Readers discuss representation in Hollywood and other realms of entertainment from the perspective of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and political bent. Share your own thoughts via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responding to Lenika’s piece about the small percentage of Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans in Hollywood, a reader snarks, “Just look at that racist NBA: Whites and Latinos are terribly under-represented”—74.4 percent of the players are Black, 23.3 percent are White, 1.8 percent are Hispanic, and 0.2 percent are Asian. That supposed double standard was echoed in the comments section of Julia Lee’s piece for us today about how Asian Americans are often discouraged by their parents from going into the arts. But this reader makes a key distinction when it comes to professional acting and pro sports:
While there is some subjectivity, who’s hired in the NBA and NFL comes down to beating the clock, scoring, and yardage. Those three things have no opinions nor feelings.
And regarding the hugely disproportionate percentage of Black players in the NBA and NFL, the reader notes, “Those are leagues where the white guys hire all the black guys.” As far as the coaches? Here’s a snapshot of the NFL from The New York Times last year:
Among the league’s hundreds of assistant coaches, 16 percent were members of minority groups in 1991; that proportion increased to 36 percent in 2007 and 29 percent in 2013. [The NFL is] where 67 percent of the players were African-American in 2013, according to data published by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
This season, five out of the 32 head coaches are Black—or nearly 16 percent, just ahead of the percentage of African Americans nationwide—in addition to just one Hispanic coach. Regarding the NBA, here’s a snapshot from FiveThirtyEight in 2014:
… 43.3 percent of NBA coaches were black compared with just 2 percent of the league’s majority owners (of the NBA’s 49 majority owners, Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats was the only person of color, according to Lapchick’s data).
With that context in mind, do you have any strong views about diversity in pro sports, or the entertainment industry more generally? Drop us an email. Meanwhile, this reader broadens the debate even further:
What about religious diversity? Do all religious groups receive proportional treatment or are certain groups under or overrepresented? Do evangelical Christians receive adequate representation in the Academy and the Oscars?
A reader suggests there are limited career opportunities, or at least “perceived” limited opportunities, for certain minorities outside of professional sports:
When reading one of your notes yesterday, the phrase “disproportionate diversity” jumped out at me. It just doesn’t quite make sense to me unless diversity is understood as a simple code for the inclusion of “minorities,” which would be disappointingly revealing of a perspective insufficiently critical and careful in its engagement with race. Diversity may often be used as code for simply including numbers of minorities below and or up to their proportionate demographic levels, but that cheapens the concept.
Can you have a disproportionate representation of minorities in sports? If your only metric is demographic proportions, sure. But if you survey the field of opportunities perceived to be truly open to minorities and the ways in which minorities have been and continue to be systematically shut out of careers by both personal and institutional biases, then I think the disproportionality becomes a reflection of the realities of minorities’ perceptions of the avenues open to them.
Another reader suggests that such a perception could be self-defeating:
Is extreme overrepresentation of black men in pro sports actually the result of underlying social issues?
Becoming a professional athlete requires a person to both have the genetics and then work extremely hard from the time you’re a child. If you do both of those, and don’t sustain serious injury, there is a remote chance of a sustained career as a professional athlete. In short, being a child working primarily with the goal of becoming a professional athlete is essentially playing the lottery with your own life. And isn’t playing the lottery an irrational decision that taxes the poor? For every professional athlete, there are thousands left in the wake who don’t fare nearly as well.
Should ANYONE work that hard from the time they’re a child in hopes of a remote chance of making a professional sport? The hard work that the tens of thousands of kids are putting in today in hopes of getting drafted in the 2029 NBA draft is potentially coming at the expense of other interests, with most of those interests carrying much better career potential than playing basketball six hours a day as an eight year old. If you’re that same eight year old, you’re relying on others around you to provide these other interests. If you’re poor, each of those interests can grow to represent “a way out.”
So, looking back, is today’s overrepresentation of black men in professional sports the result primarily of an overrepresentation of eight-year-old black boys in the 1990s who felt they had no other way out?
That could lead to a tragic irony; even when educational and job opportunities open up nationwide, there will inevitably be a lag in the perception that those opportunities are attainable, and thus some young people won’t be as prepared to seize them.
