likely much less fatal than bacon.” But viewing Facebook merely as a vehicle for individual consumption ignores the fact of what it is—a network. Facebook is also a business, and a place where people spend time with one another. Put it this way: If you owned a store and someone walked in and started shouting Nazi propaganda or recruiting terrorists near the cash register, would you, as the shop owner, tell all of the other customers you couldn’t possibly intervene?

...the marketing of these largely useless tokens reminds me of the commercialization of the once-radical concept of self-care. The initial iteration of self-care, as coined by Audre Lorde, wasn’t about an individual necessity for “me time” or to “treat yourself.” When writing about self-care, Lorde positioned her battle with cancer within the larger struggle Black women faced and how they cared for one another through it, writing that while her “struggle with cancer now informs all my days […] it is only another face of that continuing battle for self-determination and survival that Black women fight daily, often in triumph.” Yet, both self-care and kindness have been bastardized, transformed into ways to sell things that don’t materially help anyone except the seller’s bank account and the buyer’s own ego.

There is a case to be made that these communities should not be kicked off major sites in the first place. If you remove a group like r/GenderCritical from Reddit, that group will move on to a more lawless part of the web. The escalation of rhetoric there isn’t slowed by any platform rules, and it also isn’t hemmed in by any dissenting voices, says Luc Cousineau, an internet researcher at the University of Waterloo. There is not even the slightest pressure to dial back hateful speech in order to seem well intentioned and approachable. Keeping everyone near one another might come with a sort of “social content moderation,” Cousineau suggests. He hasn’t researched whether this works, but it’s an important point: You can’t de-radicalize anyone if they’re off in their own world.

These conversations are deeply unpleasant, but without them I don’t think I’d grasp just how much influence some comedians have over their fans. This is how they get away with everything they get away with. The nature of fandom in the 21st century is of a complete, religious devotion offered in exchange for a few morsels of validation and escape. Obviously this phenomenon spans all media, not just comedy. It’s the natural product of capitalism’s intersection with the internet and mass culture, of a society designed to turn artistic engagement into consumption. Every brigade of zealous stans reflects a deep cultural sickness: a pervasive alienation that drives people to attach their own senses of self to imagined ideas of famous strangers, and a dissatisfaction that invites them to experience those strangers’ fates as their own.

America’s richest and most progressive cities—from San Francisco to New York and Washington, D.C.—have filled with young, unmarried, “extremely online” graduates of elite colleges, who have collectively birthed a novel philosophy you could call “Instagram socialism.” Instagram socialists are highly educated, but not necessarily high-earning, urbanites who shop like capitalists and post like Marxists and frequently do so in adjacent tabs.

The GOP currently holds both Senate seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Those 11 states have 22 senators who collectively represent fewer people than the population of California, which has two Senate seats. (Democrats have their own small-state layups, but not as many.)

All the while, Martino’s ultimate warning—that they might someday regret actually getting the money they wanted—would still hang over these two young men, inherent to a system designed to turn strivers into subcontractors. Instead of what you want to build—the consumer-facing, world-remaking thing—almost invariably you are pushed to build a small piece of technology that somebody with a lot of money wants built cheaply.

“Young people who are optimistic about being able to build a start-up that is geared towards social good will, I think, find that this industry doesn’t care about that. It only cares about making returns, and the easiest way to do that is to not give a shit about other people, even though the tech industry is very good at using the rhetoric of social entrepreneurship and liberation.” For a long time, the tech industry has been held up as an example of innovative, or even progressive capitalism, with breathless techno-utopianists espousing the idea that we can innovate our way out of the problems we face, from ecological catastrophe to rising global inequality. But this kind of blind optimism is looking increasingly unfounded.

In these culture-war skirmishes, each instance might seem trivial—as the Wollstonecraft campaigners have said, maybe detractors should fund more statues of women, so there’s less pressure on this one—but the principle is about as big as you can get. Who’s in control here? Who sets the rules? When it comes to feminism, the debate is particularly fraught, as women are funneled into arguing with one another over a small slice of what has traditionally belonged to men—in this case, the public square.

There is also the wider problem that many Americans (as Ryan Cooper has written) simply do not believe the Republican Party is as extreme as it is, based on the (logical!) belief that such a party would never win elections. I doubt voters embrace Republicans because they believe the GOP is better than Democrats on economic fairness (as opposed to overall stewardship of “the economy”)—they simply can’t believe how reactionary Republicans actually are.

Such a strategy would require the upwardly mobile second-generation immigrants — the people most likely to be tasked with broadcasting this message out toward the public — to do something that might feel counterintuitive or even contradictory. But we must abandon the broad style of diversity politics that designates us as “people of color.” Those categories might help us navigate the academy and the workplace, but they only resonate with a small, generally wealthy portion of our population.

Jay Caspian Kang

Broad antiracist and antixenophobic messaging will not work for growing populations who mostly see themselves outside of America’s racial hierarchy or, in many cases, believe their interests align better with middle-class white voters.

In the myth of cancel culture, woke mobs scour the earth making a mockery of liberal values by destroying the careers of innocent people over perceived transgressions of ever-changing rules, hungry for a taste of power they never gainfully earned. In reality, the more significant threat to free speech comes from fame-loving starfuckers who’ll do anything to defend the honor of powerful abusers who don’t give two shits about them. The real cancel culture does not threaten the current order, but protects it.

This is a tic I have observed again and again in recent years. Faced with monstrous revelations about powerful men in their industry—coworkers and even friends—some comics magically lose their ability to formulate opinions. After years of spouting any old shit about anything, they suddenly have no idea what to say. Instead they fashion themselves confused, helpless victims of circumstance and defer to the judgment of imaginary external authorities.

The more I think about it, the more I cannot help but recall the time, not so long ago, a prominent Republican Senate candidate was outed as a pedophile. Several women came forward with allegations that he harassed or assaulted them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Gradually it emerged that his pursuit of relationships with teenage girls was an open secret throughout his political career. In response to these revelations, several of the most cynical, amoral men in the world—GOP elected officials—denounced Roy Moore and called for him to drop out of the race. They of course did not do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because they calculated that he was too toxic. His behavior, now a national story, was an embarrassment to their party, he was doomed to lose his bid for power, and they could gain more from condemning him than from remaining silent. So they did.

Criticism of late night is often met with cries that it’s just late night. No one cares! It’s not important! The real joke is having high expectations of Jimmy Fallon. And, well, yeah. That’s the point. Andrew Cuomo goes to Fallon because nobody expects Fallon to treat him like someone whose decisions cost lives. Chuck Schumer knows Colbert might play devil’s advocate, but only long enough for Schumer to bat away a given controversy. Is it any surprise that Garcetti will give his time to James “Show & Tell” Corden two days after he increases LAPD salaries? Of course not. The fact that politicians use late night to launder their policies into entertainment is precisely what makes it important. In a world where comedians routinely insist they’re on the front lines of free speech, these shows get away with neoliberal agitprop because no one expects any better.

