Ta-Nehisi Coates

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When Mark Lilla, Bernie Sanders and others on the Left decry identity politics, they’re not really being honest (or at least not very observant). If they were to say that the Democrats can’t win right now by stressing how our history of racism continues to play out in heartbreaking ways today because it will turn off too many white voters, that’s an argument to make. (It’s obviously a lot easier for Lilla to make because he isn’t running for office.) But to say that identity politics are, in general, doomed is to ignore that Donald Trump just won the Presidency with a shockingly overt white nationalist campaign. Since the end of Woodrow Wilson’s second term, no one has put the white in White House more than Trump. Somehow when struggling Caucasians are appealed to, that’s fine, but if the same is done with African-Americans who have been left behind, there’s something sinister about it.

That has more to do with than just winning and losing, and it’s embedded deeply in the very nature of America.

· · ·

On Twitter, Reagan whisperer Peggy Noonan derided people in favor social justice who peacefully tap out 140 characters and lauded those who died fighting to defend a system of legal enslavement, rape, torture, maiming and murder. Nothing says white privilege more than Noonan possessing a Pulitzer.

· · ·

In “The First White President,” a great Atlantic essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author speaks to these points and others in explaining how Trump’s ascendance was an attempt at Obama erasure, and how those who supported him if not all white supremacists were at least racist-friendly. To deny so is to perpetuate a society in which we are separate and unequal. Two short excerpts below, but the whole piece should be read from start to finish.

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The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition. Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a Memphis balcony—even after a black president; indeed, strengthened by the fact of that black president—is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life. The idea of acceptance frustrates the left. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. Moreover, to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and the world. But if the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required.

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When David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, shocked the country in 1990 by almost winning one of Louisiana’s seats in the U.S. Senate, the apologists came out once again. They elided the obvious—that Duke had appealed to the racist instincts of a state whose schools are, at this very moment, still desegregating—and instead decided that something else was afoot. “There is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration among working-class whites, particularly where there is an economic downturn,” a researcher told the Los Angeles Times. “These people feel left out; they feel government is not responsive to them.” By this logic, postwar America—with its booming economy and low unemployment—should have been an egalitarian utopia and not the violently segregated country it actually was.

But this was the past made present. It was not important to the apologists that a large swath of Louisiana’s white population thought it was a good idea to send a white supremacist who once fronted a terrorist organization to the nation’s capital. Nor was it important that blacks in Louisiana had long felt left out. What was important was the fraying of an ancient bargain, and the potential degradation of white workers to the level of “negers.” “A viable left must find a way to differentiate itself strongly from such analysis,” David Roediger, the University of Kansas professor, has written.•

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Bomani Jones conducted the Playboy Interview from Paris with Ta-Nehisi Coates, in the aftermath of the writer experiencing unexpected, large-scale success from his meditations on American racial injustice, a subject that often seems to plunge the country into mass amnesia. In one passage, the author is questioned about the difference between white and black Americans spewing nonsense theories, touching on, among others, political scientist Charles Murray, who thinks it’s somehow possible to be truly and deeply in love with both meritocracy and Sarah Palin.

An excerpt:

Question:

Is there anything related to race that you once believed and now look back on and say, “What was I thinking?”

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Yeah, there are crazy things that I believed. That whole iceman thing was total bullshit.

Question:

I take it you’re talking about Michael Bradley’s book The Iceman Inheritance, which attributes white racism to, among other things, sexual maladaptation in Caucasians.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

See, these motherfuckers believe shit now and argue on it. I’ve had these fights with Andrew Sullivan about IQ. That’s his iceman. There’s no science behind this shit. But see, you’ve got institutions and guns behind it, right? You’ve got a whole power structure behind it that allows them to stand on the crazy shit I could not go out on. When I went to Howard they were like, “Ain’t no way you’re going to leave here talking that shit.” These motherfuckers get to go to Harvard and come out talking that shit. Charles Murray did this bubble study. Did you see that shit?