In December, I wrote an Atlantic story about how the Internet led to the decline of female film critics at prominent media outlets. The piece noted a sad irony about women and film media in 2016: At a moment when checking up on the role of women in front of and behind the camera is a popular topic with news organizations and amongst film reviewers, women write just 18 percent of top reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and constitute less than a quarter of membership in the four top national critics’ associations. I called for news and media outlets to make a deliberate effort to hire women writers and editors, because the stakes are high: As one study showed, critics tend to write about films helmed by members of their own sex, and reviews have been shown to influence audience attendance and box-office totals. Even in the Internet age, critics matter.
At the time of my writing, I argued there was reason to hope. That BuzzFeed, Time, and The Village Voice had just hired women for prominent film-critic positions in the past two years seemed, to me, a solid reason to be optimistic that media organizations had made hiring women a top priority. But yesterday, the film blog Women and Hollywood put a damper on my assertion that prominent publications have “doubled down on their commitment to women writers.”
In a story called “The Dudeocracy of Film Writers,” the blog’s editors note “a bothersome trend” over the past month—many prominent film-critic jobs have recently gone to men. The new chief film critic at Variety and the Los Angeles Times, senior film critic and film reporter at Indiewire, the film staff writer at Rolling Stone, and editorial director and editor at Film Comment are all men. The editors at Women and Hollywood write they have received plaintive messages from women film writers who are “flabbergasted,” frustrated, and themselves struggling to land staff positions.
It’s important to take the Women and Hollywood story with a grain of salt. The editors did not reach out for comment from hiring editors, who may have told them they initially contacted women to fill those positions. Editors may have added that some hiring decisions have occurred in tandem with internal promotions of women (Kate Erbland, for instance, became film editor at Indiewire) or emphasized that at least one of those hired men—Justin Chang, now the chief film critic at the Los Angeles Times—fills other, gaping diversity holes in film criticism (in his case, Asian-American critics). And as one writer pointed out to me on Twitter, the article didn’t note two other major, recent hires: While the Village Voice has a new male film critic, MTV News recently brought a woman on to be its lead film critic.
But the Women and Hollywood story nevertheless provides a crucial check-in on the ongoing, disappointing conversation. I’m grateful to the blog for ending its own addition to this depressing dialogue on a high note—with a list of women critics to read. You can find those writers (follow them!) here.
Opening with the egregious example of Jared Leto playing The Joker in Suicide Squad, Angelica Jade Bastién takes aim at the ostentatious way Hollywood is using method acting in recent years. She observes:
[M]ethod acting of this sort couldn’t exist without the culture of permissiveness and indulgence Hollywood has fostered over the years. For the last few decades, particularly after Robert De Niro’s infamous body transformation for 1980’s Raging Bull, which netted him an Oscar, method acting has become a critical factor in the campaigns of actors seeking trophies. Actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christian Bale, and particularly Leonardo DiCaprio have spoken about how they lose themselves in roles—gaining weight, whittling themselves down, never breaking character, taking on accents and hobbies that affect their personal life.
I love this observation from a reader:
The hilarious thing is that the more actors talk about their Method acting, the more attention it calls to their acting in the movie, thus breaking the suspension of disbelief. Of course, this assumes that their goal is actually to heighten their art, as opposed to win trophies or gain popularity.
I had a similar feeling about Leto’s overrated and not believable method performance as a trans woman in Dallas Buyer’s Club:
Another reader looks to a difference performance from a long-time method actor:
There’s a great story I heard once that happened on the set of Marathon Man. Upon being asked by Lawrence Olivier how a previous scene had gone, one in which Dustin Hoffman’s character had supposedly stayed up for three days, Hoffman claimed that he too had not slept for 72 hours to achieve emotional verisimilitude. “My dear boy,” replied Olivier, “why don’t you just try acting?”
It didn’t quite go down that way. Here’s a clip of Hoffman’s response to that apocryphal anecdote:
Another reader takes the opportunity to snipe at Hoffman:
Putting aside acting methods, Hoffman is one of the worst actors. It’s a blessing that he rarely works. He is constantly drawing attention to himself, letting you know how hard he is acting. There is no sincerity in Hoffman’s acting; it’s all a front. (Meryl Streep suffers from the same self-absorption; one is always extremely aware that one is watching Meryl Streep act, not a character on the screen.) The English conservatory approach has trained many more exceptional actors than the self-indulgent method, in my opinion.