I find it deeply embarrassing to watch comedy’s cancel culture panic play out in parallel to the panic in media and literature. On one side you have the likes of Bari Weiss and Thomas Chatterton Williams and Andrew Sullivan and JK Rowling vehemently insisting on their sacred right to bring their earnestly held ideologies to the public square. On the other you have comics like Shlesinger saying, “Don’t you DARE censure me for saying something shitty which I didn’t think through at the time and certainly don’t believe now.” It’s not just “free speech for me, but not for thee,” it’s “free speech for me to say things I don’t mean, which are harmless because I didn’t mean them, and also things I did mean but have since outgrown, which are also harmless, uh, retroactively… but NOT for you to say they’re shitty too.”

The marvel of the Cancel Martyr’s Mind is that they perceive “lots of people yelling at me” as a sign they’re under attack when it really means they won. They’re famous! Their platform is bigger than the average person’s and their words carry more weight. This means they actually have more free speech than the average person, even when it costs them career opportunities the average person never gets.

The other group is fans. They have a voice too. Last week they used it to extract an apology from Fallon for his use of blackface 20 years ago. Some called that effort frivolous and counterproductive. I disagree. There’s nothing counterproductive about asking powerful people to model the values they preach.

This is the strongest possible case for the abolition of all colleges. As long as Harvard exists, you run the risk of highly educated bloggers, who've already been afforded countless lucrative opportunities and privileges throughout their careers, drawing a bewildering moral equivalency between mean tweets and, like, Ray Bradbury-style book burning. Both Greenwald and Yglesias are foundational voices of some of the most influential digital news organizations on American soil, and yet, they still nurture a conviction that their vital perspective is being actively hamstrung by interloping forces. The culprit? Subordinates, far below them on the masthead, capable of making $60, even $70,000 a year.

Comedy is wrapped up in all of this. It makes the pill go down. It turns oligarchs and CEOs and lawmakers and prosecutors and presidential candidates into fun silly sketch characters. It seats them on a couch or in a chair or at the Weekend Update desk and says they’re just like us. But they’re not. If they were, they wouldn’t need late-night.

The late-night worker I spoke with yesterday argued that it’s unfair to hold the first act of a show (sketches, monologues, other original content) accountable for the sins of the third (interviews with celebrity guests). I’m not sure the line is so clear. The former reflects light on the latter: a viewer who watches an anti-Trump sketch and then a chummy interview with James Comey will necessarily associate Comey with anti-Trump politics, though Comey is a Republican who helped give us Trump (after overseeing some of the worst excesses of the US criminal justice system). And I suspect the viewer who sees their favorite liberal talk show host palling around with Eric Holder is more likely to walk away pining for the good old days of the Obama Administration than fuming about Holder’s (and Obama’s) refusal to prosecute those responsible for the financial crisis, though this is Holder’s greatest legacy.

It does make you ponder all the ways this industry works in service of power, and by extension those who abuse it. So many of comedy’s institutions are, at their core, PR machines. Branded content is Funny Or Die’s bread and butter. Every week SNL promotes someone’s new movie or TV show or album. Late-night talk shows, with few exceptions, use jokes to bookend celebrity press tours. Comedians host awards shows because otherwise we might see them for the rituals they are—the wealthy and famous celebrating their own wealth and fame. Comedy normalizes power; it’s so successful at normalizing power that it feels weird to even write that as a criticism. Well, what’s wrong with normalizing power? Lots of things, but to start it lets monsters play the straight man in comedy sketches. It makes them relatable, which makes them less threatening. But power is always a threat, even more so when it seems innocuous, even more so when it seems… funny.

At its cold cynical heart, late-night is a shovel used by media conglomerates to deliver eyeballs to advertisers to make money for shareholders. It is also a massive branding apparatus for the rich and powerful, though this function is conveniently softened by all the jokes.

As such, the anti-Trump Boomers — faithfully catered to by the older, more powerful figures in TV while, allegedly, the newcomers there are told to shut up and use the tired playbook, because that’s what “works” — settle into a smug superiority that lets them vent their classist contempt. That’s true of some of the hosts and writing staffs, too. “Bill Maher isn’t actually liberal, he just hates people from Alabama,” the second writer says. When I reframe that idea as “‘I shop at Whole Foods, so I’m not a reactionary,’” he replies, “[This is] the politics of 75 percent of Hollywood writers.” And so that’s the ideology served. stabs at Trump aren’t intended to be apolitical — rather, they’re coded as courageous. “They think [joking about] ‘covfefe’ is brave,” he argues. “These are people whose version of ‘liberal’ just means not being white trash. And not calling their coworkers gay slurs.”

Put these pieces together and you get a boss whose management style is Don’t make me mad or I’ll fire you, and by the way, pretty much everything makes me mad. Now we can see that Jost’s job is not really to make comedy. It’s to keep Lorne happy. This framework explains everything about SNL. Of course the sketches are rarely funny; risk-taking is punishable by exile. Of course the satire is toothless; it’s written by people afraid of their boss. Of course the show takes every opportunity to flatter power; the boss only cares about his friends, and his friends are other bosses.

The more I thought about these comments, the more astonished I became at what they represented: the internalization by professional comedy writers of their own worthlessness. All political humor sucks? Jokes can’t make a difference? Aren’t you supposed to be the ones who believe in this shit? I’m as cynical as anyone, but even I believe that when you tell truth to power, sometimes power buckles. Powerful people are some of the weakest motherfuckers alive! Look at Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; look at Jon Stewart on Crossfire; look at Pete Davidson making fun of Dan Crenshaw; look at Bret Stephens’ response to a guy calling him a bedbug. Hell, look at what happens when anyone criticizes Michael Che. If nothing else, direct broadsides against the powerful reliably cause them to reveal their own fragility. Power relies on the appearance of legitimacy, and that appearance relies on a tenuous social contract in which everyone agrees not to say it’s just that: an appearance. Maybe comedy can’t tear down the castle, but it can open a crack in the walls. If jokes posed no threat, Volkswagen wouldn’t tell Colin Jost to rewrite his jokes.

Seth Simons

Put these pieces together and you get a boss whose management style is Don’t make me mad or I’ll fire you, and by the way, pretty much everything makes me mad. Now we can see that Jost’s job is not really to make comedy. It’s to keep Lorne happy. This framework explains everything about SNL. Of course the sketches are rarely funny; risk-taking is punishable by exile. Of course the satire is toothless; it’s written by people afraid of their boss. Of course the show takes every opportunity to flatter power; the boss only cares about his friends, and his friends are other bosses.

Many of the supporters who say they want big liberal policies at the national level don’t really mean it. For example, well-to-do liberals in fancy suburbs who say they prioritize racial equality but do not want to actually level the playing field in educational opportunities between their districts and majority-minority districts. [...] Here there’s tons of liberal energy and money to support taking big progressive fights to Washington. Meanwhile, our schools are segregated, our transit system is broken, our housing is unaffordable, our police force is a mess of corruption and there’s little pressure being put on the state legislature and governor to fix any of it.

