Five Best Thursday Columns

Jonathan Mahler on the homophobia in the NFL, Kevin D. Williamson on Rand Paul's filibuster, Linda Greenhouse on the Voting Rights Act, Murtaza Hussain on Obama and Guantanamo, and Meghan Daum on online commenters.

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Jonathan Mahler at Bloomberg View on homophobia in the NFL A recent brief filed by Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo in support of gay marriage threw the culture of the National Football League into particularly high relief. "In the sweaty, macho world of professional sports, the NFL sets the standard for homophobia," writes Jonathan Mahler.  In light of reports that teams were inquiring about players' sex lives, not to mention overlooking retirees' debilitating brain injuries, Mahler thinks Kluwe and Ayanbadejo's brief evidences something of a sea change in football culture: "It may only be a matter of time before a lot of current players start questioning a lot of things about the NFL."

Kevin D. Williamson in the National Review on Rand Paul's filibuster The Kentucky senator's 12-hour-plus-long filibuster on the Obama administration's secretive drone strike policy on Wednesday presented a valuable moment of reflection, argues Kevin D. Williamson, about "the Obama administration's claim that it has a legal and ethical mandate to carry out extrajudicial killings of American citizens overseas that are indistinguishable from assassinations." Such policy, Williamson writes, challenges the bedrock assumption of American citizenship: "If your government can put you to death without trial ... then you are not a citizen at all: You are a subject. And Americans were not born to be subjects."

Linda Greenhouse in The New York Times on the Voting Rights Act "Years from now, when the Supreme Court has come to its senses, justices then sitting will look back on the spring of 2013 in bewilderment," writes Linda Greenhouse, who weighs the the importance of preserving the constitutional guarantees of the right to vote in the midst of Shelby County v. Holder, which addresses the practice of preclearance, through which federal authorities monitor changes to elections in certain counties and (mostly Southern) states. Greenhouse isn't optimistic that the Supreme Court will uphold preclearance as constitutional: "The Roberts court stands on the brink of making an error of historic proportions."

Murtaza Hussain in the Guardian on Obama's promise to close Guantanamo In 2008, President Obama campaigned on his promise to close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Murtaza Hussain tracks the effects of the president's broken promise on the camp's detainees, who have initiated hunger strikes in protest of their imprisonment. "That this increasingly draconian reality at Guantánamo has occurred during the tenure of Barack Obama, a man who based his very election in part on a pledge to close the prison, is a tragic irony," writes Hussain. For Gitmo's population, "Barack Obama has ensured that the prospect of freedom will remain as remote as ever."

Meghan Daum in the Los Angeles Times on the rancor of online commenters "I've been railing about online comments for a while now," writes Meghan Daum, noting how anonymity and volume often combine and produce what she calls the "nasty effect," whereby acid comments lower the level of discourse online. Drawing upon recent research which shows that online comments affect how readers interpret the very article or post being commented on, Daum contemplates their "dramatic effect on how writers write and, perhaps more important, on how readers read — especially those who don't remember a time before electronic media."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.