Lance Armstrong Quits, the Rise of the Hillbilly, and Creepy Internet Ads
The week’s most interesting Slate stories.
Photograph by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
“Lance Armstrong Loses (Almost) Everything: In throwing away his seven Tour de France titles, he’s keeping what he prizes most: his righteous indignation,” by Josh Levin. Charged with steroid use by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Lance Armstrong chose not to confront his accusers—which means he’ll likely be stripped of his seven championship titles. But, Levin contends, the cycling star can at least preserve a glimmer of a shadow of a doubt about whether or not he cheated, a lucky break that probably matters more to him than a closet full of yellow jerseys.
“Vowel Movement: How Americans near the Great Lakes are radically changing the sound of English,” by Rob Mifsud. Regional dialects aren’t disappearing; they’re flourishing, and none more so than the Nah-then Ste-ate accent, with its extra short vowel sound. Mifsud forecasts more shifts in pronunciation in cities around the Great Lakes and explains why the changes haven’t yet penetrated minority communities.
“Why Do So Many Politicians Have Daddy Issues? Paul Ryan’s dad died at a young age. He is in good company. Political leaders often have absent, alcoholic, neglectful fathers, or fathers who died too young,” by Barron YoungSmith. Paul Ryan. Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan. What is it about politics that entices men who have neglectful or absent fathers? YoungSmith floats the theory that derelict dads force their sons to be leaders from a young age while rousing in them an insatiable thirst for love and approval.
“‘I’m Not Fighting or Battling Cancer—It’s Fighting Me’: The 'unpublished jottings’ of Christopher Hitchens from his posthumous book, Mortality,” by Christopher Hitchens and David Plotz. When he died in December, the brilliantly combative writer Christopher Hitchens left behind pages of unfinished notes. Slate editor David Plotz presents these posthumous reflections with commentary derived from his own experiences with the author.
“Confessions of a Romney Wife: Yes, my husband works for Mitt’s campaign. But I still have my own opinions,” by Campbell Brown. A journalist drew fire after she failed to shout her husband’s position as a Romney staffer from the rooftops in a New York Times op-ed criticizing Obama. Here, she hits back at the critics: “To assume that someone’s views are invariably influenced or shaped by his or her partner is lazy….The messy reality of our relationship, and I suspect most others, is that we are together on a lot of things and apart on many more.”
“The Rape Skeptic: Todd Akin didn’t misspeak. He showed what he thinks: that rape is too broadly interpreted and reported,” by William Saletan. Jumping off Akin’s careful apology—“The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold”—Saletan argues that the lawmaker in fact holds false, paranoid views about what rape means and how it’s prosecuted. For more Akin, read Laura Helmuth on why the lawmaker’s original “legitimate rape” comment sums up his worldview.
“The Uncanny Valley of Internet Advertising: Targeted Web ads are too dumb to be useful and just smart enough to make you queasy,” by Farhad Manjoo. Manjoo explores why targeted Internet ads don’t work better: Companies can use your search data to show you products you might want to buy, but they really just give you the eerie impression you’re being watched. Do the vendors whose ads stalk you from site to site realize they’re giving you goose flesh (and transmitting desperate vibes)?
“Here Comes the Hillbilly, Again: What Honey Boo Boo really says about American culture,” by Michelle Dean. “The hillbilly has regained the spotlight in American culture,” writes Dean, and it’s not pretty. Her article traces the tropes of hillbilly-dom from country music to Toddlers and Tiaras to Jersey Shore, linking these images of squalor and coarseness to a prevailing national pessimism.
“A New Slur: Calling people ’Holocaust-obsessed’ is the new holocaust denial,” by Ron Rosenbaum. What lies behind the distressing trend of accusing others of being “obsessed” with the Holocaust? What is the correct degree of interest to take in the past annihilation of millions? And if we were a bit more “Holocaust-obsessed” (or “Holocaust-conscious,” the term the author prefers), would we have stepped in more swiftly to stop the massacres in Rwanda, Bosnia, or Sudan? Rosenbaum discusses the slur and its implications.
“Google vs. God: What’s causing all these Hasidic Jews to flee their community? Smartphones,” by Libby Copeland. The Internet is sweeping many Hasidic women out of their cloistered lives and into the larger world, as news sites and online contacts persuade them that the teachings they grew up with may not reflect the whole truth.
Katy Waldman is a Slate assistant editor.