Question:

I did not.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

How to determine whether you live in a bubble or not. It’s totally based on white people. No black person would take that study and have it tell them anything about their life. This motherfucker got the backing of Washington. These motherfuckers just get to spout crazy. This cat Marty Peretz, who used to run The New Republic, was an active racist and bigot spouting the worst poison in the world. This guy is in high reaches of society, getting degrees from Harvard. My pops said this shit to me one time: “The African’s right to be wrong is sacred.” When we’re wrong, it’s craziness, but when they’re wrong, it’s…Harvard.

Question:

In your back-and-forths with Sullivan and Jonathan Chait, they seemed to be wondering what was wrong with you. What was your thought when people said you seemed down, when you believed you were dealing in facts?

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

That’s what they say when they can’t fight you. They abandon the whole thought of any sort of empirical, historical, evidence-based argument, and they say, “Well, I don’t like where you’re coming from.” It’s like if I tell you I have empirical evidence that the world is going to end in five days and you’re like, “I don’t like how that sounds. Why are you bumming me out?” That’s something people apply to the dialogue around racism but they don’t apply to other shit. Kathryn Schulz won a Pulitzer Prize for this incredible piece that basically says the Pacific Northwest is going to get hit by a huge tsunami that will kill a lot of people. It’s the most pessimistic, dire shit you’d ever want to read. What if they said to Schulz, “You could sing us a song”? When people can’t fight you, they say, “Why are you so pessimistic?” It’s a different question than “Are you correct?”•

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Here are 50 ungated pieces of wonderful journalism from 2015, alphabetized by author name, which made me consider something new or reconsider old beliefs or just delighted me. (Some selections are from gated publications that allow a number of free articles per month.) If your excellent work isn’t on the list, that’s more my fault than yours.

