This morning's deadly attack is already sparking a debate about whether France, or even Europe more broadly, has a problem with violence against minorities.
Police outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse / Reuters
It is still too early to know why an unidentified shooter attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, this morning. According to initial reports, the gunman entered the private secondary school around 8:15 a.m. and began firing indiscriminately, though The Guardianreports witnesses suggesting that "he pursued some children, including a girl who he reportedly pulled by the hair." The gunman then fled on a motorbike, having killed three children and a teacher.
The attack does bear, as the police have noticed, a strong resemblance to two other shootings in the past week and a half. Both were perpetrated by a man on just such a scooter, and the latest ballistics analysis being reported by Le Nouvel Observatuer suggests the same weapon was used in all three attacks. The victims were soldiers of North African origin.
It is easy to speculate, given the victims in all three attacks, that this is the work of a terrorist or an individual with an ethnic agenda: this theory has already been floated publicly by one of the three psychiatrists interviewed by French paper Le Figaro. Equally possible, however, as another suggests, this may well be the work of a madman. Based on the evidence available thus far, "it's perhaps necessary not to search for rational but rather delusional logic," Claude Halmos told the newspaper. The third psychiatrist, Pierre Lamothe, argues that these works resemble those less of a "serial killer than a mass murderer. The first repeats his killings while destroying evidence. The second sees himself as having a sacred mission to fulfill."
The only thing that seems certain at this point is the mark this act is likely to leave on the Jewish community in France. This latest attack, whatever its motivation, constitutes at least psychologically a brutal continuation of a trend that French Jews have endured for a decade. France's Jewish community, as the country's newspapers are already recalling, has been the target of many attacks in the past 30 years (Le Figaro has a timeline), several in the 1970s and 80s, for example the assassination of Israeli diplomat Yacov Barsimantov in Paris or the 1979 explosion targeting Jewish students the day after the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, involved specifically anti-Israel sentiment, the former eventually linked to a Lebanese guerrilla group.
The early 2000s, however, brought a particularly nasty outbreak of anti-Semitism. On December 31, 2001, a classroom of a Jewish school was set on fire, one of several incidents in the period to involve arson. April of 2002 saw the Or Aviv synagogue in Marseille burned to the ground, with two other synagogues in Lyon and Strasbourg set on fire that same Passover-Easter weekend. Since 2005, the French government has been working to increase security around synagogues as well as Jewish schools, nurseries, and community associations. This has not completely halted the attacks, however, which included two cases arson in 2009, the latter targeting a school in Marseille. Le Mondenotes what, in retrospect, is sure to be seen as a haunting statement by interior minister Claude Guéant only Sunday, prior to Monday's shooting.
Sunday March 18, before the Jews of France assembled before the Central Jewish Consistory in Paris, interior minister Claude Guéant, while underlying the 'cold statistics' of the drop in antisemitic acts in the past two years, assured [that] "Vigilance dictates the continuance of these efforts in 2012 [...]"
Until the motivation behind the attacks is known -- and perhaps after that -- this incident also seems likely to reignite a discussion in Europe more broadly. Though the victims in this case are less numerous, this incident comes in the same year-long period that saw Anders Breivik's attack on the government buildings in Oslo and the Workers' Youth League camp, as well as the uncovering of the neo-Nazi terrorist cell in Germany responsible for the killings of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek, and a German policewoman, between 2000 and 2007. This attack may prove to be completely unrelated to other such instances of violence in France and across Europe, even in terms of political sympathies -- Breivik's diagnosis as a paranoid schizophrenic, for example, suggests his attack had at least as much to do with his own insanity as it did with politics. But as a headline on French website Rue89 -- "France's 'Oslo'" - -already shows, the feeling of this shooting being part of a broader trend is unavoidable.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
As the public’s fear and loathing surge, the frontrunner’s durable candidacy has taken a dark turn.
MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina—All politicians, if they are any good at their craft, know the truth about human nature.
Donald Trump is very good, and he knows it better than most.
Trump stands alone on a long platform, surrounded by a rapturous throng. Below and behind him—sitting on bleachers and standing on the floor—they fill this city’s cavernous, yellow-beige convention center by the thousands. As Trump will shortly point out, there are a lot of other Republican presidential candidates, but none of them get crowds anything like this.
Trump raises an orange-pink hand like a waiter holding a tray. “They are not coming in from Syria,” he says. “We’re sending them back!” The crowd surges, whistles, cheers. “So many bad things are happening—they have sections of Paris where the police are afraid to go,” he continues. “Look at Belgium, the whole place is closed down! We can’t let it happen here, folks.”
Retailers are experimenting with a bold new strategy for the commercial high holiday: boycotting themselves.
