Alana Newhouse: The Smart Read

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Alana Newhouse, editor-in-chief of Tablet, shares the three smartest things she read this week.

Playboy Goes West by Rachel Shteir, Prospect Magazine
After six decades in Chicago, Playboy Enterprises recently moved its operation to Los Angeles, and Rachel Shtier was there for the going-away party. In this piece, Shtier offers a brilliant double-dissection: of Playboy’s role as a Midwest institution, but also of how the magazine’s very Midwesterness enabled it to become a national icon and a journalistic pioneer. Shtier gives the magazine deserved critical credit, not just for past contributions—like the legendary Playboy interview, which “gave thousands of words to heads of state and literary figures”—but also for how much high-level journalism and fiction the magazine still runs. There’s bitter irony here: While arguing that Playboy ending its Chicago run with barely a notice “speaks to the increasing irrelevance of magazines,” Shtier turns out a classic of the form. Some of us are still holding out hope for the sunnier climes.

I want to live in Amercia! How Mitt Romney’s iPhone app typo explains the Internet by Virginia Heffernan, Yahoo! News
Twitter typos are not simply digital Freudian slips, as Virginia Heffernan incisively points out; these ostensibly accidental finger swipes represent for some a genuine language—one that politicians (and others) would do well to learn. In this piece—two parts cultural criticism, one part inspired political strategy—Heffernan solidifies herself as the Rosetta Stone Immersion Course for the Internet, spoonfeeding Romney campaign staffers a blueprint not only for understanding “Amercia” but for successfully reaching it. Odds they’ll listen: Slim. Consequence for them: Likely enormous. (Bonus entry that doubles as bipartisan ass-covering: Spine-tingling collection of creepy Obama campaign email subject lines, from the Hairpin.)

Nazi Collaborators or Victims? by Michael C. Moynihan, Tablet
In what seemed at first like a straightforward gaffe, Obama misspoke while presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week to Polish resistance hero Jan Karski. The president’s use of the term “Polish death camp”—later rescinded by a staffer—didn’t sit well with some Poles, who saw it as a denial of their own experience as Nazi victims. In short order, a fierce debate (and diplomatic firestorm) began whirling around definitions of and claims to victimhood. Of the many pundits who rushed in to opine, none achieved the historical nuance and moral muscularity of Michael Moynihan. “In upending one myth, let’s not consecrate another,” he warned, before closing with a necessary reminder: “victims can also be perpetrators.”

What are your recommended reads of the week? Tell us in the comments below.

Every Friday, “The Smart Read” will feature weekly highlights from a guest contributor.