If we find ourselves moving dizzily from outrage to outrage from week to week, we should consider that being outrageous has never cost so little or earned professional contrarians and provocateurs so much. When they’re not weeping into plates of hors d’oeuvres about Twitter, they may well be writing for the Times or The Atlantic, finishing up a forthcoming best-seller, or taking up a standing invitation to join Bill Maher on national television. Such is life under cancel culture. It is mostly good.

As deeply as Weiss might believe in discourse, art, love, light, and laughter, of course, many people disagree strongly with her views and will continue to say so online. This is less a tragedy than an integral part of her chosen profession.

If we take these lists seriously, cancel culture, as best as one can tell, seems to describe the phenomenon of being criticized by multiple people—often but not exclusively on the internet. Neither the number of critics, the severity of the criticism, nor the extent of the actual fallout from it seem particularly important. A great many people find Louis CK to be disgusting. The same can’t yet be said for guacamole. Both, we’re told urgently, have been canceled.

But there is no better example of Whitman’s loserdom than her current gig as CEO of Quibi, the streaming service that exclusively serves up “quick bites” of content that cost as much as $100,000 per minute to produce. You might be thinking, “I’m not a businessman, but that sounds like a bad strategy.” Well, that’s not the kind of thinking that gets you into the billionaire club. You have to take big risks. Sometimes, the big risks don’t pay off, and you raise $1.8 billion in investment for a company that ends up on the market within five months and that sucks so much that no one will even buy it...

Skepticism about the show and its treatment of their southern town — replete with trailer parks, tattoos, “a local Boo Radley,” and unseemly views on race and sexuality — makes sense. Often the region exists in the national consciousness as a paradox: simultaneously the butt of backwater jokes and the barometer of authentic blue-collar identity, at once reviled and fetishized.

Get diagnosed with cancer and half the people who find out will tell you, “It’s all about attitude. You have to have the right attitude.” On the other side of this endless conviction about attitude, about “fighting,” about conquering illness with your thoughts, is the child who loses his mother and works out in his mind that she must not have loved him enough to fight for him, to be courageous. If she had loved him, she would have come choppering home to him, healed and perfect.

When does the benefit of informing people about an emerging piece of misinformation outweigh the possible harms? It’s a hard balance to strike, and a judgment call every time. Give too much attention to a fringe conspiracy theory before it’s gone viral, and you might inadvertently end up amplifying it. Wait too long, and you allow it to spread to millions of people with no factual counterweight.

Trump has all his life posed a moral puzzle: What is due in the way of kindness and sympathy to people who have no kindness and sympathy for anyone else? Should we repay horrifying cruelty in equal measure? Then we reduce ourselves to their level. But if we return indecency with the decency due any other person in need, don’t we encourage appalling behavior? Don’t we prove to them that they belong to some unique bracket of humanity, entitled to kick others when they are writhing on the floor, and then to claim mercy when their own crimes and cruelties cast them upon the floor themselves?

David Frum

The Atlantic

The painting style of Jackson Pollock is called “gestural abstraction,” but before last night’s debate, I never knew that it was also a governing philosophy. The debate featured many decisions from President Donald Trump that were puzzling, to put it mildly.

He told me the story of Hans Litten, a Jewish lawyer who prosecuted Nazi paramilitaries for an attack on a dance hall in 1931, and therefore had the chance to cross-examine Hitler. At a time when foreign correspondents and diplomats were still joking about the future dictator’s clownishness, vulgarity, and overheated rhetorical style—and arguing that his overt anti-Semitism, disregard for the law, and advocacy of violence were just tactics to whip up his base—Litten took him seriously. He questioned Hitler carefully, exposing his double-faced strategy: street violence to galvanize an army of thugs, overlaid with a veneer of plausible gentility to attract middle-class voters. Litten embarrassed Hitler, but did not win the case. And as soon as Hitler came to power in 1933, the lawyer was arrested. After five years of torture and hard labor, Litten killed himself in Dachau.

Voters often seem to believe that effective business leaders have the skills and knowledge to lead the nation as a whole. They’re wrong about that. Even genuinely great businesspeople — people like, say, Herbert Hoover — are often very bad at public policy, including economic policy, because the skills needed to run a business and those required to steer a nation are very different.

Trump does not want Black people to vote. (He said as much in 2017—on Martin Luther King Day, no less—to a voting-­rights group co-founded by King, according to a recording leaked to Politico.) He does not want young people or poor people to vote. He believes, with reason, that he is less likely to win reelection if turnout is high at the polls. This is not a “both sides” phenomenon. In present-day politics, we have one party that consistently seeks advantage in depriving the other party’s adherents of the right to vote.

“It is possible to be a terrible debater and be very hard to debate at the same time,” Reines added later. “And Donald Trump has gotten harder to debate—it is harder to understand him, it is harder to follow him, because it’s just one big non-sequitur; he’s telling so many lies, it’s impossible to think that you alone are going to fact-check him.”

Representation is not everything. I am acutely aware of its limits across American culture and politics. Representation will not prevent Black people from being killed by police. It will not reduce the racial wealth gap. It will not prevent Black people from being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. But neither is it nothing. As I wrote after watching Black Panther in 2018: “We should not confuse representation with political power, nor should we discount it.”

Welcome to what happens when tech start-ups that are created by people who have no real management experience grow large. It’s complex, of course, but it also remains inexplicable that an industry that so loudly purports to celebrate meritocracy is actually a mirror-tocracy — reflecting only those who look just like themselves.

Kara Swisher

We misunderstand the nature of patriarchy,” Manne notes in a recent op-ed for The New York Times, “if we think that merely having power and influence are verboten for women. Women are allowed to have power, so long as that power is deployed in ways that are not threatening to a patriarchal order—in the service of a male president, for example.”

Yes, most people, including the .1%, will use their skills and resources to ensure their firm has an advantage over others, even if that means turning a blind eye to externalities (environmental standards, monopoly abuse, tax avoidance, teen depression). Affixing your own oxygen mask before helping others is a decent tagline for capitalism. Yet most successful capitalist systems acknowledge that without rule of law, empathy, and redistribution of income, we lose the script. The purpose of an economy is to build a robust middle class. We have, traditionally, elected leaders who cut the lower branches off trees to ensure other saplings get sunlight. There is less and less sunlight. It’s never been easier to become a billionaire, or harder to become a millionaire.

Scott Galloway

Affluent college-educated people, liberals and otherwise, tended not to disagree ferociously about politics in the 1980s and ’90s, and certainly not about economics. In retrospect, the rough consensus about economics looks like the beginning of an unspoken decades-long class solidarity among the bourgeoisie. Affluent college-educated people, Democrats as well as Republicans, began using the phrase socially liberal but fiscally conservative to describe their politics, which meant low taxes for higher-net-worth individuals (another new term) in return for tolerance of . . . whatever, as long as it didn’t involve big new social programs that affluent people would have to pay for. It was a libertarianism lite that kept everything nice and clubbable and it did at least have the virtue of ideological consistency.

