It broke the WikiLeaks story, then the Snowden scandal, now Alan Rusbridger’s crusading newspaper is trying to break America. But with its US campaign on the brink of disaster, has the deadline passed to beat a dignified retreat?
News outlets want to break big stories but at the same time not be overwhelmed by them – a certain detachment is well advised. It is an artful line. But the Guardian essentially went into the Edward Snowden business – and continues in it. It’s a complex business, too: to ally yourself with larger-than-life, novelistic characters, first Assange, and then Snowden, and stranger-than-strange middle men, like the Guardian’s contract columnist Glenn Greenwald, who brought in the story. The effort to pretend that the story is straight up good and evil, that this is journalism pure and simple, unalloyed public interest, without peculiar nuances and rabbit holes and obvious contradictions, is really quite a trick.
Remembering a New York friendship. Excerpted from Manguso’s new book, The Guardians: An Elegy, out Feb. 28:
“The Thursday edition of the Riverdale Press carried a story that began An unidentified white man was struck and instantly killed by a Metro-North train last night as it pulled into the Riverdale station on West 254th Street.
“The train’s engineer told the police that the man was alone and that he jumped. The police officers pulled the body from the track and found no identification. The train’s 425 passengers were transferred to another train and delayed about twenty minutes.”
Kate Abbott | Longreads | July 2017 | 11 minutes (2,730 words)
My 8-year-old son Henry believes in Santa but not in God. I frequently question when to break the news about Santa, but I’ve never worried about his religious beliefs, or lack of them. He is so young; surely existential questions can wait. At least that’s what I thought before the Cub Scouts required him to choose between his own beliefs and a desire to go camping with newfound friends.
Friends are a problem in his life right now. Henry has had to jump from school to school in his short scholastic career, and since we’ve moved to a new town, he’s had trouble making new pals. My friend is a Girl Scout leader, and her daughters enjoy Girl Scouts, so after a particularly lonely day for my kid, I thought, why not try Cub Scouts, the Boy Scouts for younger kids? I imagined boys in uniforms with caps and kerchiefs, huddled around a campfire after a day of hiking and learning to tie knots. I had visions of Scouts helping an old lady cross the street. I thought of Henry learning the names of plants and constellations and, most importantly, the names of other boys in the pack. I emailed the nearest den leader right away.
Convincing my shy, reluctant joiner to go to a den meeting exhausted me, but when we finally got there he played with the other boys during free time near the end of the meeting, which was more playtime than he’d spent with any kids recently at all. He ran into the living room where I had been talking with the den leader and his wife, all smiles and out of breath. “We’d love to join,” I said.
We were all in: we drove 40 minutes to the closest “Scout store” and the adult Scout employee picked out all of the required bits of clothing and ornaments, down to official Cub Scout socks. I didn’t even blink when the register totaled $148.66. I handed over my credit card and told Henry he was going to have so much fun. He even seemed to think so. His enthusiasm increased and I didn’t flinch when I met with the pack leader later in the week to officially register him. I signed off on the forms freely, not reading them carefully enough, and gladly wrote a check for $100 (the fee for registration and a pack t-shirt). As I saw it, I was paying for more than stuff; I was paying for instant companionship and camaraderie.
At the next meeting, Henry balked at wearing the uniform, but I reminded him that Grandma had spent four hours sewing on all his starter patches and all the other boys would be wearing it too. He deemed the uniform “hideous” but put it on. He really wanted to try because he knew I wanted him to try.
We joined Scouts midyear, so we started off already “behind” what the other kids in the den had done and we would need to work at home to “catch up” on requirements before April. (Feeling slightly contrary already, I asked “Or what?” but I didn’t really get an answer.) Still, we had committed, so we taught ourselves how to tie a square knot by watching YouTube and I signed off as we sped through the basic requirements in the official Cub Scout handbook (spiral-bound edition, because it was far superior to the paperback edition, the guy at the Scout store had assured me). We were going to do this right, down to the spiral-edition book.
Henry has had to jump from school to school in his short scholastic career, and since we’ve moved to a new town, he’s had trouble making new pals.
When we got to the next requirement on the list, though, I had to pause. This one was called “Duty to God” and consisted of several parts. We would have to complete part 1 and choose some of the options from part 2.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Abrahm Lustgarten, Lois Beckett, Julia O’Malley, Alice Driver, and Sarah Jeong.
A kerfuffle over Kermit is causing a Muppets media maelstrom.
In October, parent company Disney fired Steve Whitmire, the man who has voiced and handled Kermit the Frog since creator Jim Henson’s death in 19990. While Henson was alive, he was the sole voice of the famous frog. When he died in 1990, his son Brian took over his company and tapped Whitmire, who had been part of the Muppet family since 1978, to keep Kermit alive.
Last week, Whitmre wrote about his sudden firing in a blogpost.
For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life. This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.
Whitmire’s complaints are typical of someone pushed out of a career after decades. Why didn’t you give me a warning? Why are you taking away everything I’ve ever cared about?
For decades, residents of Nucla, Colorado mined the coal that fueled the nearby power plant. But a lawsuit brought on by environmentalists will close the nuclear plant in 2020, and the mine will shut down as well. One in eight people in the town will lose their jobs. Nucla had a moment of fame in 2013, not for its declining economy, but for an ordinance in the wake of Sandy Hook which ran against a national call for restricted gun access: Every household in Nucla would be required to own a gun.
Lois Beckett traveled to Nucla for the Guardian and talked with residents there about the fight for their livelihood. But Nucla’s enemies can’t be run off their land with firearms; they’re in the liberal town next door.