Five Best Thursday Columns

Ayesha A. Siddiqi on Lily Allen's anti-black feminism, Annalee Newitz on what goes viral, Brian Beutler on the GOP's Obamacare trap, Jonathan Chait on House Democrats' freakout, and Jelani Cobb on who's afraid of interracial marriage. 

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Ayesha A. Siddiqi at Noisey on Lily Allen's anti-black feminism. Lily Allen's new single, "Hard Out Here," aims to criticize how women get treated in pop music. But it "manages to scapegoat not just rappers but black women for all the insecurities [Allen's] been grappling with over her career," Siddiqi writes. "White artists need to stop using the wealth signifiers of rap music to gesture at their self-important 'anti-consumerism.' What Allen misses as she washes rims in a kitchen decorated only with bottles of champagne is that it’s not anti-consumerism when it only targets one type of consumer." Allen could do better: "While Rihanna releases strip club anthems that prioritize the female gaze, and Nicki Minaj regularly eviscerates the double standards of sexism in the music industry, Allen’s petulant sermon is both anachronistic and racist." Al Jazeera columnist Sarah Kendzior tweets this line: "It is not feminist to remain blissfully colorblind in a world that functions along race."

Annalee Newitz at io9 on the "valley of ambiguity" of what goes viral. "There are some stories that will never go viral, even if they are brilliant in every measurable way. That's because they lie in the 'valley of ambiguity,' which is sort of like the uncanny valley for viral journalism," Newitz explains. Her theory is that two kinds of stories go viral: the meme, which "we share because it's funny or makes us feel good," and the truth-telling story, which "go viral for exactly the same reason LOLcats do. They are not open to interpretation." The stories that don't make it? "These are the articles and essays that have fallen into the valley of ambiguity – reports on important scientific findings with difficult-to-interpret results, political news with a long and tangled back story attached, and opinion essays that require us to account for points of view that may be unfamiliar or strange." Wired reporter Steve Silberman asks, "Are nuance and ambiguity the enemy of virality in social media?"

Brian Beutler at Salon on the GOP's Obamacare trap. "Many congressional Democrats, but particularly the most politically vulnerable of them, are beset every day with more angry constituents who’ve both had their insurance policies canceled (which was inevitable), and are unable to access new coverage on a broken (which was not)," Beutler writes. But "Republicans don’t seem to have thought through their plan to capitalize on the Democrats’ political troubles." Senate Democrats are rallying around Republican Sen. Mary Landrineau's plan to restore canceled plans. But the GOP favors Rep. Fred Upton's plan, which won't be as effective in restoring coverage. "This could play out in a million ways, but very few of them leave Democrats without cover, or genuinely undermine reform," Beutler argues. Austin Frakt, a health economist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, tweets, "I can't figure out if @brianbeutler is (typically) brilliant or too clever by half here." Townhall editor Conn Carroll tweets, "god knows I don't always agree with @brianbeutler, but I think he is right about Upton plan here."

Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on Congressional Democrats' Obamacare freakout. "Democrats in Congress are sponsoring, or threatening to join, various proposals purporting to allow people with individual-market insurance to keep their plans. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? But another way to describe this same idea is 'Let insurance companies continue to exclude sick people,'" Chait argues. Because "banning insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions necessarily bans them from discriminating in favor of people without preexisting conditions." Chait insists, "Undermining Obamacare in order to placate angry individual-insurance holders makes no sense even on narrow political terms." National Journal's editorial director Ron Fournier tweets, "Dems' 'wild scramble ... solves neither their collective nor their immediate dilemma.'"

Jelani Cobb at The New Yorker on who's still afraid of interracial marriage. Richard Cohen's Washington Post column suggesting that people with "conventional views" gag at the sight of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's family was "simultaneously right and deeply wrong, in ways that he likely didn’t suspect, and that have serious implications for our current politics," Cobb argues. "The views Cohen ascribed to Tea Partiers aren’t 'conventional'; they’re antediluvian, a brand of racism that is still running the old operating system. But they do represent a thread connecting the politics of the past to those of the present ..." Because "for a recalcitrant minority, there is a creeping realization, aggravated each time the President appears on their televisions, that this is not the world in which they grew up. But for the emerging electoral majority — especially those who lived through the Dixiecrat era — this is precisely the point." MSNBC producer Jamil Smith tweets, "It's not the same America that Richard Cohen grew up in. For most of us, @jelani9 writes, that's exactly the point."

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