But on racial matters, the U.S. could just as accurately be described as a land in denial. It has been a massacring nation that said it cherished life, a slaveholding nation that claimed it valued liberty, a hierarchal nation that declared it valued equality, a disenfranchising nation that branded itself a democracy, a segregated nation that styled itself separate but equal, an excluding nation that boasted of opportunity for all. A nation is what it does, not what it originally claimed it would be. Often, a nation is precisely what it denies itself to be.

The 3 percent of students whose lives changed for the better—who, according to Gallup, had the types of experiences that “strongly relate to great jobs and great lives afterward”—had three features in common: a great teacher and mentor, intensive engagement in activities outside class, and in-depth study and application of ideas.

Collegeboard CEO

The Atlantic

In the 1980s, the physician Robert Goldman famously found that more than half of aspiring athletes would be willing to take a drug that would kill them in five years in exchange for winning every competition they entered today, “from the Olympic decathlon to the Mr. Universe.” Later research found that up to 14 percent of elite performers would accept a fatal cardiovascular condition in exchange for an Olympic gold medal—still a shockingly high number, in my estimation.

Arthur C Brooks

The Atlantic

I am far from the first person to annotate some of the problems with that letter, but I swear to god, we are living through an epidemic of weirdo Gen Xers who seem to believe that getting called a clown ass online is a dissertation-level injustice.

Luke Winkie

Something happens when a dude has a daughter: Women, once mystifying, vexing creatures with shoe racks, eyelash curlers, and vagina holes become fully formed three-dimensional human beings. The mere and sudden fact of fatherhood pushes men into a new realm of cognizance: They have to care about what happens to women — but only some, and only if they’re of a certain race, class, or status — and maybe even take misconduct against them a little personally. A daughter gives them skin in the patriarchal, sexist game they once could look past. I know this because every time a man is accused of something bad, or when someone he knows is accused of something bad, the same quote surfaces: “As a father of daughters, I …”

When we conduct surveys about modern life and ask people what the biggest irritants of modern life are, ‘unwanted music or sound’ is usually in the top five,” says Dr Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal and author of The Organised Mind. This has a lot to do with the way our hearing system works. “Compare it with vision. When you look at an object, it appears to be out there in the world. But sounds, for most of us, feel like they’re emanating from within our heads. It makes them more intimate and more intrusive.

Richard Godwin

The Guardian

“With more than a third of Americans in jobs that offer no sick leave at all, many unfortunately cannot afford to take any days off when they are feeling sick,” Robyn Gershon, an epidemiology professor at the NYU School of Global Public Health, wrote in an email. “People who do not (or cannot) stay home when ill do present a risk to others.” On this count, the United States is a global anomaly, one of only a handful of countries that doesn’t guarantee its workers paid leave of any kind.

Amanda Mull

The Atlantic

The concept of the “personal carbon footprint” was popularized by BP in a 2005 media campaign costing over $100 million — a campaign that, research has indicated, deflected responsibility for climate change away from the corporation and onto the individual consumer.

As the transition dragged on, Mr. Obama became increasingly uneasy at what he saw as the breezy indifference of the new president and his inexperienced team. Many of them ignored the briefing binders his staff had painstakingly produced at his direction, former Obama aides recalled, and instead of focusing on policy or the workings of the West Wing, they inquired about the quality of tacos in the basement mess or where to find a good apartment.

What you can do, however, is point to the woman who said of Warren, “There’s just something about her that I just don’t like. I just don’t feel like she’s a genuine candidate. I find her body language to be off-putting. She’s very cold.” Or you could point to the cable-news pundit who said of that candidate, “Do we want to invite her into our bedrooms and living rooms every day for four years?” Or to the journalist who mused that she “sure does lie a lot about her background.” Or to the accusation that she has projected “a ‘holier than thou’ attitude that her colleagues find irritating.” Or to the comment that her anger is “unmeasured and almost unhinged.” You can note that the first question Kirsten Gillibrand received at the first news conference she gave as a presidential candidate was about her likability. You can reference the time Harris was asked by a high-profile pundit, on Twitter, whether she had slept her way to the top.

Megan Garber

The Atlantic

It is true, for instance, that pulling down a Confederate monument does absolutely nothing in itself to improve the material position of any struggling person in this country. But our debates over monuments have really been debates about how we should understand our history, and they seem to be succeeding in advancing a sense that the roots of racial disadvantage are very old and very deep⁠—undermining arguments that inequality can be meaningfully addressed by incremental economic policy and individual determination.

Osita Nwanevu

New Republic

How important can a movement be, it’s often been asked, if the most heinous corporations and institutions in the world can glom onto it and earn praise for meaningless statements and gestures? But it’s not obvious why those efforts should call the value of identity politics into question any more than panels on inequality at Davos, or the right-wing presidency of a man who ran on protecting workers from the predations of financial and corporate elites should raise doubts about the legitimacy of class politics. The powers that be wouldn’t attempt to take advantage of and redirect the energies of these ideas if they weren’t already potent and compelling.

Osita Nwanevu

New Republic

While the Harper’s letter is couched in the events of the last few weeks, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is actively informed by the actions of its writers, many of whom have championed the free market of ideas, but actively ensured that it is free only for them. It’s ironic that the letter gives highly sought-out space to some of the most well-paid and visible people in media, academia, and publishing. These are the same people who possess the money and prestige to have their ideas shared in just about any elite publication, outlet, or journal. There will always be a place for them to have their voices heard.

Darrell Green, a Washington legend and pro football Hall-of-Famer who holds the league’s record for most consecutive seasons with an interception, told ESPN this week that he would consider throwing away his old jerseys and memorabilia. He elaborated in an interview with The New York Times, saying that now was the time to look to a better future instead of clinging to nostalgia. “We shouldn’t have longings for something that is past, that is a jersey or a moment, that is to the detriment of living people,” he said, referring to Native American communities. “My millions, my trophies, my videos, my jerseys, my stuff, it’s not worth it. My vantage point is that human beings come first."

But climate change is much more than that. It includes increasing acidification and rising sea levels (another aspect of climate change that Lomborg doesn’t mention is that Wall Street could be underwater by 2100 — a seeming benefit until one realizes that almost surely the bankers would find a way to force all of us to pay for their move to higher ground).

Joseph E. Stiglitz


Any good-faith understanding of principles such as free speech and due process requires acknowledging some basic truths: Facing widespread criticism on Twitter, undergoing an internal workplace review, or having one’s book panned does not, in fact, erode one’s constitutional rights or endanger a liberal society. (And for that matter, even authors who have received powerful social-media backlash have continued to find support with other prominent publishers and media outlets.)

Hannah Giorgis

The Atlantic

But public discourse is always governed by some set of implicit guidelines or barriers. Too often, the people who wax poetic about free speech from safely behind a MacBook Air somewhere on the Upper West Side have not historically faced prohibitive obstacles to advancing their ideas.

