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Comments: Week of October 31, 2016


1. “Stop for a moment to consider the magnitude of this transformation,” wrote Robert Moor in his meditation on what the rise of self-driving cars will mean for America’s sense of self (What Happens to American Myth When You Take the Driver Out of It?,” October 17–30). “Our republic of drivers is poised to become a nation of passengers.” “Wonderful piece,” responded commenter Rob­Lewis. “[I’ve been speculating] on the seemingly unbreakable link between the automobile and our very concept of ­spontaneity. We think of the latter as a good thing, something to be actively ­pursued. And what could be more spontaneous than jumping in the car and heading off to who-knows-where? Take away the car, and the next most spontaneous thing is … well, you tell me. A spontaneous email? A spontaneous bus trip? Doesn’t have quite the same emotional impact … It seems an entire category of behavior and ­enjoyment has been ­captured by a mechanical device … Will driverless cars leave us fumbling for new ways to enjoy spontaneity? Or will we perhaps come to realize that spontaneity wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, back when cars had steering wheels?” Commenter J3553GR33N3 felt that fear of self-­driving cars was “tied up with Americans’ disdain for compact development. If Americans make a commitment to actual cities (or even dense suburbs and towns) built around walking and transit then the self-driving car should be a great stopgap for certain kinds of trips. If Americans continue to see detached homes, cul-de-sacs, and car-dependent suburbs as the default mode of the American Dream, then self-driving cars will be just another encroachment on cities and will sustain the suburban development bubble for another generation.” The story made some readers nostalgic for their first cars. “As a 20-year-old back in the ’70s, my ’60 Vette was the coolest,” wrote commenter Wranglerick. “I will not be around to see everyone in a self-driving car. I suppose a new definition of fun and good times will be created too.” Not everyone agreed with Moor’s argument that the change in transportation would spark a larger change in American character. “Abandoning hay-burners (and the Pony Express) didn’t make us lose our national identity, so why would this be ­different?” wrote commenter WRGerman. “It is just us leaving the 20th century and the fossil-fuel era in the rearview mirror.” “I’ve been mostly bored by all the self-driving car stories,” tweeted BuzzFeed News’ Anne Helen Petersen. “But this! This is so good!” “A really good read on our emotional relationship with cars and how that evolves as self-driving becomes a reality,” tweeted @SRMThoughts. “Fantastic article on self-driving cars,” agreed @rachaelwithlove, “and the automations of our selves.”


2. New York’s most recent issue included a feature on Laurene Powell Jobs’s $100 million plan to overhaul high school (Can $100 ­Million Reboot American High School?,” October 17–30). “To her,” wrote Lisa Miller, “the cause of failure is clear: High schools fail to serve American kids because they were designed a hundred years ago for an industrial society that has ceased to exist.” Readers expressed respect for Jobs’s efforts in the face of a deeply rooted problem. “Fixing education is hard work,” tweeted @eb007. “But Laurene Powell Jobs is trying.” But some commenters felt that Jobs’s tech approach to education could go only so far. “We need less ‘big data,’ ” wrote commenter Blingblambling. “More accountability, a fluid curriculum, and teachers that are actually free to teach.” Commenter Fierce­Pelican agreed: “All this ‘Let’s hack the problem of schools’ stuff seems ridiculous because we know what underpins a good school, and it’s basically ‘enough money and enough self-determination to make the curriculum and school culture suit the kids.’ ”

3. “Trump is doing the raping,” wrote Jonathan Chait in his column on Donald Trump’s “locker-room talk” defense of his comments about groping women. “Or, at least, systematic sexual violations of women. He has been for a long time” (Donald Trump’s Locker Room,” ­October 17–30). “Response by Trump followers: attack the credibility of the accusers,” commenter orphanannie wrote. “Why would anyone subject themselves to this kind of scrutiny and hateful Twitter trolls?” “And isn’t this exactly what [Trump’s supporters] all accuse Hillary of doing?” responded francis_s. “Amazing how quickly they legitimized her behavior and neutralized their main line of attack regarding Bill.” “Great article, Mr. Chait,” commented Anonymousse, who responded to Chait’s assessment that Trump’s defense rests on the assumption that the locker room is “a kind of ethereal plane in which men make statements that bear no relationship to their character or events in the real world.” This analysis “is exactly the issue and you denuded the inhumanity in their argument precisely. I would only add, in my opinion, that [the argument] still rests on racism (as well as misogyny). Not only are women just things to be sexed up, they are only for white men to sex up. In that one case it must be okay. If it were Mexicans or blacks, etc., then it’s a crime.” Other readers agreed the article got to the heart of Trump’s flawed defense. “Brilliant column by Jonathan Chait linking logic of Trump’s predations to the dilemma it causes his apologists,” tweeted Dissent’s Richard Yeselson.


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