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Claire Berlinski, Ed.'s Posts

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The Addicts Next Door


I’m not sure if everyone will be able to read this; it isn’t paywalled for me, but I think that’s because you’re allowed to read a certain number of New Yorker articles for free every month, and I haven’t hit that limit yet. If you can read it, I recommend it. It’s called The Addicts Next Door, by Margaret Talbot, and It’s the best journalism I’ve read about the opioid epidemic:

One Thursday in March, a few weeks before Michael Barrett responded to Angel Holt’s overdose, I rode with him in his paramedic vehicle, a specially equipped S.U.V. He started his day as he often does, with bacon and eggs at the Olde Country Diner, in Martinsburg. Barrett, who is thirty-three, with a russet-colored beard and mustache, works two twenty-four-hour shifts a week, starting at 7 a.m. The diner shares a strip mall with the E.M.T. station, and, if he has to leave on a call before he can finish eating, the servers will box up his food in a hurry. Barrett’s father and his uncles were volunteer firemen in the area, and, growing up, he often accompanied them in the fire truck. As they’d pull people from crumpled cars or burning buildings, he’d say to himself, “Man, they doing stuff—they’re awesome.” When Barrett became a paramedic, in his twenties, he knew that he could make a lot more money “going down the road,” as people around here say, referring to Baltimore or Washington, D.C. But he liked it when older colleagues told him, “I used to hold you at the fire department when you were a baby.”

Walking Through Paris on a Summer Evening


I rarely post photographs of Paris on social media. This is the most photographed city in the world, and it’s been photographed by the greatest photographers in the world, so there’s not much I could add to your sense of what the city looks like.

I also loathe the practice of taking endless photos of one’s life for consumption on Facebook. It puts everyone who does it at a remove from their own lives. Instead of seeing, hearing, smelling and experiencing what’s in front of them, they’re imagining how it would look through someone else’s eyes — usually, their ex-boyfriend’s. So I don’t do it. Susan Sontag wrote an essay, On Photographydecades before the advent of the cell phone and Instagram, but it seems even more pertinent now: 

Bring Back Charm School


It’s time for a weekend break from politics. So today in “A Weekend Break from Politics,” I propose to lobby for the return of Charm School.

I’m not sure when the idea of charm school, or finishing school, went out of fashion. I’m not sure why, either: Perhaps had something to do with the idea that teaching women to be charming was sexist, or that “charm” was an oppressive, patriarchal social construct; or perhaps, as sometimes things do, it just went out of fashion.

So Much Security Theater, So Little Common Sense


I wrote this article in January, 2015: Charlie Hebdo march proves Paris wouldn’t have the first clue how to become a proper police state:

Today was one of those cold and beautiful winter days in Paris that calls to mind a 19th Century painting by Caillebotte. The police had promised “extreme security measures” for the rally: 150 plainclothes officers, 20 teams of snipers, 56 motorcycle teams, and 24 mobile units. When I read this, I didn’t know whether to be moved or horrified.

On Trump’s Saudi Arabia Speech


I’ve got about half a dozen posts sitting unfinished in my draft folder, because here’s what keeps happening to me. The day begins with news of Episode X of the Trump Presidency. I spend hours reading about it, trying to understand what really happen, trying to figure out who really said or did what and why, trying to separate fact from rumor. When finally I think I understand, I spend an afternoon writing a post about it, and in the end, I’m quite proud: I’ve got Episode X all sorted out!

Right before I press “publish,” though, I check the news to see if there have been any further developments in the story, just to be sure it’s up to date, and  Oh, no! Episode X is ancient history! The world has moved on to Episode Y! I missed Episode Y completely, I was too busy thinking about Episode X. So I end up feeling like Rip van Winkle, stunned and blinking in the sunlight, and can’t bring myself to press “publish,” because it will look as if I’ve been sleeping under a rock.

I had lots of thoughts about Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his speech, but they’ve already got that OTE flavor. So to heck with it. Today, I’ve decided to beat this problem by writing about Trump’s visit to Israel as it actually happens. You can watch it with me. 

Yes, The French Election was a Good Thing


I didn’t initially post this piece I wrote for National Review about the outcome of the French election here because I figured you’d probably had it with reading my views about this election. I’ve been writing about it non-stop for weeks, and I do know it’s not the only story in the world.

But yesterday, when I saw JcTPatriot’s post, and the discussion it prompted, I felt compelled to weigh in one more time, because the issues involved here are, I think, genuinely important. I understand full well that there are many articles and news stories out there competing for your attention today, and that it’s a lot to ask to say, “Please give me another hour to make my case.” I wouldn’t ask it if I didn’t think what happened here has a significance that goes beyond France.

