Steven Spielberg speaking at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International, for ‘Ready Player One.’ (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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Introducing Reading the Globe, a new original weekly podcast produced by AudioHopper. Every Thursday, host Michael Washburn summarizes, synthesizes and criticizes the week’s most important and fascinating stories. This week, Reading the Globe considers:

The crackdown on press freedom in Hong Kong. As reported in the Economist’s new issue of June 19, 2021, the so-called national security law that China forced on Hong Kong a year ago has led to one of the most aggressive crackdowns on press freedom in living memory. Police have arrested Ryan Law, editor of the Apple Daily newspaper, and conducted a massive raid on the publication’s offices, seizing phones, laptops, notebooks, and other items that supposedly might furnish evidence of collaboration between Apple Daily and sinister foreign organizations, movements, and individuals who hold bizarre and dangerous ideas about democracy, respect for the rights of dissidents, and freedom of the press.  The Economist article also mentions the fate of pro-democracy politician Claudia Mo, whom Chinese authorities arrested under the new law on the pretext of remarks she had made to foreign journalists.

The law school of the University of Illinois at Chicago has taken the step of dropping the name of John Marshall, the fourth SCOTUS chief justice. The reason for this step has to do with Marshall’s problematic record on slavery and his ownership of slaves. But history is always more complex than some would like it to be. National Review’s editorial points out Marshall’s brave service in the Union army, and opines, “Outside the union, or in a structurally weak one, slavery would have persisted for decades longer than it did. The conclusion of the Gettysburg Address echoes McCulloch v. Maryland for good reason.”

San Francisco’s crime problem is due, at least according to another editorial, to San Francisco’s district attorney Chesa Boudin largely refused to go after petty crimes like shoplifting. This refusal is in keeping with the spirit of a 2014 proposition that made thefts of property worth under $950 a misdemeanor in California. The result? A shoplifting epidemic that led to the closing of 17 Walgreens stores around the city in the past half decade.

The Wall Street Journal features a lengthy cover story about French president Emmanuel Macron’s aggressive enforcement of a national law regarding laicité, or the official secularism of the French polity. Dating back to 1905, when France was unrecognizably different culturally and demographically from what it is today, the law has emerged as one of President Macron’s most useful and important tools in his efforts to rein in what he regards as the outsized influence of mosques in fostering a culture wholly at odds with the traditional French one and spreading rhetoric that sometimes leads to violence.

Eric Adams’ strong performance in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for New York City mayor reveals a city much more concerned with law and order than many expected from the progressive metropolis. On Tuesday, June 22, the New York Post ran a front-page story endorsing Adams in the primary, whose results were unambivalent. Adams got 31% of the vote, progressive Maya Wiley got 22%, and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, with a paltry 12%, threw in the towel and exited the race. According to the Post, as a former cop, Adams understands the imperatives of public safety and knows exactly what stopping criminals in their tracks and saving lives really entails.

Finally, has Steven Spielberg sold his soul? An article in the New York Daily News on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, details how, after having expressed concerns about the challenge that Netflix poses to cinemas, and after having denied that movies available for streaming and enjoying limited or no theatrical release should be eligible to win Oscars, Spielberg has entered into a partnership with Netflix. Spielberg’s production firm, Amblin Partners, will work with Netflix to develop feature films.

By Michael Washburn

Michael Washburn is a Brooklyn-based writer and journalist. He is the author of the short story collections Scenes from the Catastrophe (2016), The Uprooted and Other Stories (2018), When We're Grownups (2019), and Stranger, Stranger (2020). Michael's story "Confessions of a Spook" won Causeway Lit's 2018 fiction contest.