Princeton University lecturer Shilo Brooks in his office May 17, 2024. (Alex S.K. Brown for The Free Press)

A Bull Market in the Humanities. Plus. . .

John Fetterman trashes Harvard. Vivek Ramaswamy’s bid for BuzzFeed. Bari at TED. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: Bari’s Ted Talk on courage. What is “racialized architecture”? John Fetterman trashes Harvard. Lonely hearts. And much more. 

But first, our lead story. 

The math nerds built our world, from the apps we use to get to work to the way we order our toilet paper. But with the rise of AI, are the coders set to become victims of their own success? Peter Thiel thinks so. In a recent conversation with Tyler Cowen, the PayPal co-founder predicted that the new technology would be “worse for the math people than for the word people.” What use is spending four years learning how to code when AI can do it all for you? 

The author Luke Burgis, echoing Thiel, predicts a “bull market in the humanities.” As he put it in a recent post on his Substack, “the humanities, rightly understood, are things that technology cannot take away or substitute for.” By the humanities, Burgis doesn’t mean the “ideological programs of cultural change” at elite universities. He means the humanities broadly understood as the study of history, philosophy, religion, language, and arts that explores “what it truly means to be human.” 

We may be in the middle of a technological revolution, but paradoxically, what’s timeless and ancient might be more valuable than what’s timely and modern. 

For the perfect example of that kind of education in action, look no further than the man we’re profiling today. Shilo Brooks runs a course at Princeton on statesmanship. It teaches the wisdom of great figures like Theodore Roosevelt and Frederick Douglass, and has quickly become one of the most popular classes at the Ivy League school. Here’s Francesca Block on the Princeton cowboy teaching kids about greatness:

Shilo Brooks is on a mission to teach Ivy League students how to read.

If the trend in academic life for the past few decades has been to skim hundreds of pages per day and then pick apart the past, Brooks wants to do something old-school that feels radical: he wants his students to absorb no more than fifty pages a week and see the big picture. And he’s doing it by bucking another trend: he’s embracing great men (and women).

And his message is resonating. When Brooks first debuted his elective course, “The Art of Statesmanship and the Political Life,” in the spring of 2023, just forty kids enrolled. This spring, more than 250 signed up, making it one of the most popular that semester, alongside major requirements like Introduction to Computer Science. 

Brooks said his course is a deep dive into the autobiographies and speeches from five famous historical figures whose stories show “a grit, a roughness, a rebelliousness, a refusal to conform, an emphasis on individuality that I want these students to see.” 

“I’m teaching more than just these books,” he added. “I’m teaching a way of making sure your spirit survives the pressures that are put on it and that you remain a unique individual.” Click for more words of wisdom from Shilo Brooks, Ivy League cowboy.

Free Press editor and CEO Bari Weiss addressed the annual TED conference in Vancouver last month. Watch Bari describe why courage is the most important virtue: 

  1. With jury deliberations underway in Trump’s hush money trial, National Review’s Andrew McCarthy predicts a conviction. Why? Because, “with the help of Judge Juan Merchan,” prosecutors have been able to skirt fatal flaws in their case. But also because Team Trump “has presented one of the most ill-conceived, self-destructive defenses I have ever seen.” (National Review

  2. Meanwhile, as Washington Post columnist Jason Willick notes, the prosecution is relying on its own version of election denial to secure a guilty verdict. “The linchpin of prosecutor Joshua Steinglass’s closing argument for convicting Donald Trump,” explains Willick, “was that he conspired ‘to manipulate and defraud the voters’ by suppressing damaging allegations of extramarital liaisons.” (Washington Post

  3. Israel announced it has established “operational control” of the so-called Philadelphi Corridor—which runs for 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) along the Gaza-Egypt border, a move the IDF says will help prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza by Hamas. Earlier in the day, a top Israeli official said Hamas likely won’t be defeated in Gaza until the end of the year. (Times of Israel

  4. A gun-rights YouTuber with no political experience came within a whisker of defeating Rep. Tony Gonzalez, the congressman whose Texas district includes Uvalde, where a school shooting killed 21 in 2022. Gonzalez, who voted for expanded background checks and other gun control measures, nearly lost his seat by a few hundred votes in the Republican primary runoff to Brandon Herrera, who goes by “The AK Guy” online. The margin is close enough for Herrera to ask for a recount. (Texas Tribune)

