Smart Ideas: The Alt-Right Versus Public Space

Rescue personnel help an injured woman after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday.
AP Photo/Steve Helber
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Aug. 14, 2017, 8 p.m.

Charlottesville was an attack on the public square as a concept

Kriston Capps, writing for CityLab After Saturday’s terrorist attack in Charlottesville, a tactic widespread in other countries has come to the U.S.: using the public square, “an amenity that is both scarce and necessary for democracy,” for terror. Perpetrating it on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, “one of the few car-free pedestrian malls in America that has lasted for decades” and the site of regular protests relating to the Robert E. Lee statue, highlights that the Unite the Right rally “was in some sense about public space. Its organizers aim to defend a statue that affirms their history, one that affirms white supremacy as official power. They also engaged in a legal battle to stage the protest in their park of choice, Emancipation Park. … But the alt-right’s fight is also with public space. Fascism rejects the free flow of speech and ideas. It is an attack on the public sphere. Saturday proved that.”

Tax credits for filming should be done away with

Steven Malanga, writing for the Los Angeles Times

State and local tax incentives for film and TV production, originally created to prevent studios filming abroad for cost savings, are a racket that has turned into a multi-billion-dollar bonanza for Hollywood. “States were giving away about $1.5 billion to Hollywood annually by 2010, up from less than $100 million in 2002.” The fact that on-location filming doesn’t require any physical investment “lets Hollywood executives shop for the best deal available on one film or season of a TV series and then go somewhere else if there’s an even better deal. This mobility makes it possible for producers to hold a state hostage, economically speaking,” as seen when House of Cards extracted better incentives from the Maryland legislature. Perhaps worst of all, these incentives don’t create local jobs: “A Michigan analysis of film subsidies estimated that nearly half the money that productions in the state expended went elsewhere almost immediately; producers, it turned out, hired experienced out-of-state firms that moved workers into Michigan for the filming and then quickly left.”

A production crew prepares to film a scene for the television series Dallas at Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas on Feb. 5, 2014. AP Photo/LM Otero

The promises—and perils—of solar geoengineering

Robinson Meyer, writing for The Atlantic

Both Harvard and Beijing Normal University have recently announced research programs into solar geoengineering—the idea that we can mitigate the planet’s warming by limiting the amount of sunlight that enters the atmosphere. At a recent conference in Maine, experts in the field seemed to agree that spraying reflective aerosols “into the sky at high altitudes” seems to be the most promising technique to achieve this goal. “There are plenty of natural precedents for stratospheric aerosols, too—volcanoes have gone off hundreds of time during human history—and they see it as the most reversible and easy to model.” That’s not to say that dispersing gasses in the atmosphere wouldn’t create problems. “Because the equator receives stronger, more frequent sunlight than the poles, stratospheric aerosols would chill the tropics more than they would the higher latitudes,” and “overdosing” might be required to cool the arctic regions and stave off ice loss. Such treatments could also “create even nastier water-cycle problems” by cooling “the continents more than they cool the oceans, equalizing the normal pressure difference between land and sea—and, in turn, killing the seasonal monsoons of Asia and Africa. Food prices worldwide would skyrocket.”

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