Another reader quips about Hoffman, “But he did give his all to portray a tomato in Tootsie; he Became that tomato.” This next reader goes into great depth over the English conservatory approach (and I’ve embedded clips throughout):
British actors of Olivier’s generation certainly didn’t use The Method, and it’s true that recorded performances by John Gielgud, Olivier et al appear “hammy” and unnatural, even by theatrical standards.
But as Ian McKellen has remarked: What modern audiences think of Olivier’s acting now is irrelevant. The important thing is that the audiences who saw him live cried when he died, laughed when he did something amusing, and empathised with his characters; they believed him. And that is the actor’s goal.
Of course what audiences want from theatre and film changes over the years and, as a consequence, so do tastes in acting styles. Hence why Olivier’s performances are now unpalatable, even laughable, to many.
Contemporary British actors now receive a comprehensive training (usually over a full-time, three-year study period) in a variety of approaches to acting.
The most reputed drama schools will train their students in Strasberg’s Method, Sanford Meisner’s techniques, Stella Adler’s techniques, Stanislavski’s System (with the most weight being given to Stanislavski, as his system is the most complete, and the root of the works of the other practitioners), with additional training in the work of Le Coq, Michael Chekhov, and Uta Hagen (to name a few).
These approaches to acting are complemented with classes in movement, dance, body conditioning, voice, singing, clowning, and improvisation. British drama schools offer the most comprehensive and in-depth actor training in the Western hemisphere and remain the most in-demand from international students who are serious about pursuing a career in acting.
The problem with restricting yourself to Strasberg’s Method alone is that it’s incomplete. Strasberg’s aim in developing The Method was to take the work of Stanislavski and to adapt it for contemporary performers. The trouble was Strasberg had only ever read Stanislavski’s first book, An Actor Prepares, which details such staples of Strasberg’s Method as emotional memory.
Not long after publishing that book, Stanislavski witnessed first hand the physical, emotional, and mental toll that his system took on a young Michael Chekhov (who would later go on to become a significant theatre practitioner in his own right). This experience led Stanislavski to develop his work to be more holistic, and complete, with a great emphasis on what he called the psychophysical.
He wrote two subsequent books on acting in which he did not precisely disown his earlier writings, but refined them within the context of his new ideas. Strasberg does not appear to have had access to these later writings (at least when he was developing his Method). Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler are two American practitioners who felt that Stanislavski’s later writings were of equal importance, and worked them into their own working practices and teachings, which are far more complete than Strasberg's.
Couple of little corrections to the article …
Daniel Day Lewis has expressed discomfort at being labelled a Method Actor. He’s gained a reputation for being “the actor who stays in character all the time on set,” but as he has said, he only does this as he feels it’s a better use of his time than sitting around having a drink and a chat with the other actors. If he stays in character between takes and scenes he might discover something new about the character that he hadn’t thought of before and that he could bring into the next take or scene.
Here’s a brilliant scene in There Will Be Blood of that actor playing a character who’s acting:
Back to our reader:
Other stories about Daniel Day Lewis’s immersion in the parts he plays tend to be exaggerated, and the truth behind them seems more to do with his personality than any strict adherence to The Method. He’s a naturally curious man, so his research often becomes in-depth (he learnt how to build a canoe for The Last of the Mohicans, for example). But it’s not restricted to his work as an actor; he learnt how to make shoes just because it intrigued him.
Marlon Brando has also always rejected the (what he saw as) accusation that he was a Method Actor. In fact he seemed to take quite a dim view of Strasberg and his work, describing him as “an ambitious, selfish man who exploited the people who attended the Actors Studio and tried to project himself as an acting oracle and guru. Some people worshipped him, but I never knew why.” Brando credits Stella Adler and Elia Kazan as being the people who taught him to act.