  5. J.K. Rowling is not backing down in her fight for women’s rights. “The thing is, those appalled by my position often fail to grasp how truly despicable I find theirs,” writes the Harry Potter author in a new essay about the gender debate in Scotland. (The Times)
    For the definitive deep dive into this story, listen to our podcast series: The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling

  6. Last year, the number of people executed globally increased to the highest level since 2015. “The huge spike in recorded executions was primarily down to Iran,” said Amnesty International’s secretary general. Some 853 Iranians were killed by the Islamic Republic in 2023, including five people who were children at the time they committed the crime. Twenty-four people were executed in the United States in 2023. (Amnesty International)

  7. Pyongyang is sending balloons full of excrement across the border to South Korea. Why? “They seem to want to test. . . how psychological warfare and small-scale complex threats would play out in our country,” said one South Korean official. We say: Kim Jong Un is putting the shit in shithousery. (Reuters

  8. Nonprofits are to blame for the decline of American cities, argues Jonathan Ireland in a persuasive, fascinating new essay. Come for the jaw-dropping examples of corruption and mismanagement, stay for the provocative critique of progressives from the left. (American Affairs)

  9. Donald Trump and Elon Musk have discussed the possibility of an advisory position in the Trump administration should he win reelection. Details of the role are reportedly still being hammered out but will likely involve input on the economy and border security. Another possibility: the “Undersecretary of Memes”? (Axios

  10. Summer is here, and as you prepare for your Instagrammable trip to the beach or a European adventure, Freya India issues an important reminder: your boyfriend is not your cameraman. (After Babel

In a recent installment of Ben Meets America, our intrepid correspondent Ben Kawaller brought us to West Hollywood, where the city council heard progressive NIMBYs protest affordable housing. Today, he meets the mayor of West Hollywood, John M. Erickson, to discuss why the city is funding training sessions that help understand “racialized architecture.” What exactly is racialized architecture, I hear you ask? Ben asked the mayor. Watch below to hear his answer:

→ John Fetterman trashes Harvard at Yeshiva’s commencement: At its graduation Wednesday, Yeshiva University—America’s “flagship Jewish university,” as its president, Rabbi Ari Berman, put it—honored Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman with its Presidential Medal for Global Leadership for his support of Israel.

Like the other administrators at Louis Armstrong Stadium in Flushing, Queens, Fetterman arrived at the ceremony wearing a black gown and a sash in the colors of his alma mater. In Fetterman’s case, that was crimson; he studied at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

He did not leave with it on.

Halfway through his brief remarks to the roughly 5,000 graduates, family members, and faculty in attendance, Fetterman said he was “profoundly disappointed” by “Harvard’s inability to stand up for the Jewish community after October 7. And for me, personally, I do not fundamentally believe that it’s right for me to wear this today.”

At which point the senator stripped the sash from his neck, prompting loud cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Since Hamas invaded Israel, killing 1,200 and kidnapping some 250, the Democrat from Pennsylvania has stood apart from his party in his backing of the Jewish state. While progressive Democrats have condemned Israel at every step of Israel’s war against Hamas, Fetterman has blazed the least popular path with young, left-wing voters. 

Yeshiva president Berman called Fetterman Israel’s “single greatest friend” in Washington.

When we spoke before the ceremony, I asked Fetterman, who is not Jewish, why he had made Israel his cause at the same time progressives, including many who worked on his 2022 campaign, were abandoning it. 

“There’s nothing brave about what I’m doing,” Fetterman told me. “It’s actually been very easy, for lack of a better word, because of what they did on October 7.”

He added: “I’m not a soldier in Gaza. I’m not an innocent Palestinian caught in the middle of this. I’m just a senator, and I have my position and my voice, and that’s just been with Israel.”

Asked about Joe Biden’s apparent flip-flopping on the issue, providing Israel with weapons while threatening the country with an arms embargo, Fetterman admitted the president is in “a really tough situation.”

But, he said: “I do believe that the president is a strong ally of Israel.” He added that when push comes to shove, he believes Biden will come through. 

“I would just reference Lincoln when he was looking at reelection and the Civil War was going badly, and everybody thought that he was going to lose, and people were saying, ‘Well, you gotta negotiate with the South, and he’s like, ‘I can’t do that. This is the side that I believe in.’ ” Peter Savodnik

→ Citing Free Press reporting, lawmakers take action on union activism: Virginia Foxx, chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, proposed legislation in Congress on Tuesday that would require labor unions to inform their members “of their free speech rights.” Under the proposed law, union members would also be reminded that they have “the right not to pay dues or fees to the union” if the union conflicts with a member’s religious identity or if it engages in “nonrepresentational activity,” such as political activism.