The piece I wrote for National Review is short, and will literally take only two minutes to read. Here’s the key paragraph:

Emmanuel Macron Vanquishes Marine Le Pen


According to early estimates, he is headed for a 31 point win, a landslide, in both the colloquial and technical sense.

Marine did much worse than the polls predicted. They underestimated Macron’s victory by about seven points. As Nate Silver just noted on Twitter, this represents a bigger polling error than Brexit, and a much bigger one than Trump. 

How do Muslims in Paris View this Election?


Update: I replaced the original text with a corrected version, including Matthew’s own photos, which are much better. 

Matthew Clayfield’s an Australian journalist I met when I lived in Istanbul. He does careful, serious reporting, and I’ve always thought it deserves more attention. But like most reporters, he’s caught between the old business models for journalism (which are dead) and the new ones (which are at last struggling to be born, but we’re still trying to figure out how to make them work). So chances are, you haven’t yet read his work.

This week, he’s been in Paris to cover the election. I haven’t seen him yet. We exchanged a few messages on Facebook late last night and quickly agreed we’d both rather get some sleep than see each other, even if we’re rarely on the same continent, no less in the same city.

Postcards from the Election in France


Phew, that was really down to the wire. (Submitting this thing on time, that is — not the election.) Some deadlines have a bit of wriggle room, but not this one: France wasn’t going to postpone its election because I hadn’t finished my article. I ended up cutting it so close that the polls had already opened by the time my editors got the final pass. But I finished it, at least, before the results came in.

So here’s the link to the long-awaited article, which is in fact eight short articles. Yes, seriously. My plan was to write each individually, as standalone pieces. But I would have needed another week to do that properly, and I would have had to rustle up seven more editors. So I knit them into one, instead. The articles, not the editors. If you haven’t got time (or patience) to read eight articles about France, just pick one:

  1. Poudre de Perlimpinpin
  2. Monkey Eyeballs
  3. You, Madame, are no Margaret Thatcher 
  4. The Horseshoe
  5. The Vice
  6. The Champs-Elysées and the Pattons of Our Basement
  7. May Day
  8. The Knife

And if you still want more when you’re done, you may have missed this when I wrote it: Last Minute Thoughts on Marine Le Pen.

From Turkey: We’re not Dead Yet


I’m waiting for the May Day rallies to pass through my neighborhood, after which I’ll report. So far the day’s been dramatic, but not violent. Fingers crossed.

While I wait, though, I wanted to share a response I received to my article about Turkey’s referendum. Actually, two responses. The first was from a friend in the States who wrote on my Facebook page, “So much sadly accurate retrospective analysis … but what do we do now?”

The second was from a Turk with an answer. Ege Yildirim is an urban planner in Istanbul. I thought her response deserved a hearing, so I asked her for permission to publish it:

Ortega y Gasset and the Wisdom of Editors


Jose Ortega y Gasset, 2008, Manuel Pardo

Or the wisdom of one editor, in particular. I’ve a special fondness for Adam Garfinkle, editor of The American Interest. I read his work devotedly long before I began writing for his magazine, and always sensed in his writing not only an old-fashioned, well-trained intellect, but a sensibility in his prose that reminded me a bit of Montaigne, or as Hoffer said of Montaigne, “He was writing about me. He knew my innermost thoughts.” I felt this especially when reading his War, water, and negotiation in the Middle East: the case of the Palestine-Syria border, 1916-1923.

Guilty Men: Turkey and How Democracies Die


I see many comments and questions here for me today about Emmanuel Macron, the next round of French elections, and what they mean. I’ll get to them soon, I promise. Though with what’s happening on the Korean peninsula, I can’t blame anyone who thinks, “That’s enough of France; we’ve got bigger things to worry about.”

That’s kind of what I’m thinking, and I live here.

Today, though — at last — here’s the article I’ve been working on about the referendum in Turkey.

Last-Minute Thoughts on Marine Le Pen


By the end of the day, journalists will at last be able to stop writing the same column about “the most unpredictable election ever” and the awful choices France confronts. Voting has begun. The first exit polls will be published when polling stations close at 8 p.m. They’re usually fairly accurate. The final result will be in at about midnight. There’s one thing we needn’t worry about: I’m told by people who’ve long monitored these polls that they’re fraud-proof. I believe it. 

Anne-Elizabeth Moutet published this (excellent) piece for CapX yesterday about why this election is so hard to predict. She lamented on Facebook that the piece “was longer in coming out than a newborn auroch.” How I sympathize: My own pre-election piece wasn’t even ready before the election. I did finish the one about Turkey’s referendum (I’ll post the link when it’s up). But on this one, I failed to get the job done. Pretty rare for me. It happens, but I wish it hadn’t. 

So today, I’ll do something else I don’t usually do. I’m just going to post part of that unfinished article here. Some of you have been puzzled by my reaction to Marine Le Pen and have asked me why I dread the prospect of her success. At least in this, you’ll have my answer.