Hannah Giorgis

The Atlantic

This consumption-and-conference empowerment dilutes the word to pitch-speak, and the concept to something that imitates rather than alters the structures of the world. This version of empowerment can be actively disempowering: It’s a series of objects and experiences you can purchase while the conditions determining who can access and accumulate power stay the same. The ready partici­pation of well-off women in this strat­egy also points to a deep truth about the word “empowerment”: that it has never been defined by the people who actually need it. People who talk empowerment are, by definition, already there.

The rise and fall of the girlboss is about how comfortable we’ve become mixing capitalism with social justice. We looked to corporations to implement social changes because we lost faith in our public institutions to do so.

Leigh Stein


When a country is grappling with mass death, racist state violence, and the unemployment and potential homelessness of millions of people, it becomes inescapably clear that when women center their worldview around their own office hustle, it just re-creates the power structures built by men, but with women conveniently on top. In the void left after the end of the corporate feminist vision of the future, this reckoning opens space to imagine success that doesn’t involve acing performance reviews or getting the most out of your interns.

Amanda Mull

The Atlantic

Sophia Amoruso, who had parlayed an eBay account into the fast-fashion mini-empire Nasty Gal, proposed a convenient incrementalism. Instead of dismantling the power men had long wielded in America, career women could simply take it for themselves at the office. Like Sheryl Sandberg’s self-help hit Lean In before it, #Girlboss argued that the professional success of ambitious young women was a two-birds-one-stone type of activism: Their pursuit of power could be rebranded as a righteous quest for equality, and the success of female executives and entrepreneurs would lift up the women below them.

Amanda Mull

The Atlantic

Tech workers most able to protest their employers with resignation are those who have the least to lose—the ones who will find their next play easily, reinvesting conscientious objection in yet another tech company. The industry says it wants to improve the world, but its workers are so comfortable, and so entrenched, that they have a hard time finding a way out that doesn’t lead them right back in again.

Ian Bogost

The Atlantic

If America wants peace it must be responsive in peacetime. You can’t demonize an athlete who peacefully takes a knee to protest against police brutality, labeling him a “son of a bitch,” as President Trump did, and then pine for peaceful protests now.

Charles M. Blow


By contrast, a Republican senator who dares to question whether Trump is acting in the interests of the country is in danger of—what, exactly? Losing his seat and winding up with a seven-figure lobbying job or a fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School? He might meet the terrible fate of Jeff Flake, the former Arizona senator, who has been hired as a contributor by CBS News. He might suffer like Romney, who was tragically not invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference, which this year turned out to be a reservoir of COVID‑19.

Anne Applebaum

The Atlantic

Many people are asking if violence is a valid means of producing social change. The hard and historical answer is yes. Riots have a way of magnifying not merely the flaws in the system, but also the strength of those in power. The American Revolution was won with violence. The French Revolution was won with violence. The Haitian Revolution was won with violence. The Civil War was won with violence. A revolution in today’s terms would mean that these nationwide rebellions lead to black people being able to access and exercise the fullness of their freedom and humanity.

Kellie Carter Jackson

The Atlantic

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that these declarations almost always come from elite-educated, upwardly mobile East Asians and they’re almost always directed at poorer, or, at the very least, less genteel immigrants, whether nail salon workers, beauty shop owners, or, in this case, a Hmong-American policeman. There is almost no overlap between these groups. They might each have representatives at a summit or panel discussion in an academic setting, but Hmongs and other poorer Asian groups really only become “Asian American” when they fuck up and do something racist, or when they unexpectedly do something that falls in line with the sort of elite multiculturalism promoted by the professional “Asian-Americans.”

Jay Kaspian Kang

Time To Say Goodbye

Playing the refs by browbeating them has long been a key move in the right-wing playbook against traditional media. The method is simple: It involves badgering them with accusations of unfairness and bias so that they bend over backwards to accommodate a “both sides” narrative even when the sides were behaving very differently, or when one side was not grounded in fact. Climate-change deniers funded by fossil-fuel companies effectively used this strategy for decades, relying on journalists’ training and instinct to equate objectivity with representing both sides of a story.

Zeynep Tufekci

The Atlantic

Obviously, I can’t know what’s in her heart or what she thinks is in her heart, since a whole lot of white women rest on good intentions while engaging in racist actions and actively supporting racist systems. It’s one of the big differences between being “not racist” (which is meaningless) and anti-racist (which takes actual work).

Vivian Kane

The Mary Sue

He'd only seemed "good" by default in the beginning because nothing had come up yet in his life that made decency a tough choice. As soon as being good was inconvenient, he wasn't good.

Reddit commentor


Social psychologists have demonstrated that rich people are likelier than poorer ones to lie, cheat, and disregard traffic rules and, more recently, that they are likelier to believe that social status is a matter of merit. (A study published in August in the Personality and Social Psychology bulletin showed that the wealthier a person is, the more he or she will agree with the following statement: “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than other people.”)

Lisa Miller


Some argue that cheering on courageous people is worthless unless you are willing to make their lives better. Counterpoint: thank you for your service. Some people believe that building emotional and psychological resilience is best achieved not by subjecting people to random difficult shit for no reason but by educating them about how to cultivate happiness, gratitude, and peacefulness; how to ask for help; how to lean on social bonds; how to follow a life path that they might enjoy; how to accept themselves; and how to have a perspective on suffering that includes solidarity and not just vague personal growth — and that maybe we should reform our society as a whole so that instead of forcing people into intensely high-pressure situations from an early age so that they might be successful, we make success more widely available so that we can mitigate the strong undercurrents of rage and anxiety and dislocation that are moving us toward annihilative shores.

Chas Gillespie


If you look at the rate of mental illness in teenagers, you’ll find something disturbing: it’s going up. Could this be because we live in an intensely neoliberal casino capitalist country that produces a few winners and a lot of losers, and teenagers are under unbelievable pressure to become one of our society’s few winners by getting impossibly good grades and test scores while also single-handedly organizing the million-person March for Hope and then writing an admissions essay about the summer they spent lobbying the government of Peru to pass comprehensive environmental legislation? And then you’re told you have to do this for the rest of your life with limited opportunities to use your freedom because you have to make a lot of money and have a safe job and when you look ahead at a life like that you feel like you’re drowning, all in the context of an unjust society, needless violence, and a planet that might honest-to-God collapse, and on top of that teenagers can be mean as hell, both in-person and online, and you might feel incredibly alone? Is this maybe an explanation for teenagers’ psychological difficulties?

Chas Gillespie


In 2015, Trump apprehended that most Republicans were talking about things that Republican voters did not then care about: deficits, taxes, productivity, and trade. In 2015, Trump apprehended that nobody was talking about things that Republican voters did care about: immigration, drugs, the declining status of less educated white men.

