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Best of the Back Pages

The best writing from the Back Pages of Tablet’s daily news digest, The Scroll

Tablet News Desk
December 22, 2022
Tablet Magazine
Tablet Magazine
Tablet Magazine
Tablet Magazine

Ah, the Scroll’s Back Pages, where high criticism meets low, the left and right lie entwined, and the gloves and blinders come off.

Behold 10 of our favorites from 2022, and subscribe to Tablet’s free daily news roundup, The Scroll, right here.

Mike Pesca Speaks: The inside story of the Slate meltdown by Sean Cooper

After an ugly dispute about race in America led to Mike Pesca’s acrimonious departure from Slate, the prominent podcaster sat down with Sean Cooper to spill the beans about the incident, the fallout, and what it signals about the chilling orthodoxies of America’s media establishment.

The Evil of Banality: Why do you care about thousands of children altering their gender? by Jacob Siegel

When presented with the alarming rise of adolescents seeking to medically alter their bodies in the name of gender identity, liberals yawn. The performative act of yawning, according to Siegel, “is an avoidance tactic that feigns moral and intellectual superiority while exhibiting dullness and cowardice. It is deployed when some flagrantly abnormal thing is occurring, which the sophisticated liberal is too sophisticated to defend outright.”

Human Beings Are More Than Just Antique Vibrators: The case for bioconservatism by Zineb Riboua

Our belief that our technologies promise a brighter, better future turns our tools into sacred objects worthy of reverence, Riboua writes, and finds us kneeling before the idols of our own invention. A new political and philosophical project is necessary, then, for reasserting the centrality of human experience over the technologized and digitized future.

Infinite Paranoia: Why does a new U.S. military recruiting video look like it was directed by Alex Jones on a bad trip? by John Pistelli

In a prescient piece anticiparting the latest revelations about Twitter’s involvement working on covert U.S. propaganda campaigns, John Pistelli analyzes the U.S. Army’s ominous new recruiting video, “Ghosts in the Machine,” which features eerie whistling, dancing clowns, and all the hallmarks of a B-movie nightmare. What does Uncle Sam’s new aesthetic tell us about the global information war?

Anarchy in the U.S.A.: Emma Goldman’s speech to an affluent club recalls a moment in American history when liberals fought for the First Amendment by Brian Berger

In 1916, Emma Goldman, “the Red Queen of the Anarchist movement,” was invited to the blue-blooded Civitas Club of Brooklyn. When word got out about her scheduled talk, the club was criticized, but the liberals who extended the invitation defended free speech. “We are not setting up for anarchy—we are curious to know.” Would anyone say such a thing now?

This Is the Promised Land: In Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, the great playwright finally mourns his own lost Jewish past by David Sugarman

The English language’s greatest living playwright considers the brutal arc of history as he comes to terms with his own Jewish identity. In the wake of the Shoah, Stoppard asks, what forms of solace exist for the Jews of the diaspora?

If I Wasn’t a Chassid I’d Be a Nihilist: Laugh out loud—everything matters! by Ariel Fine

“Nihilism is the philosophy that life has no meaning and that nothing is real. This is a wonderful outlook on things.” On the beauty of nihilism, and how it deepens the joys and wisdom of Chassidic thought and practice.

The Self-Righteous Idolatry of the Anti-Zionist Rabbi: On Yom Kippur these enlightened Chicagoans and their pied piper were basking in their own moral superiority by Clayton Fox

Sitting through Yom Kippur services, my soul is called into question. Not by God, though, and not because of my moral failures, but by my rabbi, who stands at the podium offering a jeremiad against white men in America and their rage.

Kensingston’s State of Emergency: The humanitarian crisis in north Philadelphia by Sean Cooper

Drugs, guns, homelessness, and poverty. This dispatch from one of the largest open-air illegal drug markets in America captures the despair of a city in decline, and identifies the elected officials who are hastening that city’s demise.

Lolcow Journalism: Did Gawker get its false story about Thomas Chatterton Williams from an anonymous internet message board? by Katherine Dee

After Gawker published a story falsely claiming that Bard College professor and author Thomas Chatterton Williams had attended the Austin premiere of Alex’s War, a documentary about Alex Jones, many wondered how Gawker might have made such an obvious error. The answer? This is what happens when bad journalists go looking for scoops on social media.

The Tablet News Desk covers News, Israel & the Middle East, Science, and Sports. Pitches can be sent to news editor Jeremy Stern, [email protected].

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