Here’s a compelling clip of Brando blurring the lines between professional acting and everyday acting by ordinary people:
On that note, here’s another passage from Angelica Jade Bastién—and an especially adept one in an overall compelling piece—touching on the macho insecurity that compels many actors to go method:
Brando never went to the extremes of those who came after him, but his career and outlook provide the template for those who see themselves as his successors. Beyond his obsessive dedication to the form, Brando was self-deprecating about his choice of career. He saw acting as inferior to the kind of work a “real” man would do.
By going method, a performer can signal that he works for his art; he can make his labor visible. This attitude has lived on today, and comes through in how [Christian] Bale once framed his career for Esquire: “I have a very sissy job, where I go to work and get my hair done, and people do my makeup, and I go and say lines and people spoil me rotten. This is just not something to be quite as proud of as many people would have you believe.”
Bastién goes on to press the case that double standards over method acting are “sidelining the transformative work of actresses.” Do you have any favorite method performances by women, or thoughts about the topic more generally? Drop us a note and we’ll post: email@example.com. For my part, here’s Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For a Dream—an Oscar-nominated performance that outshines all her costars, especially Jared Leto:
Angelica Jade Bastién’s popular essay about how Hollywood has ruined method acting culminates in a theory that “the gendered nature of modern method acting has had the unfortunate consequence of sidelining the transformative work of actresses who found authenticity without billing themselves as somehow ‘above’ their art form.” A reader, Kelly, isn’t persuaded:
I’m all for gender equality, but this seems like a stretch. At the very least, it certainly doesn’t get to the root of the problem. (Hint: It has nothing to do with method acting.) If Leo [DiCaprio] wants to eat a bison heart because he thinks it’s going to improve his performance, by all means. I don’t think that necessarily makes this the new standard for acting, as referenced by Jared Leto taking a similar approach and failing.
Another reader disagrees with Kelly and reiterates several points made in the piece:
Yes, but the exaltation of this particular brand of method acting that has so closely been associated with showy, masculine feats of endurance is a part of stigmas around gender differences. Men can engage in this brand of method acting and often be praised whereas women largely cannot, and when they are praised it’s because of the bravery in not being beautiful.
In this way, what we consider to be great acting has benefited one gender disproportionately, and more specifically it helps obscure brilliant performances by actresses (and actors) who either don’t practice this brand of method acting or simply engage in another method.
I get what you’re saying, but again, I don’t think it gets down to the root of the problem. It’s societal stigma (what’s acceptable for men vs. women) and doesn’t have much to do with method acting specifically. Not to mention, I don’t think many would classify the Joker or what Leto did to get into character [gifting the cast a dead pig, a live rat, used condoms] as “masculine.” The Joker is not a masculine character and neither are his actions. The point is he’s supposed to be crazy and maniacal, not muscular, valiant, strapping, or brave. Quite the opposite actually.
I agree that method acting antics are disproportionately accepted more with male actors than with female actors, but if the end product is the same, is it really a problem?
I guess the best example I can use is the one bright spot of Suicide Squad: Margot Robbie. She’s thus far gained critical acclaim in the role of Harley Quinn.
No, Robbie didn’t use method acting, but she gave a performance that was just as, if not more, eccentric than Leto’s, and people seem to appreciate it despite the fact that she’s not portraying a stereotypical cutesy female character (though she is in a somewhat skimpy outfit).
Bottom line: Gender biases certainly exist in Hollywood, but it’s much farther reaching than the ways in which actors choose to prepare for a role.
The following clip illustrates very well the narcissistic, look-at-me showboating of method actors like Jared Leto, who interrupts Robbie when she’s telling a story of how the movie’s director cut off parts of her hair:
(Side note regarding Kelly’s point about Robbie’s “somewhat skimpy outfit”: In the above clip, a publicity shot of Leto in character is also very skimpy, and it elicits a lot of hollers from women in the audience. Both genders are sexified these days when it comes to superheroes and villains.)
Another reader, Christopher, joins Kelly in skepticism:
The main thesis of the essay is how women and men cannot engage in the same sort of preparation because of gendered expectations, and the male avenue is more highly regarded and so it forms a sort of oppressive force against actresses. It’s an interesting point, because it is very closely connected to the Hollywood appropriation of the life of the actor/actress in the marketing material.
