There was no red carpet, but Sarah Palin still stole the show. Now her supporters want to know: Will she run?
PELLA, IOWA -- Late in the afternoon, Democrats and other non-fans of Sarah Palin cleared out of downtown as a horde of supporters (and journalists) descended on the historic Pella Opera House for the Iowa premiere of "The Undefeated," filmmaker Steve Bannon's biographical movie of Palin. Just after 5 p.m., Palin and her husband, Todd, both smiling and dressed casually in jeans, arrived and ambled down Franklin Street greeting well-wishers. The event had the air of a revival; supporters had come from as far away as Dallas and were rapturous at the sight of their shepherd.
Earlier in the day, Palin's daughter had let slip in a television interview that her mother had made up her mind about a presidential run--but didn't say which way she was going to go. Before the heading into the theater, Palin spoke to reporters, but she didn't let on much either: "I told Bristol, too, what is talked about on the fishing boat stays on the fishing boat."
Then it was on to the show. Bannon made brief remarks about the making of "The Undefeated" and paid homage both to Pella's and to Palin's authenticity: "The hard-worn bricks outside the Pella Opera House are all the red carpet she needs." After a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and spirited renditions of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "This is My Country," the lights went down and the movie began. The crowd thrilled to the celebration of their hero and seemed pumped up by the film's dramatic imagery--volcanoes, earthquakes, snipers, ferocious lions, and clip after clip of Palin fighting back against her sundry enemies. (Subtlety isn't part of the Bannon arsenal.) When Palin, in the film, declared "We are an exceptional country and that is not something to apologize for," the audience broke into whoops and cheers.
Then the lights when up, and the director, producers, and star took the stage to a standing ovation. Palin gave a brief, peppy stump speech and took a few swipes at the "lamestream media" before leading the crowd out of the theater and around the block to a giant barbecue (that, from the looks of it, attracted several hundred more revelers). Everyone look relaxed and happy and very pleased to be there.
There were, among the audience, I discovered, several--gasp!--liberals. To Bannon, this was good news. He told me that he hopes his film will inspire independents, conservatives and liberals to support Palin--and there are indeed aspects of Palin's career that could do so. But the liberals I spoke to afterward weren't yet persuaded. "I wasn't blown away," said Pat Schacherer, a young Pellan who'd scored tickets from a friend's mother and revealed that many of his like-minded college buddies had attended and were similarly unpersuaded. "The film lacked substance." Most of the crowd, however, seemed to love it.
Palin appears to have come to Pella primarily to support Bannon's film and cheer on her supporters. She didn't drop any overt hints about the presidency that I picked up on, besides pledging to devote "110 percent" to Iowa if she did run. Even so, crowd members kept approaching her and urging her to run, and after seeing the film, those feelings seemed only to intensify. There can be little doubt that if she does decide to run, Palin won't lack for committed Iowans. Several that I spoke to were skipping the barbecue to attend Tea Party caucus training sessions.
One of them, Craig Bergman, a burly, cowboy-hatted gentleman from Des Moines, was plainly inspired by what he saw. He sought out Palin's aide, Rebecca Mansour, and, grinning widely, exclaimed, "Now all she has to do is run!" I asked if he thought she would. "Look, there has never been a weaker field," he told me. "If she doesn't run, we're going to nominate one of the three stooges--Romney, Pawlenty, or Perry--and they're going to lose to Obama. That will ruin the party." The people around us nodded in agreement. I departed thinking that if Palin gets in, she'll have many energetic supporters--and that if she doesn't, she'll draw one heck of a backlash.
To many white Trump voters, the problem wasn’t her economic stance, but the larger vision—a multi-ethnic social democracy—that it was a part of.
Perhaps the clearest takeaway from the November election for many liberals is that Hillary Clinton lost because she ignored the working class.
