The Baffler’s Week That Was
Ladies and gentlemen, insiders and outsiders, queers and conservatives, high-frequency traders and Heritage think-tankers, the Lucky, the Hungry, and David Brooks, let’s all take a look back at the past week on The Baffler online:
• We published an essay from Gabriel Zaid from our current issue, “Against Merit” (accompanied by illustrations by David Sandlin, like the one here). In this piece, Zaid ruminates on national lotteries, and divine intervention, and merit, and luck, and fate, and freedom.
• We also had occasion to revisit two salvos from the previous issue, number 23, Thomas Frank’s “Academy Fight Song” and Ken Silverstein’s “They Pretend to Think, We Pretend to Listen: Liberalism in the tank.”
• On the blog, Jordan Fraade skewered the self-indulgent and rather delusional “nerd culture” of the D.C. press, on the occasion of last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Those wonks all want to be outsiders, but, well, they’re just not.
• Corey Pein exposed the lazy cut-and-paste coverage of the buzzy story last week that a mysterious donor would be donating $100 in Bitcoin to all MIT undergraduates. Actually, not so mysterious: the donor is actually the founder of a Wall Street firm that’s one of the villains of Michael Lewis’s new book Flash Boys, and Pein uncovered all kinds of shady dealings and ulterior motives that no one else writing about this story bothered to connect. Check out his piece, “Bitcoin for Undergrads: Wall Street’s Next Pump-and-Dump.”
• “Inequality isn’t just about who has money and who has less money; it’s about the social distance between those who have influence and those who do not,” writes Ned Resnikoff. In his first column for the Baffler blog, Resnikoff examined the economic assumptions underlying several of David Brooks’s New York Times columns and found them wanting, to say the least.
• Diana Clarke wrote about Autostraddle, a website that should be praised for helping to bring queer issues into the mainstream, but should also be called out for its curiously infantilizing language that makes it read like a queer version of Cosmo.
• Andrew Helms eviscerated a common, tired trope among sports writers, the rags-to-riches, “Hungry for success” story about athletes. The hard facts don’t back it up; poor kids in rough neighborhoods just don’t out-perform their upper-class peers—no matter how much we’d like to think of sports as life’s one true meritocracy.
• Finally, Kathleen Geier revealed the ridiculous spectacle of the conservative cult of victimhood—pity parties that require the partiers to reach further and further back into the ol’ family tree in order to find a narrative of hardship, and she showed what the Mad Men economy can teach us about our own (and how little we apparently expect of it these days).
Say hello some time, why don’t you.