• October 3, 2017

    CNN was impressed by Trump’s remarks in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting, with no fewer than three pundits calling the president’s words “pitch perfect.” At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik was disturbed by a telling discordant note: Trump offering “warmest” condolences to the victims’ families. As Gopnik writes, “President Trump, deprived from birth by some genetic accident of all natural human empathy . . . speaks empathy as a foreign language and makes the kinds of mistakes we all make in a second language. . . . Who sends warmest anything to the families of murder victims?” Also at the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza reports on the predictable responses to mass shootings, which have become a kind of grim ritual in Washington. Lizza notes that there have been 338 mass shootings in the US so far this year and the aftermath now runs on a familiar script: The NRA stops tweeting; many Republicans offer “thoughts and prayers;” many Democrats offer outraged tweets. Still, that’s about all they have to offer, as Lizza writes: “Near the end of his speech, Trump said that ‘even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.’ If your hope was that Washington would start to grapple with a response to the crisis of mass shootings, the President didn’t offer a single ray.” Think Progress reports that Facebook and Google’s algorithms prominently linked to conspiracy theories and misinformation in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. They, too, seem to be running on the same old script: Facebook “deeply regret[s] the confusion this caused,” while Google promises that they’ll “continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

    Zeynep Tufekci points out the flaws in Mark Zuckerberg’s assertion that “running a platform for all ideas” means that “both sides [will be] upset about ideas and content they don’t like.” “Are you bothered by fake news, systematic misinformation campaigns and Facebook ‘dark posts’—micro-targeted ads not visible to the public—aimed at African-Americans to discourage them from voting?” she asks. “You must be one of those people ‘upset about ideas’ you disagree with.”

    Ismail Muhammad

    The National Book Critics Circle has announced its inaugural class of Emerging Critics. Fellows include Ismail Muhammad, Summer McDonald, and Zack Graham.

    BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman reports on the outsourcing of online content writing. Beyond right-wing fake news writers in Macedonia, Silverman reports on people in Kosovo and Vietnam who have cornered the Native American news niche, and a Pakistani man who owns two hundred health news domains that publish plagiarized articles.

    Poynter looks at the new Pew Research Center study of the media coverage of Trump’s first one hundred days. The organization found that articles about the administration published by sites with left-leaning audiences were ten times more likely to be negative, and “even in the media with a right leaning audience, only 31 percent were positive.”

  • October 2, 2017

    S. I. Newhouse Jr.—who once owned the Random House publishing company and later went on to buy the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and a number of other magazines—has died at  age eighty-nine.

    The Hollywood Reporter is already asking Lena Dunham if she plans to adapt Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, What Happened, for TV.

    Lou Reed

    An excerpt from Anthony DeCurtis’s new biography of Lou Reed recalls how the legendary musician came to interview playwright, dissident, and later president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel. Rolling Stone, which originally commissioned the interview, killed the piece. “It was definitely terrible,” said one critic who read the interview at the time. (Eventually, after Reed added to the article, the magazine Musician ran it.)

    “I’m always returning to the question of language and what happens when I claim a language that ancestrally isn’t mine, and historically was a language of dominion, of dominance. Something there is contradictory.” Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson talks to The Believer.

    Hugh Hefner might have published work by Updike and Nabokov in Playboy. But, Ross Douthat argues in the New York Times, “his good deeds and aesthetic aspirations were ultimately incidental to his legacy—a gloss over his flesh-peddling, smeared like Vaseline on a pornographer’s lens.” At Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson details Hef’s tyrannical and abusive behavior, stating that “Hugh Hefner was not a good person.” “‘Liberty,’ while essential, is meaningless unless it is also coupled with a set of standards for how people should actually behave toward one another.” Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, has this to say about the Playboy founder’s legacy: “Are we really O.K. with the reality that our girls are being raised in a world that Mr. Hefner made? I’m not.”

    Siva Vaidhyanathan, the author of The Googlization of Everything, writes of Trump’s response to storm victims in Puerto Rico: “W might not have cared enough about black people to handle Katrina with competence. But Trump is actively hostile to brown people.”