Lesson 3: A New Yorker Blog About WikiLeaks, And Presidential Phrases
Amy Davidson’s post about the WikiLeaks Guantanamo release is an excellent example of writing short, with feeling—and meaning. One reason so many of the New Yorker blogs work well with the magazine’s content is that they give its readers what they expect: quality. Viewpoint. And that essential (and rigorously effortless) literary-ness. We like what Davidson did here because it makes us want to read her more, and also reminded us to look behind her references.
An excerpt from her post reads:
Here’s another question: why didn’t Obama declassify these documents himself? His Administration has professed to be frustrated at its inability to convey to the public, early on, why Guantánamo should be closed. (See Eric Holdier’s press conference last month for an example.) Might it have helped if Obama had pointed to close-up pictures of the fourteen-year old, or the taxi driver, and really told their stories? He can be good at that, after all. Maybe it wouldn’t have been enough; maybe, clumsily handled, it could have backfired. But it could have shifted the narrative, and it would have been true. Instead, Obama never effectively challenged the image of Guantánamo as a sort of Phantom Zone of super villains, rather than the humiliating hodgepodge it is. When confronted with scare tactics, his Administration, as the Washington Post recounted in a long piece Saturday, retreated again and again; and then it just gave up. The White House feared the fear itself.
“The White House feared the fear itself” is true, and the line’s reference—to FDR’s first Inaugural Address, and having “nothing to fear but fear itself,” is a perfect not-hot link. It is a phrase with meaning for most, but maybe not all readers, but certainly for the ones that matter: those who voted in the last election. Getting the reference, they will think of FDR, and maybe they’ll re-read what he said that day, and then reconsider the meaning of the phrase, now almost dull with overuse.
The Lesson: A Wise Reference Is Better Than A Cool Link
Here is the entire quote from Roosevelt’s speech:
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
History will teach us a lot. When a writer makes a point with a perfect historical reference, it resonates. It is memorable, like the finest speeches are memorable. They are not only recorded in our history books but also repeated around many of our dinner tables. We are grateful for being reminded of this one now; what was said then still applies.
Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.
- A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
- The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
- This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.
- Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
- These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
- The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.
- Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
- Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
- Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.