The Champs-Elysées Attack and the Election


I’m sure you’ve heard that last night, a terrorist opened fire on the police on the Champs-Elysées, killing a police officer and wounding three more. The security forces quickly shot him dead. The Champs-Elysées was evacuated, though it’s back to normal now. It seems there’s still a suspect at large, though news of this is only breaking now and sketchy. (Update: It’s being reported that police have detained three of the terrorist’s family members, but I haven’t seen confirmation of this.) The attacker was as usual known to police; he’d been arrested in February on suspicion of plotting to kill officers but released for of lack of evidence.

Although terrorism always takes you a bit by surprise, I’ve never been less surprised by a terrorist attack in any city I’ve ever lived in. We all knew full well this was highly likely to happen before the election on Sunday. It’s been the subject of much grim speculation here and black humor. An attack was just recently thwarted in Marseilles. I’d be equally unsurprised if there’s another one before Sunday.

ISIS claimed credit for it unusually quickly. As Rukmini Callimachi wrote on Twitter, “They claimed this attack in circa 2.5 hours. As far as attacks in West, this may be a record. Only 1 that comes close is Brussels airport. As far as attacks in West, this may be a record. Only 1 that comes close is Brussels airport. Despite popular perception, ISIS does *not* claim everything & they typically take up to 12 hrs.” I’d guess they claimed it quickly to be sure their name would be in the news for as many hours as possible before the election. 

France and Your Faithful Correspondent Go Insane


I don’t know how other journalists are even reading the news fast enough to make their deadlines right now. It’s easy enough to criticize the media; I do it all the time; I even do it more than anyone, I reckon. But this week all I can say is that I admire any colleague who managed to do the one thing a journalist has got to do to survive in this business: submit his report before the story’s no longer news.

I’ve been writing two pieces this week, one about last Sunday’s referendum in Turkey, the other about the upcoming election in France. I’ve worked to the point of near-tearful exhaustion on both, but neither are done. Nor, I fear, will either be finished before they’re no longer of use to any editor. So much has happened, so fast, and there is so much to explain, that I just can’t do it quickly enough. Those who can do it will be published; and even if their articles are riddled with errors of fact and interpretation or horrors of English prose, it is only right that theirs will be published and mine will not, because editors do need to fill their pages with something, after all. They can’t wait for writers like me to figure out how to compress my frantic thoughts about the history, the drama, the complexity, the personalities, the sheer weirdness of these epic events into “Five Facts You Need to Know Today” — and I can’t even blame them for it. The chief attribute you need to succeed in journalism is the ability to get 800 readable words on an editor’s desk before the day’s end, every single day, and I don’t have it. When yesterday Theresa May yesterday announced her plan to call a snap call a snap general election, my first thought was that another election was going to do me in — and I didn’t just mean the stress of living through it, I meant the prospect of explaining it.

So all I can say is thank God — and thank you — that I have a book to write, because it means that what I’ve written won’t be wasted. To everyone who’s made this book a possibility, I am truly grateful: The thought that none of what I wrote will be wasted is all that’s keeping me from staggering off the ledge into madness along with everyone else I’m writing about.

Easter Sunday Photos of Paris


The light, alas, wouldn’t quite cooperate with me, and it was much colder out than I expected. I didn’t have a sweater with me, so I didn’t stay out long enough to catch everyone coming out of church in their Easter best. But as I promised MarciN, here are flowers, gardens, springtime, and Easter treats from my neighborhood in Paris. Taken just a few minutes ago.

Happy Easter to one and all!

Politics and the English Language


I’ve been working all week on a very, very serious article about the upcoming French election and its significance to the world. I was planning to share the highlights of my week’s worth of Deep Thoughts About French Politics with you this morning, but a) The article’s still not finished; b) It occurred to me that maybe you aren’t anywhere near as interested in this election as I am, which would be quite understandable; c) It’s the weekend; and d) I just found these videos and they’re hilarious. 

So: The newsroom at France24, which I assume is staffed by native English speakers, is very smug about how much better their English is than France’s politicians. To the horror of the Académie française, I’m sure, young French people tend to think speaking English is really cool, and those who can lord it over those who can’t — and that’s most of them. This by the way is for real linguistic reasons that it would take me too long to explain in detail; it has to do with the narrowness of the French phonetic target — by the time he or she is an adult, a native French speaker’s oral musculature is just too weak to make a wide range of the very strange sounds English-speakers make; it’s not because they’re lazy; they do try hard, but if you don’t get them young, they’ll just never be able to pronounce words like “they.” It’s not their fault: The “θ” sound really is the linguistic equivalent of a Flying Disco Drop three-ball juggling cascade:

Claire Berlinski, Ed.

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