Five Best Thursday Columns
Sasha Weiss on rape accusations, Ann Friedman on Dylan Farrow, E.J. Dionne on the Obamacare debate, Kevin Roose on celebrity angel investors, and Nicholas Kristof on a champion of women's health.
Sasha Weiss at The New Yorker on accusations of rape. "There are certain accusations of rape so spectacular that a huge number of people, when they hear about them, are driven to pour out grief and anger — the high-school girl in Steubenville, Ohio; the three women trapped in the Cleveland house of horrors; the young woman gang-raped in Delhi," Weiss writes. "But there is another category of rape accusation — when a long time has passed since the alleged event, and, most important, when it happens within a family — that incites more fitful, ambivalent expressions of outrage," she argues. Dylan Farrow's open letter in The New York Times detailing the ways in which Woody Allen sexually abused her "is wrapped up in all the tangled plotlines of the past two decades." The response? "Some have lauded Farrow’s courage in telling her story. Others — including, most recently, Dylan’s adoptive brother, Moses — have argued that Mia Farrow manipulated her daughter and seeks revenge and attention." Doubters uphold the "difficult-to-combat belief: that what goes on within the confines of family life ... is essentially unknowable and private. That each member of a family has his or her own idea of what occurred, and that all of these stories have some bearing on the truth — and that the real truth, if there is such a thing, may be unrecoverable," Weiss writes. American Public Media editor Margarita Noriega tweets, "The best piece I've read yet on this."
Ann Friedman at The Cut on Dylan Farrow. "Let me tell you right off the bat, just so you know which of your Facebook friends are going to get self-righteous when you post this article: I believe Dylan Farrow," Friedman writes. "I do know several women who have experienced sexual violence that is not dissimilar from what Dylan describes. I don’t know a single woman who has made up lies about such violence in order to gain something. And, probably just as important, I don’t know any men who have been falsely accused of committing such crimes." So your experience affects how you'll react to a story. "It’s no coincidence that many of the loudest voices questioning women’s motives in coming forward belong to male journalists," Friedman writes. Guardian columnist Jill Filipovic tweets, "Do you believe Dylan or Woody? Do you relate to being accused of abusing power, or being abused?" Political analyst Zerlina Maxwell adds, "I love this piece by @annfriedman on Dylan Farrow. A must read for male journos."
E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post on the Obamacare debate. "One of the best arguments for health-insurance reform is that our traditional employer-based system often locked people into jobs they wanted to leave but couldn’t because they feared they wouldn’t be able to get affordable coverage elsewhere," Dionne writes. Now, conservatives are criticizing a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that shows some people will leave jobs because they realize they can get affordable healthcare through the government. "The reaction to the CBO study is an example of how willfully stupid — there’s no other word — the debate over Obamacare has become. Opponents don’t look to a painstaking analysis for enlightenment. They twist its findings and turn them into dishonest slogans. Too often, the media go along by highlighting the study’s political impact rather than focusing on what it actually says. My bet is that citizens are smarter than this. They will ignore the noise and judge Obamacare by how it works," Dionne argues.
Kevin Roose at Daily Intelligencer on celebrity angel investors. "Tucker Max, the controversial author best known for the deplorable, booze-fueled sexcapades he chronicled in books like I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First, isn't the first person you'd think to entrust with your growing business. But in recent years, Max, like a number of other celebrities from the entertainment industry, has jumped headfirst into the world of start-up investing," Roose explains. "Investing in start-ups used to be the province of venture capitalists and CEO millionaires with cash to spare. But now, with the JOBS Act and the introduction of services like AngelList, anyone with money and a following can play along. In recent months, Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest, and Lady Gaga have all made early-stage venture investments," he notes. But "there's a danger in the celebrity culture developing around venture capital," Roose argues. "Starlets and bestselling authors might know more than the average investor about marketing and self-promotion, but they're novices at the kinds of nuts-and-bolts business advice an experienced entrepreneur or investor can provide."
Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times on a champion of women's health. "Catherine Hamlin, an Australian gynecologist who has spent most of her life in Ethiopia, is a 21st-century Mother Teresa. She has revolutionized care of a childbirth injury called obstetric fistula, which occurs when the baby gets stuck in the birth canal and there is no doctor to perform a cesarean section. As many as two million women (and often young teenage girls) worldwide suffer from fistulas. The babies die, and the woman is left incontinent with urine and sometimes feces trickling through her vagina," he explains. "Dr. Hamlin and her late husband, Reg, set up a fistula hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and their work proves that it is possible to repair the injuries cheaply. This hospital trained generations of doctors to repair fistulas and provided a model that has been replicated in other countries." She just turned 90. "So for just a moment let’s take a break from covering villains and join in celebrating a doctor who has saved the lives of vast numbers of women — and now counts some of them as colleagues," Kristof argues. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and editor of Medscape, calls the column "inspirational."