Five Best Tuesday Columns

William Saletan on misperception and overreaction in the Trayvon Martin case, David Rothkopf on the U.S.'s lack of a coherent policy in Latin America, Michael Specter on the dangers of Jenny McCarthy, Joe Nocera on why he avoids Twitter.

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William Saletan in Slate on misperception in the Trayvon Martin case Depending on your perspective, George Zimmerman's acquittal was due to societal racism, or Florida's Stand Your Ground law, or gun rights, or whatever. Those are all wrong, Saletan writes. "The problem at the core of this case wasn’t race or guns. The problem was assumption, misperception, and overreaction. And that cycle hasn’t ended with the verdict. It has escalated." The entire tragedy could have been avoided, Saletan writes, except that "two people—their minds clouded by stereotypes that went well beyond race—assumed the worst about one another and acted in haste." Saletan's piece has since been lauded from both sides of the ideological aisle. Huffington Post columnist J.J. McCullough tweets that Saletan's piece is a "Fantastic, thoughtful article on the Zimmerman trial," and The American Conservative's Rod Dreher writes, quite simply, "That makes a lot of sense."

David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy on Obama's lack of a policy on Latin America "It is sometimes thought that the failure to pay much attention to a region at least has the advantage of doing no harm," Rothkopf writes. "Not true. ... Sometimes you own a problem not because you 'broke it' but because your neglect has exacerbated it or made it possible." American foreign policy toward Latin America has failed to address any of a number of important issues: the support of a long-since failed Cuba embargo, aggressive NSA spying on Brazil, the extralegal grounding of the Bolivian president's plane, and a lack of collaboration with Mexico on stopping drugs and guns and increasing free trade. "But mostly what has resonated in the hemisphere during the past four years is a general lack of any U.S. interest or material activity in the region." His take is a "Comprehensive critique on lack of US policy towards Latin America," writes NPR's Senior International Editor Edith Chapin. In addition, Julia Sweig, the director for Latin America Studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, tweets (translated from Spanish) that Rothkopf is "one of the few who understands the U.S.-Latino foreign policy of Obama's second term."

Michael Specter in The New Yorker on Jenny McCarthy's faulty and dangerous platform ABC executives should be "ashamed of themselves" for selecting McCarthy—the former Playboy model turned anti-vaccine crusader—to become a regular host on ABC's daytime talk show The View. McCarthy is the most prominent face of the widely-debunked and dangerous anti-vaccine movement, which erroneously claims that vaccines cause autism. "By preaching her message of scientific illiteracy from one end of this country to the other, she has helped make it possible for people to turn away from rational thought. And that is deadly." The New Yorker writer and award-winning author Philip Gourevitch tweets "dead right: @Specterm rips @ABCNews hire of science denier Jenny McCarthy, shill for murderous anti-vaccine agenda," and Politico media critic Dylan Byers notes that, "Many other progressive outlets have also objected to ABC's decision to hire McCarthy."

Joe Nocera in The New York Times on the case against Twitter "So much on Twitter is frivolous or self-promotional. It can bury you in information," writes Nocera, who, despite his refusal to get his own account, understands the platform fairly well. "With its 140-character limit, Twitter exacerbates our society-wide attention deficit disorder ... Once, popes wrote encyclicals; now they tweet." Twitter aficionados quickly piled on the story as another cranky old man column: "Love you, Joe—but trashing Twitter b/c some people are mean is like avoiding politics b/c some people hold dumb signs," writes The New York Times national reporter John Schwartz. However, Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith tweets that for someone not on Twitter, Nocera understands its true ethos of sparking conversation: "Joe Nocera claims not to be into twitter, is expert twitter troll."

Justine Sharrock in BuzzFeed on visiting the NSA's data collection center Using a strangely simple method—"I had put 'Utah Data Center' in my GPS"—Sharrock drops in on the NSA's data center through which the agency collects American and foreign communications, only to be confronted by security. "I didn’t realize where I was going," Sharrock tells a suspicious guard. "I think you know exactly where you are," the guard (correctly) responds. Sharrock's experience is notable and oddly compelling for the sheer mundane nature of the NSA's building compared with what we know is happening inside it. "With our ability to see these walls but not beyond them, though, and the agency’s increasingly unlikely denials of surveillance overreach, it makes the game feel stacked." During the experience, Sharrock "found out first hand that the last thing you want to do is drive headlong onto Camp Williams," tweets former State Department consultant Robert Caruso, and Defense News correspondent Aaron Mehta notes that "security was nicer than I'd expect."

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