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Easy Chair

A monthly space for the opinions and observations of a revolving cast of writers.

The Wanderer’s Port

I  landed in Lisbon late on a temperate Thursday in January. This was the end of an unusually pan-European week for me. I’d spent the previous two days in a…

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Losing My Religion

In the Seventies, when I came of age politically, being a lefty was all about believing that “the people” would always save us, if they just knew the truth. We…

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An Incoherent Truth

Last fall, Tobi Haslett, a young writer and critic with Marxist leanings, noticed a shift in the contours of popular intellectual debate. “Something is happening out there in the dark…

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On Courage

As of this writing, we are still about three months away from the first vote of the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination—­and already “our side” seems set to tear…

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Lefty Lingo

The only letter I’ve ever sent to the New York Times was in the 1980s, objecting to the paper’s suddenly pestilent use of “draconian.” During Iran–Contra the complaint must have…

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Whiteout

This past spring and summer, political correctness—perhaps inevitably—took a full turn and became a campaign to erase the worst things that dead white men have done in our history. This…

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Patrios

“Nationalism” is rapidly overtaking even “populism” as a foremost political bogeyman. Yet progressives will often still embrace “pa­tri­ot­ism.” The elevation of the last term is meant to deflect Trump-­style accusations…

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The Deep State of Dementia

My first reaction upon seeing what was supposedly a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing what was alleged to be a mine from the broken hull of what we were…

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Semantic Drift

Regarding the purported rules of En­glish syntax, we tend to divide into mutually hostile camps. Hip, open-­minded types relish the never-­ending transformations of the way we speak and write. They…

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What We Do in the Shadows

The celebrity scandal of the year has been the discovery of just what lengths some actors will go to in order to get their children parts in our leading universities.…

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Fifty-Fifty Follies

Last spring, the BBC officially took up a “50:50 challenge” to achieve an equal number of male and female experts on news and current-events shows within the following year. We’re…

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Winning the Peace

In October 1939, C. S. Lewis delivered a sermon at Oxford’s University Church, later published under the title “Learning in War-Time.” World War II had been under way for just a…

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No Exit

For American liberals, the European Union is a bastion of social justice, secular humanism, and civic virtue. Taxed gratefully into equality, its subjects spend their days recycling kefir containers and…

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Freedom from Inspiration

The fight over which of our public monuments should remain where they are is as complicated as the American past they commemorate. For all the fighting over who and what…

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Cruel and Unusual Punishment

I have a new fear. And this one’s a doozy. I write a fortnightly column for the British barely right-­of-­center magazine (that’s left-­of-­center, in the United States) The Spectator. Having…

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The Crisis of Our Constitution

Lost in this past electoral season, one of the most vicious and frightening in American history, is how shaky the very foundation of our democracy is. Throughout Trump’s deformation of…

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The Silicon Mystique

If I’m having trouble sleeping and feel like spinning my wheels in the dark, I like to meditate on the simulation hypothesis—the idea that we’re living inside a kind of…

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The Ghosts of Versailles

Ahundred years ago this month, the First World War shuddered to a close. The end came when the armistice took effect on the Western Front at 11 am on November…

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Share the Pain

Our plan was to walk toward the National Mall and visit a few museums along the way, but then we saw the scooters. Two of them were standing on the…

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Political Football

With the fall and another election season upon us, the one thing we can count on is a renewal of Donald Trump’s war on football. This has become an annual…

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Illiberal Values

Coming of age in the Seventies as a Midwesterner, a Mormon, and a resident of a town of about five hundred people, I didn’t get to meet a lot of…

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Unmusical Chairs

It’s often forgotten that the idea of the political spectrum—of politics having a left and right—has a physical origin. It comes from the seating arrangements at the National Assembly of…

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The Wizard of Q

In 2006, when the internet was younger and seemed to hold untapped artistic possibilities, I was asked to write a serial novel for Slate. The subject of the “book” was up to…

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Driven to Distraction

“Only connect” are the words that E. M. Forster is most famous for. What they actually meant to him, however, often fades behind a vague notion that his was a boosterish, pro-connection…

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Forget About It

In the uneasy months following 9/11, the Bush Administration provoked a minor controversy when it announced the name of a new office dedicated to protecting the United States from terrorism…

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Nobody Knows

When I was eighteen, I spent several months working as a bus girl at a diner. It was a cheerful-looking place, facing San Francisco Bay. The kitchen was L-shaped: the…

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The Uncertainty Principle

The first year of the Trump presidency is behind us. The unimaginable has become the historical. But time, the reputed healer of all wounds, has somehow only aggravated this one.…

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Strandings

The footage is eerie, a plunge through a dim world of lush seaweed, the underwater forests of the treeless Arctic. Objects swim into view: a bell, a small fish, a…

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June 2020