I’m not sure if the thesis as argued holds very well, though. I say this not because I think the central point is incorrect, but because I think “extreme method acting” makes people scoff as much as it makes people interested in seeing it.
For example, if no one knew what Leo did for The Revenant, I don’t think fewer people would have seen it, but even if they did, I think it’s fair to mention how so much of the criticism against that movie and his performance was specifically about how he prepared. (But I guess Hollywood doesn’t necessarily care what people are saying about a movie just as long as they’re talking about it.)
Christopher’s point about scoffing is a strong one, especially in the case of DiCaprio. The conventional wisdom during this past Oscar season was that DiCaprio—with five Oscar nominations but no wins before The Revenant—was so desperate to finally get a gold statue that he sought the role of an emotionally brutalized and physically tortured frontiersman (punctuated by a graphic mauling from a momma grizzly) and then prepared for the role by battling hypothermia, eating raw liver as a vegetarian, and sleeping in animal carcasses. It smelled desperate. And that desperation was widely mocked in memes:
Personally I thought Tom Hardy’s performance in The Revenant was much better than DiCaprio’s, and I suspect the latter was given an Oscar because he had come so close so many times. I genuinely laughed out loud at the film’s final shot, when DiCaprio breaks the fourth wall with a direct-to-camera gaze—as if to say, “Pleeeeease can I have an Oscar now … ” Imagine this scene with a gold statue standing in for the woman:
Back to Christopher, who wonders:
Is it true that an actress would not be praised for engaging in the same faux-method acting as her male counterparts?
I understand why it would be assumed to be the case, as the article points out, but I am legitimately unsure if a movie comes out and touts, say, Jennifer Lawrence, as being so committed to her role that she lived in the woods by herself for three months with nothing but a compass and a blanket to prepare for her character, that there would be a negative reaction. I mean, Charlize Theron did win an Oscar for Monster, and it’s fairly offensive to say it’s just because she chose not to be pretty.
Speaking of method performances from actresses who won critical and popular praise, I asked readers in a previous note for more examples, and many of them delivered.
One reader points to Hilary Swank’s Oscar-winning performance in Million Dollar Baby. Swank is one of the most famous method actors of the past 20 years, and here’s how she prepared—and suffered—for that role:
[G]oing method was the only way for her to truly get to grips with her character. So “acting like a boxer” becomes “actually being a boxer” in this case, which—as you probably guessed—lead poor Miss Swank on the path towards death. As a result of having to “pivot” excessively whilst training for the movie’s now famous boxing scenes, Swank picked up … a Staph infection, which—left untreated—is usually fatal. “I got a blister, the size of my palm, on my right foot, and it was really swollen, and I couldn’t train and walk on it,” she said in an interview afterwards. “So I popped it myself, and it got infected.” What’s more, Swank didn’t bother to tell director Clint Eastwood about her injury as she didn’t want to slow down production ...
Swank’s early experience in method acting would pay dividends when she was cast in Kimberly Peirce’s devastating drama about Brandon Teena, a real-life transgendered man who was brutally raped and murdered in a Nebraska hate crime. “I walked around trying to pass as a boy for five weeks before filming that movie,” she says. “Seeing what worked and what didn’t work, and losing a bunch of body fat so that my face would be thinner. My neighbors thought that I was my cousin Billy from Iowa.”
Another reader points to, well, The Reader—specifically Kate Winslet’s Oscar-winning performance. Her suffering for that film was psychological:
Kate Winslet was so focused on accurately portraying her character in THE READER she struggled to return to day-to-day life after filming wrapped. The actress plays a former Nazi concentration camp guard in the post-war drama, and put all her emotions into the intense role. And Winslet … admits it took months for her to bid farewell to the character. She says, “It’s like I’ve escaped from a serious car accident and need to understand what has just happened.”
The next example of method acting comes from a reader who points to Anne Hathaway losing 25 pounds and cutting off all her hair for an Oscar-winning performance in Les Miserables. She masterfully plays Fantine, an ill-fated impoverished mother who is forced into prostitution to provide for her young daughter. The most heartrending scene:
Another reader notes Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance in Black Swan. To prepare for that disturbing role of descending into madness, Portman lost 20 pounds, did a year of intensive ballet training, and performed much of her own dancing. For example:
Yet another reader points to Oscar-winner Halle Berry for being a well-known purveyor of method acting. Here’s a look at some of her roles:
When Berry first came on the scene in her first motion picture, Jungle Fever, she did not bathe for more than a week, in order to bring realness to her character.
