Five Best Monday Columns
Paris Lees on the importance on Conchita Wurst's Eurovision victory, Jay Rosen on the dangers of "he said, she said" journalism, Robert J. Samuelson on the non-existent solution to climate change, Bhaskar Sunkara on embracing the end of food, A.J. Delgado on Harvard's Satanic mass.
Paris Lees at The Guardian on the importance of Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision victory. “Conchita Wurst got up on that stage on Saturday and sang for everyone who has ever been made to feel ashamed or afraid for being different. But what does it all mean, this hair and that beard and those lashes? Conchita has been crowned queen of Europe, but is she a transvestite, a drag queen, a bearded lady, a transgender woman or what? 'She' is actually a boy called Tom. Conchita is his lady persona, a strangely compelling mix of Katy Perry and Jesus, but it's female pronouns, please, when the lashes are on – and male ones when they come off,” Lees writes. “Across Europe, gay, lesbian, bi and trans people are disowned by their families, often to be beaten, humiliated and locked away by society. Write Conchita's victory off as novelty nonsense if you like, but you'll be sniffing at the millions of people now finding inspiration in her Eurovision ashes.”
Jay Rosen at PressThink on the dangers of “he said, she said” journalism. “[On] Saturday the New York Times published on its front page an article by reporter Jeremy W. Peters about Republican Senator Rand Paul criticizing his party for backing laws that make it harder for some people to vote by requiring forms of identification they may not have,” Rosen writes. “In this article, at least, the Times does not know whether cheating is rife in today’s elections. But it knows of a passion for polarizing the issue among the bases of both parties. This helps makes it a classic in the 'he said, she said' genre. At least since the launch of Politifact.com in 2007, it’s been clear to mainstream practitioners in the US that the classic forms of he said, she said are not so much a 'sin' against high practice as an increasingly crappy level of service for what is supposed to be a high end product in news: New York Times reporting.”
Robert J. Samuelson at The Washington Post on the non-existent solution to climate change. “It would be healthy — in the sense of promoting honesty — if every report warning of global warming and climate change (the two terms are interchangeable) came with the following disclaimer: Despite our belief that global warming poses catastrophic threats to many of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants, we acknowledge that we now lack the technologies to stop it. Our climate-change debates confuse more than they clarify. They follow a ritualistic script that is now playing out again,” Samuelson writes. “The rhetorical ping-pong — claim vs. counterclaim — suggests a struggle for public opinion. Not really. Right or wrong, the public already believes in global warming. A 2013 Pew poll found that 67 percent of Americans see “solid evidence” that the Earth is warming. The central truth for public policy is: We have no solution.”
Bhaskar Sunkara at Al Jazeera America on embracing the end of food. “Man cannot live by bread alone — but we can survive on Soylent, a powdered meal replacement that’s getting press in articles portending the 'end of food.' Developed by Robert Rhinehart, an electrical engineer turned amateur biochemist, the product is something like Ensure on steroids, containing thirty-five essential nutrients in one tiny pouch. Rhinehart and his small team are straight out of Silicon Valley. This is the reason many commentators fear the rise of Soylent and products like it,” Sunkara writes. “For those of us still lucky enough to have it, a lunch break is one of the last reprieves from the tyranny of the workplace. Our biological need for food to perform effectively as workers is one of the few things employers have to respect. A labor force sipping Soylent all day at their desks would satisfy that need without disruptive pauses for food preparation, consumption and cleanup.”
A.J. Delgado at National Review on Harvard’s Satanic mass. “The Ivy League continually sinks to shockingly low depths, but the latest news is particularly chilling. Today, the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club will host the Satanic Temple group as it reenacts a ‘Black Mass’ on Harvard’s main campus. The Harvard student group is standing by its decision to host the event, stating: ‘Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith.’ Pardon me, but [t]he entire purpose of a black mass is to denigrate the Catholic faith. Do they no longer teach basic-level thinking at Harvard?” Delgado writes. “The Satanic Temple’s spokesperson, who goes by ‘Lucien Graeves’ (of course his name would be Lucien — I had at least three friends named Lucien in my goth days), spoke to the Daily News, stating that the black mass is meant to be educational and is not a supernatural ritual (adding he is an ‘atheist’). Given the seminary origins of Harvard, how far has this nation sunk when this event is held on Harvard’s own grounds?”