  • Who Runs the Streets of New Orleans?” (David Amsden, The New York Times Magazine) As private and public sector missions increasingly overlap, here’s an engaging look at the privatization of some policing in the French Quarter.
  • In the Beginning” (Ross Andersen, Aeon) A bold and epic essay about the elusive search for the origins of the universe.
  • Ask Me Anything (Anonymous, Reddit) A 92-year-old German woman who was born into Nazism (and participated in it) sadly absolves herself of all blame while answering questions about that horrible time.
  • Rethinking Extinction” (Stewart Brand, Aeon) The Whole Earth Catalog founder thinks the chance of climate-change catastrophe overrated, arguing we should utilize biotech to repopulate dwindling species.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Don Lemon” (Taffy Brodesser-Akner, GQ) A deeply entertaining look into the perplexing facehole of Jeff Zucker’s most gormless word-sayer and, by extension, the larger cable-news zeitgeist.
  • How Social Media Is Ruining Politics(Nicholas Carr, Politico) A lament that our shiny new tools have provided provocative trolls far more credibility than a centralized media ever allowed for.
  • Clans of the Cathode” (Tom Carson, The Baffler) One of our best culture critics looks at the meaning of various American sitcom families through the medium’s history.
  • The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic) The author examines the tragedy of the African-American community being turned into a penal colony, explaining the origins of the catastrophic policy failure.
  • Perfect Genetic Knowledge” (Dawn Field, Aeon) The essayist thinks about a future in which we’ve achieved “perfect knowledge” of whole-planet genetics.
  • A Strangely Funny Russian Genius” (Ian Frazier, The New York Review of Books) Daniil Kharms was a very funny writer, if you appreciate slapstick that ends in a body count.
  • Tomorrow’s Advance Man” (Tad Friend, The New Yorker) Profile of Silicon Valley strongman Marc Andreessen and his milieu, an enchanted land in which adults dream of riding unicorns.
  • Build-a-Brain” (Michael Graziano, Aeon) The neuroscientist’s ambitious thought experiment about machine intelligence is a piece I thought about continuously throughout the year.
  • Ask Me Anything (Stephen Hawking, Reddit) Among other things, the physicist warns that the real threat of superintelligent machines isn’t malice but relentless competence.
  • Engineering Humans for War” (Annie Jacobsen, The Atlantic) War is inhuman, it’s been said, and the Pentagon wants to make it more so by employing bleeding-edge biology and technology to create super soldiers.
  • The Wrong Head” (Mike Jay, London Review of Books) A look at insanity in 1840s France, which demonstrates that mental illness is often expressed in terms of the era in which it’s experienced.
  • Death Is Optional” (Daniel Kahneman and Noah Yuval Harari, Edge) Two of my favorite big thinkers discuss the road ahead, a highly automated tomorrow in which medicine, even mortality, may not be an egalitarian affair.
  • Where the Bodies Are Buried,” (Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker) Ceasefires, even treaties, don’t completely conclude wars, as evidenced by this haunting revisitation of the heartbreaking IRA era.
  • Porntopia” (Molly Lambert, Grantland) The annual Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, the Oscars of oral, allows the writer to look into a funhouse-mirror reflection of America.
  • The Robots Are Coming” (John Lanchester, London Review of Books) A remarkably lucid explanation of how quickly AI may remake our lives and labor in the coming decades.
  • Last Girl in Larchmont” (Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker) The great TV critic provides a postmortem of Joan Rivers and her singular (and sometimes disquieting) brand of feminism.
  • “President Obama & Marilynne Robinson: A Conversation, Part 1 & Part 2” (Barack Obama and Marilynne Robinson, New York Review of Books) Two monumental Americans discuss the state of the novel and the state of the union.
  • Ask Me Anything (Elizabeth Parrish, Reddit) The CEO of BioViva announces she’s patient zero for the company’s experimental age-reversing gene therapies. Strangest thing I read all year.
  • Why Alien Life Will Be Robotic” (Sir Martin Rees, Nautilus) The astronomer argues that ETs in our inhospitable universe have likely already transitioned into conscious machines.
  • Ask Me Anything (Anders Sandberg, Reddit) Heady conversation about existential risks, Transhumanism, economics, space travel and future technologies conducted by the Oxford researcher. 
  • Alien Rights” (Lizzie Wade, Aeon) Manifest Destiny will, sooner or later, became a space odyssey. What ethics should govern exploration of the final frontier?
  • Peeling Back the Layers of a Born Salesman’s Life” (Michael Wilson, The New York Times) The paper’s gifted crime writer pens a posthumous profile of a protean con man, a Zelig on the make who crossed paths with Abbie Hoffman, Otto Preminger and Annie Leibovitz, among others.
  • The Pop Star and the Prophet” (Sam York, BBC Magazine) Philosopher Jacques Attali, who predicted, back in the ’70s, the downfall of the music business, tells the writer he now foresees similar turbulence for manufacturing.

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David Brooks’ recent op-ed about Ta-Nehisi Coates, the one in which he approached the critic and his skin color cautiously and with some surprise, as if he’d happened upon a strange creature in a forest, was most troubling to me for two reasons, both of which were demonstrated in the same passage.

This one:

You are illustrating the perspective born of the rage “that burned in me then, animates me now, and will likely leave me on fire for the rest of my days.”

I read this all like a slap and a revelation. I suppose the first obligation is to sit with it, to make sure the testimony is respected and sinks in. But I have to ask, Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree? Is my job just to respect your experience and accept your conclusions? Does a white person have standing to respond?

If I do have standing, I find the causation between the legacy of lynching and some guy’s decision to commit a crime inadequate to the complexity of most individual choices.

I think you distort American history.•

  • The line “Does a white person have standing to respond?” is a galling transference of burden from people of actual oppression to people who’ve experienced none, a time-tested trick in the country, and one used repeatedly in discussions about Affirmative Action and other issues. The faux victimhood is appalling.
  • Even worse is this doozy: “I find the causation between the legacy of lynching and some guy’s decision to commit a crime inadequate to the complexity of most individual choices.” Here’s a negation of history and culpability that’s jaw-dropping. Does Brooks believe the inordinate poverty, imprisonment and shorter lifespans of African-Americans stem solely from their decisions? Does he believe Native Americans, the targets of another American holocaust, have such pronounced social problems because of poor choices they made? From Jim Crow to George Zimmerman, American law and justice has often been designed to reduce former slaves and their descendants, not to keep the peace but to maintain the power. If Brooks wants to point out the Civil Rights Act as a remedy to Jim Crow, that’s fine, but you don’t get to do a victory lap for offering basic decency, and a sensible person doesn’t believe that improvement in our country, often a slow and grueling and bloody thing, doesn’t leave deep scars.•

