The Tech Bros Who Banned Politics from the Office. Plus. . .

The NYT vs. Joe Biden. Frank Bruni on why everyone became a complainer. Columbia tries—and fails—to close the encampment. New merch! And more.

Welcome to The Front Page. Today from The Free Press: Frank Bruni on why everyone is complaining. Columbia tries—and fails—to close its encampment. Our immigration debate on Honestly. New Free Press merch. And more. 

But first, for our lead story, Michal Lev-Ram talks to the prophetic tech bros who kept politics out of their offices.

Earlier this month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai gave short shrift to employees who “occupied” company offices to protest contracts with the Israeli government. It was the latest sign of a major correction underway in Silicon Valley. In 2020, tech leaders embraced activism—today they are trying to redraw the line between business and politics. But some tech CEOs never bent the knee. 

Here’s Michal: 

In September 2020, Brian Armstrong, the CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase, did something unthinkable in Silicon Valley: he said there would be no politics at his company. 

This was right after the summer of George Floyd and Covid lockdowns and microaggressions in the workplace—when companies as conventional as Nordstrom and IBM were all of a sudden issuing official statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and established financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase were committing billions of dollars toward investing in minority-owned businesses. Even Viacom-owned Paramount Network, the cable TV channel known for series like Battle of the Fittest Couple—not exactly a brand we look to for moral clarity—felt they had to take a stand, canceling production of its long-running show Cops, as protests against incidents of police brutality spread nationwide. In short, corporate statements (and cancellations) in the name of social justice causes became almost as commonplace as having an HR department. 

The pressure was intense for Coinbase to follow suit—including from inside the house.


The immigration debate we hosted in Dallas last month is now available on Honestly. Listen to Ann Coulter, Sohrab Ahmari, Nick Gillespie, and Cenk Uygur duke it out over whether the U.S. should shut its borders: 

And if you’d prefer to watch Ann Coulter and Nick Gillespie draw blood, you can do that here

  1. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Hamas to accept what he calls an “extraordinarily generous” truce offer from Israel. “In this moment, the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a cease-fire is Hamas,” he said. (Times of Israel)

  2. Argentine president Javier Milei said monthly inflation could fall below 10 percent in April. “Wages are already starting to beat inflation,” he said. “The fight against inflation is yielding results.” (Bloomberg

  3. Washington is sending another $61 billion to aid Ukraine’s war effort. But first it will flow through the U.S. economy. The aid will be spent on 117 production lines in 71 American cities. (Yahoo! Finance

  4. Why isn’t Biden more popular? Mickey Kaus has an original, if ominous, answer: his inability to explain the “Sweet Hereafter,” Kaus’s term for our strange status quo in which “the old rules are dead or dying, but we’re still here” waiting for “something to heave into view that will give us structure and direction.” (Kausfiles

  5. Thirty percent of 5- to 7-year-olds are on TikTok. And 11-year-olds spend an average of four hours per day online. (Ted Gioia

  6. Daisy Greenwell, a British mother who runs a movement for smartphone-free childhoods, might be onto something. Her campaign has 75,000 members. (After Babel

  7. Hunter Biden plans to sue Fox News for “conspiracy and subsequent actions to defame Mr. Biden and paint him in a false light, the unlicensed commercial exploitation of his image, name, and likeness, and the unlawful publication of hacked intimate images of him.” Intimate is one word for it! I’m sure the Biden campaign will be thrilled to have the president’s son’s misdeeds back in the news. (NBC

  8. Can U.S. presidents affect CO2 emissions? It’s complicated, says Roger Pielke Jr. (The Honest Broker

  9. Russell Brand, the actor who faces allegations of rape and sexual assault, was baptized in the River Thames on Sunday. He called it an “incredible, profound” and “overwhelming” experience. (Instagram)

  10. The Vatican played a secret role in the science of IVF: the urine from 300 postmenopausal nuns (sorry, sisters) was used to develop Pergonal, a fertility drug. (Vanity Fair

From Taylor Swift tickets to personal trainers, the very best option is getting dizzyingly expensive. Those who can drop hundreds of dollars, but not thousands, are getting resentful, argues Frank Bruni in an excerpt from his new book The Age of Grievance.

It was pitch-dark when I showed up at the box office of what was then called the Hartford Civic Center at 3 a.m., to be in place when tickets for the Queen concert went on sale, several hours later. It was the early 1980s, I was a teenager, and this was the surest path to the best seats. Back then, your proximity to the stage had less to do with a fan’s financial reserves than how quickly and heroically you’d acted to get your tickets. There was something egalitarian about it. My friends and I ended up in the eighth row, and I caught Freddie Mercury’s tambourine when he threw it into the crowd during the final song.

Today, the seating maps for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour revealed scores and scores of price tags, tailored to the precise desirability of the vantage point. In the U.S., the most expensive tickets cost many thousands of dollars more than the least, so that a father of three posting pictures of his family among the Swifties could be announcing to the world his ability to drop ten grand on one night’s entertainment. At the back of the stands, with half a view, sits the family that could only afford to drop hundreds.

There have always been big gaps between how the rich, the middle class, and the less fortunate live. But these days those gaps are increasingly enormous, and increasingly obvious.


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→ Protesters stay put: A 2 p.m. deadline set by Columbia administrators for protesters to clear out their encampment or face suspension came and went Monday afternoon, as hundreds more flocked to the center of campus sporting their keffiyehs as hats, skirts, and scarves, and carrying signs like “Dykes for Decolonization” and “Nerds for Palestine” to support the students camping out on the school’s main lawn. Over half of them also wore face masks in the over 80-degree heat. 