In her 2003 film, Gothika, Berry was so dedicated to the role, that she ended up breaking her arm in one of her scenes, with Robert Downey, Jr. Needless to say the production was down for at least eight weeks, while the actress healed.
In The Call, Berry did her own stunts. To prepare for the emotional demands of her character, Berry worked with real life dispatchers, listening to their phone calls and observing their behavior, mannerisms, and protocol.
Here’s Berry in Jungle Fever:
Lastly, one more reader notes Rooney Mara’s Oscar-nominated performance in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a disturbing thriller that includes a horrifying rape scene that Mara had to endure. Here’s how she partly prepared for the role of Lisbeth, a tough and fiercely independent hacker:
[Mara] didn’t even have ear piercings. She felt that to truly inhabit the character, multiple piercings all over her body were necessary. Mara had her lip, brow, nose, nipples and ears pierced. She said, “because of all the tattoos and the makeup and the piercings, and the physical transformations my body has to go through, it would always feel sort of like I was in costume, even if I was naked.
Do you have an example to include? Have any thoughts about this discussion in general? Drop us a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can go just about anywhere with my German passport. But almost no one wants to let in Americans these days.
Becoming a United States citizen was meaningful to me for a great number of reasons. German by birth, I had come to feel at home in America, and to love it. For all the deep injustices that shape this country, I remained convinced that the United States was more likely than just about any other place in the world to build a thriving, diverse democracy. And when I wrote about the danger that right-wing populists like Donald Trump pose to the American republic, I cherished being able to speak about his assault on our, as opposed to your, values and institutions.
Alongside all these serious reasons, I also had a very practical one: the power of the U.S. passport. It granted access to just about everywhere, and escape from just about anywhere. Which country—Germany or the United States—would be more likely to rescue me if I got stuck in some foreign country in the middle of a perilous political crisis? Would the last plane to evacuate foreigners from Chad or Chile or Canada before that country devolved into civil war be sent by the Bundeswehr or the U.S. Air Force?
The U.S. has never had enough coronavirus tests. Now a group of epidemiologists, economists, and dreamers is plotting a new strategy to defeat the virus, even before a vaccine is found.
Michael Mina is a professor of epidemiology at Harvard, where he studies the diagnostic testing of infectious diseases. He has watched, with disgust and disbelief, as the United States has struggled for months to obtain enough tests to fight the coronavirus. In January, he assured a newspaper reporter that he had “absolute faith” in the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contain the virus. By early March, that conviction was in crisis. “The incompetence has really exceeded what anyone would expect,” he told The New York Times. His astonishment has only intensified since.
Many Americans may understand that testing has failed in this country—that it has been inadequate, in one form or another, since February. What they may not understand is that it is failing, now. In each of the past two weeks, and for the first time since the pandemic began, the country performed fewer COVID-19 tests than it did in the week prior. The system is deteriorating.
Communities that worked hard to beat the coronavirus should reap the benefits of doing so.
Because the coronavirus is still spreading rapidly in much of the country, not every school district can bring children and teachers back safely and equitably this fall. But among those that can is Somerville, Massachusetts—the city of about 80,000 just northwest of Boston where my family and I live. After a biotech conference in late February spread the coronavirus in the Boston area, public officials in Somerville reacted quickly. The city shut down bars and required masks before most other communities did. Residents stayed home. Playgrounds closed. “Avoid playdates,” urged Mayor Joe Curtatone, a progressive who prides himself on making data-driven decisions about the problems that test the city and its residents. We knew our children felt lonely and confused, and still we buckled down.
The president has dramatically accelerated the pace of his efforts to weaponize the federal government to his advantage.
President Donald Trump’s open admission yesterday that he’s sabotaging the Postal Service to improve his election prospects crystallizes a much larger dynamic: He’s waging an unprecedented campaign to weaponize virtually every component of the federal government to partisan advantage.
