Five Best Wednesday Columns
Tanya Gold on the death of Peaches Geldof in a digital age, David Quammen on the Ebola virus outbreak, David Cay Johnston on America's long-term unemployment crisis, Rekha Basu on the Iowa GOP and gay marriage, William Pesek on why the missing plane will haunt Malaysia's future.
Tanya Gold at the Guardian on the death of Peaches Geldof in a digital age. “Peaches Geldof, sometime journalist, wife and mother of two, died on Monday, aged 25; we don't know why, although that did not stop people calling it an overdose on Twitter and elsewhere. And why not? You can't libel the dead, or hurt them. But silence is not admissible; this is death in the digital age,” Gold writes. “Because Geldof had an online "presence" and posted pictures of her children on Instagram, it was a death strangers felt they could participate in: virtual mourners, if you will, although computers can't weep. She was resurrected by a hashtag and her name. The grunt of synthetic emotion was gruesome.” The BBC’s Helena Lee tweets, “Worth reading this hugely interesting piece.” Tom Chivers at The Telegraph tweets, “Always uncomfortable with the day-three "why you're wrong to respond to a death the way you have" pieces.”
David Quammen at The New York Times on the Ebola virus outbreak. “There’s nothing like an outbreak of Ebola virus disease to bring a small, struggling African nation to international notice. One week we couldn’t place it on a map; the next week, after Ebola virus disease strikes, we know the body count and the name of the capital and whether its airport has closed,” Quammen writes of the West African nation of Guinea. “People around the world have read such horrific tales about Ebola that they tend to dread it inordinately, sometimes with dark fascination, as though it’s a preternatural killer. It is not. Ebola in Guinea is not the Next Big One, an incipient pandemic destined to circle the world, as some anxious observers might imagine. It’s not about our fears and dreads. It’s about them.”
David Cay Johnston at Al Jazeera America on America’s long-term unemployment crisis. “The Senate this week voted once again to revive jobless benefits for those out of work six months or more. Not only is such legislation dead on arrival in the House, but some anti-tax representatives absurdly also want to end all jobless benefits as either constitutionally improper or bad for the beneficiaries. However, such an extension is a short-term palliative, not a long-term solution,” Johnston writes. “In an economy where there are far too many workers chasing far too few jobs, leaders must focus on creating more demand for work — not just any work, but real work that adds value.” Al Jazeera America’s David V. Johnson tweets, “America needs to solve long-term unemployment crisis. @DavidCayJ offers some ideas …”
Rekha Basu at The Des Moines Register on the Iowa GOP and gay marriage. “As stealthily as it reared its ugly head, the power to harness prejudice against gay people to win national elections is shriveling up and dying a well-deserved death. Republicans see that, even if they won't all say it out loud, and even if presidential hopefuls keep trying to get traction equating being gay with moral failure or disobedience to God,” Basu writes. “Five years of same-sex marriage notwithstanding, such views still find a receptive audience in the Iowa Republican Party, where even legislation to prevent bullying in schools becomes a source of political controversy. We're not going backward, so the GOP ought to stop wasting its time on an issue that will only make it obsolete.”
William Pesek at Bloomberg View on why the missing plane will haunt Malaysia’s future. “President Barack Obama always knew his Asia tour later this month would be fraught with political landmines. But most problematic of all may be Obama's time in Malaysia. Obama's visit was meant to celebrate a nation viewed as a high-tech hub of moderate Islam and a democratic contrast to China. The past month has highlighted Malaysia's deepest flaws, and all-too-few of its strengths,” Pesek writes. “What can Prime Minister Najib's government do, post-Flight 370, to improve its image at home and abroad? This isn't a mere PR challenge. The country needs nothing less than a political revolution. The Flight 370 crisis has fully exposed the dangers of allowing one party to rule a nation for six decades.”