Don’t forget that pop singers, like many other celebrities, are workers

Supporters of Britney Spears demonstrating in Miami, February 11, 2021 (John Parra/Getty)

The recent Hulu documentary Framing Britney Spears reminds viewers how much the pop star was hated in the 1990s and early 2000s. Tabloids gleefully chronicled her every misstep. Putting her baby on her lap while driving was treated almost like murder. Diane Sawyer intimated Britney was to blame for breaking the heart of ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake. The governor of Maryland’s wife said that she would shoot Britney if she had the chance.

Why did people loathe Britney? Well, it’s not hard to understand. Britney was successful, and enviable. She was famous, adulated, making tons of money, and able to party…

Defining leftism based on economics while excluding identity is theoretically, empirically, and ethically misguided

Protest signs in Philadelphia following the police shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr., October 27, 2020 (Mark Makela/Getty)

Class-first leftism is the belief that economic class is the main form of oppression in the U.S. and the world, and that other forms of discrimination relating to identity — racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.— would be relative non-issues if we could attain economic equality. Class-first leftists are a relatively small part of the left, but they have an outsize influence on intra-left debates, in part because reactionaries find aspects of their analysis congenial, and eagerly amplify them to critique other leftists. As a result, class-first leftists make it harder to fight oppression on numerous axes, including, unfortunately, class.

Class-First Leftists Are Wrong on Theory

As Ben…

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Jonathan Lethem’s the Arrest: literary science fiction vs Hollywood in a future dystopia. (Boston Globe)

On Britney and living in a world where even pop stars aren’t free. (

Voter suppression is the main barrier to change, not corporate money. (Independent)

The soothing randomness of Olafur Arnalds. (Document Journal)

High Noon outguns Outland. (

The anti-Trump grifters and why they suck. (Patreon)

Ron Carter is on the bass. (Patreon)

It’s time for superhero movies to move on from War on Terror empowerment fantasies and tackle today’s problems

Cosplaying comics fans in New York City on September 13, 2020, after the city began reopening. Comic-Con remained canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty)

For more than fifteen years, superhero films have shredded other action franchises and punched a hole through romcoms, Westerns, and Martin Scorsese films at the box office. But there’s one enemy they haven’t been able to defeat: the coronavirus. Long awaited releases like Wonder Woman: 1984 and the Robert Pattison Batman have been delayed, as the pandemic scares away live theater audiences and makes shooting difficult to impossible. Thanos killed half the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but COVID-19 put an end to all of it in theaters, at least for the moment.

The virus won’t last forever; superheroes will be back…

Pundits often reflexively denigrate direct action. They should reconsider.

Activists confront outdoor diners at a restaurant in Washington, DC, August 24, 2020. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post via Getty)

When conservatives and centrists want to highlight the excesses of the left during the Trump era, they often point to disruptions of dinner.

When a small restaurant in Virginia refused to serve Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders because of her role in the Trump administrations child separation policies, the Washington Post editorial board penned an op-ed insisting that, in the name of civility, the left should “Let the Trump Team Eat in Peace.” …

The last time I heard The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” I realized that I hated it…

The Band in 1971 (Gijsbert Hanekroot/Getty)

I like The Band in general, and used to like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” in particular. Levon Helm’s quavering, nasal vocal is enjoyably, goofily awkward, and the song’s melodramatic self-pity is so over the top it’s both funny and affecting. It’s a perfect example of The Band’s thick roots rock clatter and sway, with the deceptively catchy hook swathed in knowing, expansive myth-making.

The problem, though, is the content of the myth.

American history education being what it is, I knew The Band’s catalog long before I knew about the Lost Cause mythology. But listening to the…

Arc Digital goes out of its way to be pluralist. But platforming bad views isn’t an intellectual virtue.

“Let’s discuss this rationally — should I remove my foot from your neck, or shouldn’t I?”

Ellen Willis

And it doesn’t help the left to say he is

Joe Biden discussing coronavirus in a “virtual town hall,” April 8, 2020 (Photo by via Getty Images)

The left loves to hate the Never Trumpers, and for good reason. Former Republicans like David Frum, Rick Wilson, and Ana Navarro helped the Republican party become the racist, xenophobic garbage fire it is today, all while pushing the Iraq War, which needlessly killed hundreds of thousands. But the mainstream media has mostly shrugged and embraced them because they happen to agree that Trump’s tweets are gross. It’s infuriating and nauseating.

But David Klion, writing in The New Republic lets fury and nausea give way to unproductive despair. …

In an unequal country, universal empathy isn’t really universal

Demonstrators in Minneapolis, Minnesota — May 27, 2020 (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The video showing Amy Cooper, a white woman, threatening to call the police on Christian Cooper, a black man, sparked an understandable wave of anger and outrage. Then that, predictably, sparked a kind of empathy backlash.

Empathy is generally thought of as a positive, generous emotion, and empathizing with both Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper can be framed as a kind, humanistic gesture of egalitarianism and fairness, which lifts the empathizer outside of partisan and racial politics.

Unfortunately, in practice, empathy is generally not a move outside of partisanship or race, but the medium through which partisanship and racism work…

By refusing to release Allen’s memoir, Hachette Book Group upholds its employees’ freedom

Woody Allen at the Cannes Film Festival on May 11, 2011 (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

In the backlash to #MeToo, the movement has often been framed as a danger to freedom and justice. So when Hachette Book Group reversed its decision to publish Woody Allen’s memoir Apropos of Nothing because of concerns about sexual assault accusations against him, the choice was inevitably framed as a censorious attack on freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is important. But big-name authors aren’t the only ones who have the right to speak, and speech is not the only kind of freedom. Hachette, in refusing to release Allen’s book, was upholding the freedoms of its workers, and of sexual…

Noah Berlatsky

Bylines at NBC Think, The Verge, CNN, the Atlantic. Author of Chattering Class War and Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism.

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