Comments: The Week of July 16, 2012

1. Last week, Lisa Miller surveyed new research suggesting, as Alice G. Walton summarized it on a Forbes blog, “that people of higher socioeconomic status can be somewhat lacking in the kindness department”—or, as the collective ­Anonymous described it in a tweet, “money makes people into self-centered jerks” (The Money-Empathy Gap,” July 9). The article was widely praised and shared, with some readers professing curiosity (“the research highlighted here is incredible,” tweeted @monicamukerjee) and others satisfaction in finding their hunches confirmed. “I’ve always known rich people were a******s,” crowed one commenter on “It’s because of pride. Pride kills innocence and connection to the beauty which is the precarious lightness of being in the human experience.” “I believe that money doesn’t necessarily change who you are but rather enhances it,” argued another commenter. “If you were a schmuck before, you’re still going to be a schmuck after, albeit with more money.” Miller’s piece was accompanied by a brief empathy test, and some commenters appeared taken aback by their low scores. Wrote one: “I am ­‘compassionate when convenient’ and apparently I can’t tell the difference between shame and sadness, and I have no idea what ‘interest’ looks like. This was fun.” “I am also ‘compassionate when convenient,’ ” another wrote. “That makes me sound so cold and heartless.” A third questioned: “Is it really horrible to have a friend install software on your computer so you don’t have to pay for it? I would do that in a heartbeat. Judge me all you want, people, I don’t care.”

And then there were those who had something to say about the poor dog on the cover. “What an incredibly tasteless cover,” wrote Maria Woods in a letter of complaint. “I am certain you could have found a more creative way to convey rich people behaving badly.” “The thing I found most offensive was the poodle analogy,” wrote Linda Josephs. (An inside photograph featured the cover subject being mounted by a haughty poodle.) “My standard poodle Sasha does volunteer work ­mostly at nursing homes and displays an incredible sense of empathy no matter who she is interacting with.”

2. Geoffrey Gray’s profile of indefatigable tennis king Roger Federer (Where Was My Mind Wandering? July 9), written before this year’s Wimbledon tournament began, caught the athlete in a moment of introspection. “Gray explores how Federer has learned to adapt to the modern game and how he’s adjusted to not being as physically dominant as he once was,” wrote Jeremy Gordon on The Wall Street Journal’s Daily Fix blog. “Still my ­favorite tennis player, and I still hope he wins a few Major tournaments,” wrote one on “It sounds like maybe he’s doing what some of us fans are not: coming to terms with the fact that nobody’s No. 1 forever.” “What I love about Federer is that he’s just so honest,” wrote another. “And it’s nice to see someone who’s not just about ‘the grind’ rise above his mental roadblocks to get where he is. I’m happy to have followed and supported him all these years.” “A nice article on ­Federer, who of course remains fantastic,” added a third. “The truth is that Federer is being challenged because, yes, he’s older; and also because the level of tennis overall has increased dramatically. It’s the competition, in combination with the inevitable decline that overcomes us all.” Though, naturally, there was at least one skeptic, who noted, “I’ve always found ­Federer one of the most arrogant public figures in world athletics. He never ­praises his opponents, and when he loses he always has excuses. He’s such a boor.”

3. Following Nora Ephron’s death from cancer late last month, we republished the first column she wrote for New York, a gem of magazine writing still cherished by many in the business. “Perfect inaugural column for New York,” tweeted Bloomberg View executive editor David Shipley. “OMG, @NYMag, how much do I love you for running Nora’s first column,” gushed the writer Paige Williams. Hugo Lindgren, editor of The New York Times Magazine, tweeted, “Love seeing the ­actual pages of Nora Ephron’s 1973 debut column in @­nymag—an elegant solution to copyright problem?” Actually, no, we just liked the way it looked.

4. Contributing editor Kurt Andersen has written for us on a variety of political topics, from the cinematic arc of the Osama bin Laden story to an imagined Al Gore presidency. (He also edited this magazine from 1994 to 1997.) This week Random House publishes his third novel, True Believers, a political thriller that shuttles between America of the sixties and the present.

Send correspondence to:

Comments: The Week of July 16, 2012