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The debate to end all debates? 4 min read

The debate to end all debates?

Tyler Childers' Long Violent History, a poker cheating scandal, more QAnon nonsense, the downfall of Hearst's magazine empire, Jeff Daniels plays James Comey, Fargo and more.

By Cary Littlejohn

Are you still talking about this week’s presidential debate? Or, more likely, are you sick of the fact that you’re still talking about this week’s presidential debate? Well, tough.

We should be talking about the debate, as we enter now the month of October and Election Day is barely a month away. It was distasteful. It was embarrassing. It was undignified in about every way imaginable. But it is our reality right now. It is the result of norm-breaking these past four years that have become so common, so rote and unremarkable, that we barely see fit to mention them anymore. And that’s to our detriment as a nation.

It’s not a liberal or conservative opinion. It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a foundational erosion of our democratic ideals and values. That much is beyond contention when the sitting President of the United States refuses to acknowledge the possibility that he could lose an election fair and square. Either he wins, fair and square, or he loses because things are rigged, at which point he ignores the results, if his comments up until this point are to be taken seriously.

To some, I’m quite certain those statements feel politicized; they feel pointed and sharp and aimed at one party over another, one candidate over another. That is technically true, but it actually falls short of “the truth.” No party affiliations need to be disclosed to admit that what the world watched on Tuesday night was shameful. No Republican need lose his or her GOP membership card by saying, “This country deserves better than what we saw.” Democrats need not be labeled as rank partisans by loudly declaring that, on the basis of that debate alone, Donald Trump is not fit to lead these United States.

That’s because what we witnessed at the end of that debate, when President Trump refused to accept the results of the election, was definitionally anti-American.

Ten Worth Your Time

  1. The Fall of Troy: This is just a depressing story through and through about how run man ruined a respectable magazine empire. One of the saddest parts to think about this is how Troy Young led to the ouster of David Granger from Esquire. Out of principle, all of my favorite writers, the writers who’d won countless awards in the previous 17 years at that magazine, left with him, and it just hasn’t been the same since. So reading this bit particularly stung: “Everything was premised on the idea that people don’t read,” a former Esquire digital staffer says. “We were encouraged to have short paragraphs, broken by links and Spotify embeds and YouTube embeds and images, so that, scrolling on a phone, you wouldn’t just see white space.” Imagine working for a magazine with the literary pedigree of Esquire and saying that; it absolutely boggles the mind.

  2. The New York Times’ star terrorism reporter is facing criticism over her wildly popular investigative podcast “Caliphate” after one of the main characters was arrested and charged with perpetrating a hoax about his role in ISIS. The paper is even assembling a team to re-report the story. The Washington Post’s media critic, Erik Wemple, chronicled some of Rukmini Callimachi’s previous reporting troubles.

  3. Some people just have incredible pedigrees that lead to incredible resumes, and James Baker is one of those people. Texas Monthly recently published an excerpt, How James Baker became James Baker, from a new book about Baker written by The New York Times’ Peter Baker and The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser. If the book is half as good as the published excerpt, you should pick it up ASAP.

  4. This story from WIRED has a little bit of everything in it — poker, scandal, technology, internet trolls, substance abuse, social media fame and wild accusations.

  5. Are you watching the new season of Fargo on FX/Hulu? If not, fix that immediately.

  6. QAnon is that open sore in your mouth that would heal if you’d just stop tonguing it. But you won’t, and as a result, it never goes away. Kevin Roose of The New York Times has made crazy internet culture his beat, and he tells the story of how we were almost rid of QAnon until it latched onto the #SaveOurChildren movement. QAnon uses the hashtag and Facebook to soft-pedal an introductory course in its conspiratorial worldview. Relatedly, the guys over at Reply All may have a lead on who the titular “Q” of QAnon actually is. I just might believe them.

  7. If you get Showtime, watch The Comey Rule. Jeff Daniels and Brendan Gleeson are absolute forces of nature.

  8. New Yorker investigative reporter extraordinaire Jane Mayer broke news on Thursday night about Kimberly Guilfoyle’s departure from Fox News, and it just reiterates how disgusting and sleazy and depraved working at Fox News must have been.

  9. In The Sunday Long Read, guest editor Nausicaa Renner said this: “One of my favorite journalistic modes is following someone at work, and learning the ins and outs of various trades (maybe it came from watching Mister Rogers obsessively as a child). This article has the added horror of explaining the art of dealing with dead bodies — and a convincing argument about why autopsies should make a comeback in the age of coronavirus.” Check out her recommendation, The Slow Troubling Death of the Autopsy, and then check out this one that I was reminded of from the glory days of Esquire when none other than David Sedaris was sent to profile a medical examiner in much the same mode. The result is a much different piece of writing.

  10. Just some wonderful words on our current national moment, the inspiration of art, and personal reflection from Tyler Childers on his new album Long Violent History (the title track is a beautifully poignant song; listen here). Just a sampling of his message: “We could stop being so taken aback by Black Lives Matter. If we didn’t need to be reminded, there would be justice for Breonna Taylor, a Kentuckian like me, and countless others.”

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