The Atlantic
Syndicated stories from The Atlantic

Penguin Random House purchasing Simon & Schuster is not the gravest danger to the publishing business. The deal is transpiring in a larger context — and that context is Amazon.

Exterior view of an Amazon Books store.
Exterior view of an Amazon Books store.
Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

By Franklin Foer

In 1960, Dwight Eisenhower’s attorney general, William Rogers, read the paper with alarm. He learned that Random House intended to purchase the venerable publisher Alfred A. Knopf. Rogers began making calls to prod his antitrust division into blocking the sale. In those days, monopoly loomed as a central concern of government — and a competitive book business was widely seen as essential to preserving both intellectual life and democracy. …


Stopping the virus from spreading requires us to override our basic intuitions.

A green man with green viruses floating behind him as he walks through a crowd of tan people with black hair.
A green man with green viruses floating behind him as he walks through a crowd of tan people with black hair.
Image: RUSSELLTATEdotCOM/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

By Yascha Mounk

Over the summer, parts of the United States seemed to have a grip on the pandemic. New York and much of the Northeast, for instance, recorded relatively few new infections. The pandemic gloom was taking a less heavy toll than it had in its first months, partly because warm weather made restrictions on indoor activity more bearable.

That sense of control was illusory. As the seasons have changed, the virus has resumed its exponential spread. The public’s willingness to follow health guidelines also feels more tenuous. …


Each day, it becomes more urgent that Republicans and conservatives speak in defense of institutions and in defiance of the president’s posture.

A blocky red letter “T” with a blue “L” superimposed on it.
A blocky red letter “T” with a blue “L” superimposed on it.
Image: The Atlantic

By Gregg Nunziata

A democratic republic is a fragile thing. A large, diverse one such as ours is more fragile still.

Conservatives, whose political philosophy is rooted in the importance of tradition and preserving institutions, should know this. Yet too many are ignoring the obvious damage that President Donald Trump has done — and continues to do — by denying his electoral loss.

I write as a conservative, a lifelong Republican, and a committed member of the Federalist Society. I have worked as counsel and adviser to several Senate Republicans. I am delighted by how well the party performed relative to expectations in this election and think it of vital importance that Republicans retain both Senate seats in January’s runoff elections. I’m quite alarmed by the policy agenda of the incoming Biden administration. But none of that changes my horror at an American president undermining faith in our democracy. …


Fox News acknowledged Trump’s loss. Facebook and Twitter cracked down on election lies. But true believers can get their misinformation elsewhere.

A black hashtag on an animated background of hypnotizing red ripples spreading.
A black hashtag on an animated background of hypnotizing red ripples spreading.

By Renée DiResta

When Fox News called Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden shortly after the polls closed there on Election Night, right-wing social media erupted in fury. Fox is the most conservative of the nation’s major news outlets, and its aggressive Arizona call — which most other national outlets did not follow for days — left true believers on the right feeling betrayed. On the social-media app Parler, which has been gaining popularity among supporters of President Donald Trump, posts alleging electoral irregularities mixed with assorted hashtags decrying Fox itself: #BOYCOTTFOXNEWS, #DUMPFOXNEWS, #FAKEFOXNEWS, #FOXNEWSISDEAD, and #FOXNEWSSUCKS. Throughout Election Day, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube had been cracking down on a flurry of allegations about voter fraud in Arizona; the platforms quickly applied warning labels to new posts containing false or disputed information and reduced the distribution of groups spreading them. …


Debt forgiveness is not the best form of stimulus available. But Joe Biden shouldn’t waver.

An isolated graduation cap on a light gray background; there’s a price tag with a discount label instead of a tassel.
An isolated graduation cap on a light gray background; there’s a price tag with a discount label instead of a tassel.
Credit: The Atlantic/Getty Images/Shutterstock

By Anna Lowrey

President-elect Joe Biden could conjure a sweeping financial-relief policy into existence on the first day of his presidency, without the participation of Congress, the Federal Reserve, or any other institution. That is, he could forgive student loans.

On Monday, Biden said that loan forgiveness figures into his plan to rev up the American economy, citing a provision in the House’s stalled-out HEROES Act that would pay off $10,000 a person in student loans. Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and Senator Elizabeth Warren are pushing the incoming administration to forgive up to $50,000 a person in federal student-loan debt. …


A year of scientific uncertainty is over. Two vaccines look like they will work, and more should follow.

