The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Paying Attention to the Most Provocative Young People Never Turns Out Well

Lauren Duca (Women in the World/via YouTube)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Sure, we can kick around some of the most infamous controversy-courting Millennial wunderkinder, but they don’t represent their generation; perhaps it’s time to hold those big institutions accountable for their choices about hiring, promoting, and spotlighting the edgiest and most provocative young people; Israel’s latest election results don’t clear up much; Nancy Pelosi and Jerrold Nadler are getting angrier with each other; and the hard truths that presidential candidates are reluctant to face.

God Save Us from the Controversy-Courting Famous Wunderkinder

BuzzFeed offers an eye-opening profile of Lauren Duca, the young feminist columnist for Teen Vogue who rocketed to a certain level of fame after a confrontational interview with Tucker Carlson and who New York University selected to teach a six-week journalism course for both high school and college students about “The Feminist Journalist.” The portrait is a deeply unflattering one; as a teacher, she seems unprepared, self-absorbed, unprofessional, and basically offered students “a master class in [her] personal life.” Perhaps most disturbingly, Duca allegedly regularly berated and mistreated one foreign exchange student for whom English was her second language. Students sent a collective formal complaint to the heads of the NYU journalism school about Duca’s conduct, saying “We are disappointed at the department and NYU for hiring a professor with more interest in promoting her book than teaching a group of students eager to learn.”

You can be mad at Duca, but there’s another glaring question in this piece: How did NYU come to the conclusion this person would make a good teacher? Who did the university not select to teach a course on journalism in favor of Duca?

Elsewhere, in The Hollywood Reporter, the cast of HBO’s Girls get together to mark the end of the show and reveal that Lena Dunham was 23 years old when she sold Girls to HBO with “a page-and-a-half-long pitch that included nary a character nor a plot.” For those of you familiar with the television industry, this never happens. You may recall that Dunham went on to fame, fortune, and more than a little bit of controversy, particularly for her autobiography. She described childhood sexual acts in troubling ways, and a sexual assault in her college years that tiptoed up to the line of libel by using an allegedly random pseudonym and description that just happened to match a student at Oberlin a little too precisely.

Last week, The Cut, a website published by New York magazine, wrote a lengthy profile piece about Carolina Calloway, a 27-year-old “Instagram influencer” who once received a $375,000 book deal from Flatiron Publishing but who found she couldn’t finish the book, and who hosted a “creativity workshop” that reportedly didn’t deliver on its promises. She then went on to host another workshop she called, “The Scam.”

You’re familiar with Tomi Lahren, right? Conservative political commentator, started hosting her own television show on One America News Network at age 22. She’s the one with the new “athleisure” line of red, white, and blue, stars-and-stripes apparel entitled “Freedom” that is manufactured overseas. A few years ago, when asked what books most influenced her, Lahren responded, “I’m not a reader. I don’t read long books.” She has a new book out, Never Play Dead: How the Truth Makes You Unstoppable. It is 256 pages.

And when last we heard from Milo Yiannopoulos, he was banned from a Midwestern convention of “furries,” a gathering of people who enjoy dressing up in full-body animal costumes.

Millennials — and Generation Z, the generational border is a little fuzzy — get a lot of undeserved grief, in part because generations are largely defined by stereotypes. Only some of the members of the Greatest Generation went overseas to fight the Axis; only a fraction of the members of the Baby Boomers protested the Vietnam War and went to Woodstock; and only a small segment of the members of Generation X listened to Nirvana, were depressed when Kurt Cobain died, and went on to work at dot-coms.

Millennials have a wide variety of life experiences; they weren’t all suckered by the Fyre Festival, and they aren’t all obsessed by the actions of  “celebrity influencers,” or incapable of having a face to face conversation because they need to check their phones every five seconds. Perhaps the rise of social media accelerated the need to stand out in a crowd by saying and doing outrageous things. Or perhaps social media created sufficient financial incentive to make saying and doing outrageous things a lucrative career path, particularly with those who didn’t believe they had the brains, talent, or work ethic to achieve success on other paths.

We like to laugh and scoff at Olivia Jade Giannulli, the daughter of Lori Loughlin caught up the college admissions scandal. But she already had endorsement deals with Hewlett-Packard, Sephora, the online fashion retailer Lulus, Amazon, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Smashbox Beauty Cosmetics, Smile Direct Club, Too Faced Cosmetics, Boohoo, and Unilever’s TRESemmé. There are Super Bowl MVPs who don’t have that many endorsement deals!