Trump is systematically enlisting agencies, including the Postal Service, Census Bureau, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security, that traditionally have been considered at least somewhat insulated from political machinations to reward his allies and punish those he considers his enemies. He is razing barriers between his personal and political interests and the core operations of the federal government to an extent that no president has previously attempted, a wide range of public-administration experts have told me.
American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase.
If you were an adherent, no one would be able to tell. You would look like any other American. You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen. You may well have an affiliation with an evangelical church. But you are hard to identify just from the way you look—which is good, because someday soon dark forces may try to track you down. You understand this sounds crazy, but you don’t care. You know that a small group of manipulators, operating in the shadows, pull the planet’s strings. You know that they are powerful enough to abuse children without fear of retribution. You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive denizens of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world.
Polished, soft-spoken, and a self-styled moderate, Jared Kushner has become his father-in-law’s most dangerous enabler.
Jared Kushner, the second-most-powerful man in the White House, is quite a bit smarter than the most powerful man, his father-in-law, the president. Donald Trump possesses a genius for the jugular, but he evinces few other signs of intelligence. He certainly displays no capacity, or predisposition, to learn. His son-in-law, by contrast, appears to have sufficient analytic acumen to comprehend that the country has been brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic. Kushner might not be the brightest public servant in American history—he is a Harvard graduate who is also a leading symbol of college-admissions corruption, and a businessman with a substantial record of failure—but he has shown flashes of effectiveness in his time at the White House. Because he projects a facsimile of capability and because he shows, at irregular intervals, a seemingly genuine interest in governing, he is also an exasperating mystery.
Zvikorn, whose bio on the site describes an Israeli teen into sports history, has made more than 2,300 edits to Wikipedia articles over the past few years. “The main reason I edit Wikipedia is a strong belief that every person on the planet has the right to access the accumulated knowledge of humanity,” he wrote. “Today it is only getting more important for mankind to find out the truth and not be exposed to believe fake news.”
No matter what happens now, the virus will continue to circulate around the world.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has sickened more than 16.5 million people across six continents. It is raging in countries that never contained the virus. It is resurgingin manyof the ones that did. If there was ever a time when this coronavirus could be contained, it has probably passed. One outcome is now looking almost certain: This virus is never going away.
The coronavirus is simply too widespread and too transmissible. The most likely scenario, experts say, is that the pandemic ends at some point—because enough people have been either infected or vaccinated—but the virus continues to circulate in lower levels around the globe. Cases will wax and wane over time. Outbreaks will pop up here and there. Even when a much-anticipated vaccine arrives, it is likely to only suppress but never completely eradicate the virus. (For context, consider that vaccines exist for more than a dozen human viruses but only one, smallpox, has ever been eradicated from the planet, and that took 15 years of immense global coordination.) We will probably be living with this virus for the rest of our lives.
The Great Depression permanently altered many people’s behavior. Could COVID-19 do the same?
During the past five months, many prognosticators have prognosticated about how the coronavirus pandemic will transform politics, work, travel, education, and other domains. Less sweepingly, but just as powerfully, it will also transform the people who are living through it, rearranging the furniture of their inner life. When this is all over—and perhaps even long after that—how will we be different?
For one thing, we’ll better understand the importance of washing our hands. When I interviewed roughly 20 people from across the country about their pandemic-era habits, most of them planned to keep aspects of their new hygiene regimen long into the future, even after the threat of the coronavirus passes. “I will more regularly wash my hands throughout my life and I will never be anywhere without hand sanitizer and a mask,” Leah Burbach, a 27-year-old high-school teacher in Omaha, Nebraska, told me.
No matter what Trump says, the USPS has the money and the capacity to handle a huge surge in mail-in ballots. But new restrictions could disrupt the election.
President Donald Trump and his allies might well succeed in undermining the United States Postal Service’s ability to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots this fall. But the biggest immediate threat to voting by mail isn’t blocked funding.
Trump acknowledged yesterday that he opposes a major stimulus deal with Democrats in part because he wants to stop an infusion of $25 billion to the Postal Service ahead of the election. “They need that money in order for the Post Office to work, to take in these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo. But the president doesn’t want more voting by mail, and he doesn’t want the Postal Service to have any more money to help with it. “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. That means they can’t have it.”