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The Confederate flag is an American swastika. In calling for its retirement in the aftermath of the horrific Charleston church massacre, Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic reminds that the impulse to enslave was initially driven by plunder. Of course, the American flag itself has a similar history, it being the chief symbol of the other U.S. holocaust–the plight of the Native Americans–which was a land grab drenched in blood, first conducted under flags of colonialist nations and then our own.

Coates’ opening:

Last night, Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston church, sat for an hour, and then killed nine people. Roof’s crime cannot be divorced from the ideology of white supremacy which long animated his state nor from its potent symbol—the Confederate flag. Visitors to Charleston have long been treated to South Carolina’s attempt to clean its history and depict its secession as something other than a war to guarantee the enslavement of the majority of its residents. This notion is belied by any serious interrogation of the Civil War and the primary documents of its instigators. Yet the Confederate battle flag—the flag of Dylann Roof—still flies on the Capitol grounds in Columbia.

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it.•

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The heinous slayings of two NYPD police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, closes our year with a real heartbreaker. A lot of the reactions to the senseless killings were awful and partisan, with one stirring exception. A few notes:

  • If Bill O’Reilly thinks Mayor de Blasio should resign from office for his tepid remarks about NYPD and race, for showing concern for his dark-skinned son, I wonder when the Fox personality will step down for cheerleading us into the Iraq War, which got 4,500 uniformed Americans killed and many more permanently injured for no reason. 
  • Rudy Giuliani, who was another of the most outspoken champions of rushing our soldiers to needless death in Iraq, believes that President Obama waged a “campaign of anti-police propaganda” for the very cautious remarks he has made about American racial divisions. What he is essentially doing is telling African-Americans that they have to shut up about the raw deal they’ve received in this country and that they continue to receive in mercifully less-awful ways. If you want to hear voices that were more puzzled about Garner’s killing than Obama’s, listen to conservatives like George W. Bush, Charles Krauthammer and John Boehner. They all thought there was something amiss. There was, of course.
  • Giuliani worrying about someone else creating an aura of danger is laughable. When he was New York City’s Mayor, he sent in helicopters to break up an African-American youth march in Harlem the second it was legislated to end, just because some of the speakers were objectionable. When he put whirring blades above the heads of children out of spite, he showed how much concern he had for their lives. 
  • Bernie Kerik, the felon, was always a fake tough guy and phony law-and-order figure. No respectable news organization should be asking for his opinion on these matters.
  • As long as we have two systems of policing and justice in America, we will have significant racial strife. Giuliani and the others can claim law enforcement has been color blind, but that’s just not the case. When you’re more likely to be harassed and arrested because of your skin color–and the statistics bear that out–we aren’t any safer, just more divided.
  • Emerald Garner, whose father was choked to death for allegedly selling loose cigarettes and not immediately submitting to arrest, went to the murdered officers’ memorial, putting aside her own grief and laying a wreath in their honor. This may have been the most beautiful gesture of the year. Watching an act like hers, it’s tempting to think perhaps there’s hope for all of us, everyone.

From an analysis of the bigger picture of American law enforcement by Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic:

“The idea of ‘police reform’ obscures the task. Whatever one thinks of the past half-century of criminal-justice policy, it was not imposed on Americans by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies—the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects—are, at the very least, byproducts of democratic will. Likely they are much more. It is often said that it is difficult to indict and convict police officers who abuse their power. It is comforting to think of these acquittals and non-indictments as contrary to American values. But it is just as likely that they reflect American values. The three most trusted institutions in America are the military, small business, and the police.

