We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.
FROM THE LEFT
The context, from the author: Fully reckoning with Bill Gates means not just focusing on how he treats women — vital as that is — but also confronting our own deep-seated worship of wealth and hardwired belief in hero narratives.
The excerpt: Do we really believe that these individuals deserve the political privilege that billionaire philanthropy affords — to remake the world according to their own worldview, with no checks or balances — because they’ve managed to become so obscenely wealthy? No matter how well-meaning or virtuous we fantasize such individuals to be, what can these outrageously rich people know about the lives of the poor people they claim to help? Is the story in front of us about a bad-apple billionaire named Bill Gates, or fundamental flaws with individuals having too much money and too much power? The current news cycle presents an extremely rare opportunity to finally raise these kinds of questions, and we should not squander the moment.
From “Cutting Off Unemployment Insurance Bonus Will Disproportionately Hurt People of Color,” by Noah Lanard in Mother Jones.
The context, from the author: Republican governors’ newest form of economic stimulus is anti-stimulus: cutting off $300 in additional weekly unemployment insurance money to push people back into the labor market.
The excerpt: In at least 20 of the 22 GOP-led states that are rejecting the federal unemployment money, Black people were likelier than the state’s overall population to be receiving unemployment insurance in March, the most recent month included in the Department of Labor’s data. ... This is what people mean by systemic racism. Following centuries of oppression, Black workers ended up concentrated in low-wage industries. When the pandemic hit, those industries were the first ones to lay people off. Then, once employers needed workers for cheap labor again, Republican governors started saying they’d get rid of the extra unemployment money that lets people to look for better jobs or take care of loved ones. In theory, it’s race blind. In practice, it’s yet another inequity.
From “Want to ‘Be Your Own Boss’? Democratic Socialism Is for You,” by Ben Burgis in Jacobin.
The context, from the author: Millions of U.S. workers dream of “being their own boss.” But that kind of autonomy is impossible for the vast majority of the population under capitalism. Under democratic socialism, things could be different.
The excerpt: Creating a society where worker control is the economic norm therefore requires political action. A future socialist government could do things like bring banks under public ownership and direct these nationalized banks to only give out grants to new businesses that were organized as worker co-ops. Libertarians and conservatives would naturally scream their heads off that such a government was making us all less free. But as the thriving genre of self-help videos about becoming your own boss vividly demonstrates, the opposite is true. Under capitalism, most of us don’t get to control our own fate. Realistically, the only way we can all achieve a greater degree of freedom is to collectively be our own bosses by transitioning to democratic socialism.
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FROM THE RIGHT
The context, from the author: What to make of the case of Nikole Hannah-Jones, organizer of the New York Times’ sloppy and troubled 1619 Project, who has been denied, at least for the moment, tenure for a professorship at the University of North Carolina after a pressure campaign from conservative critics? Some of the criticism is not very persuasive.
The excerpt: If you want to cancel something, cancel the University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media in toto. People who want to work as reporters should study economics, history, Victorian novels, French poetry, art, physics — almost anything but what is taught in journalism schools. ... In many years of interviewing college students and recent graduates for journalism jobs, I have never once met a journalism major who could tell me what “millage” is, though I have heard them hold forth on privilege and intersectionality. ... Denying tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones will make some conservatives feel like they have won something. But they won’t have.
The context, from the author: The president is likable, or at least hard to hate, and that lets him head the implementation of a radical agenda.
The excerpt: Unscripted, (Joe Biden) often comes across as either scrappy or incoherent. He seems to flash a winning grin and say: “I’m a 78-year-old white guy from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who looks like he lost the remote control. How far left could I possibly be?” The answer, judging from his own domestic policy agenda, is: pretty far left. On economic policy, Biden pursues a legislative agenda that is nothing less than revolutionary.
From “Anti-Zionism Isn’t Antisemitism? Someone Didn’t Get the Memo,” by conservative columnist Bret Stephens in the New York Times.
The context, from the author: In recent years it has become an article of faith on the progressive left that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism and that it’s slander to assume that someone who hates Israel also hates Jews. Not everyone got the memo.
The excerpt: Progressives ... claim to be horrified by every form of prejudice. Instead, they have indulged an anti-Israel movement that keeps descending into the crudest forms of antisemitism. They remind me of a certain kind of Trump voter who would occasionally voice disgust at his most outrageous behavior, only to come back into alignment with him a few days later. After a while, it becomes clear that the outrage is cheap, if it isn’t simply fake. Progressives will have to come to their own reckoning about what to do about the burgeoning antisemitism in their midst.