Two groups will hold opposing demonstrations in Denmark this weekend in a sign of the continent's challenge with identity politics.
English Defense League protesters clash with police in February / Reuters
When two groups of European protesters face off in Denmark this Saturday, they will represent two opposing sides of an increasingly important division in Europe's identity. The first is planned by the far-right English Defence League and aims to start a pan-European anti-Islamic movement. The Guardianreports "at least 10 anti-Islamic and far right groups from across the continent" are expected to attend. The second demonstration is in response: anti-fascists who plan to protest the rally. The anti-fascist coalition Projekt Antifa is booking transportation from Copenhagen to the demonstration in Aarhus, with at least one English group already committed to joining. "A big turnout of anti-fascists from Denmark and other European countries is expected," reports The Guardian.
It's hard to know how to read this standoff. The English Defence League emerged in 2009 as the largest populist street movement in several decades, has been shown (despite its claims) to be strongly associated with knee-jerk anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, but has often fallen short of its grand aspirations. Turnouts in the past have been sparser than promised, and a 2011 report from British think tank Demos suggested "police and other agencies ought to consider downgrading their estimates on the size and strength of the EDL's marches and demonstrations," calling the EDL's own estimates "inflated."
So is counter-protesting the far-right group perhaps doing more harm than good, lending the extremists too much credibility?
Not if you buy the anti-fascist argument. Nick Lowles of Hope not Hate told reporters that the EDL's "focus on the threat of Islam, presenting it as a cultural war, has a far wider resonance amongst voters, especially in Europe, than old-style racists. They conflate Islamist extremists with immigration and in the current economic and political conditions it is extremely dangerous." That's a compelling view for a number of reasons.
To start with, let's go back to that think tank report. It largely confirmed The Guardian's 2010 exposé on the EDL, which looked at the racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the group's protests. Immigration, not Islamic extremism, is the top concern among EDL supporters, the report found. Nearly half of supporters "claim[ed] to have joined the EDL because of their views on Islam," while 31 percent also "cited their love of England, commitment to preservation of traditional national and cultural values, and representation of the interests of 'real' British countrymen ... as their reason for joining." To sum up: this is a movement very much about identity politics.
Identity politics appear to be on the rise in Europe, and precisely at a time when Europe can't afford that: the Eurozone crisis means that Europe needs to be more unified, not less. The trend is surely, in part, about economics. Demos found EDL members to be deeply pessimistic and "disproportionately likely to be out of work" -- consistent with Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman's theory in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth that economic stagnation leads to upticks in intolerance. It's also consistent with a separate Demos report on far-right and populist groups throughout Europe, where the groups' online activists were "slightly more likely to be unemployed." Though the Demos writers were careful to stress that this could be about the activists' student status, unemployment also seemed, anecdotally, to inform the anti-immigrant sentiment. "I would like to send them back to their homes, rather than having to maintain them and give them jobs," a supporter of an Italian federalist party told researchers. "It would be better if they gave Italians a job first, for example to me, since I am unemployed."
It seems that European society at present is more open to the EDL's stated goal of a pan-European anti-Islamist movement than it might otherwise be. This might already be changing European politics. A recent study, on the inclusiveness of immigration policies, showed that the trend towards more inclusive policies was largely due to electoral pressures. The study also found, however, that naturalization rights in the ten European countries studied stagnated and even regressed after 2002.
Why is this worrisome? Three obvious reasons: crypto-fascism is scary, nationalist and protectionist impulses hurt economies, and the E.U. would like to stick around (most of these groups are anti-E.U.). But there's another problem: these groups actually isolate European Muslim communities even more. Muslim immigrants' failure to integrate culturally, as well as perceptions of unfairness and race-based economic discrimination, may lead to religious radicalization, according to some scholars. So can feelings that the West is out to get the Muslim world.
Groups like the EDL are likely worsening these problems. And that's why counter-demonstrations just might prove to be important after all. If each "anti-Islamist" demonstration sends a message to Muslims that they're not welcome, then anti-fascist groups can at least provide a competing message.
There's no getting around the ugliness of the European far right, or the dangers involved in its rise. But the presence of a well-organized and vocal anti-fascist opposition is somewhat encouraging. Traditionally, complacency and lack of interest has been more of a problem than competing agendas.
The 49ers quarterback won’t stand for the national anthem anymore.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem before games as a protest against recent high-profile incidents of police brutality and racial injustice have been met with criticism and protests, but is an important step for a league where professional athletes rarely speak out on such issues.
Kaepernick was noticed sitting down during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” in a preseason game Friday. When asked by a reporter about his actions, he said:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
As pay TV slowly declines, cable news faces a demographic cliff. And nobody has further to fall than the merchant of right-wing outrage.
Updated at 12:05 p.m.
October 7, 2016, will be the 20th birthday of the Fox News Channel, and at the moment, the network is experiencing the soap-operatic highs and lows typical of any teenager on television. In many ways, the summer of 2016 may go down in Fox News history as the company’s nadir. Its founder and leader Roger Ailes has been dishonorably dispatched, the remaining executives are dealing with a flurry of sexual harassment lawsuits, and one of its most public faces, Sean Hannity, has ignominiously remodeled himself as a gutless Trump whisperer.
And yet Fox News’ fortunes are ascendant, at least in the most quantifiable sense. The network’s annual profit in 2015 soared by about 20 percent. For the first time ever, Fox News has been the most-watched cable network among both primetime and daytime viewers for several months, with a larger audience than its nominal rivals, CNN and MSNBC, combined. Led by “The O'Reilly Factor,” Fox News doesn’t just have the best-rated news show on cable television; according to The Wrap, it has the 13 best-rated news shows on cable television.
