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Comments: Week of August 7, 2017

1. Olivia Nuzzi’s story on Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski’s romance gave the pair a chance to explain the nature of their tumultuous relationship with the president (“Donald Trump Is Not Invited to the Wedding,” July 24–August 6). “I worked about 6 months on and off for Morning Joe back in 2009, and I think this profile does a good job capturing them,” tweeted BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel. Of particular interest to some was Scarborough’s refusal to rule out a future presidential candidacy. The story led CNN’s Chris Cillizza to write an article on how “Joe Scarborough is starting to look like a presidential candidate.” But Nuzzi quickly batted this down, tweeting, “As the author of the story, let me just say: No, he isn’t.” Others criticized the fact that the two were on the cover at all. “The only thing I got out of this was that Joe and Mika are in competition with Trump for biggest ego. I’ve never seen so much self admiration,” wrote commenter Littldough. And National Review’s Tiana Lowe went so far as to assert that the “Joe and Mika New York Magazine cover is why everyone hates the media,” adding that “when journalists willingly make themselves the center of the story, ordinary voters shake their heads in disgust.”

2. “It’s more important to be polarizing than neutralizing,” T. J. Miller told David Marchese, and judging from the backlash he received from the interview, he has accomplished that goal (“People Need a Villain,” July 24–August 6). Annie Lloyd at LAist wrote, “He fails to note the irony of using a neutralizing face spritz while polarizing America with his words.” A few debated whether Miller was in on the joke and simply putting on an act (though BuzzFeed’s Brad Esposito noted, “Someone should tell T. J. Miller that Joaquin Phoenix already made I’m Still Here”). But much of the outrage focused on his assertion that women aren’t as funny as men because “they’re taught to suppress their sense of humor during their formative years.” The Ringer’s Alison Herman tweeted, “This is literally a line of dialogue used in I Love Dick as an explicit parody of the self-important male artist.” Miller responded on Twitter, writing, “Okay, I guess everyone and their parents missed the point — SOCIETY depresses humor in women because it is a sign of intelligence. That is THREATENING to men & so women are taught to suppress those intimidations. It is about SOCIETY’s ills, the misogyny of women’s humor. Don’t get it twisted.”

3. In moving from local politics to the national stage, Betsy DeVos has been “like a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward,” Lisa Miller wrote in her feature on the new Education secretary (“Who Is Betsy DeVos?,” July 24–August 6). Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, didn’t mince words: “The Betsy DeVos proposals are the best evidence available of the real agenda of education ‘reformers’: to transform public education into a private marketplace. Her rise to power came through strategic political donations. She has no experience in — and no understanding of — public education, other than a generalized contempt for public schooling. The ‘reforms’ she backed in Michigan have been a disaster.” But Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change, suggested a way forward for DeVos: “National polls repeatedly find that the majority of Americans oppose vouchers like those DeVos is promoting. But polls also find that a majority support public-school choice, including charter public schools. Having met DeVos briefly, and heard her speak, I agree with the story’s description of her as passionate, persistent, and personally low key. I believe DeVos should encourage learning from the most effective schools — whether district, charter, or private.”

4. In response to Noreen Malone’s profile of Zoë Quinn, the video-game designer who weathered Gamergate, despite vicious efforts by an army of anonymous harassers (“Zoë and the Trolls,” July 24–August 6), Chris Kluwe, a former NFL punter turned activist, wrote a letter that is both profane and encouraging. “It’s unfortunate that in a hobby based so often around being the hero (I would like to add heroine, but we all know that’s the rare exception), that people choose to instead act like the villain. Zoë Quinn, by contrast, is what those who try to tear her down wish they could be — intelligent, empathetic, self-reflective, and working to make the world a better place one butt joke at a time. Like Zoë, I also grew up on those same message boards and back alleys of the internet, so let me say this to Gamergaters in a language they will understand: Go fuck yourselves with a barbed wire dildo, you worthless trashfire baboon babies. Gaming is for everyone.”