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Free Press reporter Olivia Reingold surrounded and blocked by protesters in New York. (The Free Press)

The Mobs in Our Streets and Our Mission

What kind of country do you want America to be? At The Free Press, we won't stand for one in which journalists are threatened for doing their jobs.

Bari here.

We have a packed Front Page for you today. We have Nellie Bowles and Joe Nocera facing off in a TFP Fight Club about Elon Musk’s payday. Oliver Wiseman on Sinwar’s text messages. Eli Lake on the Hunter Biden verdict. And much more.

But first, an update from our newsroom. 

Perhaps you’ve already seen the videos circulating on social media of our reporter Olivia Reingold surrounded in downtown Manhattan by a mob of people screaming for intifada and tearing her notebook. “She’s a Zionist!” shouted a masked man wearing a Hezbollah flag fashioned as a headscarf. “Get her out of here.”

This image will give you a sense of the scene:

(The Free Press)

As expected, Olivia was a pro—she captured what she could over the course of an hour, filed an incident report with the NYPD, and then sat down to publish this account of what happened. The next day, she was hard at work on her next story. 

But it’s worth pausing on this moment—when our brilliant colleague was harassed for doing her job—to remind you of our mission, of the stakes of that mission, and also to explain why, over the past eight months, we’ve devoted so many resources to covering the fallout from October 7 not just in the Middle East but across the West.

From our earliest days—back when we were Common Sense, shout-out to the OGs that have been here since the start—we have had a clear north star. The Free Press exists to report on the world as it actually is. We do so with doggedness and independence. And we deliver to our readers the quality once expected from the legacy press, but with the fearlessness of the new. 

To us, that mission is as old-school as it gets. But we accept that in our upside-down moment, it can seem controversial or radical. That’s ok by us. We focus on our journalism.

The way we do our work is straightforward: we stick to our principles no matter what. We have a list of them. Today felt like a good day to share them with you:

Honesty: We seek and report the truth. We tell it plainly when we uncover it, even when it’s politically inconvenient.

Curiosity: For others, curiosity has become a liability. At The Free Press, we believe an open mind is fundamental to doing good journalism. 

Respect: We assume good faith. We treat each other, our readers, and our sources with the utmost respect. 

Hard Work: Great journalism takes hard work, and we embrace it. We require the old-fashioned reporter skill set—empathy, courage, ingenuity, and drive—from everyone on our team.

Independence: We are proudly not a political monolith. Independence isn’t just a journalistic value for us; it’s also fundamental to the way we are building our business. 

Excellence: We take tremendous pride in being best-in-class. We have faith that success will follow if we focus relentlessly on delivering an excellent product to our audience every day.

Common Sense: We encourage each other to think for ourselves and change our minds when we encounter new information.

Belief in the American Project: Our reporting and opinion can be harshly critical of our country and its leaders, but that is because we believe deeply in America and its promise. We prize the distinctions between democracy and dictatorship, good and evil, the rule of law and mob rule, freedom and unfreedom. 

It is those last points—about the distinction between the rule of law and mob rule, about the bright line between freedom and unfreedom—that take me back to what happened to our reporter yesterday in Union Square.

That incident was not about Israel or Gaza. It was about an assault—now daily—on the most basic norms of our culture.

Are we going to become a country in which journalists are regularly surrounded and threatened for doing their jobs? Are we going to become a place in which marauding bands of masked young people harass Jews visiting a memorial for the 364 Israelis murdered at a music festival? Because that happened yesterday too. Are we going to become a place where it is normal for people to get on the subway and declare: “Raise your hands if you’re a Zionist. This is your chance to get out.” Yes, also yesterday. Or where police and security guards are regularly assaulted in the course of doing their jobs? (See this from UCLA last night.)

My point here is that anyone trying to convince you that this is about a faraway war, or that the anger in our streets is mostly because Benjamin Netanyahu is the current Israeli prime minister—anyone who insists this is a Jewish issue—is deluding you and themselves. So are those who comfort themselves by insisting that this will pass by like some idiot wind. It will not. 

This is about a choice we face. A choice about what kind of country we want to be—and what kind of country we are at risk of becoming. The only way to understand that is to listen to what these protesters say they want. And what they are shouting for—what they openly desire—is not peace, but terror.

If we had just read Twitter or the headlines in many major newspapers about peace protesters, we wouldn’t have understood that. It was only by getting out into the streets, by listening carefully and documenting plainly, that we were able to make sense of what was really unfolding—and helped us understand the stakes.

That, in the end, is the reason that we have published so much about the war that began in Israel on October 7—and that began spreading across the West on October 8. We don’t plan to stop. 

So if you believe in what we are doing at The Free Press—and if the principles we hold ourselves to resonate with you—please consider supporting our work. 

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The protesters who harassed Olivia Reingold and people across New York yesterday brand themselves as “pro-Palestine.” But what are they doing to help actual Palestinians? 

