Matt Seaton is the editor of the NYR Daily. (August 2018)

Follow Matt Seaton on Twitter: @mattseaton.


When Is a Nazi Salute Not a Nazi Salute?

Senator Burton K. Wheeler, Charles Lindbergh, and novelist Kathleen Norris attending an America First Committee rally, New York, May 23, 1941

Soon after publication of Sarah Churchwell’s essay, I received an email from a biographer of Senator Burton K. Wheeler that insisted the senator was not giving a Nazi salute; it was, he wrote, a “Bellamy salute,” a patriotic gesture to the American flag widely used at pledge of allegiance ceremonies. We should correct our caption, I was told, since it was a slur against Wheeler, who was no fascist. We do occasionally find possible errors of fact in captions from Getty Images. If so, we communicate that to the agency’s staff; they make their own assessment, and, if need be, correct the caption. On this occasion, however, I was not persuaded. While I could see that Wheeler’s gesture appeared half-hearted and not very Nazi, Lindbergh’s salute looked full-on fash.

‘Don’t Look for a Soothsayer’: An Interview with Harry Enten

Harry Enten, Central Park, New York City, May 23, 2020

Matt Seaton: What is polling good for, why does it matter, and what are its limits? Harry Enten: Election polling can be used to help understand which issues matter to people, which can in turn help us understand why someone gets elected. I personally think the horserace component is fun, and plenty of people seem to agree. But look for analysis that knows its limits. Look for someone who explains why they think what they think. Someone who clearly states what their confidence is in any given forecast. Polling itself, and polling analysis, have a margin of error—and a margin of interpretation; anyone who is too certain should not be trusted.

The Righteous Mayor of Vibraye

The elderly Aristide Gasnier, mayor of Vibraye, with two US soldiers and some of the Jewish refugees he helped save during the Nazi occupation; Huguette stands directly in front of Gasnier; her older brother Maurice is the boy at the far right. Sarthe, France, 1944

Aristide Gasnier had already been mayor for fifteen years and was nearly seventy when the Nazi occupation began, in 1940. No doubt, this length of service gave him the moral authority in the community to carry out his bold conspiracy against the occupiers; even the local gendarmerie went along with it. Gasnier ensured that the Jewish refugee hideaways got food tokens, and issued them with new identity papers. For our friend Huguette, to learn at last—and in these times—that her family’s escape from the Holocaust was not just a random act of kindness from a couple of strangers but a concerted act of communal resistance has been deeply heartening.

The Strange Death of Social-Democratic England

A mural depicting Prime Minister Boris Johnson, London, December 12, 2019

Far-reaching though the effects of this moment in the Brexit story will be, the 2019 general election may change the landscape of British politics and the fabric of its society in even more profound and decisive ways. With renewed calls for a referendum on independence for Scotland, the specter of “the breakup of Britain” that has long haunted the UK may materialize at last—just at the moment when English nationalists are celebrating their Brexit victory. A fourth successive defeat for the Labour Party and an outright win for a Conservative Party has sharpened dividing lines, squeezed the liberal center, and broken consensus into polarity. At stake after this election, then, is the future of what has made Britain a reasonably civilized country since 1945: social democracy.

The Cold, Dead Hand of the NRA

Images of the NRA’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, its former president, Oliver North, and its then chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, at the association’s national convention, Indianapolis, April 27, 2019

The NRA may repair its finances—dues did rebound in 2018, though the recent scandal seems likely to reverse that trend. The organization may also effect a transition to a new leadership with cleaner hands. It may even survive relatively unscathed the inquisition of the New York attorney general. But the cracks have appeared, the aura of invincibility is gone. The Parkland students and their allies in states like New York have succeeded in opening a door to reform, and lawmakers are less afraid to walk through it. Whether this will reduce America’s annual toll of gun deaths—nearly 40,000 at the last count, of which three in five were suicides—is yet to be determined, but this much can be said: the era of NRA supremacy is over.

Behind the Anti-Semitism Crisis of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party

A Campaign Against Antisemitism protester outside the Labour Party headquarters, London, April 8, 2018

The controversy over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is, in reality, a displacement of a deeper, more systemic political rift in the party. And, in vital ways, that’s a far more significant obstacle than the administrative-disciplinary issue of rooting out a small minority of Holocaust equivocators and vitriolic anti-Zionists. This is an argument for the need to reframe our understanding of why anti-Semitism seems to loom so large in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. The true story is that the fight between Corbyn skeptics and Corbyn fans over Jews and Israel has become a ruinous proxy for what is, in its essence, a struggle between social-democrats and socialists for the soul of the party itself.