While students inside the encampment danced to the beat of plastic bucket drums or lounged in the sun on blue tarps, hundreds more marched in circles on the path outside of it, like they were serving as a protective layer against any forces—police or otherwise—who would try to come in. The group chanted a chorus of slogans, from “Globalize the Intifada” to “We don’t want no Zionists here” and “Israel is a terrorist state.” 

In a new development, dozens of faculty members in orange vests stood in front of the encampment’s entrance, their arms linked to block anyone unwelcome from trying to get inside. One faculty member, a history professor, told me she was there to “protect” students from “agitators,” or anyone who wanted to “cause them harm.” Another, architecture professor Reinhold Martin, told a group of reporters that Columbia’s attempts to clear out what he called the “anti-war” protests was a result of “outside pressure” from “the far right.” When I asked him if chants like “It is right to rebel” represented anti-war views, he turned to me and asked, “Do you disagree?”

Later in the day, Columbia began suspensions of students who had not left the encampment by the deadline. 

Meanwhile, at Princeton, prominent African American studies professor Ruha Benjamin and classics professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta led over a dozen students in a takeover of Clio Hall, which houses administrative offices on campus. The two professors left the building shortly before 5:30 p.m., after which public safety officials arrested at least 13 students, who were released shortly after. Columbia’s protesters also have the support of senior faculty. As The Washington Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium notes, one of them is Joseph Howley, who, when he’s not giving interviews from the encampment, is leading a review of the required humanities curriculum—meaning all Columbia undergraduates will have to read the books he assigns. Except for the ones who are suspended, that is. —Francesca Block

Read Olivia Reingold’s recent dispatch: “Camping Out at Columbia’s Communist Coachella.” 

→ The Gray Lady vs. the gray man: Our oldest president, a man who routinely mangles the names of world leaders and wears special no-slip shoes to descend from Air Force One, would prefer that The New York Times stop covering his age. This is the takeaway of a Politico Magazine feature on the frosty relationship between Joe Biden’s White House and the Times.

This news for many readers may seem like the Iran-Iraq war of political media—may both sides lose!—but it’s caused quite a stir in Washington. Democrats have seized on a blind quote from one Times reporter who claims publisher A.G. Sulzberger has encouraged the tough coverage because Biden hasn’t yet granted an interview with the paper. The Times denies that its stories are molded by such petty jealousies. Per Politico, Biden’s flacks are frustrated with the Times because it is “stubbornly refusing to adjust its coverage as it strives for the appearance of impartial neutrality.” Key word: appearance

Shortly after the Politico story dropped, Joe Biden finally sat down for a long interview. Not with the Times, though. Instead, he opened up to the former bad boy of radio, Howard Stern. Yes, the guy who 30 years ago ran a bit where a Bill Clinton impersonator observed that Monica Lewinsky “was so fat she has to use spandex tampons” is now deemed safe enough for the White House. 

For his interview with the real Joe Biden, Stern forgoes his usual attire for an ill-fitting suit, and proceeds to slobber all over the forty-sixth president. “You’re the kind of leader I love because we’re lucky to have you in the Oval Office,” Stern, in the hardball section of his interview, said. “And serving as the father for the country because if you’re a good father to your family, I know you’d be a good father to the country.” Maybe Stern is angling for a gig with North Korean state television. —Eli Lake

→ ‘Safety Moms’ for Trump: In an interview with Puck’s Tara Palmeri, Donald Trump’s longtime pollster John McLaughlin offers one description of the voters Joe Biden is losing. He calls them “safety moms”: “suburban, independent, and Democrat moms who are saying illegal immigration is bringing criminals into the country, fentanyl is out of control. They’re worried about their children’s safety. They really are.” 

And who does McLaughlin think Trump is losing from the coalition who delivered the White House in 2016? “The people who are dead, that’s who we’re losing right now, because we’re doing better.” How’s that for optimism? 

→ Poison Ivy: Our dear Ivy League schools can’t catch a break. First affirmative action gets undone by the Supreme Court. Then antisemitism explodes on their campuses and their leaders embarrass themselves out of a job in disastrous testimonies before Congress. And now, the best and the brightest have decided to camp out to make friendship bracelets and chant about global intifada in the quad instead of studying for finals. 

And it seems all of this—shock, horror, gasp—is having an impact on companies’ hiring decisions. A new Forbes survey of hiring managers finds that, compared to five years ago:

  • 33 percent said they are less likely to hire Ivy League graduates 

  • Just 7 percent said they are more likely to hire them 

  • 42 percent said they are more likely to hire public university graduates 

  • 37 percent said they are more likely to hire graduates from non-Ivy private colleges. 

Forbes concludes: “Great state schools and ascendant private ones are turning out hungry graduates; the Ivies are more apt to turn out entitled ones.” The age of Ivy Cringe is upon us. 

Read Eric Spitznagel’s recent Free Press report: “Kids Are Giving Up on Elite Colleges—and Heading South.” 

Thank you to the many Free Pressers who sent us your recommendations yesterday. Keep ’em coming. While we comb through your entries, here are two more Free Press staffers with their tips. 

Emily Yoffe recommends Yoga with Kassandra: It is where I go after a day hunched over a keyboard. Even a 10-minute stretch video makes me feel taller. Kassandra is so soothing and always available. There are 860 videos, so you have no excuse for not finding just the right one for you. 

Bari Weiss recommends subscribing to Alison Roman’s Substack: Ina Garten will always be my queen. (Read this definitive 2015 profile of her if you are wondering why.) But Alison Roman is Ina Garten for the youth, and she never misses. Her pantry pasta is a Weiss family staple.

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

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