The Death of the Author and the End of Empathy

The Death of the Author and the End of Empathy
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

In 2015, President Obama described the Nation as more than a magazine—it's a crucible of ideas. If it was ever entitled to this descriptor, it isn't anymore. Academic identity politics may be importing an obsession with phantom victimhood into the business world and the media, but The Nation's editors are now taking aim at language itself, reducing the complexity of human communication to a primitive understanding of words. In late July, the magazine's poetry editors issued a groveling apology for a poem they had published earlier that month. How-To, by Anders Carlson-Wee, was an ironic critique of social hierarchies, couched as a manual for successful panhandling: If you got hiv, say aids. If you a girl,/say you're pregnant, the poem opened. It went on to suggest begging gambits for other presumed outsider groups, including the handicapped: If you're crippled don't/flaunt it. Let em think they're good enough/Christians to notice. The poem, in its entirety, reads as follows: If you got hiv, say aids. If you a girl, say you're pregnant—nobody gonna lower themselves to listen &

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