Hillary Clinton has her problems, but Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency.
On one hand, there’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who oversaw “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, the site of a deadly September 11, 2012, terrorist attack.
What looks at first glance like an opening up of possibilities is actually an attack on the human imagination.
You might not like what I’m about to say about the multiverse. But don’t worry; you’ve already had your revenge. If there are an infinite number of parallel universes, there will be any number of terrible dictatorships, places where life has become very difficult for people who like to string words together. Somewhere out there, there’s a society in which every desperate little essay like this one comes with a tiny, unremarkable button: push it, and the author will be immediately electrocuted to death.
Maybe your hate is more visceral—you already know I’ll die some day, but you want to see it happen; you need to see me groveling. You can if you want. Fly upwards from the plane of our solar system, keep on going, through the endless huddles of galaxies, never forgetting your purpose, until space and time run out altogether. Eventually you’ll find yourself in another universe, on a damp patch of grass and broken concrete, unwatched by whatever local gang or galactic empire rules the city rising in foggy shapes beyond the marshes. There, you’ll see a creature strangely similar to yourself, beating me to death with whatever bits of scrap are lying around.
Why did the company trend a false article about Megyn Kelly?
Oh, Facebook. Just when the company seems to have avoided the responsibility of being a news organization (and all the attendant controversy), it finds itself back in the editorial muck.
Last week, Facebook made a surprise overhaul of its “Trending Stories” feature, the sidebar that highlights some of the most popular news stories on Facebook. Where the company had previously provided a short, human-written summary of the news at hand, it now only described the story in a one or two-word phrase: “#Toyko2020: Japanese Prime Minister Appears in Surprise Performance During Rio Ceremony,” became just “#Tokyo2020.”
Facebook’s decision to simplify the feature seemed like an attempt to wriggle out of editorial responsibility: What had been a messy human-led process would now become an algorithm-guided one. The company also laid off the 26 employees who had run the feature—19 curators and seven copyeditors—with little warning on Friday, according to Quartz.
In the primaries, he avoided policy debates by promising to build a wall—but the general election is forcing him into specifics.
The biggest political story of the last week has been Donald Trump’s flip-flop on deporting undocumented immigrants. This Sunday on CNN, Mike Pence filibustered his way through the subject for almost seven minutes before Jake Tapper finally declared, “You did not address the issue” and moved on. Chris Christie on ABC and Kellyanne Conway on CBS were no more coherent. The Daily Beast summed up the morning with the headline, “Immigration Flip-Flop Leaves Trump Campaign Flailing on Sunday Shows.”
But focusing on Trump’s “flip-flop” misses the point. Trump’s real problem isn’t that he’s changed his position on immigration. It’s that he’s trying to formulate one at all.
What the commentary of the last few days has generally overlooked is that while immigration was key to Trump’s success in the Republican primary, Trump never actually offered an immigration policy. To the contrary, his success rested in large measure on his ability to avoid one. Trump’s strategy on immigration, as on other key issues, was to cut through the Gordian knot of public policy with aggressive, quick fix solutions. Terrorism? Ban Muslims. ISIS? Bomb the hell out of them and take their oil. Loss of manufacturing jobs? Slap massive tariffs on companies that outsource American jobs.
A new anatomical understanding of how movement controls the body’s stress response system
Elite tennis players have an uncanny ability to clear their heads after making errors. They constantly move on and start fresh for the next point. They can’t afford to dwell on mistakes.
Peter Strick is not a professional tennis player. He’s a distinguished professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. He’s the sort of person to dwell on mistakes, however small.
“My kids would tell me, dad, you ought to take up pilates. Do some yoga,” he said. “But I’d say, as far as I’m concerned, there's no scientific evidence that this is going to help me.”
Still, the meticulous skeptic espoused more of a tennis approach to dealing with stressful situations: Just teach yourself to move on. Of course there is evidence that ties practicing yoga to good health, but not the sort that convinced Strick. Studies show correlations between the two, but he needed a physiological mechanism to explain the relationship. Vague conjecture that yoga “decreases stress” wasn’t sufficient. How? Simply by distracting the mind?
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
What to do if you’re a Hillary fan seated next to a Trump supporter at a wedding
When America is finally great again, they’ll make the latte with soy milk like you asked.
All those political cracks, not to mention earnest proclamations, mean that for the next 10 weeks, many casual interactions run the risk of erupting into full-blown partisan warfare. It’s more of a danger for those with family members or close friends who support opposing candidates and views. But on Facebook, hot-button scuffles can break out between almost anyone. (I recently witnessed a college friend who lives in Europe arguing about gun rights with a random guy from my high school in Texas, whom I myself have spoken with only a few times in person.)
One reason Americans find the other side’s views so inflammatory is that increasingly, they view their political party as more of a tribe than a checkbox. “People start seeing themselves or their political views as the main representation of their values, and what is right and wrong,” said Emanuel Maidenberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA.
The performer, known for his roles inWilly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Young Frankenstein, died at age 83.
Gene Wilder was the greatest kind of comic actor: one who not only knew how to read a joke, but also how to inhabit it. In his hands, a line reading could be suffused with menace, or compassion, or demented delight, and no matter what, it would be deeply funny to behold. Wilder, who died at age 83 on Monday due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, was a consummate performer who made every project he worked on better, from Mel Brooks’ masterpieces of the 1970s to his collaborations with Richard Pryor. He was a screen presence who always seemed to possess an otherworldly energy, making him the obvious (and best) choice to play Willy Wonka, Roald Dahl’s avatar of sheer wonder. His footprint as a comic actor was immense, with his best work showing the depth of craft that went into building a memorable performance.