• May 11, 2016

    The controversy over Facebook’s “Trending Topics” feature continues: After a former Facebook staffer claimed that the site routinely suppresses stories from conservative news outlets, a GOP senator on the commerce committee has written to Mark Zuckerberg requesting a hearing on the matter. Facebook has said it will address the committee’s questions and will continue to investigate “whether any violations took place.”     

    Prince provides the soundtrack to the dance scene in Kevin Young’s new poem “Little Red Corvette.”

    Olivier Bourdeaut

    Olivier Bourdeaut

    Olivier Bourdeaut’s debut novel En Attendant bojangles (Waiting for Bojangles) is poised to become the next international mega-best-seller. Since its publication in France earlier this year, the novel has sold more than 160,000 copies. Thirty-five additional countries have plans to publish the book. Simon & Schuster will release an English translation in 2018. Not long ago, the author considered his career to be “a complete failure.”

    Politico’s Joe Cirincione digs into David Samuels’s controversial New York Times Magazine article “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru,” a profile of Obama adviser Ben Rhodes. Samuels, who is the literary editor of Tablet and whose books include Only Love Can Break Your Heart, asserts that Obama was “actively misleading” in the days leading up to the Iran nuclear deal. Cirincione remarks: “Every element of [Samuels’s] thesis falls apart under scrutiny.” At the Washington Post, Erik Wemple wonders “why the White House did such extensive business with Samuels in the first place,” considering Samuels’s easy-to-find criticisms of the administration’s Iran deal. Carlos Lozada weighs in with an article bearing the subheadline “Why the Ben Rhodes profile in the New York Times Magazine is just gross.” And at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, claims, among other things, that Samuels advocated, “as early as 2009, for the bombing of Iran. This doesn’t disqualify him from writing about Rhodes—if anything, this disclosure would have made the article more interesting, if he had leveled with the readers about his actual views.”

    A recent issue of the Antioch Review included Daniel Harris’s essay about what he called the transgender “debate,” which has sparked fierce criticism and a petition denouncing the piece as transphobic. (For a far more thoughtful examination of issues around trans identity, see Jacqueline Rose’s recent piece in the LRB.) Since then, Antioch has released a series of increasingly apologetic responses. The first was tepid: “Antioch College does not condone or always agree with the ideas and viewpoints expressed in the Review. We do, however, have confidence in the Review’s editor and editorial process.” The next one, from the editor of the Review said, “I sincerely regret any pain and hurt that the publishing of this piece has caused.” The latest, posted by the college, finally seems to acknowledge the deep flaws in the piece and the harm it could cause: “We recognize that statements similar to those made in the essay have historically been used to justify physical and psychological violence against members of the LGBTQ communities and their allies. These references also perpetuate a culture that devalues trans people and depersonalizes their experiences.” The blog Sundress has begun collecting responses to Harris’s piece from trans writers, while Harris himself still seems glibly unapologetic: “I regret that the discussion has been so uncivil, devolving into what seems to be a flame war. It is difficult to answer specific criticisms when they rarely amount to much more that I am transphobic and that my essay was an example of hate speech. I am neither hateful nor transphobic. I am tolerant of all people, save Republicans.”

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