David Frum

The Atlantic

He has already appointed nearly as many judges to the federal courts as Obama did in his entire Presidency. These judges will be in a position to gut reproductive rights, along with voting rights, workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights, and environmental protections. Our last chance to take any real action on climate change would be lost if Trump won, along with our ability to effectively fight any future pandemic in concert with other countries. Our democracy would be irreparably damaged.

Margaret Talbot

New Yorker

Students are like any human group. They have their affinities, and they hang out with friends and not with strangers. But they are, unlike many other adults, encouraged into these droplet-swapping arrangements on a regular basis, because of classes, dining halls, clubs, sports, and randomized dorm assignments. Without the mixing—which begins on move-in day, when you meet your first-year roommates—a university education can be little more than a very expensive library card.

Graeme Wood

The Atlantic

Go to where the known problems are. Don’t make up new ones. And if you aren’t following the tradition of tzedakah — giving enough of your income to charity that it feels like a sacrifice (or whatever sacrifice makes sense for you) — then you need to ask yourself if you’re trying to make the world better, or just trying to feel good.

But- Don’t try to solve problems you don’t experience yourself without actually engaging with the people who have those problems. Every now and then some rich folks build apps about homelessness— don’t make that mistake, in whatever domain you’re working on.

Jonathan Taubaurer

Civic Tech Thoughts

Cashiers and shelf-stockers and delivery-truck drivers aren’t heroes. They’re victims. To call them heroes is to justify their exploitation. By praising the blue-collar worker’s public service, the progressive consumer is assuaged of her cognitive dissonance. When the world isn’t falling apart, we know the view of us is usually as faceless, throwaway citizens. The wealthy CEO telling his thousands of employees that they are vital, brave, and noble is a manipulative strategy to keep them churning out profits.

Karleigh Frisbie Brogan

The Atlantic

Dickie Arbiter, the royal commentator, told me, “For goodness’ sake, the Queen is head of the Commonwealth, and the majority of the Commonwealth is other races—African, Asian, you name it.” The fact that some of the Queen’s best subjects are black is perhaps not the strongest defense of the royal institution, which is notably lacking in diversity.

Rebecca Mead

New Yorker

Google, McKinsey, Microsoft, Amazon and the likes are all amazing companies with plenty of elite university graduates. But at the end of the day, what exactly are you doing with all that education and your top 0.1% brain? Is your life’s purpose to figure out how to best optimize an online ad? Is your calling to provide senior management reasons why they should fire 25% of their work force to optimize profits? Are you seriously pumped to wake up each morning to figure out how to best improve on demand food delivery times? Come on. There’s got to be more to work than making lots of money.

Help to disabuse him of these faulty notions and explain to him that college is about the right fit, not the most prestigious name, and that no matter where he goes—including an Ivy League school—there will be students just like him, as well as students who are both more and less accomplished on paper, because colleges try to put together a group of outstanding people who will mesh well. Tell him that you have every confidence that he will choose, and be accepted into, a school where he meshes well and maybe even makes the friends he’ll have for the rest of his life.

Lori Gottlieb

The Atlantic

Tens of millions of people who received aid that would not have reached them without the efforts of the Democratic Party will end up casting ballots for Donald Trump this November. In one important way, that’s how it should be: The Democratic Party as it is currently constituted correctly understands that it has civic and moral obligations to ensure the well-being not only of its own voters, but of those who vote against its candidates. The Republican Party, and particularly the GOP under Trump, acts as if it has no such obligations, which is why the president himself has portrayed aid to Democratic-controlled states ravaged by the coronavirus as personal generosity rather than his fucking job.

Adam Serwer

The Atlantic

The kid who learns these lessons early on will probably still be upset if despite her stellar application, she doesn’t get admitted to her top-choice school. But she won’t walk through the world feeling as though there’s a conspiracy going on, nor will she walk onto campus the first day of freshman year believing that she won’t be challenged and that her peers are either similarly overqualified or simply beneath her.

Lori Gottlieb

The Atlantic

For instance, when a toddler stumbles in the sandbox, the first thing she does is look at her parent for a signal. If the parent calmly says, “Whoops, you fell down,” and then smiles reassuringly, the child will likely get the message that the fall was no big deal and get right back up. But if the adult looks alarmed, yells, “Oh, no! Are you okay?,” and rushes over to check for injuries, the child may in turn become alarmed: "Wait, am I okay? I thought I was okay, but maybe I’m not!"

Lori Gottlieb

The Atlantic

But this compact rests on the celebrity’s ability to seem to move easily between the elite and the masses, to be aspirational and approachable at once. And under normal circumstances, they are accustomed to receiving accolades for “using their platforms” to “raise awareness” in the service of bland initiatives for the public good.

Amanda Hess


It is common to encounter even the most successful students, who have won all the “prizes,” stepping back and wondering if it was all worth it. Professionals in their thirties and forties—physicians, lawyers, academics, business people and others—sometimes give the impression that they are dazed survivors of some bewildering life-long boot camp. Some say they ended up in their profession because of someone else’s expectations, or that they simply drifted into it without pausing to think whether they really loved their work. Often they say they missed their youth entirely, never living in the present, always pursuing some ill-defined goal.

Thirty years ago it was possible to absorb anti-Asian sentiment ambiently—thinking of Asians as intrinsically foreign was an attitude you could just stumble into—but today you’d have to work a bit to fail to notice that Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese Americans are firmly established in the United States and, insofar as they are a political bloc, consider their success the best form of revenge. Good luck pitying them. As the writer Wesley Yang once reflected when the underdog Democratic candidate Andrew Yang confronted stereotypes about Asian prowess at mathematics: “Why should I be on the defensive about this?”

Graeme Wood

The Atlantic

It’s said that one reason certain social programs don’t get the support they deserve is that every American imagines that he or she is part of the middle class. With the pandemic, perhaps, the problem is that too many can’t conceive of themselves as old or ill.

Amy Davidson Sorkin

New Yorker

First, although you may think you know what you would do in his situation, you don’t. Nobody knows what they’ll do in a particular situation until they’re actually in it, and you need to account for this gap between imagination and lived experience. Second, only he knows what’s right for him. Remember, he’ll be the one to live with his choices, not you, which means he gets to choose whom to love and why.

In the 2020 election, Donald Trump’s aim is to brand his opponent an avatar of socialism, whether it’s Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders. But the COVID-19 outbreak demonstrates the emptiness of these sorts of ideological labels. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, in a national emergency, there’s no truly laissez-faire government.

Peter Nicholas

The Atlantic

As the start-up world has reeled from the dizzying falls of toxic male founders like Uber’s Travis Kalanick and WeWork’s Adam Neumann, it has set its sights on a new kind of hero figure. Female entrepreneurs are paraded in the press as saviors of the market, even though they still receive relatively paltry sums from venture-capital firms. In their hands, the tensions of capitalism may be laundered through feminist messaging and come out looking bright and new. At the very least, corporate feminism can be defended as an incremental good. Yes, it may co-opt a political movement for profit, but it is moving the levers of capitalism for the benefit of women, tailoring products for female consumers and transferring cash into the coffers of women leaders.

