Good morning, gentle readers! This week we’re exploring a number of things, from essays about the history of the pay phone (yes really) to a challenge to members of the left who enjoy armchair diagnosing Trump. Come read along with us — and tell us about what you’re reading, too!
‘A warning to Gove and Johnson – we won’t forget what you did‘ (Jonathan Freedland for The Guardian)
With political rhetoric over Brexit flying fast and fierce, it’s important to remember the stories of those who lie at the heart of the storm; the British people must not forget the personalities behind the vitriol.
This week’s antics of Gove and Johnson are a useful reminder. For the way one has treated the other is the way both have treated the country. Some may be tempted to turn Johnson into an object of sympathy – poor Boris, knifed by his pal – but he deserves none. In seven days he has been exposed as an egomaniac whose vanity and ambition was so great he was prepared to lead his country on a path he knew led to disaster, so long as it fed his own appetite for status.
‘Trump Needs a Holy War‘ (Bradley Burston for Haaretz)
It doesn’t take a rocket scientists to figure this out: The best thing the Trump Administration could build for itself is a war that could be used to drive an aggressive unifying campaign of America against the world.
A war would underscore his contentions that his critics are weak, his rivals myopic, liberals perverse, immigrants suspect, leftists metastases, journalists -Fox News and Breitbart excepted – subversive, anti-American, knowingly and treasonously and shrewdly deceitful.
‘Facts to counteract the normalization of neo-nazis‘ (Flavia Dzodan for This Political Woman)
Commentator and former Global Comment contributor Flavia Dzodan has a sharp, incisive political mind and she pulls no punches. Here, she details Richard Spencer’s quite public past, assembling a chilling record of the rise of a neo-Nazi.
Next time someone claims Richard Spencer is a “dissenter” or a “politician” or some such nonsense, point them to this list of “Richard Spencer in his own words”. He has been spouting racist violence for years and we should not allow the normalization of his rhetoric as part of the acceptable boundaries of political discourse. Advocating for mass sterilization of Black people or the elimination of Jewish people are not topics of political debate. They are the machinations of cruel, immoral people who should not be allowed to promote these views unchallenged.
‘Donald Trump’s Power is Scary, Not His Mental Health‘ (Miriam Markowitz for The Nation)
The meme that Donald Trump is ‘crazy’ has caught on among many on the left, and it’s a dangerous, irresponsible, and bluntly wrong tack to take, for a variety of reasons. Markowitz explores the history of politicizing mental illness and the dangers in armchair diagnosing the president of the United States.
There is also considerable danger in politicizing mental health. In repressive regimes, mental health is weaponized against the vulnerable. The classic case is Nazi Germany, where mental patients were first forcibly sterilized, and eventually murdered. Psychiatric abuse was used against dissenters in the Soviet Union, where, in 1959, Khrushchev spoke of those who opposed communism as psychologically “not normal.” Many political prisoners were interned in mental hospitals. This practice faded with the dissolution of the USSR, but has made a resurgence in Putin’s Russia: In 2012, members of the dissident band Pussy Riot were found to have “personality disorders” and recommended to be isolated from larger society.
‘What Killed the Pay Phone?‘ (Reneé Reisman for The Atlantic)
Those with fond memories of pay phones may be dismayed by their slow disappearance from the landscape, but what really caused payphones to disappear in droves? If you thought ‘cell phones,’ you’re only looking at part of the picture.
But policing pay phones negatively impacted those who need them most. In an effort to make pay-phone environments feel safer, cities tended to implement rules that require special permits for pay-phone installation. This prohibited them from being placed on the premises of certain businesses seen to harbor crime, like liquor stores or gas stations, or facilitated their quick removal if deemed a public nuisance. The efforts led to fewer pay phones in impoverished areas, making them inaccessible to their most-likely users.
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Photo: Jeffrey Smith/Creative Commons