A weekly discussion about politics, hosted by The New Yorker's executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden.
A High-School Cheerleader, the Supreme Court, and the First Amendment
In 2017, Brandi Levy, a junior-varsity cheerleader at Mahanoy Area High School, in Pennsylvania, was denied a spot on the school’s varsity squad. That weekend, off campus, Levy posted a furious, profanity-filled photo and message about the decision on Snapchat. A student who saw the message showed a screenshot to her mother—the cheer coach. Levy was barred from cheerleading for the rest of the year. The A.C.L.U. helped Levy’s parents file suit against the school in federal court, claiming that Brandi’s First Amendment right to free speech had been curtailed. Last week, four years after that pivotal snap, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. Jeannie Suk Gersen joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss this contentious case and what it means for free speech in the digital age.
Three Women Who Changed the World
“The Agitators” is a book about three women—three revolutionaries—who changed the world at a time when women weren’t supposed to be in public life at all. Frances Seward was a committed abolitionist who settled with her husband in the small town of Auburn, in western New York. One of their neighbors was a Quaker named Martha Coffin Wright, who helped organize the first convention for women’s rights, at Seneca Falls. Both women harbored fugitives when it was a violation of federal law. And, after they met Harriet Tubman, through the Underground Railroad, Tubman also settled in Auburn. “The Agitators,” by The New Yorker’s executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden, tells their interlocking stories. “These people were outsiders, and they were revolutionaries,” Wickenden tells David Remnick. “They were only two generations separated from the Declaration of Independence, which they believed in literally. They did not understand why women and Black Americans could not have exactly the same rights that had been promised.”
This week, W. W. Norton announced that it would take two books by the writer Blake Bailey out of print, after accusations that Bailey has had a long history of sexual misconduct and assault. The case has helped bring the struggle against sexual misconduct back into the cultural spotlight. The New Yorker staff writers Alexandra Schwartz, who wrote about Bailey, and Jane Mayer, who has reported on sexual misconduct by powerful men, join Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the state of the #MeToo movement in 2021.
The Children of Morelia
Refugees arriving at the southern border of the United States, and especially the unaccompanied children among them, are again in the headlines. A parent’s decision to send his or her chiId on an extremely perilous journey is difficult to comprehend, but war, violence, and hunger can be decisive factors. Nearly a century ago, a group of Spaniards put five hundred of their children on a boat and sent them across the ocean to find safety in Mexico. They were escaping the extraordinary brutality of the Spanish Civil War, and few ever saw their parents again. When they arrived, the conditions in the Mexican orphanage where they were placed were bleak. The youngest of those children was Rosita Daroca Martinez, just three years old; her first memory is of throwing her shoes overboard on the ship, because she thought the fish would need them. The writer and radio producer Destry Maria Sibley, who is Martinez’s granddaughter, tells her grandmother’s story and explains how the impact of the trauma she suffered resonated during her life and down through the generations.
The Politics of the Pandemic Oscars
This Sunday is the ninety-third Academy Awards. It’s been a trying year for the film industry, with the pandemic shuttering theatres and halting film productions. But the unusual circumstances have contributed to a remarkable crop of Oscar nominees. For years, the Academy has struggled with diversity and inclusion, but this year’s nominees are among the most diverse in Oscar history. Some have suggested that this year might be a turning point for Hollywood, though others have cautioned against assuming that a permanent change has occurred. Michael Schulman, a New Yorker staff writer, joins the guest host Carla Blumenkranz to discuss what the 2021 Oscars tell us about the politics of pandemic-era Hollywood, and what the future of the movie business might look like.
Why Has China Targeted Minorities in Xinjiang?
“Surviving the Crackdown in Xinjiang” is a expansive and detailed account of Xi Jinping’s policies against ethnic Uyghurs and Kazhaks in China’s northwestern region, which culminated in the detainment of a group estimated to number more than a million, in the largest civilian internment since the Holocaust. The staff writer Raffi Khatchadourian tells David Remnick how Xi Jinping’s government used an obsession with what it calls stability, and a fear of separatism and terrorism, to justify a campaign of genocide. It involves forced cultural assimilation, mass imprisonment, and coercive measures to reduce the birth rate.
You would think, in what is surely the most consequential time of the last several hundred years, a vibrant discourse might occur from this once-luminary publication. Instead we get adequate hum-drum prattling. Just The Facts Maam will not cut it in 2020, I am afraid.
One of the finest... Miss the Comment podcast.