Fattening Frogs for Snakes

By Charles O'Brien

Jacobin wasted no time posting a comment on this week’s killings in Paris. ‘On Charlie Hebdo’ was written by a Richard Seymour, a regular Jacobin contributor, here reprinted from his blog, which is nothing less than Lenin’s Tomb. Mr. Seymour is further identified as the author of The Liberal Defence of Murder; and according to Amazon.com, he is also the author of a book-long posthumous excoriation of Christopher Hitchens. Here’s the opening sentence: ‘Many journalists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo have been murdered by bampots brandishing what appear to be machine guns at close range.’ And yet, Mr. Seymour seems to make a living with his pen. That ‘at close range’ is intriguing. The point, you’d guess, is that these people were shot at close range, an evocative detail. If only he'd said that. Continue reading "Fattening Frogs for Snakes"

Who Is Charlie?

By David Golding

I’m going to begin with an olive branch: not all of Sunday’s “Unity March” in Paris was a proto-fascist omen... Continue reading "Who Is Charlie?"

Endangered Species

By Scott Spencer

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It’s Christmas Eve and it has been raining all day in a kind of incessant Blade Runner post-apocalyptic way: a muddy Christmas! Gasoline is suddenly well under three bucks a gallon so it’s hello greenhouse and goodbye ozone. Hunting season upstate and my dog has found a bag of guts a neighbor has left outside after butchering his doe. Yet the main thing about today, beyond the appalling weather, my rancid mutt, my worries for the environment, and the anniversary of the birth of the Infant Jesus is that I finished reading a great novel and I am surging with energy and feeling the aesthetic thrill of having experienced something original and important. Continue reading "Endangered Species"

The Four Lions, or: The Party Puffins of Allah

By Oliver Conant

The Four Lions is a 2010 film comedy about a matey bunch of Islamist suicide bombers, all but one first or second generation South Asians from some place like Bradford or Leeds. They are convincingly played by actors who look as if they’re having great fun making each one of their characters ever more worthy of the excoriating ridicule coming their way from British director Chris Morris’ brilliant script. Fortunately for the actors, the ridicule on offer, although at times towering, is not of the sort that obliterates the humanity... Continue reading "The Four Lions, or: The Party Puffins of Allah"

Before the War

By Ellen Willis

A few months before her death, Ellen Willis emailed to say pieces by Charles O’Brien and Fredric Smoler on the Danish Cartoon Controversy posted on this site were “good.” (That was high praise from Ellen whose mode of approbation was the opposite of American idolaters.) Struck by how much those pieces “echoed themes” in what she’d written at the time of the Rushdie affair, she wondered if we “might be interested in reprinting the editorial I wrote in the Voice [in 1989] as a historical affirmation of the bad road we are going down... Continue reading "Before the War"

Strangers in the Land (and Humanism in the Arena)

By Benj DeMott

“Scripture tells us we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too."...Barack Obama’s vision of a more empathetic America seemed beamish if you read Darren Wilson’s testimony about why he had to kill the “demon” Michael Brown or watched video of police taking down Eric Garner (then mulling around him afterwards like he was a beast of no nation). The retaliatory assassination of the two cops (and family men) last Saturday in Brooklyn wasn't a blow to empire so much as a blow to empathy itself. Those head-shots went to the heart of the country. Continue reading "Strangers in the Land (and Humanism in the Arena)"

Obama's Executive Action

By Eugene Goodheart

David Brooks agrees with the substance of Obama’s executive action on immigration, but believes that he has transgressed the Constitution in the process...When it is pointed out that Obama’s action has its precedents in the actions of his predecessors, Republicans as well as Democrats, Brooks responds by noting the scale of the action, 5 million rather than 1.5 million under George H.W. Bush. He does not explain how this makes Obama’s action, but not Bush’s, unconstitutional. Continue reading "Obama's Executive Action"


By Alison Stone

I am white, I can feed silence. Continue reading "Mirror"

Ol' Blue Eyes

By Bob Levin

On most of this tour, [Bob Dylan] has been sticking with the same songs, in the same order, every night, regardless of whether he is moving on or sticking around...With one exception. For four months, in forty-one concerts, in fourteen countries, on three continents, his encore had been "All Along the Watchtower," followed by "Blowing in the Wind." But in Hollywood, three nights before, he had switched. Now he sent us home with "Stay With Me." Continue reading "Ol' Blue Eyes"