To challenge the police is to challenge the American people, and the problem with the police is not that they are fascist pigs but that we are majoritarian pigs. When the police are brutalized by people, we are outraged because we are brutalized. By the same turn, when the police brutalize people, we are forgiving because ultimately we are really just forgiving ourselves. Power, decoupled from responsibility, is what we seek. The manifestation of this desire is broad. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani responded to the killing of Michael Brown by labeling it a ‘significant exception’ and wondering why weren’t talking about ‘black on black crime.’ Giuliani was not out on a limb. The charge of insufficient outrage over ‘black on black crime’ has been endorsed, at varying points, by everyone from the NAACP to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson to Giuliani’s archenemy Al Sharpton.

Implicit in this notion is that outrage over killings by the police should not be any greater than killings by ordinary criminals. But when it comes to outrage over killings of the police, the standard is different. Ismaaiyl Brinsley began his rampage by shooting his girlfriend—an act of both black-on-black crime and domestic violence. On Saturday, Officers Liu and Ramos were almost certainly joined in death by some tragic number of black people who were shot down by their neighbors in the street. The killings of Officers Liu and Ramos prompt national comment. The killings of black civilians do not. When it is convenient to award qualitative value to murder, we do so. When it isn’t, we do not. We are outraged by violence done to police, because it is violence done to all of us as a society. In the same measure, we look away from violence done by the police, because the police are not the true agents of the violence. We are.”

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The reason why white people, no matter how noble, can’t speak for people of other races is that human experiences vary based on color, class, gender and other categorizations. It’s just a fact. So while all manner of well-heeled New York and Beltway journalists (almost all white) decried what’s happened recently at the New Republic–and there’s certainly been something important lost in the tumult–Ta-Nehesi Coates of the Atlantic saw things somewhat differently. He recognized a publication staffed almost exclusively by caucasians which has been horribly racist toward African-Americans, pointing fingers at them and blaming them, especially during the often-odious Marty Peretz reign, marred as it was by bigotry and warmongering. And while many scoffed that the venerable periodical might now become Buzzfeed or Gawker, Coates points out that such online publications are more enlightened about race than TNR has been. An excerpt:

TNR made a habit of ‘reflecting briefly’ on matters that were life and death to black people but were mostly abstract thought experiments to the magazine’s editors. Before, during, and after Sullivan’s tenure, the magazine seemed to believe that the kind of racism that mattered most was best evidenced in the evils of Afrocentrism, the excesses of multiculturalism, and the machinations of Jesse Jackson. It’s true that TNR’s staff roundly objected to excerpting The Bell Curve, but I was never quite sure why. Sullivan was simply exposing the dark premise that lay beneath much of the magazine’s coverage of America’s ancient dilemma.

What else to make of the article that made Stephen Glass’s career possible, ‘Taxi Cabs and the Meaning of Work’? The piece asserted that black people in D.C. were distinctly lacking in the work ethic best evidenced by immigrant cab drivers. A surrealist comedy, Glass’s piece revels in the alleged exploits of a mythical Asian-American avenger—Kae Bang—who wreaks havoc on black criminals who’d rather rob taxi drivers than work. The article concludes with Glass, in the cab, while its driver is robbed by a black man. It was all lies.

What else to make of TNR sending Ruth Shalit to evaluate affirmative action atThe Washington Post in 1995? ‘She cast Post writer Kevin Merida as some kind of poster boy for affirmative action when in fact he had risen in the business for reasons far more legitimate than her own,’ David Carr wrote in 1999. Shalit’s piece wasn’t all lies. But it wasn’t all true either. Shortly after the article was published, she was revealed to be a serial plagiarist.

TNR might have been helped by having more—or merely any—black people on its staff.”

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Here are 25 pieces of journalism from this year, alphabetized by author name, which made me consider something new or reconsider old beliefs or just delighted me.

