Five Best Tuesday Columns

George Packer wonders where the workers have gone, Arthur Chu on how Jeopardy is really played, Petula Dvorak on why victims shouldn't be blamed for campus sexual assaults, Shikha Dalmia on unions in Tennessee, Digby Warde-Aldam on Pussy Riot's music. 

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George Packer at The New Yorker wonders where the workers have gone. “In the decades after 1974, the archetypal worker became a store greeter at Walmart — part time, nonunion, making near-poverty wages. The animating spirit of her working life was no longer the dignity of labor, the drama of factory strife, or the slackness of union bureaucracy — it was required cheerfulness barely concealing an unhappiness that she was too afraid to show. She was isolated, anxious, and, basically, powerless, under the constant threat of having no job at all,” Packer writes. “Today, we have our own concentrations of economic power. Instead of Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, the Union Pacific Railroad, and J. P. Morgan and Company, we have Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. Where is the great debate over bigness in our time? What public limits should be placed on the power of private companies to disrupt older industries, which usually involves destroying more jobs than can be created? What are the ideas for regulating monopoly or competition on the Internet?”

Arthur Chu at The Guardian on how Jeopardy is really played. “Jeopardy is a game of reflexes and psychology and momentum as much as it is a test of knowledge. It's not about who knows the answer – usually all three of us know the answer – but who can buzz in and spit out that answer the fastest, under pressure. And in that context 'Throwing opponents off' is very much the name of the game. The tiny bit of help you get from being the only one to know what clue is coming next, plus the confidence boost you get by 'throwing off' the other players by presenting them the clues in an order they didn't expect — that's invaluable,” Chu, who appeared on the show last night, writes. “We love game shows because we want them to be 'real', because they aren't cast with trained actors with rehearsed lines and well-developed roles, but because the cast comes from the rank and file of ordinary people like you, with all the randomness and diversity of the real people in your life, thrust into this very high-stakes situation and forced to react on the fly.”

Petula Dvorak at The Washington Post on why victims shouldn’t be blamed for sexual assaults on campus. “At Patrick Henry, two women spoke to reporter Kiera Feldman about what happened when they were sexually assaulted by fellow students. In most of the cases Feldman examined, there was no alcohol involved. In one incident, yes, there was mild drinking at a lake off campus. Here’s the common thread: From Christian college to big public university to military academy, the women involved were victimized a second time in the way their cases were handled,” Dvorak writes. “Too often at campuses across the country there is a reluctance to report a possible crime to the proper authorities. Why do university officials report a series of campus break-ins or robberies to the police, but send sexual assault cases to a counselor? You can’t blame sexual assaults on clothing, flirting, binge drinking or parties. Even when you take all that away, there are still smart, clean-cut, young evangelical men who think they have a right to women’s bodies. It’s not about women stopping an attack. It’s about men learning that they never had the right to begin one.”

Shikha Dalmia at Time on what unions can’t win in Tennessee. “This particular plant in Chattanooga was supposed to be easy pickings because, thanks to pressure from IG Metall, the German workers union, Volkswagen had signed a neutrality agreement with the UAW. In Germany, unions can veto management decisions that don’t serve worker interest. And IG Metall had threatened to bar the company from manufacturing a new line of SUVs in Chattanooga, the only Volkswagen facility worldwide that is not unionized, unless it remained 'neutral' by forfeiting its right to campaign against the UAW. The company went even further: It not only allowed the UAW to set up a vote drive office inside the plant, but denied unionization opponents similar space,” Dalmia writes. “The GOP’s intervention tainted the outcome, but without really gaining it anything. Tennessee is a right-to-work state. This means that even if the UAW manages to unionize the plant, it won’t be able to automatically collect union dues and use them to elect Democrats, the big GOP fear.”

Digby Warde-Aldam at The Spectator on whether Pussy Riot’s music is good. “Victims of state persecution, ambassadors for day-glo knitwear and wank fodder for beardy liberals the world over, the members of Pussy Riot have been filling both prison cells and column inches since 2012. In the process, they’ve also become one of the most famous bands on the planet. But let me ask you this – have you ever actually heard any of their music? And crucially, is it any good?” Warde-Aldam asks. “The problem with Pussy Riot’s music is that it’s too polite. I felt genuinely let down when found I could take more than 30 seconds of their music without wincing in pain. As with any halfway ambitious punk group, the point is to offend. They’ve made great headway in this department with their Putin-baiting PR stunts, but their recorded output is a cop-out.”

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