Current Affairs

Political Obligation: An Ancient Illustration

Judith N. Shklar— Obligation may lead to conflict. It implies, on one hand, the duty to obey the law, to keep promises, to follow social rules generally, because society depends upon our doing so and because it is inherently right and the condition of justice. On the other hand, the

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America’s Long Jewish History

Jonathan D. Sarna— New Amsterdam, part of the remote Dutch colony of New Netherland in present-day New York State, was among the New World’s most diverse and pluralistic towns. A French Jesuit missionary in 1643 reported that “eighteen different languages” were spoken by local inhabitants of different sects or nations.

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The Battle over Source Code

Aram Sinnreich— Professional prognosticators and commentators often treat the development of media technology as a one-way street, an inevitable series of magical innovations leading to an equally inevitable set of disruptions in business, culture, and society. In reality, of course, the process is far more complex. Technology developers and media

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The History of Humour

Terry Eagleton— Perhaps the single most contradictory political phenomenon of the modern world is nationalism, which ranges from the Nazi death camps to a principled resistance to imperial power. In terms of sheer political ambiguity, however, humour runs it fairly close. If it can censure, debunk and transform, it can

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The World of Fiber Optics

Susan Crawford— Here is the tech revolution America may miss: On a gray, cloudy weekday morning in August, I drove across the wide Han River that divides the northern and southern parts of Seoul. I turned east onto a furiously busy highway that runs alongside the river. I was noticing

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Political Correctness: Are the Kids on Campus Alright?

Michael S. Roth— Over the last month, I’ve been talking with reporters, podcasters, and pundits about the quality of campus culture in the US today. I was surprised when one reporter asked, almost plaintively, “President Roth, are the kids alright?” He had been reading various reports of free speech crises,

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It’s Not About Religion

  Kathleen M. Sands— Recently, the Supreme Court decided about the forty foot “Peace Cross” that’s stood for nearly a century in Bladensburg, Maryland. For the American Legion, the Cross memorializes the dead of World War I; for American Humanists, it broadcasts an unconstitutional government preference for a particular religion.

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From House Telegraphs to Mobile Phones

Lee Jackson— In December 1858, Punch, the satirical magazine, imagined the next stage in the nineteenth century information revolution: the “house telegraph.” With such a device, one could be both at home and yet in constant telegraphic contact with the wider world. But was this really a good idea? A

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A Century of Moscow’s Meddling in US Politics

David Brandenberger— Allegations of Russian dirty tricks in the 2016 US presidential campaign often treat the issue of interference as if it were a historic, unprecedented transgression. But although the means used for such meddling (WikiLeaks, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may have been new in 2016, the meddling itself was much

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The Past and Present of Print

Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen— Does Tim Berners-Lee regret inventing the internet?  At the time, the internet was trumpeted, like any step forward in information culture, as a liberating force, an instrument of democratic empowerment. No-one foresaw the dark web, online betting, still less fake news. Citizen journalism begat

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