Author Archives

Andrea Pitzer

The Bitter History of Law and Order in America

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Andrea Pitzer | Longreads | April 2017 | 11 minutes (2,800 words)


During his heady first days in office, Donald Trump developed his now-familiar ritual for signing executive orders. He began by swapping a large sheet of paper for a hinged portfolio, then he started revealing the signed documents to onlookers a little awkwardly, crossing his forearms to hold the folio up, or bending it backward to show the press his signature. Finally, he perfected the motion by turning the open folder completely around to face the audience, displaying it from three angles, as if delivering tablets of law from Mount Sinai. By the end of the week, he seemed pleased with this bit of theater in which he could star as the president. The ritual, of course, became a meme.

Shortly after he perfected this performance, Trump signed three executive orders promoted by the White House under the heading “Law and Order.” The first required the Attorney General to look at crimes against law enforcement; the second directed the AG to create a task force on crime reduction and public safety, with specific mention of illegal immigration; the third delegated cabinet members to review strategies for finding and prosecuting international drug cartels. All three called for studying crime rather than implementing new programs—they also heightened anxiety over purported crime by blacks and immigrants while making it seem like only Trump was willing do something about it.

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Trump Revives a Shameful Tradition: Targeting a Minority Group with Crime Reports

A Japanese family returns from a relocation center camp in Hunt, Idaho, to find their home and garage vandalized with anti-Japanese graffiti and broken windows in Seattle, Wa., May 10, 1945. (AP Photo)

Andrea Pitzer | Longreads | February 2017 | 8 minutes (1,600 words)


The history of atrocity is littered with the corpses of scapegoats. When it comes to convincing people that their problems have a simple answer, few narratives have been as effective as assigning responsibility for society’s ills to a vulnerable minority group. Yet to succeed, vilification requires effort.

A year and a half ago, Donald Trump declared his candidacy in a speech accusing Mexicans crossing the border of “bringing drugs … bringing crime” and being “rapists.” During his first week in office, President Trump took additional steps to make the image of dangerous aliens stick, signing an executive order on public safety on January 25. Receiving less attention than the order barring immigrants and nonimmigrants from seven countries that arrived two days later, the earlier decree called on the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly crime report detailing “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.” Read more…

What We Get Wrong about Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt
Photo: AP Images

Within months of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, a political investigator with the Berlin police detained twenty-six-year-old scholar Hannah Arendt and politely interrogated her for more than a week. Upon her release, she devised a plan to leave Germany and headed east with her mother. Taking refuge in the Erzgebirge Mountains, the two women approached the Czech border without travel papers.

Arendt had already helped other Jews escape the country, sheltering some in her own apartment, and was familiar with escape networks. In broad daylight, mother and daughter entered a house that straddled the border, waiting until nighttime to walk out the back door on their way to Prague. Read more…