Five Best Monday Columns

Jill Lawrence on bogus arguments against gun control, Nancy DiTomaso on how social networks affect black unemployment, Kelefa Sanneh on David Graeber's anarchy, Lisa Miller on NYU Abu Dhabi, and Marin Cogan on the intoxication of power.

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Jill Lawrence at National Journal on bogus arguments against gun control "As both sides in the gun debate mobilize for a possible second act on Capitol Hill, could we please retire the argument that taking step X on guns wouldn’t have prevented tragedy Y?" asks Jill Lawrence, before taking stock of the various ways such an argument is situated. "Arguments like [these] ignore the fact that Step X – whether it’s expanded background checks or other proposals before Congress — might well have helped prevent or mitigate some horrendous past incident, and could spare us future tragedies." She adds: "The push for expanded background checks and other new laws are looking toward the future, not the past." Meanwhile, at the New York Daily News, Mike Lupica offers a stronger condemnation of the National Rifle Association, which recently held its annual convention in Houston. "The leaders of the NRA don’t speak for responsible gun owners in America, and never have," Lupica writes. "They don’t even speak to the spirit of the Second Amendment, written about a thousand years ago for single-shot muskets. They just continue to pound away at the same insane theme: Gun control is the beginning of the government coming to take their guns."

Nancy DiTomaso at The New York Times on how social networks affect black unemployment Nancy DiTomaso reports on the way favoritism — friends and family helping each other — can marginalize black people seeking employment. "It is only natural that when there are jobs to be had, people who know about them will tell the people who are close to them, those with whom they identify, and those who at some point can reciprocate the favor," she writes. "Because we still live largely segregated lives, such networking fosters categorical inequality: whites help other whites, especially when unemployment is high. Although people from every background may try to help their own, whites are more likely to hold the sorts of jobs that are protected from market competition, that pay a living wage and that have the potential to teach skills and allow for job training and advancement. So, just as opportunities are unequally distributed, they are also unequally redistributed." At the Guardian, Heather Long notes that the unemployment crisis hasn't been kind to young people either. "One church on Long Island, near New York, has gone as far as to recommend that its attendees refrain from asking young people 'what do you do?' Instead, it's better to ask the more generic 'So, tell me about yourself.' You know we've reached a tipping-point when you can't ask even twentysomethings about their work."

Kelefa Sanneh at The New Yorker on David Graeber's anarchy What is the future of anarchism? Taking into account the recent work of David Graeber, Kelefa Sanneh focuses on the legacy of the Occupy Wall Street movement and Graeber's influence within it. For example: the infamous "We are the 99%" slogan, which Graeber claims to have invented. "It was a great slogan, because it linked the people in the parks to the people watching at home, suggesting a kind of class struggle that even class-averse Americans could support," Sanneh says. "What's striking about this formulation, though, is what's missing: any explicit reference to the one per cent. It was a self-reflexive slogan for a self-reflexive movement, one that came to be known more for its internal politics than for its critique of the outside world." Indeed, the Occupy movement continues to struggle with internal discord, Eleazar David Melendez at The Huffington Post reports: "Activists say the movement, while still very much alive, is hobbled by a sharp decrease in the number of participants and a declining appetite for street protest among those still left. ... Occupy has become a loose collection of so-called working groups of independent activists who focus on specific issues."

Lisa Miller at New York on NYU Abu Dhabi "NYU Abu Dhabi opened its doors to students in 2010 amid much controversy, the first major outpost in what NYU president John Sexton calls the 'Global Network University,'" writes Lisa Miller. "The idea, broadly put, is to track down the brightest students in the whole wide world and entice them to Abu Dhabi with hotel-quality bed linens and free scuba-diving lessons—not to mention gobs of scholarship money." Miller wonders if the project will succeed: "If American students like Jessica yearn for a more immersive year-abroad experience, or New York-based faculty worry making a deal with the Abu Dhabi government implicitly condones its human- and civil-rights abuses, well, that’s not [NYU President] John Sexton's problem. He has taken untold millions of dollars from the emirate ... thereby staking his reputation and the future of his university on a vision of an interconnected, international system of educational ­franchises." The real resistance to Sexton's NYU vision is growing at home, in New York, according to Connor Durkin at NYU Local, who obtained a faculty group's message to Sexton on Friday: "The university now seems committed to maximizing its expansion, both globally and locally, at the expense of its core values," the group wrote. "Its path of expansion has sacrificed academic integrity by devaluing faculty oversight and fair employment conditions for all faculty, has sacrificed student diversity by choosing growth rather than increased financial aid, and has sacrificed good citizenship by foregoing collaborative relations with both faculty and neighbors."

Marin Cogan at The New Republic on the intoxication of power Why are we so obsessed with unexpected photographs — a.k.a 'photobombs' — involving powerful politicians — and, often, the reporters who cover them? According to Marin Cogan, it has to do with power: "This being Washington, the photobomb isn't always just a joke; it can also be a status marker, especially among aides and advisors. In the White House, where everyone is subtly angling to be photographed in the proximity of the president, the photobomb is the goal." On the other hand: "Maybe the pleasure taken in sharing Washington photobombs with friends and colleagues is another symptom of a painfully myopic and self-obsessed culture.  Or maybe it is something different: One of the rare moments when, for once, Washington doesn’t take itself too seriously." Mediaite editor Noah Rothman was less amused: "[White House Correspondents' Dinner] was last week. No more glowing stories about how hip the political press is, please."

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