Five Best Friday Columns

Jonathan Chait on the GOP's sabotage of Marco Rubio, Kavitha A. Davidson on race and ice hockey, Ruth Marcus on WhatsApp's All-American success, Julie Burchill on checking your privilege, Daniel D'Addario on why Scarlett Johansson deserves an Oscar nod. 

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Jonathan Chait at New York on the GOP’s sabotage of Marco Rubio. “The Rubio Plan sounded awfully appealing to Republicans, not least of them Rubio himself, who set about constructing the fund-raising and advisory apparatus of a top-tier presidential contender. For a few months, the plan proceeded to near perfection. Then everything started falling apart, and it has kept falling apart ever since. The Rubio Plan required the senator, heretofore a reliable conservative soldier on every issue including immigration reform, which he ran against in 2010, to reverse himself and persuade a large chunk of the party to follow along. This Rubio did with astonishing speed,” Chait writes. “Everything Rubio touches has turned to shit. The cumulative humiliations have transformed the former party savior into a figure himself in need of saving. How did it all go so badly? The Rubio Plan had sounded clever in the abstract. And so Rubio was cast in a role nobody could play. The party elders who thought they were enlisting him as the Republican savior were instead making him its martyr.”

Kavitha A. Davidson at Bloomberg on race and ice hockey. “The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg tweeted a photo of a white Team Canada fan watching the game in full-on blackface while wearing the jersey of Jamaican-Canadian player P.K. Subban. This isn't the first time we've seen horrific displays even from fans attempting to show support for a black player; when Subban first came up with the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, some Habs fans paired 'Subbanator' T-shirts with afros and shoe polish on their faces,” Davidson writes. "That black players still have to endure such behavior by white fans and teammates speaks to the burgeoning diversity problem hockey has yet to properly confront. There are many issues at play here, not the least of which is the relative dearth of black players in the NHL. Though the first black professional hockey players laced up their skates in 1899, the number of current players of color is still a mere fraction of the league at large.” Davidson herself tweets, “Write about racism in sports, get called an 'affirmative action hire' in comments referencing turbans. #Muricah.”

Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post on WhatsApp’s all-American success. “WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, now 37, was born in a small village outside Kiev, Ukraine, according to Forbes’ Parmy Olson. His house had no hot water; his parents — a construction manager and a housewife — avoided speaking on the phone for fear of being overheard by authorities. Koum’s mother brought him to the United States when he was 16, along with a stack of Soviet-issued notebooks to avoid paying for school supplies. (His father remained behind.)” Marcus writes. “Koum’s Soviet-era childhood is relevant to a third intriguing aspect of the WhatsApp story: its aversion to advertising and the related drive to collect user data. Having worked at Yahoo for a decade, Koum and fellow co-founder Brian Acton developed an intense dislike for an advertising-based business model.”

Julie Burchill at The Spectator on checking your privilege. “While working-class left-wing political activism was always about fighting the powerful, treating people how you would wish to be treated and believing that we’re all basically the same, modern, non-working-class left-wing politics is about… other stuff. Class guilt, sexual kinks, personal prejudice and repressed lust for power. Intersectionality may well sound like some unfortunate bowel complaint resulting in copious use of a colostomy bag, and indeed it does contain a large amount of ordure,” Burchill writes. “The idea that a person can chose their gender — in a world where millions of people, especially ‘cis-gendered’ women, are not free to choose who they marry, what they eat or whether or not their genitals are cut off and sewn up with barbed wire when they are still babies — and have their major beautification operations paid for by the National Health Service seems the ultimate privilege, so don’t tell me to check mine.” John Rentoul at The Independent tweets, “Best writing of the day.”

Daniel D’Addario at Salon on why Scarlett Johansson deserves an Oscar nod. “Scarlett Johansson’s performance as Samantha in Her gets to the heart of what it means to be an indispensable supporting actress. The movie does not begin or end with her on the scene; it’s about Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Theodore, overcoming sadness following his divorce, a process catalyzed by Samantha’s warmth and, well, support. Much attention was paid to whether Johansson, who’s never been nominated for an Oscar, would even be eligible; the Golden Globes, which have nominated her four times, disqualified her this time around,” D’Addario writes. “This year’s best supporting actress category is strong across the board, but lacks a Johansson: an actress who, in a smaller role, helps to make the movie exactly what it is. In Her, Scarlett Johansson is nowhere to be seen, but is the very soul of an ensemble she fits into seamlessly. It’s the sort of supporting acting the academy ought to honor more often.”

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