For the answer to that question we turn to Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, the author of our second story today. Ahmed is a Gazan now living in the United States. In December, he lost 29 family members in an Israeli air strike. A total of 31 of his relatives have died in the war so far. Here is how his piece begins:

The conflict in Gaza has put my family through hell. Our family’s home in Gaza City was hit by an Israeli air strike a week into the war, injuring several uncles and cousins on my dad’s side, and killing two. My brother’s family walked away from the rubble with minor injuries. But since then, they’ve been displaced eight times as they’ve made their way from Gaza City in the north to Khan Yunis, eventually reaching Rafah, where my mom’s family house has always been—effectively my second home.

That home was hit by an air strike in mid-December, just weeks before they arrived in Rafah. The attack killed twenty-nine of my relatives. All five of my aunts and uncles perished, as did most of my cousins. Those who made it out had the grim task of digging through the wreckage, pulling out the burnt and disfigured bodies of family members.

Whenever I share this story, people assume I must be consumed with rage, eager to get revenge on those responsible. I must despise all Israelis and consider them my sworn enemies.

Despite my deep frustration and resentment with the Israeli government’s action and the ongoing war in Gaza, I don’t. If anything, I’m more critical of some pro-Palestinian activists, many of whom are making things worse. In fact, I’d argue that some aren’t all that interested in the well-being of Palestinians.

Read on for more from Ahmed on why Western activists aren’t helping. 

  1. A Bill Gates–backed energy company has started construction on a nuclear power plant that the Microsoft co-founder believes will “revolutionize” energy production. TerraPower broke ground in Wyoming on the first in a new wave of nuclear plants that are smaller, cheaper, and cleaner. (AP

  2. Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, and for years it was seen as a success story for decriminalization. But its once-thriving weed industry is now in trouble—and it’s not just because people are smoking less weed. (Politico)

  3. Russian warships were off the coast of Florida on Tuesday, with U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships following closely behind. The Russian flotilla is reportedly on its way to Cuba. Who had Cuban Missile Crisis 2.0 on their bingo card for 2024? (New York Post

  4. A luxury penthouse apartment in Manchester, England, has been named after Friedrich Engels, the co-author of The Communist Manifesto. “The Engels” is listed for $3 million and features three en suite bedrooms, a home office, and a radical-chic open-plan living space. (The Guardian

  5. Kevin Spacey gave his most candid and emotional interview since being cleared of sexual harassment allegations. Talking to Piers Morgan, Spacey broke down in tears, said he’s “broke,” and admitted to “being too handsy.” (Piers Morgan Uncensored)

  6. Can anything be done to protect our politics from ever-escalating lawfare? Jason Willick looks at the ways Congress could help separate the courts from politics. (Washington Post

  7. A new report by the events company Eventbrite finds that Zoomers and millennials are hungry for more in-person dating and are fed up with messaging their suitors online. Attendance at singles and dating events is up 42 percent from 2022 to 2023. (WUSA9) We’re still working on a Free Press singles night, but in the meantime, send your lonely hearts entries to cupid@thefp.com.

  8. “What happens when trigger warnings need spoiler warnings?” Ah, that age-old question. (Variety)

  9. Joey Chestnut has been banned from competing in this year’s July 4 hot dog–eating contest. Major League Eating says Chestnut, who has won the event eight years in a row, cannot compete because he has signed a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, which makes vegetarian dogs and competes with Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, the event’s sponsor. Some say let the hot dog GOAT get his bag. We say: choosing a check from a plant-based hot dog maker over Fourth of July festivities is tantamount to treason. (ESPN

  10. Vegan activists have vandalized the official portrait of the King of England, to protest the perceived failures of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The painting received mixed reviews when it was unveiled a few months ago. Suzy Weiss loved it, but another art critic suggested the blood-red coloring evoked the royal family’s “history and ties to colonialism and imperialism.” So some might see the current version, featuring a well-known cheese-loving cartoon character, as an improvement. (BBC)

Tomorrow, Tesla shareholders will vote on whether to approve a $56 billion payday for CEO Elon Musk. If it goes through, it will be the largest compensation package ever granted to an executive at a listed American company. 

The imminent shareholder vote got us talking in the Free Press newsroom. Beyond the complicated legal battle over his pay packet, does Musk deserve the sum? Is his payday an extreme example of corporate greed? Or is it the payout on a crazy—but fair—bet? 

To settle the matter, Nellie Bowles and Joe Nocera step into the Fight Club ring. The question: Should Tesla pay Elon Musk $56 billion? 

Nellie says yes: “He made a wild bet on himself and on Tesla, and he won.”

Joe says no: “The idea that Musk somehow ‘deserves’ the biggest CEO compensation award in the history of the world is ludicrous.” 

Click here for the full showdown.

→ Sinwar says the quiet part out loud: An extraordinary Wall Street Journal investigation published this week reveals the wartime correspondence of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. The messages to compatriots and negotiations from his hiding place somewhere deep underneath Gaza reveal the twisted calculus driving the terrorist group. 