So what’s going on? What we’re seeing here is a meltdown — not just a meltdown of the markets, but a meltdown of Trump’s mind. When bad things happen, there are only three things he knows how to do: insist that things are great and his policies are perfect, cut taxes, and throw money at his cronies.

Paul Krugman


“Electability” claims to be a benign and objective concern. It is neither. It merely outsources biases, rationalizing them by appealing to the moral failings of imagined others. It talks about neighbors, and “other people,” and “what the country is ready for.” It throws up its hands and washes them at the same time.

After four years of hearing, in the words of a British politician, that “we’ve had enough of experts,” this is the moment when the value of expertise has suddenly become crystal clear. Suddenly, facts matter.

"As so much of the world economy moved online and the company’s profits soared, Google and the rest of Silicon Valley developed a reputation as the American dream factory, the place where the world’s smartest young people wanted to be — where technologists and business­people could pull down staggering incomes while still believing that they were engaged in an act of altruism."

Some of those workers will be producing real value. But since the 2008 crisis, there has been a growing sentiment that much of what the finance industry does involves siphoning value — which economists call “rents” — from the rest of the economy.

If you’re traveling in a group, someone should be in charge. One major group-travel time suck is when everyone stands around politely expressing to the others that they’re happy to do whatever you want to do next. Polite deference may leave you without plans at a time when you need them.

It’s important to realize that Trumpian protectionism wasn’t a response to a groundswell of public opinion. As best as I can tell from the endless series of interviews with white guys in diners — who are, we all know, the only Americans who matter — these voters are driven more by animosity toward immigrants and the sense that snooty liberals look down on them than by trade policy.

Paul Krugman


If minority and working-class women are attacked for being unruly and ungrateful—for not knowing their place—their wealthier white sisters are, in the feminist theorist Catharine MacKinnon’s description, dismissed as “effete, pampered, privileged, protected, flighty, and self-indulgent.”

Doxa: "that which is taken for granted...the established cosmological and political order [which] is perceived not as arbitrary, i.e. as one possible order among others, but as a self-evident and natural order which goes without saying and therefore goes unquestioned..."


"As the unmarked category against which difference is constructed, whiteness never has to speak its name, never has to acknowledge its role as an organizing principle in social and cultural relations". As many cultural and literary critics have begun to discover, and as Henry's blindness to the whiteness buried within this self-appraisal demonstrates, whiteness is difficult to detect and delineate because it organizes both social relations and individual conceptions of identity ''by seeming not to be anything in particular."

Richard Dyer


“American higher education was not prepared for the triple whammy of globalization, the Internet and higher education becoming big business.”

Could it be that in the US meritocracy is an excuse to deny the poor the resources they need to lead a decent life?

Pandya related the story as a revelation. The Jarawa had moved effortlessly between two worlds. More than that, they were ambivalent about ours. En-mei, in particular, had shown an interest in the outside world only as long as it served his central aim, which was marriage. To achieve that, he had manipulated everyone, from his fellow Jarawas to officials at the highest levels of the Indian state. Pandya’s conclusion was that En-mei was an intelligent, ambitious, selfish schemer. In other words: one of us.

But this much seems clear: It’s perfectly fine to lie, harass and manipulate by the millions online, provided you are an elected official or fall into the amorphous loophole of “newsworthiness.” It’s the one protected class of people who can get away with behavior that would see others banned. Politicians, it seems, have a license to behave badly, made possible by technology companies that kowtow to the powerful rather than stand up to them.

Charlie Warzel


When it comes to racism in America, I think that guilt and responsibility tend to be seen as more or less the same thing. But I’m beginning to understand how there’s a real difference. As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so. But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.

In other words, I can say every right thing in the world: I can voice my solidarity with Russ after what happened in Utah. I can evolve my position on what happened to Thabo in New York. I can be that weird dude in Get Out bragging about how he’d have voted for Obama a third term. I can condemn every racist heckler I’ve ever known. But I can also fade into the crowd, and my face can blend in with the faces of those hecklers, any time I want.

“A germ?” asked the author of the letter. “Has he ever been to a sports event where one team is an Ivy League school and its entire student section engages in the chant ‘Safety school! Saaaaa-fety school!’ at the opponents?”

We live in a country where the number one predictor of college success is not intelligence or hard work—it is student zip code.

Recognize how profoundly fortunate you are to live in this country and to be presented with opportunities that most of your peers around the world would give virtually anything to experience.

Jeff Brenzel

Yale Admissions

I’d gladly accept the decline of standards that were arbitrary and elitist in the first place in favor of being able to better connect with my fellow humans.

Gretchen McCulloch

Because Internet

Mr. Park said he found the plan discriminatory, but not because he thought there was animosity toward Asian-American students. The problem, he said, was that it forced Asian-Americans to give up something instead of compelling high-performing schools that are predominantly white to integrate. “The real conversation, I think, is why these exclusive prep schools are not under discussion,” Mr. Park said. “No matter how you try to put it nicely, this is about white people having theirs, and telling Asians and African-Americans and Latinos to fight over the rest.”

T.K. Park


At an orientation session for new faculty, we were told that Harvard “wants to train the future leaders of the world, not the future academics of the world,” and that “We want to read about our student in Newsweek 20 years hence” (prompting the woman next to me to mutter, “Like the Unabomber”).

Steven Pinker

New Republic

The endless battle over admissions in the United States proceeds on the assumption that some great moral principle is at stake in the matter of whom schools like Harvard choose to let in—that those who are denied admission by the whims of the admissions office have somehow been harmed. If you are sick and a hospital shuts its doors to you, you are harmed. But a selective school is not a hospital, and those it turns away are not sick.

“Any class, no matter how able, will always have a bottom quarter,” Glimp once wrote. “What are the effects of the psychology of feeling average, even in a very able group? Are there identifiable types with the psychological or what-not tolerance to be ‘happy’ or to make the most of education while in the bottom quarter?” Glimp thought it was critical that the students who populated the lower rungs of every Harvard class weren’t so driven and ambitious that they would be disturbed by their status.

Malcolm Gladwell

New Yorker

This is an advice column about getting into an elite college. And, like every column about the anxiety of getting into an elite college, it must begin with a massive caveat: If you and your parents are worried about getting into an elite school, odds are that you are already elite.

Derek Thompson

The Atlantic

Several elite schools, like Washington University in St. Louis and Middlebury, accept more students from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent. It’s highly unlikely that these ratios are justified, even purely as a matter of essential funding, considering these schools’ endowments and glittering facilities.

It also makes sense for many Asians to feel hesitant about objecting to being discriminated against, fearing that their objection may jeopardize affirmative action itself.

“Maybe the ultimate goal is for Asian-Americans to be the predominant group in the élite schools, as opposed to whites,” Prudence Carter, the Berkeley dean, said. “I don’t have a problem with that. But I do have a problem with picking on the few numbers of black and brown students in those schools.”

