The Week Link — 8/26/16

A collection of the best things we’ve read in the past week

By Sam Mather and Nicholas Keywork

Welcome to the Week Link! Every Friday, we share things designed to bring you up on interesting developments, make you think about things in a new way, or just appreciate good writing. Catch up on last week’s article here!


Do You Care More About a Dog Than a Refugee? by Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times

Many Americans seem to avoid sympathizing with people from another country; Nicholas Kristof calls us out on it.

These mingled on my Twitter feed: heartfelt sympathy for an American dog who expired of old age, and what felt to me like callousness toward millions of Syrian children facing starvation or bombing. If only, I thought, we valued kids in Aleppo as much as we did our terriers!
I wonder what would happen if Aleppo were full of golden retrievers, if we could see barrel bombs maiming helpless, innocent puppies. Would we still harden our hearts and “otherize” the victims? Would we still say “it’s an Arab problem; let the Arabs solve it”?

How the first liberal Supreme Court in a generation could reshape America by Dylan Matthews at Vox

Matthews points out that the Supreme Court is in the midst of a unique moment in American history, where a Clinton victory in November could lead to a liberal majority on the Supreme Court for decades. This would have very real impacts on people’s lives — and Matthews provides compelling research on each of the areas where the Court can have the most direct impact.

A liberal Court could end long-term solitary confinement. It could mandate better prison conditions in general, making it more costly to maintain mass incarceration. It could conceivably end the death penalty. It could uphold tough state campaign finance rules and start to move away from Citizens United. It could start to develop a robust right to vote and limit gerrymandering. It could strengthen abortion rights, moving toward viewing abortion rights as a matter of equal protection for women.
If Donald Trump wins in November, this is all moot. But if he loses, as polls increasingly indicate, the dawn of a new era of liberal jurisprudence could be upon us.

Canned Email by Joanne McNeil at the Message

A clever reflection about communication. You might identify more or less with McNeil’s total exhaustion over email and despair about picking the right words — for me it changes day to day — but it’s a clean, witty piece.

The Emotional Labor extension is also a response to an app released last year:Romantimatic. It automates sending texts like “I love you” and other sweet nothings to a person’s love interest. While canned answers were developed for professional use, the Romantimatic app less ambiguously demonstrates where credence to authenticity should outweigh urgency and obligation. One of the suggested messages to send is “I can’t get you off my mind,” which is ridiculously untrue if this app is in use.

Dead Certainty: How “Making a Murderer” goes wrong by Kathryn Schulz at the New Yorker

The Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer” is an interesting report on a case of how likely carelessness, malice, and corruption from the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department led to the imprisonment of an innocent man — and potentially framed him for another crime. It is a part of a growing genre of vigilante journalism meant to uncover injustice. However, Kathryn Schulz provides some important criticisms of the series and the genre more broadly; how it can gloss over facts, lead to threats against individuals who bear no responsibility, and value entertainment over the wishes of the affected loved ones — just to name a few. This piece raises some important questions and concerns for everyone, even those that don’t follow the show.

Toward the end of the series, Dean Strang, Steven Avery’s defense lawyer, notes that most of the problems in the criminal-justice system stem from “unwarranted certitude” — what he calls “a tragic lack of humility of everyone who participates.” Ultimately, “Making a Murderer” shares that flaw; it does not challenge our yearning for certainty or do the difficult work of helping to foster humility. Instead, it swaps one absolute for another — and, in doing so, comes to resemble the system it seeks to correct. It is easy to express outrage, comforting to have closure, and satisfying to know all the answers. But, as defense lawyers remind people every day, it is reasonable to doubt.

The Trump-Putin Fallacy by Masha Gessen at the New York Review of Books

It’s been noted by a few commentators what a bizarre reversal it is to see old-left publishing institutions from The Nation to the New York Review of Books condemn the GOP for being too friendly with Russia this election cycle. Gessen — whose politics, obviously, mean that she now lives substantially in the United States instead of Russia — is not always my favorite prose stylist, but her expertise is excellent, and here, her bombast combined with erudition is convincing.

Imagine that your teenage child has built a bomb and has just set it off in your house. The house is falling down all around you — and you are blaming the neighbor’s kid, who threw a pebble at your window. That’s what the recent Putin fixation is like — a way to evade the fact that Trump is a thoroughly American creation that poses an existential threat to American democracy…
Not that there are no lessons to be learned from Putin’s reign: there are, and these lessons concern the imagination. I have spent a good third of my professional life working to convince the readers — and often editors — of both Russian and American publications that Vladimir Putin is a threat to the world as we know it….[and yet] while Putin started two wars, took over the media, canceled elections, seized and appropriated assets, amassed a fortune, sent his most prominent critic to jail, and had at least one person killed (and this was just the uncontested evidence against him) — many readers found this case unconvincing. To get from evidence to conclusion and understanding, one needs more than logic: one needs imagination.

Naked Donald Trump Statues Are Offensive by Pauline Campos at Time

A group of politically-minded artists put up naked statues of Donald Trump across many cities recently, in an act of protest against the nominee. Given that Trump has said many reprehensible things, many of us cheer any effort to bring him down. But Pauline Campos provides a challenge to us: What are we compromising by saying that body-shaming is acceptable, when used against someone we dislike?

I have heard similar arguments from a lot of very nice people. Trump opened the door. Headlines referring to Trump’s bullying tactics are a dime a dozen. Turnabout is fair play, people say.
Here’s the thing: it’s not. Turning the abuser into the victim just makes you the new abuser.
Do we teach our children that body-shaming others is always wrong, except when it’s right because we deem it to be so?