  • Exodus” (Ross Andersen, Aeon) A brilliant longform piece that lifts off with Elon Musk’s mission to Mars and veers in deep and mysterious directions.
  • Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid” (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic) Nobody speaks truth to race in America quite like Coates, and the outrage of Ferguson was the impetus for this spot-on piece about the deeply institutionalized prejudice of government, national and local, in the U.S.
  • The Golden Age of Journalism?” (Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch) The landscape has never been more brutal for news nor more promising. The author luxuriates in the richness destabilization has wrought.
  • Amazon Must Be Stopped” (Franklin Foer, The New Republic) Before things went completely haywire at the company, Foer returned some sanity to the publication in the post-Peretz period. This lucid article argues that Amazon isn’t becoming a monopoly but already qualifies as one.
  • America in Decay” (Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs) Strong argument that the U.S. public sector is so dysfunctional because of a betrayal of meritocracy in favor of special interests and lobbyists. The writer’s idea of what constitutes a merit-based system seems flawed, but he offers many powerful ideas.
  • What’s the Matter With Russia?” (Keith Gessen, Foreign Affairs) An insightful meditation about Putin’s people, who opt to to live in a fairy tale despite knowing such a thing can never have a happy ending.
  • The Dying Russians(Masha Gessen, New York Review of Books) Analysis of Russia’s high mortality rate suggests that the root cause is not alcohol, guns or politics, but simply hopelessness.  
  • Soak the Rich” (David Graeber, Thomas Piketty) Great in-depth exchange between two thinkers who believe capitalism has run amok, but only one of whom thinks it’s run its course.
  • The First Smile(Michael Graziano, Aeon) The Princeton psychology and neuroscience professor attempts to explain why facial expressions appear to be natural and universal.
  • The Creepy New Wave of the Internet” (Sue Halpern, New York Review of Books) The author meditates on the Internet of Things, which may make the world much better and much worse, quantifying us like never before.
  • Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming” (Stephen Hsu, Nautilus) A brisk walk through the process of genetic modification, which would lead to heretofore unknown brain power.
  • All Dressed Up For Mars and Nowhere to Go” (Elmo Keep, Matter) A sprawling look at the seeming futility of the MarsOne project ultimately gets at a more profound pointlessness–pursuing escape in a dying universe.
  • The Myth of AI” (Jaron Lanier, Edge) Among other things, this entry draws a neat comparison between the religionist’s End of Days and the technologist’s Singularity, the Four Horseman supposedly arriving in driverless cars.
  • The Disruption Machine” (Jill Lepore, The New Yorker) The “D” word, its chief promulgator, Clayton M. Christensen, and its circuitous narratives, receive some disruption of their own.
  • The Longevity Gap(Linda Marsa, Aeon) A severely dystopian thought experiment: Will the parallels of widening income disparity and innovations in medicine lead to two very different lifespans for the haves and have-nots?
  • The Genetics Epidemic” (Jamie F. Metzl, Foreign Affairs) Genetic modification studied from an uncommon angle, that of national-security concerns.
  • My Captivity(Theo Padnos, The New York Times Magazine) A harrowing autobiographical account of an American journalist’s hostage ordeal in the belly of the beast in Syria.
  • We Are a Camera” (Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker) In a time of cheap, ubiquitous cameras, the image, merely an imitation, is ascendant, and any event unrecorded seemingly has less currency. The writer examines the strangeness of life in the GoPro flow.
  • A Goddamn Death Dedication” (Alex Pappademas, Grantland) A knowing postmortem about Casey Kasem, America’s deejay when the world was hi-fi but before it became sci-fi.
  • In Conversation: Chris Rock” (Frank Rich, New York) The exchange about “black progress” is an example of what comedy does at its best: It points out an obvious truth that so many have missed.
  • The Mammoth Cometh” (Nathaniel Rich, The New York Times Magazine) A piece which points out that de-extinct animals won’t be exactly like their forebears, nor will augmented humans of the future be just like us. It’s progress, probably.
  • Hello, My Name Is Stephen Glass, and I’m Sorry(Hanna Rosin, The New Republic) Before the implosion of the publication, the writer wondered what it would mean to forgive her former coworker, an inveterate fabulist and liar, and what it would mean if she could not forgive.
  • Gilbert Gottfried: New York Punk” (Jay Ruttenberg, The Lowbrow Reader) Written by the only person on the list whom I know personally, but no cronyism is necessary for the inclusion of this excellent analysis of the polarizing comic, who’s likely more comfortable when at his most alienating.

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