The Journal reports that his messages show “a cold disregard for human life and made clear he believes Israel has more to lose from the war than Hamas.” In one, Sinwar calls civilian deaths in Gaza “necessary sacrifices.” In a letter to Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh after three of Haniyeh’s adult sons were killed by an Israeli air strike, he said that their deaths—and the deaths of other Palestinians—would “infuse life into the veins of this nation, prompting it to rise to its glory and honor.”

These missives will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Sinwar’s tactics and Hamas’s ideology. In 2018, Sinwar supported weekly protests at the border between Gaza and Israel precisely because Israeli soldiers would fire on agitators close to the fence. “We make the headlines only with blood,” he said in an interview from the time, quoted in the Journal story. “No blood, no news.” 

Sinwar is a delusional fanatic. (His lieutenants were making detailed plans to carve up a conquered Israel ahead of October 7.) But he has stuck to his darkly ruthless “no blood, no news” strategy throughout this war. Unfortunately, it has worked. The communications revealed by the Journal demonstrate what has been obvious since the start of the conflict: that Hamas knows civilian casualties make for good PR. And keep Sinwar’s cruel calculus in mind whenever you read about cease-fire negotiations or the obstacles to peace in Gaza.
Oliver Wiseman 

→ Hunter fought the law and the law (only just) won: When Donald Trump was convicted earlier this month of falsifying business records to conceal a sexual encounter with a porn star, he attacked a “rigged” justice system. This is what President Biden had to say about Hunter’s conviction: “I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal.” 

For Democrats campaigning on Trump’s threat to democracy, the contrast couldn’t be clearer. Trump loses in court and attacks the system. Hunter loses in court and his dad says he will respect the process. 

But the case is not that simple. To start, Hunter Biden, faced with the charge of lying on an application for a gun permit about his drug use, almost got away with an absurdly cushy plea deal. Nearly a year ago, Judge Maryellen Noreika peppered Hunter’s lawyers and prosecutors with questions that unraveled a plea agreement where the president’s son would admit only to a misdemeanor. The public and the judge learned that Hunter’s lawyers believed the agreement would shield him from any future prosecutions from the Justice Department at all. 

Noreika did not accept the plea agreement, which paved the way for the trial that wrapped up on Tuesday. So, yes, the initial plea agreement does look like favored treatment for Hunter. His conviction last week is a result of a judge effectively voiding that agreement. 

It turns out that Justice Department lawyers had stymied a separate Hunter investigation, according to Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, two IRS whistleblowers who testified last year before Congress. They said that the prosecutors “slow-walked” a probe into his tax affairs. 

Hunter’s gun case is the least of his legal troubles. Evidence found on his abandoned laptops as well as by congressional investigations have shown him lobbying on behalf of a Chinese investment bank and a Ukrainian energy company. The president’s son never registered as a foreign agent. Hunter has not been charged with violating that law. 

Hunter, like Trump, has more court dates coming up. He will still have to stand trial in Los Angeles for not paying his taxes. In the end, he will be held to account for more of his reckless behavior. But this is not the clean vindication of the Justice Department that the Democratic Party would claim. If a Delaware judge hadn’t shamed federal prosecutors a year ago, Hunter would be free and clear today. —Eli Lake

→ All teens are one degree from First-Degree Malicious Mischief: Yesterday, I wrote in The Free Press that depictions of gay and trans “oppression” in Florida are hyperbolic—and at odds with my own experience as a gay man living in the Panhandle. This is true in the opposite corner of the nation as well. Three teenagers in Spokane, Washington, have been charged with “first-degree malicious mischief” for creating skid marks on a Progress Pride flag mural using rented electric scooters. Lime, the company who owns the scooters, has since announced that it will deactivate the scooters when they drive over the mural. “At a time when our teams at Lime are beginning Pride celebrations around the globe,” the company said in a statement, “it is disturbing to see the hate taking place in Spokane.”

Allegations that the act was “homophobic” are ridiculous. It’s a bit of rubber. These are teenagers. Besides, the Progress Pride flag doesn’t represent gay people—it represents late-2010s cultural leftism. The original Pride flag was ugly enough, then the Progress Pride flag was created in 2018 to incorporate elements of the trans flag—and, for some reason, black and brown people, most of whom aren’t gay or trans.

If convicted, the teens could be sentenced to two to six months in prison—which wouldn’t be great for gay people’s image. It makes us look like petty authoritarians. Let kids be kids. —River Page

Donald recommends watching old movies this summer and offers one to start with: The Best Years of Our Lives, which won Best Picture at the 1946 Oscars, seems to be slipping out of memory. It portrays the return of three World War II veterans and is one of the greatest American films ever. If you’re not moved, you have a heart of stone.

LeAnne recommends Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and more stoicism via The Daily Stoic: I can’t claim that this alone has kept me from happily driving myself over a cliff, but it certainly has helped!

Free Pressers help Free Pressers. Send your recommendations to thefrontpage@thefp.com. 

Bari Weiss is the editor of The Free Press. Oliver Wiseman will be back at the helm of The Front Page tomorrow.

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