“Bad News.” Joseph Bernstein scrutinizes the disinformation discourse and argues that its underlying technological determinism and assumptions about human persuadability stand to benefit big tech: “tech companies and select media organizations all stand to gain from the Big Disinfo worldview. The content giants—Facebook, Twitter, Google—have tried for years to leverage the credibility and expertise of certain forms of journalism through fact-checking and media-literacy initiatives. In this context, the disinformation project is simply an unofficial partnership between Big Tech, corporate media, elite universities, and cash-rich foundations.”
“American Contrapasso.” Mike St. Thomas reviews Dante’s Indiana by Randy Boyagoda: “By locating the sacred within the profane, Dante’s Indiana offers a counternarrative to that of the culture wars. Boyagoda clearly recognizes the decline of family and social values lamented by the religious right. But instead of drawing a stark line between clean and unclean, between “us” and “them,” his novel, following the example of Dante himself, seeks a more universal way of understanding sin.”
“The Frustrating, Inspiring Radicalism of Dorothy Day.” Tish Harrison Warren commends the life and work of Dorothy Day: “Day did not offer a comprehensive social program to solve all of society’s ills. Instead, she had a vision of self-sacrificial faithfulness, loving our neighbor, and trusting the mystery of God with the results.”
“Generation 9/11.” Emily Belz grapples with how 9/11 shaped the generation that came of age in the shadow of this event: “The 9/11 attacks, launching two decades of war on the backs of a volunteer military force, influenced a generation of young Americans, shifting not only careers but attitudes about the world. After feeling a burst of patriotism immediately after 9/11, millennials became less hopeful about the future than their parents. They have less trust in institutions, including government, media, and the church.”
“The Dangers of Making War Less Dangerous.” Jennifer Szalai reviews Samuel Moyn’s Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War and wonders if “better” military technology makes peace more elusive: “Less lethal might mean more bearable — at least for Americans at home, their consciences soothed while remote-controlled robots conduct faraway assassinations from the sky. Moyn is disturbed by a ‘normalization of humane control,’ a blurring of the line between warfare and policing, as Americans lose sight of a more ambitious ideal: ‘We fight war crimes but have forgotten the crime of war.’”
“How the Neocons Got Away with It.” Razib Khan contrasts the effects of twenty years of war abroad—“America came to liberate, but in the wake of imperial conquest, the natives suffered through corruption, factionalism and civil war”—with its effects on those who supported the wars back at home: “The pundits and politicians whose blunders in the early 2000s had grave consequences for nations far away suffered few ill consequences for their disastrous prognostications, short-sighted decisions and uninformed arguments.”
“Global Trade is Here to Stay. But Have We Reckoned with the Moral Costs of its Conveniences?” John W. Miller endeavors to do full-cost accounting on global trade: “Economists, politicians and policymakers underestimated the dependence of regional economies in the United States and Europe on nearby factories, mines and steel mills. Their closings over the last half-century have made life a lot harder, and poorer, in wide swaths of America.”
“All White Men Are White Men.” Freddie deBoer takes a certain mode of social media posturing to the woodshed. He concludes be reminding readers of the gap between virtual life and embodied life: “I don’t actually live on the internet, but in the real world. And I go out into the real world, and in general people out there (of whatever race or gender) want to get along and be kind to one another. They also conspicuously would prefer not to be judged by their broad identity categories, which they didn’t choose, but by their messy human particularity.” (Recommended by Matt Stewart.)
“Good Riddance to the Robert E. Lee Statue.” Russell Moore considers Lee’s legacy with some help from Wendell Berry.
“Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing Goes to James Rebanks for English Pastoral.” Alison Flood reports on why the judges honored Rebanks’s latest book with this award.
“100 Days of Dante.” Matthew Rothaus Moser introduces one of the world’s largest book groups: “For 700 years, readers have found in Dante’s great poem the right story, a story that reveals us to ourselves, showing us in all of our brokenness before God and neighbor, in our quest for healing and transformation, and in the hope and promise of blessedness, communion, and perfect love. The Comedy is the right story, telling us who we are and who with God’s grace we may become.”
“The Rough American.” Mark Bauerlein speaks a word on behalf of a particular type of American character who has fallen on hard times: “The rebellious temper, the pioneer spirit, the working-class pride, the self-made man . . . they have given way to institutional pipelines that demand obedience and conformity.” Such roughs are inherently multifaceted, with plenty of good and bad, but Bauerlein is at least right to note the ways they’ve become almost universally scorned today.