In the days after her shocking loss, Democrats complained that Clinton had no jobs agenda. A widely shared essay in The Nationblamed Clinton's "neoliberalism" for abandoning the voters who swung the election. “I come from the white working class,” Bernie Sanders said on CBS This Morning, “and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from.”
But here is the troubling reality for civically minded liberals looking to justify their preferred strategies: Hillary Clinton talked about the working class, middle class jobs, and the dignity of work constantly. And she still lost.
A Chinese scholar argues that the U.S. shouldn’t touch Taiwan—just like China wouldn’t back separatists in Texas or Hawaii.
Shortly after news broke of Donald Trump’s phone call with the head of Taiwan—the first direct communication between American and Taiwanese leaders in 37 years—one of the leading Chinese scholars of U.S.-China relations offered a stunning proposal: If the U.S. president-elect took similar actions as president, the Chinese government should suspend the world’s most important (and precarious) partnership. “I would close our embassy in Washington and withdraw our diplomats,” said Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. “I would be perfectly happy to end the relationship.”
What made the recommendation especially notable was that, just days earlier, Shen had been arguing that Trump’s victory was good for China—much better than the election of Hillary Clinton would have been. So what was it about the Taiwan call that had so quickly soured Shen on Trump? Where did he now think the U.S.-China relationship was headed, and what might that mean for the wider world?
Trump's election has reopened questions that have long seemed settled in America—including the acceptability of open discrimination against minority groups.
When Stephen Bannon called his website, Breitbart, the “platform for the alt-right” this summer, he was referring to a movement that promotes white nationalism and argues that the strength of the United States is tied to its ethnic European roots. Its members mostly stick to trolling online, but much of what they do isn’t original or new: Their taunts often involve vicious anti-Semitism. They make it clear that Jews are not included in their vision of a perfect, white, ethno-state.
On the opposite side of American politics, many progressive groups are preparing to mount a rebellion against Donald Trump. They see solidarity among racial minorities as their goal, and largely blame Trump’s election on racism and white supremacy. Three-quarters of American Jews voted against Trump, and many support this progressive vision. Some members of these groups, though, have singled out particular Jews for their collusion with oppressive power—criticisms which range from inflammatory condemnations of Israel to full-on conspiracies about global Jewish media and banking cabals.
The HBO drama’s finale hinted at a dark, meta message.
This post contains spoilers for the season finale of Westworld.
In 2013, a widely cited study published in Science suggested that reading literature increases a person ability to understand other peoples’ emotions. In 2016, another study seemed to debunk it, finding the original study’s results irreplicable and its resulting media coverage way too broad. “Reading Literature Won’t Give You Superpowers,” went The Atlantic’s headline from last week about the reversal.
It might seem laughable in the first place for anyone to think literature bestows superpowers. But that’s actually one of the more abiding beliefs of popular culture, and the question of whether stories improve the soul and mind—and better humanity more broadly—remains eternally in dispute. It’s a question that HBO’s Westworld has riffed on for 10 episodes, with the popular drama’s finale last night suggesting a cynical take on the social value of storytelling.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
This reader, along with a number of others, seems to have interpreted the headline, and found it lacking, in a few different ways (I reached out to Siskind on Twitter for more details on her reaction but haven’t heard back):
Some seem to read it as a dog-whistle to white nationalists who seek to show that Jews are part of what they regard as a non-white, inferior racial group, thus reinforcing tropes of anti-Semitism.
Others seem to see it as an earnest questioning of whether Jews belong in the “white” racial category, thus promoting the use of racial categories.
And still others claim the headline reinforces old stereotypes within the Jewish community—specifically, a blindness to the experiences of Jews of non-Ashkenazi or non-European descent, many of whom might not self-identify or be seen as white by other people in the American context.
Confronting racism can be crucial, even when it’s not persuasive.