By Benj DeMott

Bill McKibben’s Oil and Honey is a Jeremiad about Global Warming that’s also a charm offensive. The author’s faith in the appeal of his teacherly Yankee persona seems almost as strong as his certitude rising levels of atmospheric carbon will have a devastating impact on the climate. Continue reading "Buzzfeed"

A Green Army Takes on Big Oil

By Lou Dubose

What follows is a small classic of reportage on the struggle against oil and gas companies who are trashing Louisiana’s wetlands and spawning toxic sinkholes in places like Bayou Corne. Journalist Lou Dubose doesn’t rely on rhetoric; he’s a reporter. Hip to self-delusive pieties, he lives to expose deviousness of faux-boyish pols like Governor Bobby Jindal. But Dubose isn’t a cynic. His article even hints at possibilities of local heroism, offering a snappy portrait of Russel Honoré—ex-Army general who’s encouraging a “green army” to resist the poison going on in Louisiana... Continue reading "A Green Army Takes on Big Oil"

Media Narratives and Their Unreliable Narrators

By Eugene Goodheart

The unreliable narrator is a notable feature of the modern novel. The sophisticated reader is expected to pick up clues (planted by the novelist as distinguished from the narrator) in order to correct whatever false impressions he or she receives from the narration. The novelist forgoes the privilege of omniscient narration to awaken the reader from the torpor of passivity, encouraging intelligent resistance to what the narrative voice is saying about the world it is representing. In the world of politics, we speak of the media narrative of our political life. The narrators (and there are many) are called pundits. Their reading or listening audience are generally uneducated in the practice of distinguishing between the unreliable, who are legion, and the reliable narrators, who are few. Continue reading "Media Narratives and Their Unreliable Narrators"


Get the FIRST volume, THAT

Confessions of Ben Rhodes, Speechwriter & Deputy National Security Advisor

By David Golding

Sure, I’ll yuck it up with the press about my novel, Oasis of Love, but the truth is if it wasn’t as good as Jonathan Franzen it was at least no worse than Jonathan Safran Foer, that cocksucker, vegetarian, limp-wrist, he’s never saved hundreds of Yazidis on a hill, he’s never bombed the shit out of ISIS, he’ll never write a Nobel Prize acceptance speech (not at this rate), he’ll never know how to strike the right balance between humanism and war... Continue reading "Confessions of Ben Rhodes, Speechwriter & Deputy National Security Advisor"

Uncool World

By Lex Brown


Race today.

Now is the strangest time in American history to be a black person. Never before was it so ambiguously defined. It’s not like someone is telling me “You are 3/5 of a human.” To which I could say “Uhhh, nah.” Most of the time, no one comments on my blackness. But I experienced a deep sorrow and terror looking at pictures of military tanks and the ongoing unrest in St. Louis. Then I remember my skin color is a permanent indicator of social inequities whose resolution has gone down slow for centuries, with all the confusion that can entail. Having access to a legacy of cool is one of the few obvious upsides about being black in America. But as social and cultural institutions slowly accept the wide-ranging modalities of blackness, it becomes increasingly complex to understand what constitutes a “black experience,” and how the idea of black cool plays into that. Continue reading "Uncool World"


"The program is for
students who already have
a lot on their minds,
who mean to have much,
much more on their minds."
-Robert Hullot-Kentor, Chair


By Ben Kessler

“Shake It Off,” director Mark Romanek’s recent clip for Taylor Swift, depicts bad new trends in beautiful old ways. It works the same way as the best ‘80s-‘90s music videos—using semiotics to express up-to-the-minute changes in pop culture, producing the sort of imagery commentators and marketers now glibly call “iconic.” Continue reading "IMMA LET YOU FINISH"

After the Morning: Reflections on Amiri Baraka's Legacy

By Sam Abrams, Ammiel Alcalay, Asha Bandele, Julian Bond, Wesley Brown, Benj DeMott, Tom DeMott, Diane di Prima, Bongani Madondo, Richard Meltzer, Jeremy Pikser, Connor Tomas Reed, Aram Saroyan, Robert Farris Thompson & Richard Torres

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What follows are remembrances of Amiri Baraka by First writers and readers (new and old). While there's nothing official about this tribute, everyone who contributed hopes it might serve as a comfort and/or calmative to Baraka's wife Amina and his sons and daughters. Continue reading "After the Morning: Reflections on Amiri Baraka's Legacy"

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