When Giannulli sounded insufferably entitled and declared, “I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend. I do want the experience of like game days, partying . . . I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know” . . . think about her life experiences up to that point. If your kids had lined up endorsement deals with eleven companies by the age of 19, how enthusiastic would they be about studying? If they were getting paid money to mention products in their social-media feed, do you think you could still get them to prioritize hitting the books for that chemistry test?

There are a lot of bright young people with big dreams out there, and the vast majority of them are willing to work hard. Many are smart, many are talented, many are willing to devote a relentless focus to the task at hand and demonstrate a tireless dedication to doing the job before them well. Many see life as more than just an endless series of opportunities for self-promotion. You just don’t hear much about them, because they’re too busy working and doing what they’re supposed to do to. They don’t become the subject of juicy profile pieces laying out their worst decisions and scandals.

But big institutions have a choice in who they select to hire, promote, and spotlight. Maybe, just maybe, rewarding the edgiest, most provocative, and controversial young people doesn’t generate the best results?

Come on, Israeli Voters, Make up Your Minds

So much for those latest Israeli elections clearing things up, huh?

Israeli politics now appears all-but-deadlocked and destined for complex negotiations between the two main parties and the smaller parties over possible coalition arrangements.

Addressing his Blue and White party supporters in Tel Aviv a few hours after the polls closed, Gantz struck a tone of measured optimism, saying that an era of “polarization and antagonism” now lay in the past with “unity and reconciliation” being the way forward.

Gantz said contacts with other parties to build what he described as a “broad unity government” had already started.

“I intend to talk to everybody, starting tonight,” he said.

Netanyahu meanwhile, was hoarse as he addressed his Likud Party supporters, neither claiming victory nor conceding defeat.

I know lots of people insist they like the multiparty parliamentary system, but you always seem to end up with coalition governments that are cobbled-together from factions that have almost nothing in common with each other. “The new majority European Union Parliament coalition includes the Christian Democrats, the Swedish Donald Duck Party, the Polish Good Humor Party, the Italian Partito dell’Amore, Hungarian Two-tailed Dog Party, and the Norwegian Beer Unity Party.” (Those were all real parties, by the way, although most were jokes or political stunts.)

Pelosi to Nadler: Your Ego Is Writing Checks That This Caucus Can’t Cash

In a battle of Nancy Pelosi vs. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, my money’s on Pelosi: “Pelosi criticized the panel’s handling of impeachment in harsh terms, complaining committee aides have advanced the push for ousting President Donald Trump far beyond where the House Democratic Caucus stands. Democrats simply don’t have the votes on the floor to impeach Trump, Pelosi said. “And you can feel free to leak this,” Pelosi added, according to multiple people in the room.”

If you want an impeachment process to be taken seriously, don’t begin it by inviting Corey Lewandowski to testify. At CNN, Elie Honig puts a tough question to lawmakers who support impeachment:

House Democrats essentially have conceded the Mueller report is not enough — perhaps politically more than legally — and there needs to be something more to proceed. But there very likely won’t be evidence relating to Russian interference or obstruction beyond what’s already in the Mueller report. House Democrats have set themselves up for failure.

Moving forward, House Democrats need to address this question squarely: Is the conduct in the Mueller report enough to impeach? If so, then why are we wasting time with the kind of absurd hearing we saw on Tuesday? 

ADDENDA: Somebody’s going to win this Democratic presidential nomination — probably Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren — but boy, has it been fun to watch some once-promising Democrats crash and burn. Kirsten Gillibrand’s already out, Julian Castro now looks like a jerk, Beto O’Rourke looks like a joke, and Kamala Harris is at 6 percent in her home state, behind Andrew Yang! Maybe this will discourage some of the no-hopers the next time around. The shame isn’t in running and losing; the shame is in believing your own hype, not being able to see yourself clearly, and jumping into the race unprepared.

Running for president is hard. Being “pretty good” is never good enough to get the nomination. Candidates are never as well-known as they think they are, their accomplishments never wow audiences the way they think — “in the House, I introduced a bill to—” — and their grandiose promises slam into a wall of well-justified skepticism. In the eyes of the average potential Iowa caucus-goer, you’re just another guy, and they’ve met dozens of guys just like you running for president over the years. Those other also-rans are barely remembered . . . and the odds are good you’ll barely be remembered, too.

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