Comments: Week of June 7, 2021


“Reckoning With a Reckoning,” May 24–June 6

Photo: New York Magazine

New York’s latest issue attempted to make sense of what has happened in the year since George Floyd was murdered. In the Times, Ben Smith singled out the magazine for praise: “The challenge for editors and writers across media is how to make journalism inclusive as well as riveting and provocative, rather than just a corporate media exercise in box-checking … Complicated, surprising stories are often the best ones, as illustrated by the superb ‘Reckoning With a Reckoning’ issue.” Meredith O’Brien wrote, “I’ve been moved & outraged by each piece I read. Thank you for shining an unflinching light.” As part of this special issue, Imani Perry profiled Samaria Rice, whose 12-year-old son, Tamir, was killed by Cleveland police in 2014 (“Stop Hustling Black Death”). Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African American studies at Princeton, called it a “pretty stunning capture of Samaria Rice’s experiences as a grieving Black mother in the age of Black Lives Matter.” NBC’s CiCi Adams commented, “There is so much to unpack in this piece. The powerlessness of going through tragedy & being pushed out as others profit from your pain.” Jessica Aiwuyor wrote that many readers “will share this and focus on the conflicts between BLM leaders and Samaria Rice. But another important conflict is families of police brutality victims wanting arrests and policy changes in contrast to many current abolitionist demands.” In “Guilty Parties,” Molly Fischer talked to two women charging $5,000 to throw anti-racist dinner parties. Liam Bright responded, “I just vary between a seething sense of outrage at the hucksterism, and a contemptuous sense that you’d have to be so fucking stupid to fall for this that Rao and Jackson could probably make better use of your money than you could anyway.” Erika Stallings added, “We’ve really let the performance of being anti-racist overtake the actual work.”

Photo: New York Magazine


“Who Should John Mulaney Be Now?,” May 24–June 6

For “The Culture Pages,” Jesse David Fox wrote about John Mulaney’s post-rehab return to comedy. Olivia Dallas tweeted, “It is such a credit to Mulaney that a piece written about his rough first show back after publicly announcing his addiction/rehab/divorce news is so touching and optimistic.” Others used the story as a chance to question who gets extended such compassion. Molly Mulshine wrote, “Happy for him but imagine if we treated female celebrities coming out of rehab with 1/10th this amount of grace.” In the story, Fox said Mulaney had “surprised” his audience by admitting that “part of him still desperately wants to continue to use” drugs. Julia Bainbridge, who writes about addiction, challenged that description: “The vast majority of people I know who have struggled with substance misuse, including myself, have … badly wanted to continue using … Maybe it’s his honesty that was surprising, but the feeling is common and, for many, omnipresent.”


“Gain of Function,” January 4–17

Earlier this year, New York published Nicholson Baker’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and the possibility the virus that causes it could have escaped from a lab. Although his conclusions were divisive at the time, the lab-leak hypothesis has garnered serious consideration in recent weeks. On May 26, this culminated in Joe Biden’s ordering the intelligence community to “redouble” efforts to find the virus’s origin. The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” columnist, Glenn Kessler, included Baker’s story in his “timeline of key events, including important articles, that have led to this reassessment.” On his Substack, Matt Yglesias wrote, “When New York Magazine ran its lab leak theory story in January 2021, I tweeted disparaging things about it only to be told quietly by a number of research scientists that I was wrong and plenty of people in the science community thought this was plausible.” Ron Hogan tweeted, “There is a way to have a sober, serious discussion about the possibility that COVID-19 was set off by an accident. So far, very few people have conducted the conversation in that matter. But Nicholson Baker was one of the exceptions.” In a May 31 appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell, Baker responded, “Anybody who raised the possibility that something could have gone wrong in a laboratory on a Tuesday afternoon somewhere, maybe in China, maybe in Wuhan, was a conspiracy theorist. There was a complete cognitive dissonance for me, having looked at the history of laboratory experiments with very risky diseases and seeing that scientists get sick with the diseases they’re studying.”

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Comments: Week of June 7, 2021