In the brushfire wars since Donald Trump won the presidency, skirmishes over how to speak to his coalition of voters have consumed liberals. Leading the vanguard in those conversations is a collection of writers and thinkers of otherwise divergent views, united by the painful process of reexamining identity politics, social norms, and—most urgently—how to address racism in an election clearly influenced by it. Though earnest and perhaps necessary, their emphasis on the civil persuasion of denizens of "middle America" effectively coddles white people. It mistakes civility for the only suitable tool of discourse, and persuasion as its only end.
This exploration of how to best win over white Americans to the liberal project is exemplified by reactions to Hillary Clinton’s placing many of Donald Trump’s supporters in a “basket of deplorables.” The debate about whether to classify these voters as racist or bigoted for supporting a candidate who constantly evinced views and policies many believe to be bigoted is still raging. As Dara Lind at Vox expertly notes, Clinton’s comments themselves were inartful precisely because they seemed focused solely on “overt” manifestations of racism, like Klan hoods and slurs. That focus ignores the ways in which white supremacy and patriarchy can function as systems of oppression, tends to forgive the more refined and subtle racism of elites, and may ultimately lead to a definition of racism in which no one is actually racist and yet discrimination remains ubiquitous.
Without any promising answer to the problem of fake news, outlandish false claims like a pedophilia ring running out of D.C. restaurant will continue to grow.
After weeks of debate about the theoretical and abstract dangers of fake news, there’s finally a concrete incident to discuss. On Sunday, a North Carolina man walked into Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in an affluent corner of Northwest D.C. wielding an assault rifle, which he fired at least once.
The man, 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, told police he intended to “self-investigate” a bogus story alleging that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophilia ring out of the restaurant. The story, dubbed, deplorably, “Pizzagate” has spread around certain fake news circles, culminating in Welch’s expedition to Comet on Sunday.
So much of the discussion about “fake news” has involved vague questions about, for example, whether Russian-backed propaganda could have been a factor in Donald Trump’s victory. A big Washington Post report suggested that Russia had played a role in spreading lots of fake news; Adrian Chen, among others, convincingly argued that one major basis for that report was extremely fraught. There’s a broader question of the extent to which a foreign power could influence the election, and the extent to which that would really be anything new. Jack Shafer suggests not.
SNL parodied the president-elect’s impulsive tweeting last weekend, and he responded by tweeting about it.
Saturday Night Live has been on television for nearly 42 years, and in that time, it has mocked seven presidents, with an eighth, Donald Trump, now firmly in its sights. The show’s satire is essentially part of the political scenery; at best, a president might knowingly reference it as a sign of self-awareness. Chevy Chase, in his portrayal of Gerald Ford, mocked the president as clumsy and accident-prone. President Ford did not respond by publicly demonstrating his grace and poise, obeying the old maxim about not protesting too much.
Playing Trump on last weekend’s show, Alec Baldwin mocked the president-elect’s impulse control in a sketch that saw him retweeting random high-school students during a national security briefing. The real Trump was not pleased. “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live - unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad,” he tweeted at 12:13 a.m., about halfway through the episode. The irony couldn’t have been more plain: In response to a sketch mocking his propensity for impulsive tweeting, the president-elect ... impulsively tweeted about it. Satire in the age of Trump has already been difficult for Saturday Night Live, but it seems increasingly caught in a feedback loop: Any ridiculous heightening of his behavior is doomed to instant irrelevance by Trump’s reaction to it.
The past 12 months have been an eventful time for news stories, from the unpredictable and tumultuous U.S. presidential election, to continued war and terror and refugees fleeing to Europe, to a historic World Series win for the Chicago Cubs, and so much more.
The past 12 months have been an eventful time for news stories, from the unpredictable and tumultuous U.S. presidential election, to continued war and terror in the Middle East and refugees fleeing to Europe, to a historic World Series win for the Chicago Cubs, ongoing protests demanding racial justice in the U.S., the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, and so much more. Today, we present the “Top 25 News Photos of 2016”—and starting tomorrow will be presenting part one of a more comprehensive three-part series, “2016: The Year in Photos.” Warning, some of the photos may contain graphic or objectionable content.