Here’s what we consider our must-reads for the week from great readers, writers, and thinkers all over the world. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments.
‘The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens‘ (The New Republic)
Elspeth Reeve went deep in this fascinating feature on teen Tumblr, demonstrating that it’s not a flash in the pan, and that there’s a lot more to teens than adults realise. Her detailed, thoughtful piece also explores the rise and fall of prominent teen bloggers and Tumblr’s role in internet culture.
When I began reporting on the world of Tumblr teens, I first wanted to explain the absurdist comedy of Pizza and dozens of other Tumblrs like hers. But I soon discovered a secret world hidden in plain sight, one in which teenagers, through wit and luck, had stumbled into a new kind of viral fame and fortune, by outsmarting internet ad networks and finding ways to earn thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars from their intentionally unambitious jokes.
‘The Hate Preachers: Inside Germany’s New Populist Party‘ (Der Spiegel)
The rise of the radical right and neo-Nazism in Germany is an issue that should be of global concern, especially given its intersections with the refugee crisis in Europe. Spigel’s reporting on the subject has been stellar over the years, and this is an excellent entry, exploring the people at the heart of the rhetoric and the origins of the political trauma that’s tearing Germany apart.
There are many conservative, upper middle-class voters — most of them older, white males — who had hoped that the AfD would provide them with a new political home reminiscent of the Helmut Kohl-era Christian Democrats. For these voters, Angela Merkel’s CDU has become too liberal, too unprincipled, too un-Catholic and too multicultural. It is a natural pool of voters for a party to the right of the CDU.
‘Istanbul’s Wandering Songbirds‘ (Guernica)
This lyrical and delightful exploration of Istanbul’s street vendors is an homage to a fascinating, ancient, and controversial culture. In a country where street vending is illegal, those who dare to do it become ‘outlaws,’ but they’re joined by scores of others, and have become such a part of the Turkish landscape that they’re often considered part of the experience for visitors.
Neoliberals can rail against their presence as much as they like, but street vendors have a long and storied history in this city. Reşat Ekrem Koçu (1905-1975), the eccentric Turkish author famous for his eleven volume long, unfinished Istanbul Encyclopedia, described them as “tradesmen on foot,” “the salt and pepper of great Istanbul,” and the city’s “trademark.” As early as the sixteenth century, vendors wandered the streets of Istanbul where they were viewed as suspect figures by the state. A crime story from the era shows the extent of this suspicion: In 1528 a person, or a group of persons, entered a house in Istanbul at midnight, murdered the house’s inhabitants in cold blood, stole their property and disappeared into the night. As it happened, the house in question was located in a neighborhood where a lot of manual laborers worked. Unable to find and punish the assailants, Ottoman authorities decided to go after candlemakers, criers, and other members of Istanbul’s street vendor community. Around 800 of them were seized from the streets and swiftly executed. The order to use the occasion to cleanse the streets came from Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Ahmed Dede, the chief court astrologer (müneccimbaşı) is known to have informed the Sultan that what he had commanded was wrong according to the Sharia, but his warnings fell on deaf ears.
‘GOP wakes up to Trump nightmare‘ (Politico)
With all eyes on today’s Nevada caucus, which Trump is expected to win according to most projections, the GOP is facing an uncomfortable truth as it takes on the candidate who was once a joking matter, but now is a serious contender. Keeping Trump in check is clearly impossible for the party, which now needs to decide on what to do if the unthinkable happens and he wins enough delegates to take the Republican nomination.
While the field has winnowed somewhat in recent days, the compressed nature of this year’s Republican primary calendar means there is precious little time for the anti-Trump field to consolidate. Should Trump notch his third consecutive win on Tuesday, some foresee him steamrolling through Super Tuesday a week later, when a quarter of the party’s delegates are awarded. A batch of newly released polls show him with sizable leads in several of those states, including Massachusetts and Georgia.
‘The Limits of New Dealism and Why We Need a New Progressive Theory of Political Economy’
A new New Deal sounds like an appealing solution to many of America’s economic woes, but is it? Jefferson Cowie claims that it was the result of a freak coalescence of circumstances that we won’t see again, and that means the US needs to return to the drawing board to explore options for improving its social outlook.
At every turn in the history of reformist efforts to tame corporate America, these tensions circumscribed possibilities for reform. Social welfare programs prior to the New Deal, were profoundly gendered, with women (and sometimes war veterans) demarcated as a protected, but not an equal, class. The entire Progressive era was marinated in racism, including a significant eugenics movement. Woodrow Wilson partially succeeded in segregating the federal government. The “great commoner” William Jennings Bryan, Wilson’s Secretary of State, supported economic equality only for whites.
Photo: Sebastien Wiertz/Creative Commons