It starts with a scene of touch football in the yard. Next, a woman and a girl, cooking together in the kitchen. “Imagine a world,” a soothing voice intones, “where the only thing you have to wrestle for on Thanksgiving is the last piece of pumpkin pie, and the only place we camped out was in front of a fire, and not the parking lot of a store.” And, then, more scenes: a man, cuddling with kids on a couch. An older woman, rolling pie dough on the counter. A fire, crackling in the fireplace. Warmth. Wine. Togetherness. Laughter.
It’s an ad, unsurprisingly, but it’s an ad with a strange objective: to tell you not to buy stuff. Or, at least, to spend a day not buying stuff. “At T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods, we’re closed on Thanksgiving,” the spot’s velvet-voiced narrator informs us, “because family time comes first.” And then: more music. More scenes of familiar/familial delights. More laughter. More pie. The whole thing concludes: “Let’s put more value on what really matters. This season, bring back the holidays—with T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods.”
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.
Why are so many kids with bright prospects killing themselves in Palo Alto?
The air shrieks, and life stops. First, from far away, comes a high whine like angry insects swarming, and then a trampling, like a herd moving through. The kids on their bikes who pass by the Caltrain crossing are eager to get home from school, but they know the drill. Brake. Wait for the train to pass. Five cars, double-decker, tearing past at 50 miles an hour. Too fast to see the faces of the Silicon Valley commuters on board, only a long silver thing with black teeth. A Caltrain coming into a station slows, invites you in. But a Caltrain at a crossing registers more like an ambulance, warning you fiercely out of its way.
The kids wait until the passing train forces a gust you can feel on your skin. The alarms ring and the red lights flash for a few seconds more, just in case. Then the gate lifts up, signaling that it’s safe to cross. All at once life revives: a rush of bikes, skateboards, helmets, backpacks, basketball shorts, boisterous conversation. “Ew, how old is that gum?” “The quiz is next week, dipshit.” On the road, a minivan makes a left a little too fast—nothing ominous, just a mom late for pickup. The air is again still, like it usually is in spring in Palo Alto. A woodpecker does its work nearby. A bee goes in search of jasmine, stinging no one.
A yearlong investigation of Greek houses reveals their endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems—and a sophisticated system for shifting the blame.
One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.
An entire industry has been built on the premise that creating gourmet meals at home is simple and effortless. But it isn’t true.
I write about food for a living. Because of this, I spend more time than the average American surrounded by cooking advice and recipes. I’m also a mother, which means more often than not, when I return from work 15 minutes before bedtime, I end up feeding my 1-year-old son squares of peanut-butter toast because there was nothing in the fridge capable of being transformed into a wholesome, homemade toddler meal in a matter of minutes. Every day, when I head to my office after a nourishing breakfast of smashed blueberries or oatmeal I found stuck to the pan, and open a glossy new cookbook, check my RSS feed, or page through a stack of magazines, I’m confronted by an impenetrable wall of unimaginable cooking projects, just sitting there pretending to be totally reasonable meals. Homemade beef barbacoa tacos. Short-rib potpie. “Weekday” French toast. Make-ahead coconut cake. They might as well be skyscraper blueprints, so improbable is the possibility that I will begin making my own nut butters, baking my own sandwich bread, or turning that fall farmer’s market bounty into jars of homemade applesauce.
Mary Beard’s sweeping history is a new read of citizenship in the ancient empire.
A british college student named Megan Beech recently published a poetry collection called When I Grow Up I Want to Be Mary Beard. Beech is not alone in her admiration for Beard, who was for a time the only female classics lecturer at Cambridge University and has since become the most prominent representative of a field once associated with dusty male privilege. In 2013, Beard was appointed to the Order of the British Empire for “services to Classical Scholarship.” A prolific authority on Roman culture, she construes those services broadly. Her academic work ranges from studies of Roman religion and Roman victory practices to reflections on Roman laughter, and she has written lively books about Pompeii and the Colosseum. As the erudite docent on a BBC series three years ago titled Meet the Romans, Beard introduced a bigger audience to a bigger Rome: a citizenry far beyond the handful of Latin-speaking men who populated the Senate, served as emperors, or wrote (often dictating to their slaves) the books that we call “Roman literature.” Whatever the context (she also writes a blog, “A Don’s Life,” for the Times Literary Supplement), Beard does precisely what few popularizers dare to try and plenty of dons can’t pull off: She conveys the thrill of puzzling over texts and events that are bound to be ambiguous, and she complicates received wisdom in the process.
America loves its freeways. After the 1956 Federal Highway Bill created the pathway for a41,000 mile interstate highway system, states and cities jockeyed for the funding to build ever-more extensive networks of pavement that could carry Americans quickly between cities. Sometimes, they built these highways right in the middle of cities, displacing communities and razing old buildings and homes.
“This was a program which the twenty-first century will almost certainly judge to have had more influence on the shape and development of American cities, the distribution of population within metropolitan areas and across the nation as a whole, the location of industry and various kinds of employment opportunities,”Daniel Moynihan wrote in 1970 about the federal program that built these thousands of miles of highways.