Black-and-white photo: Closeup of a healthcare worker holding five hypodermic needles, syringes unsheathed.
Black-and-white photo: Closeup of a healthcare worker holding five hypodermic needles, syringes unsheathed.
Photo: Herb Snitzer/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

By Sarah Zhang

For all that scientists have done to tame the biological world, there are still things that lie outside the realm of human knowledge. The coronavirus was one such alarming reminder, when it emerged with murky origins in late 2019 and found naive, unwitting hosts in the human body. Even as science began to unravel many of the virus’s mysteries — how it spreads, how it tricks its way into cells, how it kills — a fundamental unknown about vaccines hung over the pandemic and our collective human fate: Vaccines can stop many, but not all, viruses. …


Republican support for Trump’s election-fraud claims isn’t just damaging to Biden and democracy — it’s damaging to Republicans too.

Image for post
Image for post
Pro-Trump protesters rally against the results of the U.S. Presidential election outside the Georgia State Capitol on November 18, 2020, in Atlanta. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

By Ronald Brownstein

Congressional Republicans may be engaged in the political equivalent of a murder-suicide by abetting Donald Trump’s claims that the election was stolen from him.

By reinforcing Trump’s baseless narrative that he actually won the vote, Republicans could be suffocating President-elect Joe Biden’s already-slim chances of attracting any meaningful support from rank-and-file Republican voters, which will make it much tougher for him to build bipartisan coalitions in Congress. …


A devastating surge is here. Unless Americans act aggressively, it will get much larger, very quickly.

Two Black children holding vertical blinds apart to look out a window.
Two Black children holding vertical blinds apart to look out a window.
Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

By Zeynep Tufekci

The end may be near for the pestilence that has haunted the world this year. Good news is arriving on almost every front: treatments, vaccines, and our understanding of this coronavirus.

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced a stunning success rate in their early Phase 3 vaccine trials — if it holds up, it will be a game changer. Treatments have gotten better too. A monoclonal antibody drug — similar to what President Donald Trump and former Governor Chris Christie received — just earned emergency-use authorization from the FDA. …


Each one reminds us what a peaceful-and gracious-transfer of power looks like.

Barack Obama sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, signing a piece of paper.
Barack Obama sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, signing a piece of paper.
Photo: Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

By Alex Kalman

One of the most crucial aspects of a functioning democracy is the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next. Each of the following five letters, handwritten by an outgoing president and left in the Oval Office for the incoming president to find, reminds us of the sanctity of that fundamental practice. Reagan wrote to Bush. Bush wrote to Clinton. Clinton to Bush. Bush to Obama. And Obama to Trump. Regardless of party. Regardless of personal beliefs.

Each letter humanizes this small but monumental moment in the life of a democracy. Each note graciously acknowledges that one’s duty in office has come to an end, that it is now time to pass the immense power to someone else, and maybe even offer some advice or help while doing so. …


Trump is exempt from many of Twitter’s policies because of his status as a world leader. Come January, he could lose his favorite toy and most powerful weapon.

Black-and-white photo of Trump’s yelling mouth with a Twitter blue scribble over it.
Black-and-white photo of Trump’s yelling mouth with a Twitter blue scribble over it.
Photo illustration: Katie Martin/The Atlantic; photo source: Win McNamee/Getty Images

By Kaitlyn Tiffany

The president’s bad tweets are the stuff of slideshows and masterposts. They’ve inspired memes and cultural catchphrases, and some are so artfully inane that they could even be called poetry: “The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” Donald Trump tweeted, memorably, on Cinco de Mayo in 2016.

Others are scarier. There was the time he declared that a tweet could “serve as notification” that the United States would counter any military attack from Iran, “perhaps in a disproportionate manner.” There was the time he joined in on the wild speculation that the Clintons had ordered Jeffrey Epstein murdered. There were the Obama conspiracy theories, one after another, throughout Trump’s entire presidency and well before it. There was the grotesque promise that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Trump’s “worst tweet ever,” according to one Washington Post columnist, was the one he posted as he was leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after being treated for COVID-19 in October: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” Now, just a few weeks later, he has outdone himself, with baseless claim after baseless claim that the election has been stolen from him. “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” he tweeted less than an hour before every major network would declare the opposite. “WE WILL WIN!” …

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