But much of the story, as insiders tell it, will ring disconcertingly familiar to anyone involved in the modern news industry. It’s a tale of a precarious business model, a roller coaster of explosive growth and cruel contraction, mercurial corporate ownership, and journalists forced to produce work so shoddy and craven that they were embarrassed to attach their name to it, all in the name of “saving the company”—and their jobs. At a time when Google and Facebook have become the prime conduits to online news, Newsweek’s downfall highlights the existential vulnerability of even the best-known media brands to the whims of tech companies’ algorithms. It also suggests something more chilling: how quickly a reputable news organization can disintegrate in the hands of the wrong owners.
It's hard to think of a writer of his generation who has more defined the American male's perception of himself, for better or worse, than David Mamet. This is perhaps not the best period in our history to be that person, but it makes his writing particularly noteworthy. The 1992 film adaptation of his play, "Glengarry Glen Ross," has become the fountainhead of so much male bonding vocabulary that we've wearied of the "Coffee's for closers," "Third place is you're fired," and, of course, "Always Be Closing," that each generation of fraternity boys and young financial service professionals seems to discover anew. By now, aided by the ascension of a salesman absurdum to the highest office in the land, generations of young men speak these lines as gospel instead of satire. Mamet's new novel, "Chicago," is as linguistically rich as "Glengarry Glen Ross" — in fact, as any of his previous work in any medium.
Pinker speaks fondly of the gifts of the Enlightenment. And there were many. But the Enlightenment also gave us habits of mind, among them the habit of thinking that the human experience can be aligned along a single axis of progress. Pinker’s gift is to challenge us not only to update the Enlightenment but to think beyond it.