Five Best Wednesday Columns

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Richard Cohen's context, David Weigel on claims of Tea Party racism, Amy K. Nelson on women in sports media, Jonathan Chait on Wall Street's nightmare, and Maria Bustillos on Buzzfeed and literary criticism. 

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Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic on Richard Cohen "in context." Cohen's outrage-inducing Washington Post column from yesterday sought to explain Tea Party racism, but instead gave us this line: "People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children." Coates responds, "Context can not improve this. 'Context' is not a safe word that makes all your other horse-shit statements disappear. And horse-shit is the context in which Richard Cohen has, for all these years, wallowed." So "Richard Cohen's unfortunate career is the proper context to understand his column today and the wide outrage that's greeted it." Cohen said yesterday that allegations of racism are "hurtful." Coates explains, "I find it 'hurtful' that Cohen endorses the police profiling my son. I find it eternally 'hurtful' that the police, following that same logic, killed one of my friends. I find it hurtful to tell my students that, even in this modern age, vending horse-shit is still an esteemed and lucrative profession." New Yorker web producer Caitlin Kelly tweets, "I feel like there is not a big enough mic in the world for Ta-Nehisi to drop after he presses 'Publish' for a post." New Inquiry contributing editor Ayesha A. Siddiqi agrees: "Establishment media white noise columnists need to recognize their own irrelevancy lol at thinking they're even in Ta-Nehisi Coates' league."

David Weigel at Slate on the claim that the Tea Party is racist. "The problem with Cohen's column was that he made an assertion about an entire class of people being racist, and did no work to prove it," Weigel writes. That's "quite an assertion about a group of people Cohen didn't even try to talk to for his column." Weigel notes that Cohen could have "asked Tea Partiers whether they were bothered by Clarence Thomas's marriage to a white woman, given that she took a (short-lived) role as a would-be Tea Party leader in 2009 and 2010. He could have asked about their reaction to FreedomWorks's outreach director Deneen Borelli, whose husband Tom is white. Or, because anecdotal evidence is only worth so much, he could have 'taken the Internet express' to and noticed that 85 percent of whites and 70 percent of elderly people are fine with interracial marriage." But he didn't. Middle East scholar Andrew Exum tweets, "Yeah, @daveweigel says the last thing that needs to be said about this."

Amy K. Nelson at The Hairpin on women in sports media. "Very few women hold positions of true power in the sports journalism industry," Nelson, a senior correspondent at SB Nation, writes. "When it comes to finding women employed at the top of major media and news-gathering organizations (let alone the smaller shops), the pickings are slim." Nelson herself has worked in sports journalism for over 10 years. "Even if jobs aren't being lost to men, discrimination still very much exists. Some of it is nuanced. Some of it isn't. But when I hear about women whose appearances are scrutinized down to the makeup and accessories they're wearing, while male colleagues skate by unnoticed? That's some old-school, old boys' network bullshit," Nelson argues. Sports Illustrated reporter Richard Deitsch tweets, "how the deck is systematically stacked against women in the sports media." Kimberley Martin, who covers the Jets for Newsday, responds, "Nicely done, Amy!"

Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on Wall Street's nightmare. "The importance of [an Elizabeth] Warren candidacy (or, quite possibly, the mere threat of one) is not her prospects for wresting the nomination from Hillary Clinton. It’s that she can unlock the most potent, untapped issue in American politics: financial reform," Chait explains. Warren's views are characterized as far left, but "more stringent financial regulation, ... is not ideologically marginal. It’s a popular, centrist, and even bipartisan notion that has been politically marginalized for temporary, idiosyncratic reasons." Republicans and Democrats can actually agree on more regulation: "A bill to break up the big banks has the sponsorship of liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown and conservative Republican David Vitter. Warren has a tough regulatory proposal of her own, which has the support of John McCain." So anyone could take up this issue in 2016. Wall Street's "cozy days may come to an end, and Warren is the most likely candidate to end them." Matt O'Brien, an economics writer at The Atlantictweets, "Implicitly, @jonathanchait is saying Dodd-Frank was nowhere near sufficient on financial reform." Chait responds, "I was mostly making a political, not policy, argument. Perception /= reality. I think Dodd-Frank helped but did not solve."

Maria Bustillos at The New Yorker on Buzzfeed and literary criticism. Last week, Buzzfeed's new book editor Isaac Fitzgerald announced that he wouldn't publish negative reviews on the site. Bustillos writes, "Some might argue that there’s no particular reason that the establishment of a positive place shouldn’t be a perfectly viable goal for a books site. But I find the very idea that one should 'respect' the authors of books by publishing only positive reviews to be absurd." In fact, "the exact opposite must be true: real respect means having balls enough to publish the unvarnished results of a close reading. No adult author writes for praise alone." Laura June, features editor at The Verge, tweets, "Yes @mariabustillos you've said it perfectly." Gawker deputy editor Max Read agrees.

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