‘Sorry to Bother You’: Boots Riley’s Trojan Horseplay

Namwali Serpell

Tessa Thompson as Detroit and Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius Green in Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, 2018

Acting white is the premise of Boots Riley’s raucous new film, Sorry to Bother You. And no one knows better than black people that acting white—putting on the trappings of privilege, speaking as if you belong, as if you deserve to take whatever you want—has always yielded dividends in America. How do you think we got the Huxtables? And acting white is the premise of Boots Riley’s raucous new film, Sorry to Bother You. What tumbles forth from this premise is a wild, campy romp. Indeed, smuggled inside Riley’s rollicking mashup of surrealism and sci-fi is a cutting critique of race and class.

Why Trump’s Hawks Back the MEK Terrorist Cult

Trita Parsi

MEK leader Maryam Rajavi presiding over a rally in memory of the group’s members killed in Iraq in 2013, Tirana, Albania, September 1, 2017

How an organization that was only delisted by the US Department of State as a terrorist group in 2012 could so soon after win influential friends at the heart of America’s current administration is the strange and sinister story of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, better known by its initials, MEK. Commonly called a cult by most observers, the MEK has a historic record of terrorism, human rights abuses, and murder of US citizens. One would think, then, that senior American officials like Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton wouldn’t go near the MEK, let alone fraternize with its members or take its fees. But when it comes to Iran, the usual rules don’t apply.

Ten Questions Brett Kavanaugh Must Answer

David Cole

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listening as President Donald Trump announced his nomination at the White House, Washington, D.C., July 9, 2018

Supreme Court nominees all too often avoid answering questions about their views by simply describing existing Court doctrine and then insisting they cannot say how they would vote on any particular matter that might come before them. But in speeches and writings while a judge, Brett Kavanaugh has repeatedly expressed his own views on many matters that might come before him, including whether presidents should be subject to civil and criminal lawsuits; if he could express his views there, he should not be permitted to avoid expressing them on other topics in the Senate confirmation hearing. Here, then, are ten questions I suggest the senators ask Kavanaugh.

World Cup 2018: Football Sans Frontières

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

France celebrating their win against Croatia with the World Cup Trophy, Moscow, July 15, 2018

Social democracy isn’t just the way to win at public health outcomes; it’s the way to win at sport, too. But there is something more potent to recognize, as football now heads home (though not to England, with apologies to fans of Harry Kane). For the game now returns to its roots, which are not in stadiums or on TV, but in vacant lots, on streets, and in playgrounds around the globe. Until recently, the kids playing pickup games, lending their own vocabulary to a universal grammar, were calling themselves Messi. Soon, it may be Mbappé. Wherever they’re growing up, they don’t want to live walled off in a ghetto. They want to live in the world. Football is how they do it.

The BBC and Brexit: An Exchange

James Stephenson, reply by Nick Cohen

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer, and United Kingdom Independence Party leader Paul Nuttall during filming for the BBC’s current affairs program The Andrew Marr Show, London, December 4, 2016

James Stephenson: The BBC does indeed occupy a unique position in world journalism—as the most trusted international broadcaster. That is why hundreds of millions of people worldwide turn to BBC News each week.
Nick Cohen: I am not alleging a conspiracy. The BBC journalists I speak to talk of something less sinister but more pervasive: a fear of the consequences of honest reporting. The BBC has let Britain down because it fears being seen to question the people’s verdict. Fear is killing the BBC’s journalism.

The Romanovs’ Art of Survival

Anastasia Edel

The daughters of Tsar Nicholas II—Marie, Tatiana, Anastasia, and Olga—Russia, circa 1915

Almost all the Romanovs had an artistic bent: they painted, doodled, carved, embroidered, cut jewelry, or sculpted. For many Romanov exiles after 1917—hounded, stripped of their wealth, living under the constant fear of further reprisals—art became, in part, a coping mechanism. Later, as the memory of the massacre gave way in its immediacy, new generations of Romanovs took to art for reasons not so different from the rest of us: to meditate, to understand, and to express. Imaginative, often humorous, and at times fantastical, these artifacts paint a different, more authentic portrait of a family whose life and legacy continue to pique our interest, one hundred years after the Romanovs were swept off the world’s political stage.

The Serious Charm of Edward Bawden

Jenny Uglow

Edward Bawden: Untitled landscape with sunset, 1927

Some critics mutter “tame” and—dread word—“charming,” and sneer at the twee marketing of Edward Bawden’s prints on greetings cards, handbags, kitchen tea-towels, and fridge magnets. But there’s more to Bawden than that. His admirers proclaim him as a mischievous genius, an edgy, brilliant designer, blending tradition with modernism. Yet the question echoes, as it so often does for those who follow a commercial career: Is he “a proper artist”? But after seeing the rich and surprising variety of work in the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s show, who can say that Edward Bawden is not?

World Cup 2018: A View from the Stands

Simon Kuper

Fans watching Belgium play Panama in an Irish bar in Moscow, Russia, June 18, 2018

When friends hear that I’m at the World Cup, they often say how envious they are. They don’t need to be. I watch games squeezed in among other chubby, middle-aged British journalists in the press stand, eating my dinner of peanuts from the stadium vending machine. I rarely care who wins. Nor, usually, do most of the spectators. The crowd at most games consists chiefly of neutral Russians, who fill the duller stretches with chants of “Rossiya,” along with fans whose countries have already been knocked out but who weren’t ready to go home yet. But the emotional locus of this tournament is more in living rooms and bars around the world than here in the place where the thing is actually happening.

A Ballot on the Brothels of Nevada

Julie Bindel

A prostitute at Moonlite Bunny Ranch, one of Dennis Hof’s brothels, struggling to stay awake after a long shift, Nevada, January 2008

The legal brothels of Nevada, dotted amid expanses of deserts and mountains, have existed in the state since around 1870 and are seen as part of the fabric of society by some, though they are loathed by others. Today, though, this Nevadan institution—unique in the United States, where prostitution is otherwise illegal—is under threat from a proposed change to the decades-old legislation that permitted it. A great deal is at stake, for the brothel owners are powerful, wealthy men, while their legal brothels—hailed as safe, benign, and desirable—work as a propaganda machine for the much larger, illicit sex trade in Las Vegas.

How the BBC Lost the Plot on Brexit

Nick Cohen

Leave.EU backer Arron Banks arriving with fellow Brexit campaigner Andy Wigmore to give evidence to a parliamentary committee after British newspapers reported that Banks had held a series of meetings with the Russian ambassador before the 2016 Brexit referendum, London, June 12, 2018

The BBC’s reporting of the scandals around the Brexit referendum is not biased or unbalanced: it barely exists. It is as though the US networks had decided the Mueller investigation was no concern of theirs. There have been three huge stories the BBC has covered with only the most perfunctory reports: the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data leak, the Brexit campaign funding scandal, and the exposure of Russian interference in British politics. What is the point of a news organization that is frightened of journalism?