Five Best Thursday Columns

Kirsten Powers on media coverage of an abortion trial, Fareed Zakaria on the lessons of Thatcherism, Drew Magary on Mike Rice's abuses, Charles M. Blow on Rand Paul's Howard visit, and Tom Doran on Michelle Malkin's Twitter aggregator.

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Kirsten Powers in USA Today on media coverage of an abortion trial How much media attention does the trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell deserve? "There has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page. The revolting revelations of Gosnell's former staff, who have been testifying to what they witnessed and did during late-term abortions, should shock anyone with a heart," argues Kirsten Powers. (The Wire's Philip Bump described the staff's testimony as "horrifying.") Powers goes on to observe the relative quiet surrounding the trial: "The Washington Post has not published original reporting on this during the trial and The New York Times saw fit to run one original story on A-17 on the trial's first day. They've been silent ever since, despite headline-worthy testimony. ... You don't have to oppose abortion rights to find late-term abortion abhorrent or to find the Gosnell trial eminently newsworthy. This is not about being 'pro-choice' or 'pro-life.' It's about basic human rights." Dan Gainor at Fox News agreed, saying, "Journalists are quick to worry about 'extreme' ways states are trying to curtail abortion. But clearly, murdering babies is not the news media's definition of 'extreme.'" Gainor and Powers join a long (and important) tradition, suggests a column by Reuters media columnist Jack Shafer: "Political discussions, economic arguments and even sports squabbles frequently turn on a press critique: ... What story is being neglected or hyped?"

Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post on the lessons of Thatcherism Margaret Thatcher's program forever changed Britain — many say for the better, many say for the worse — but the lessons to draw from her reign are scarce, writes Fareed Zakaria. "When Thatcher came to power ... the average Briton’s life was a series of interactions with government: Telephone, gas, electricity and water service, ports, trains and airlines were all owned and run by the state, as were steel companies and even Jaguar and Rolls-Royce. In almost all cases, this led to inefficiency and sclerosis," Zakaria observes, before questioning whether Thatcher's campaign to privatize and de-regulate important, often enormous industries would be necessary today. "Western economies face global competition, with other countries building impressive infrastructure and expanding education and worker training. ... Against this backdrop, would a further round of deregulation do much?" Thatcher, he concludes, "was successful because her convictions addressed the central problems of her time," not those of the 21st century. Thatcher herself would struggle to fit in too, Amity Shlaes at Bloomberg View suggests, in a column comparing the wisdom promulgated by female executives like Sheryl Sandberg to Thatcher's bold, if prickly, manner of governance. "Thatcher paid gloriously little heed to social fashion. She was known as a man’s man, and even one who harassed men she suspected might be vulnerable ... That same rough style might disqualify a rising Thatcher today. Over and again, today's leaders counsel their pupils, especially the female ones, to network and get along."

Drew Magary at Deadspin on Mike Rice's abuses "While Rutgers is making a wholesale change in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal, the culture of coaching hasn't changed," says sports ethicist Drew Magary. "Coaches are still freaks—sociopaths who direct their every action toward fulfilling their own need to win." Magary locates a certain hypocrisy in the furor surrounding Rice's taped basketball practices and subsequent firing, and points to the insidious fiction that NCAA players are normal students. "Coaches aren't stupid. They know that all that talk about graduation rates and 'character' is for show on behalf of the NCAA, and they know that they will be tossed out the window the moment they place fourth or lower in the conference standings. Even at the finest schools, a coach is still a mercenary tradesmen brought in for one specific purpose: to win." Such an arrangement, Magary says, often conceals abuses such as Rice's: "We have totally convinced ourselves that there's no alternative to physical intimidation ... brute stupidity that we've inexplicably sanctified out of a total lack of moral imagination." Sports reporter Zach Schonbrun documents such sanctifying in The New York Times. "I really feel bad for him," a former player told Schonbrun, before saying that Rice is "probably the only coach that’s been caught on tape doing this stuff or saying this stuff. I’m pretty sure once this video leaked, there were coaches saying, 'Go find this tape,' and burning tapes now as we speak."

Charles M. Blow in The New York Times on Rand Paul's Howard visit Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's disastrous appearance at Howard University is the latest in a pattern of failed GOP attempts to connect with black Americans, according to Charles M. Blow. Paul's speech, Blow notes, presented "a clipped-tail history lesson praising the civil rights record of the pre-Southern Strategy Republican Party, while slamming the concurrent record of the Democrats" and "completely ignored the past generation of egregious and willful acts of insensitivity by the G.O.P. toward the African-American community," which Blow goes on to detail in full and at length. "The Republican Party has a tarnished brand in the eyes of the African-American community, largely because of its own actions and rhetoric. That can’t be glossed over by painting the present party with the laurels of the distant past." Noah Rothman at Mediaite rebutted Blow's thesis that Nixon alienated black voters with the appointment of William Rehnquist. "Black voters ... became a reliably Democratic in the 1960 campaign and for an obvious reason — John Kennedy courted their votes," he argues, adding, "Republicans didn’t lose black voters, Democrats won them." Elsewhere on Mediaite, Josh Feldman highlights a segment from Rachel Maddow's Wednesday show, during which she flays Paul for lying about his conflicted support of the Civil Rights Act during a Q&A period following his Howard speech.

Tom Doran at The Daily Beast on Michelle Malkin's Twitter aggregator Twitchy, founded by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin in March 2012, aggregates tweets with a distinctly conservative slant, melding cultural commentary with political activism. But Tom Doran thinks it undermines its own goals, by constantly hyping up petty feuds and psychologizing political discussion. "Nobody outside the hard-right bubble cares about these non-stories, still less will they change anyone's vote or affect the course of any legislation. This is the fight Malkin and so many others like her have chosen: a withdrawal from concrete policy goals into a battlefield of manufactured outrage and endless, tiny, wholly meaningless victories. Meanwhile ... Republicans keep losing elections and Democrats are left to run the country." Doran worries that Twitchy's aesthetic is influencing the broader conservative culture. "Conservatives were once concerned with big ideas. Now, too many of them seem to settle for 'defeating' their enemies on Twitter in a neverending series of micro-controversies, to the detriment of actual conservative achievements in the real world." Media Matters's Simon Maloy, who is frequently quoted by Twitchy, responded in jest: "This guy's gonna get so owned on Twitchy."

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