Category Archives: Columns, Commentary & News

Selected news analysis and commentary/opinion pieces, mostly written for Reuters and Reuters Breakingviews.

Why protests in Latin America matter

I wrote a piece on Latin America’s protests in late 2019 – and why they matter, especially to young people – for my good friends at News-Decoder.  Here’s a link! I think it stands up quite well still.

Photo by Martin Langfield, Chihuahua, Mexico, 1986.

(I took this photo more than 30 years ago at an opposition hunger strike to demand fair elections in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1986.)

Bipartisan! Practical! Non-incendiary!

Shocking, I know, but here are 14 sensible recommendations for the upcoming U.S. elections and an executive summary that will take maybe two minutes to read. What are some other exciting words? Pragmatic. Non-inflammatory.  Feasible. Worth a read.

Fair Elections During a Crisis: Bipartisan and Diverse Blue-Ribbon Group of Scholars and Thinkers Releases Report on Urgent Changes Needed for November U.S. Elections
— Read on

Fact vs. fiction

This is a time when facts save lives and misinformation can kill. Here are some useful resources I’ve consulted in recent weeks:

A detail from my father’s paramedic uniform insignia. Photo by Martin Langfield.

Newsguard: Who are the misinformation super-spreaders?

Smithsonian Magazine: How to Avoid Misinformation About COVID-19

Ethical Journalism Network

News Literacy Project



Reuters Fact Checking 

If we can’t be saints, let’s be healers

In this time of virus lockdown, social distancing and polarization, these lines from the final pages of “The Plague” by Albert Camus (1947) seem useful:

“(He) decided then to write the account which ends here, in order not to be among those who stay silent, in order to leave at least a memory of the injustice and violence done to them, and to state simply what we learn in the midst of plagues, that in humankind there are more things to admire than things to despise. But he knew nevertheless that this chronicle could not be that of a final victory. It could only bear witness to what had to be done and would have, no doubt, to be done still, against fear and its tireless weaponry, despite their personal losses, by all the people who, unable to be saints and refusing to accept pestilence, try nevertheless to be healers.”

Pléiade edition of Camus’ works, which I bought in Nantes in 1978. Photo by Martin Langfield

(Translation is mine. Camus uses “médecins” at the end, which usually means “doctors,” but since we can’t all be doctors like his narrator, I chose a broader term. We can all be healers, one way or another, even if we can’t be saints. Just saying.)

The future is now

I just finished “Agency,” William Gibson’s latest, 10 days or so ago and the ending still resonates in my imagination. Well worth the meticulous and fascinating buildup. It’s a worthy sequel to “The Peripheral,” and, like that novel, very much about the present day, however richly the future/alternative worlds are imagined. I reviewed “The Peripheral” back in the day. I’m pleased to see much of it holds up for “Agency” too.

William Gibson and Martin Langfield at the New York Public Library, November 12,  2014. Photo by Amy Langfield

Review: The attack of the killer fridges has begun

The world is ever more connected via the internet, from cars and power grids to home appliances and toys. That means ever more things are dangerously hackable, security expert Bruce Schneier writes in “Click Here to Kill Everybody.” The title is hyperbolic, but not by much. In some ways, the attack of the killer fridges has already begun. Here’s my review.