The legislation comes in the wake of the committee’s investigation, which cited The Free Press’s reporting, into the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys. The ALAA is a union of public interest attorneys and advocates in the New York City area which passed a hotly disputed resolution for a cease-fire in Gaza back in December.

In March, The Free Press exposed the hostility directed toward Jewish members after the resolution passed. Hundreds of internal messages showed people calling their fellow members “fascist,” “deranged,” and “mentally disturbed,” among other insults, for supporting Israel. At least four Jewish members of the union who spoke to The Free Press said they contemplated quitting their jobs as a result, with one stating that they felt “scared when we walk in the door at work.”

David Smiley, a public defender and member of ALAA, told The Free Press that he was not fully informed of his rights to withhold dues to his union—and said he was excited to learn about the religious exemptions being proposed because “I don’t want my union dues going toward anti-Israel demonstrations.”

“I do like that Congress is taking note of the fact that unions are using their members’ funds to put toward causes that are contrary to their religious beliefs,” he said. “Seeking some form of relief for union members in that context, I think, is great.”
Francesca Block

→ 15 reasons why Vivek Ramaswamy could save BuzzFeed: In what sounds a bit like an AI-generated news story, former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has acquired an 8.4 percent stake in BuzzFeed, the once-feted, now–heavily indebted media company whose share price (hovering lately around 3 bucks) was down more than 90 percent from its December 2021 listing price when Ramaswamy bought in. 

Ramaswamy made a fortune as a biotech entrepreneur before entering politics, but now he is embracing a new role: activist media investor. In a letter to the embattled company’s board of directors, Ramaswamy, who is now BuzzFeed’s second largest Class A shareholder, proposed a series of changes. Some of these sound like good ideas: cutting costs at a company deep in the red seems sensible. Greater diversity of thought, both in BuzzFeed’s journalism (such as it is, these days) and its management, wouldn’t hurt. But BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti doesn’t exactly sound receptive to Ramaswamy’s ideas. Hiring Candace Owens, another of Ramaswamy’s proposals, seems like a less great idea.  

Ramaswamy also wants BuzzFeed to address head-on the issue of public distrust of the media and build a bold, distinctive brand committed to telling the truth. Here, too, Ramaswamy has a good point. But while Americans are understandably fed up with partisan media, is a party politician really the guy to fix the problem? It’s bad when Jen Psaki goes straight from the White House to a cushy gig hosting her own show at MSNBC. It’s also bad when a presidential candidate tries to fix the media ecosystem. A healthier political and media environment would be one in which politicians are politicians and the media is the media. Vivek—which team do you want to be on? 

Single Free Pressers, whether you’re looking for a guy in finance (trust fund, 6′5″, blue eyes) or a different flavor, drop us a line: Here are this week’s lonely hearts. If they sound up your alley, you know what to do. 

Annie Shapero, 45, Rome, Italy

I’m a 45-year-old woman, though I don’t look like it, act like it, or believe it, except for when the clothes I never threw away come back in fashion. I was born in Columbia, Missouri, to low-key Jewish parents who raised me in a culturally rich Midwestern oasis. I live in Rome, Italy—where I also spent my 20s, writing freelance and becoming a certified sommelier—but I have a home in Manhattan. 

I’m still a writer and an aspiring wine bar owner. Sometimes I run marathons, but I don’t love to train. You can wait for me at the finish line and then we can go out for dinner and drinks. 

I’d love to meet someone who values foreign-language learning and who longs to call multiple places home, is fit, energized, and not intimidated by a giant personality in a 5′2″, size-4 body. I have green eyes and wavy brown hair. 

Find me on Instagram (it’s a comprehensive portrayal) @anniedivino or drop me a line:

Olivia Sone, 28, Dallas, TX

My name is Olivia, and I am a 28-year-old corporate attorney living in Dallas, Texas. I write this while also watching the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee (the drama is unmatched, trust me).

I’m looking for a man in Dallas or NYC who matches my ambition and constant search for fun. Age, appearance, and other traditional criteria are of no concern to me. I love cocktails, men in cashmere sweaters, and—occasionally—participating in fights on X and in comments sections.

Reach me at

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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