Sophie Benjamin, engagement editor

“Australia’s well-planned, well-funded Olympic over-achievement is finished” by Paul Connolly in The Guardian

“No doubt, in the wake of Australia’s worst showing at an Olympics since, well, London, there will be many autopsies to come, as well as autopsies of the autopsies. After all, there has got to be a reason for such disappointing results, if not someone or something to blame. When shareholders are expecting a return on their investment, it can’t simply be that Australia’s athletes were beaten by better athletes on the day.

“While many of Australia’s defeated Olympians got into the spirit of things byissuing apologies, and, like swimmer Cate Campbell, even admitting, with heartbreaking, David Brent-like self-consciousness and awkwardness, that theychoked under pressure, it won’t be enough to placate the critics. Not just the average couch-bound Australian with one hand down the neck of a bag of crisps as they bemoan the failure of their Olympians, but other critics. The ones in suits.”

Josh Taylor, journalist

“The Satire Paradox”, episode 10, Revisionist History podcast

“In the political turmoil of mid-1990s Britain, a brilliant young comic named Harry Enfield set out to satirize the ideology and politics of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His parodies became famous. He wrote and performed a vicious sendup of the typical Thatcherite nouveau riche buffoon. People loved it. And what happened? Exactly the opposite of what Enfield hoped would happen. In an age dominated by political comedy, ‘The Satire Paradox’ asks whether laughter and social protest are friends or foes.”

Myriam Robin, media reporter

“Did I Kill Gawker?” by Max Read in New York Magazine

“Which is in part why when a tip dropped into our laps that a married (to a woman) C-suite executive at a prominent media company had attempted to set up an assignation with a Chicago rentboy, I jumped at it. Here was an Old Gawker story of the kind Nick had once defended: the sexual foibles of a powerful executive and member of a ruling-class family. It would be nice to say that I struggled with the ethics of publishing the story, or that, even better, my maniacal and sociopathic boss pressured me into publishing it. But there was very little question in my mind: It seemed so naturally a Gawker story that I assigned it immediately.

“Of course, it wasn’t a Gawker story. We’d rushed the article to publication in part because Nick was having a party at his apartment that evening and I felt like it would be nice to have a scoop to show off. Instead, what I brought was a nuclear reactor. The article, which named the executive, was so quickly and thoroughly despised, and I was so ready to fight with its objectors, that Tommy forcibly took my phone out of my hands and deleted Twitter for me. I woke up the next morning to a full-fledged internal crisis. Within 24 hours of the story’s publication, it was clear that I was not long for Gawker. The following Monday, Tommy and I submitted our resignations.”

Bernard Keane, politics editor

“The tolerant philosopher: why Pierre Bayle is the forgotten figure of the Enlightenment” by Anthony Gottlieb in New Statesman

“Pierre Bayle, a French thinker who died in Rotterdam in 1706, is the ­forgotten hero of the Enlightenment. His name sometimes rings a bell for historians of philosophy, but apart from them I cannot remember when I last met anyone who had heard of him. In the 18th century, however, Bayle’s admirers included Frederick the Great, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire. They revered him for his defence of religious liberty and his genius for undermining conventional ideas. Voltaire said that the “immortal” Bayle was the greatest reasoner who ever set pen to paper.

Immortality, it seems, does not always last. One reason for Bayle’s eclipse is that his ideas no longer seem novel or shocking; moreover, his writings digress uncontrollably. This is not a winning combination. His Historical and Critical Dictionary – once among the commonest books in northern European homes – is a jumble of more than six million words, most of which come in rambling footnotes. Published between 1697 and 1702, it was a unique source of ­information and argument at that time. Now we have Wikipedia. Bayle’s pioneering tract on religious freedom is titled A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14:23, ‘Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full’. If you think the title is unwieldy, you should see the book.”

Cassidy Knowlton, editor 

“My four months as a private prison guard” by Shane Bauer in Mother Jones

“One day during our third week of training I am assigned to work in the chow hall. My job is to tell the inmates where to sit, filling up one row of tables at a time. I don’t understand why we do this. ‘When you fill up this side, start clearing them out,’ the captain tells me. ‘They get 10 minutes to eat.’ CCA policy is 20 minutes. We just learned that in class.

“Inmates file through the chow line and I point them to their tables. One man sits at the table next to the one I directed him to. ‘Right here,’ I say, pointing to the table again. He doesn’t move. The supervisor is watching. Hundreds of inmates can see me.

“‘Hey. Move back to this table.’

“‘Hell nah,’ he says. ‘I ain’t movin’.’

“Yes, you are,’ I say. ‘Move.’ He doesn’t.

I get the muscle-bound captain, who comes and tells the inmate to do what I say. The inmate gets up and sits at a third table. He’s playing with me. ‘I told you to move to that table,’ I say sternly.

“‘Man, the fuck is this?’ he says, sitting at the table I point to. I’m shaky with fear. Project confidence. Project power. I stand tall, broaden my shoulders, and stride up and down the floor, making enough eye contact with people to show I’m not intimidated, but not holding it long enough to threaten them. I tell inmates to take off their hats as they enter. They listen to me, and a part of me likes that.”

Dan Wood, subeditor

“The Uber Killer” by Chris Heath in GQ

“But what if one day a man became a mass killer and there were no real clues at all about why in the life he’d lived beforehand? Could such a person exist? In the aftermath, as everyone struggled to comprehend the chaos Jason Dalton had caused, that was exactly what those closest to him suggested was the case. Brian, the man whom Dalton would characterize to the police as his best friend, said that during the hours they spent together that day, Dalton had been “a little more quiet” than usual, enough that Brian asked if anything was wrong. Dalton said no. He remembered Dalton asking him if he was interested in driving for Uber as well, but Brian told his friend he was too busy. Nothing about those hours gave Brian any hint what was coming.

“Afterward, Dalton’s wife, Carole, and his parents hired a lawyer to speak for them, and the lawyer’s message was that they were baffled: “They’re thinking like everybody else, Why?… Certainly they’ve looked inward as a family to see whether there was anything that would have been an indicator that Jason was capable of something like this, and we’ve got nothing to offer.”

“The lawyer also shared this: Two days before it happened, Carole did notice that her husband seemed a little down and had asked him about it. He told her that he was just tired from all the driving.

“That’s all she had. He was tired.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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