The Word Factory

Daily broadsides from The Baffler's just-in-time corps of knowledge workers

The Impunity Game

Jacob SilvermanDecember 09, 2016
James Mitchell's new book chides journalists for reporting on U.S. torture policies. / Nikolas
James Mitchell's new book chides journalists for reporting on U.S. torture policies. / Nikolas

“There is something about the [CIA’s] detention and interrogation program that brings out the worst in people,” says Dr. James Mitchell, a psychologist who helped the CIA design and implement so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs), which have been widely denounced as torture.

Neutering the News

Chris LehmannDecember 08, 2016
samchills
samchills

It was pretty much obvious at the outset of Liz Spayd’s tenure as New York Times public editor that the paper had elevated a dangerous simpleton into a position of influence. And now, with Spayd’s tone-deaf chiding of Times reporters for mostly anodyne comments on the empty spectacle of the Trump transition and call-outs to critics of President-elect Trump (another dangerous simpleton recently elevated into a position of influence), we’re seeing all the tell-tale signs of a full-fledged intellectual meltdown.

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerDecember 07, 2016
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b33-150-cover

Dear Bafflers, we offer you a new issue, “The Virtue Cartel.” This one’s dedicated to the virtuecrats—in the words of Chris Lehmann, these are the “policy big thinkersmilitary strategists, and neoliberal nudgers [who] have appointed themselves the permanent guardians of moral uplift and the public good.” It has salvos that run the gamut from virginity to smoking bans—via billionaires, empire, and Slack—as well as fiction, art, and poetry, not to mention a brand-new design.

The View from Abroad

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3328349854_a8a09a688b_z

Mr. Trump and Mr. Creosote, by Jake Lamar in Paris

It was in October, during the third and final debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, that the memory came to me. Watching Trump spew a wild and often incoherent stream of invective on Clinton—culminating in his interjection “Such a nasty woman”—I suddenly had a flashback to the 1980s, when I saw, for the first time, the Monty Python film The Meaning of Life.

Failing the Empathy Exams

Maximillian AlvarezDecember 05, 2016
Marc Nozell
Marc Nozell

There’s been a lot of talk about empathy lately. Most of this talk, though, has been disastrously misguided. Many on the beleaguered American left have been vehemently pushing back against mainstream calls to empathize with Trump supporters since the election.

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerDecember 05, 2016
Who wore it best? / Frank Balsinger
Who wore it best? / Frank Balsinger

Baffler contributing editor Susan Faludi demonstrates how free speech came under attack in Viktor “The Viktator” Orbán’s Hungary, drawing parallels with Trump’s intimidation of the press. It’s a sobering read, but enlightening:

Under the 2010 legislation to impose government control over journalism, media outlets have to register and be regulated by the National Media and Infocommunications Authority and face scrutiny by its Fidesz-controlled Media Council, created to sanction vague media transgressions including “unbalanced reporting,” disrespecting “constitutional order” and “family values,” or offending an array of groups from “majorities” to “nations.” ( .

A People’s History of the Third Reich

Megan CarpentierDecember 02, 2016
frankieleon
frankieleon

Liberals should stop asking whether Donald Trump—or his chief strategist and the former head of Breitbart, Steve Bannon—is a Nazi. Not because the employees of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser said so in an embarrassing paean to the “zealous Zionist” who has Trump’s ear, or even because, like one high school history teacher and Holocaust expert in Northern California, you could be forced into retirement.

Faux News Channel

Chris LehmannDecember 01, 2016
Josh Hallett
Josh Hallett

In line with venerable liberal tradition, the disaster known as Election ’16 has bred a slew of culprits behind the surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton, all reassuringly distant from the leadership sanctums of the national Democratic Party: James Comey, WikiLeaks, Vladimir Putin, Bernie Sanders and his cast of bros, etc.

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerNovember 30, 2016

Our lovely readers have weighed in on our Bleak Friday reading list, “Good Books for Dark Times.” Over on our Facebook page, several readers offered their own additions, including: Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, Albert Camus’s The Plague, and Jane Mayer’s Dark Money.

Looking Plain, Getting Laid

Amber A’Lee FrostNovember 30, 2016
Everywhere you turn on this earth, unremarkable-looking creatures are getting it on. / Mark Spokes
Everywhere you turn on this earth, unremarkable-looking creatures are getting it on. / Mark Spokes

I am a twenty-one-year-old cisgendered, heterosexual woman, and I am not hot. I don’t mean that I am ugly, but I also don’t just need a makeover, and I don’t have low self-esteem; I just mean that I am not hot.

Starving in America

Talia LavinNovember 29, 2016
Mike Licht
Mike Licht

In the late seventeenth century, the Puritan preacher Cotton Mather laid out a vision for America in a fiery sermon: “For those who indulge themselves in idleness,” he told his congregation, “the express command of God unto us is, that we should let them starve.” Nearly three hundred years since Mather’s death, this austere principle of his Calvinism has found a new expression in the top rungs of American government, where Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, has laid out a plan both to decrease idleness and increase starvation in the form of his “Better Way.”  

Most public alarm has focused, justly, on the Trumpian chaos in our nation’s highest office, but with Republican control of both the executive and the legislative branch, some Democrats are readying defenses against what Ezra Klein, at Vox, has called “a war on the poor.” Ryan has already suggested extensive cuts to Medicare, advocating “letting market competition work” on the healthcare of seniors.

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerNovember 28, 2016
Francois "eyebrows" Fillon.
Francois "eyebrows" Fillon.

Angela Nagle podcast alert: “Because all of this stuff is so steeped in irony,” she comments, drawing on her Baffler essay on 4chan, “it’s very hard to know what anyone actually means .