Press Rogue

Press Rogue — May 23, 2019, 2:59 pm

One Horse Town

“Twitter isn’t real life.” So declared New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg last week, writing on the budding Democratic presidential primary. In fact, as a source of information on the state of the party, the platform is “actively misleading,” she said, noting that Bernie Sanders has twice as many followers as Joe Biden, yet it’s Biden who’s leading in the polls. “Left-wing Twitter isn’t a microcosm of the Democratic Party,” she went on, “it’s just a small, noisy fraction of it.” A month earlier, Goldberg’s colleague Lisa Lerer had primed the pump by complaining that Twitter was “totally unrepresentative of …

Press Rogue — May 16, 2019, 4:00 pm

Playing With Fire

For folks on either coast, the story of climate change is also a story about extreme wealth disparity.

Press Rogue — May 9, 2019, 4:00 pm

Boys on the Bus

This week, the cover of Time magazine features Pete Buttigieg and his husband alongside the headline “First Family.” Looking like the definition of middle-American business casual, the pair stands amiably in front of their home, yellow tulips grazing the bottom of the portrait. It’s the first time this year that an individual Democratic presidential candidate other than Joe Biden has graced the most influential real estate in magazine journalism, and just the latest elevation of the South Bend mayor whom Vogue recently dubbed “the unicorn in this year’s Democratic field.” This framing echoes the gushing media that followed Beto O’Rourke’s …

Press Rogue — May 2, 2019, 3:41 pm

Correct the Record

Last week, President Trump distorted the truth for the ten thousandth time since taking office. That’s according to Glenn Kessler and his fact-checking team at the Washington Post, who have assumed the unenviable responsibility of scrupulously tracking the president’s every false and misleading assertion. In an article announcing the milestone, the Post’s fact-minders wrote that Trump has been averaging twenty-three disreputable claims a day since September, an eye-popping increase from the early months of his tenure, when a typical day saw no more than five fabulations. The Trump presidency has proved a boom time for fact-checkers. Since 2016, public-facing fact-checking—grounded in …

Press Rogue — April 25, 2019, 2:00 pm

Too Big to Cover

Finally, after months of speculation, Facebook announced on Wednesday that it is prepared to pay up to $5 billion to the Federal Trade Commission for violating an agreement to protect user data. Wired wrote that such a fine would be “big enough to hurt,” but The Verge was dismissive, arguing that the company is “too rich for it to matter.” Investors, it seems, agreed with the latter view: in after-hours trading on Wednesday, the company’s stock rose some 8 percent. That Facebook can treat a ten-figure fine as a slap on the wrist may explain why, when the Wall Street Journal …

Press Rogue — April 18, 2019, 3:00 pm

Crisis Mode

Until recently, the editorial boards of the nation’s leading newspapers agreed on one important fact: there was no crisis at the border. In March, when President Trump declared a national emergency, the New York Times said his reasoning ran “contrary to all evidence.” In February, the Washington Post declared that there was “no crisis at the southern border.” A week earlier, the Los Angeles Times had offered a similar analysis: “The nation faces many problems. A crisis at the border isn’t one of them.” Editorialists spent the early part of this year asserting that the president’s rhetoric on the border was …

Press Rogue — April 12, 2019, 3:18 pm

Grading on a Curve

Early this week, the media pounced on the latest installment of Operation Varsity Blues, the investigation into what federal prosecutors have called the largest college admissions scam in American history, bringing renewed focus to the two B-list actors who have been implicated in the scheme. As the headlines in one leading newspaper put it: “Felicity Huffman and 13 Others to Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scandal” and “Lori Loughlin and 15 Others Face New Charges in College Admissions Scandal.” From another news-gathering operation: “Felicity Huffman to Plead Guilty for College Cheating” and “Lori Loughlin and Hubby Just Indicted for Additional …

Press Rogue — April 5, 2019, 3:58 pm

Exit Left

The American press is obsessed with explaining Brexit. Just this week, the New York Times published four Brexit explainers. CNN has run at least eight since January, including a video that uses Legos to illustrate the United Kingdom’s customs relationship with the European Union. The Washington Post has demonstrated a similar fondness for the format, posting a glossary of Brexit terms, a pair of “What’s Next for Brexit?” videos, and a clip that promises an explanation for “confused Americans,” led by a “pop culture host.” “It’s not your fault if you don’t know what’s going on,” she says. “Because nobody …

Press Rogue — March 29, 2019, 2:34 pm

A Dark Cloud

After two years of speculation about the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the press can finally stop guessing. Last weekend, Attorney General William Barr sent Congress a summary of Robert Mueller’s findings, and in doing so, lifted “the darkest, most ominous cloud” over the Trump presidency, as the New York Times wrote. Other outlets were just as quick to style the finding of no collusion as a political victory. To a CNN analyst, the letter proved that Trump had “gone up against the greatest prosecutor of his generation, Mueller, the ultimate straight-arrow son of the establishment—and …

Press Rogue — March 22, 2019, 3:04 pm

Rain Check

When a bomb cyclone hit the Great Plains last Wednesday, the national media responded, predictably, with a few weather reports. The Washington Post told of the cyclone’s heavy winds, the “blizzard conditions” it had engendered in Colorado, and how a combination of rain and melting snow in “the transition zone between the warm and cold sectors of the storm” could pose “a flooding threat in eastern Nebraska and Minnesota, southeast South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and northern Michigan.” Just one person, a National Weather Service meteorologist, was quoted in the story. Only once a biblical two inches of rain had run …

Press Rogue — March 15, 2019, 3:17 pm

Clique Bait

The Atlantic dropped a whale of a think piece this week, a David Frum immigration special that was posted online first thing Monday morning, drumming up condemnation, hand-wringing, and #NeverTrump praise. The article, which graces the cover of the magazine’s April issue with the eminently reasonable, “just asking!” headline “How Much Immigration Is Too Much?” appeared online with the rather more incendiary headline, “If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will,” framing Frum’s proposal to cut legal immigration as a commonsense approach that splits the difference between Trump’s deplorable xenophobia and the left’s refusal to consider any restrictions whatsoever. Frum begins …

Press Rogue — March 8, 2019, 2:19 pm

A Million Turning Points

At the moment the Trump Administration reaches the point of no return, when the president’s erstwhile Republican allies join arm in arm with their Democratic brethren in Congress to remove him from office in a paroxysm of bipartisanship, at that precise moment, it is a sure bet that a New York Times reporter will be sitting in some diner in North Carolina or Nevada, asking a sample of Trump voters whether they still stand with him. We can be sure such man-on-the-street reactions will be integral to the Times’ coverage of the righteous future so frequently slavered after by its …

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Trumpism After Trump·

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The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

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The Cancer Chair·

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The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

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When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

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The Birds·

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On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

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Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A decorated veteran of the American wars in Vietnam and Iraq had his prosthetic limbs repossessed from his home in Mississippi when the VA declined to pay for them.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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