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Comments: Week of July 11, 2016

1. “For a man accused of espionage and effectively exiled in Russia, Edward Snowden is also, strangely, free,” reads the headline of Andrew Rice’s story on the famous whistle-blower’s busy international schedule, made possible with the assistance of a robot proxy (“I, Snowbot,” June 27–July 10). The article left readers divided, both on whether Snowden is a traitor or hero and on whether President Obama should pardon him. The Verge’s Russell Brandom felt Obama had a moral obligation to pardon Snowden. “Snowden risked his life to perform one of the most pivotal public disclosures of our time, shedding light on surveillance systems that have grown far beyond the reach of democratic accountability. The documents he published — the source of his crime— have brought about profound changes in the way we build technology and communicate online. His continued exile is shameful, and ending it is a unique chance to reclaim the legacy of a president who has often failed to live up to his own promises of transparency … [Obama’s] Justice Department has vastly expanded the scope of the law, turning it from a weapon against the nation’s enemies to one that’s pointed against its own citizens. The result will be less scrutiny of the nation’s most powerful agencies, and fewer forces to keep them in check. With Snowden’s push for clemency, the president has a chance to complicate that legacy and begin to undo it. It’s the last chance he’ll have.” Many readers, including Snowden collaborator Glenn Greenwald, appreciated the balanced tone of the profile: “A deep and thoughtful look at Edward Snowden’s life in Russia, a topic too often distorted by propagandists.”

2. Lizzy Goodman’s profile of Stoya, a porn star who late last year publicly accused her ex-­boyfriend and fellow porn star James Deen of rape (“Stoya Said Stop,” June 27–July 10), gave readers a closer look at Stoya as a person and a porn pioneer. “Inside the life of one of the most intriguing porn entrepreneurs,” tweeted @ultragrrrl. “She is proud of her sexuality and with the work she is putting forth to change the way the porn industry functions,” commented aleamonster. “Expressing explicitly that the power is in the hands of the performer, focusing on consent, changing the dialogue, terminology and presentation of scenes and categories, giving the performer final approval in the released product; all of these things and more definitely do contribute and initiate a big change in the way the industry operates. Not to mention the style and quality of her productions, and the focus on genuineness and authenticity in the performance itself is liberating and empowering for women.” One reader, matt1605, responded in surprise to Goodman’s assertion that Stoya’s fans are progressive and anti-Establishment. “I had no idea progressive millennials’ porn consumption habits had such a complex background.”

3. “Since Bezos bought it,” wrote Gabriel Sherman in a deep dive on the Washington Post, “traffic to has more than doubled” (“Good News at the Washington Post,” June 27–July 10). Commenter Jeni2 felt that traffic wasn’t the right metric: “They may be getting more web traffic, but the site feels less essential re: hard news and local news. Before the redesign, I visited around 2x a day. Now I only visit if I’m looking for something specific to politics or government. They may not be doing ‘clickbait’ articles, but more of the article titles look clickbait-y, easy to dismiss, and less like what the more ­serious readers of the paper would likely prefer.” Fusion’s Kevin Roose disagreed, tweeting: “The new Washington Post is so good. Among the first things I read every day.” “I read more WashPo articles in the past few months then I did in the previous 10 years,” agreed @JGreco. The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Leubsdorf thought that the Post’s new priorities left blind spots in their coverage. “There are 3,689 words in this story about the new Washington Post and its priorities,” he tweeted. “‘Local’ isn’t one of them.” And IBTimes’ David Sirota was struck by Sherman’s detail that “Bezos froze the Post-employee pension fund. ‘Jeff has a Silicon Valley ideology that we don’t do pensions,’ one former Post executive says.” “This is worth remembering,” tweeted Sirota, “when you read the WashPost’s coverage of retirement issues.”

Clarification: Last issue’s “Reread” (June 27–July 10) column, about the illustrated history of the Watergate scandal that New York featured in 1974, inadvertently shortchanged Julian Allen, an illustrator who helped define New York’s visual sensibility and made two of the paintings and one of the covers that we reproduced. Milton Glaser, this magazine’s co-founder and first design director, has written that Allen “established a standard that continues to inspire.” We agree, and regret the omission.