Hua Hsu

New Yorker

A degree from a fancy school is like having a fancy suit. Delightful if you care about such things, but overpriced, overhyped and meaningless in our universal quest toward living a life we love. We are all blessed with immense and unearned privilege the day we are born. It is called being an American.

And if you’re a high school senior lucky enough to have won this demographic lottery and thus improved your admissions odds some, keep this in mind: You may have earned the grades and the scores to put you in the running, but you are also the beneficiary of enormous, unearned economic privilege. Go ahead and use it, sure. But please, pay it forward and backward to people who have less than you, whenever you are able.

Ron Lieberman


The children of the wealthy and privileged have always been given special consideration at selective colleges. It’s affirmative action for the aristocracy, although it’s never referred to or criticized as a betrayal of the meritocratic ideal. But set aside even a few spots for members of minorities who have historically been the victims of discrimination, and suddenly it is important not to compromise academia’s strict meritocratic standards. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

lydgate, Virginia

NYTimes reader responses

Many people become the kind of parent their parents were, unless they’re educated otherwise.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were not invented to undermine trust in science or indoctrinate racists. They just turned out to be the best possible ways to accomplish those goals. They were invented for a better species than ours.

Trump won the three states that put him in the Oval Office by fewer than 80,000 votes.

Payne speaks bluntly about these goals. People who support tax cuts for high earners and reductions to social programs are “very deliberately attempting to create a permanent underclass,” she said. “You want people to suffer and die earlier, because your greed is more important to you than another human being.”

They are pictures of white femininity, of the idealized victim revered by Hollywood and the morning news. It feels inconceivable that the women of Fox News, of all places, presaged the mainstreaming of the #MeToo movement, but it also makes sense.

Bourdieu was repulsed by America’s obsession with a weak, poorly funded state; its devotion to “the spirit of capitalism” and individualism; and its neo-Darwinism, crudely masked with its ethos of self-help and work ethic.

I’m also worried that it’s sapping talent from other industries that might benefit from more innovation. All these people building apps and software-as-a-service companies, if they applied themselves to challenges in the physical world—especially on energy, housing, health, and transportation—they could make a real difference.

If technology belongs to the people only insofar as the people are consumers, we beneficiaries had better believe that luminaries and pioneers did something so outrageously, so individually innovative that the concentration of capital at the top is deserved. When founders pitch their companies, or inscribe their origin stories into the annals of TechCrunch, they neglect to mention some of the most important variables of success: luck, timing, connections, and those who set the foundation for them. The industry isn’t terribly in touch with its own history. It clings tight to a faith in meritocracy: This is a spaceship, and we built it by ourselves.

Anna Wiener

The Atlantic

Even if the nearly 40 percent of graduates may not be doing something actively bad, they are passing on the opportunity to be the citizen-leaders our societies really need. There are countless unresolved issues regarding basic human rights and justice, in the US and every other country in the world, that desperately deserve attention from those with the various capacities to tackle them. It is already unfortunate that the benefits of a Harvard education and degree are most accessible to a small group of disproportionately rich and privileged families. Hence, it adds insult to injury that many students forgo the opportunity to use those advantages to level the playing field in our society, instead committing themselves early on to fields whose ethics are sketchy at best.

When I traveled the world, I told my international colleagues that while America was a new country, it was one of the oldest governments. Everyone else had a chance to reevaluate their social context in light of expanding human rights and the scientific revolution. Not us; our ideas about government were made when men and women were kept in chains, doctors used leeches, and everyone shit in buckets.

Steve Jobs' greatest genius was not in engineering, but in marketing. He understood that late capitalism no longer fulfill needs, but creates them.

Keith A Spencer


It bothers me because, for the longest time, I defined myself using my interests, and hobbies, and where I’m from, and what classes I’m taking, and where I live.

The rise in political participation is generational — a surge in interest among Asian-Americans born and raised in America whose idea of civic participation is very different from those of their immigrant parents. This trend is just now reaching escape velocity, he said. “The growth that looks like a hockey stick curve just kicked in, with a huge mass of people participating in politics,” he said in an interview. “And it just so happened at the exact moment when a xenophobe with a huge megaphone ran for president on a platform of building a wall, banning Muslims and confronting China.”

Only by being terrible do they avoid being comic. (I have thought of these words often during the Trump administration.)

Phil Christman

The Hedgehog Review

Our species’ single most predictable characteristic is our refusal to be defined by instinct, to let evolutionary history answer all our questions.

Phil Christman

The Hedgehog Review

Surely there can be no question that America should be about fairness. Yet only a person accustomed to having things go his way in America would assume that it already is.

Editorial Board


Essi Viding, a professor of developmental psychopathology at University College London recalls showing one psychopathic prisoner a series of faces with different expressions. When the prisoner came to a fearful face, he said, “I don’t know what you call this emotion, but it’s what people look like just before you stab them.”

Those who insist that the Civil War was about states’ rights are dismissed by Neiman with a simple query: “states’ rights to do what?”

It felt as if a bunch of minorities were clawing at one another while a line of entitled, less qualified white kids walked through the gates of Ivy League schools as their alumni parents unpacked an S.U.V. filled with weird rackets and skis.

Jay Kaspian Kang

New York Times Magazine

Edward Blum, Delmar Fears and Yukong Zhao may not agree on much of anything, but they all have made versions of an argument that the spirit of affirmative action has been replaced by a largely cosmetic, overly simplified diversity that allows elite institutions to report gains in black and Latino student populations without having to engage in the harder work of undoing systemic inequality.

Jay Kaspian Kang

New York Times Magazine

His bigotry seemed to spring from self-doubt about his own place in a country that prided itself on diversity even if the imbalance of nearly every power dynamic suggested otherwise.

I did not know—even after four years at the institution—that the school’s impressive matriculation list was not the simple by-product of excellent teaching, but was in fact the end result of parental campaigns undertaken with the same level of whimsy with which the Japanese Navy bombed Pearl Harbor.

Caitlin Flanagan

The Atlantic

Rand’s simplistic reversals — selfishness is a virtue, altruism is a sin, capitalism is a deeply moral system that allows human freedom to flourish — have given her work a patina of transgression, making her beloved by those who consider themselves bold, anti-establishment truth tellers even while they cling to the prevailing hierarchical order.

Jennifer Szalai


In America the “local” problems plaguing cities are systematically sidelined by the structure of the national media and government, in which the presidency, the Senate and the Supreme Court are all constitutionally tilted in favor of places where no one lives. (There are more than twice as many people in my midsize suburban county, Santa Clara, as there are in the entire state of North Dakota, with its two United States senators.)

Farhad Manjoo


To some degree Trump would be a real gift to people who write comedy, but everyone I know who writes comedy professionally is really dismayed about Trump. It’s very hard to make fun of Trump. Because there’s no way to make fun of him where it’s not a part of his brand and the attention isn’t somehow feeding him.

Max Temkin