What we’re reading

Featured this week is an insightful Vox interview with the self-appointed spokesperson for antifa, who seeks to dispel some of the myths around the group. And from The Atlantic comes a look at how cell phones are leading adolescents to the brink of a mental-health crisis.

“White supremacists are more afraid of us than we are of them.”

(Vox) Since the events in Charlottesville a few weeks ago, Daryle Jenkins has emerged as an unofficial, self-appointed spokesperson for antifa. One of his main goals is to dispel some of the myths around the group, and in this Vox interview, he does that. A 49-year-old African American, Jenkins served as a police officer in the Air Force. When asked if antifa endorses violence, he replies, “It’s not a central component of what we do, and it’s definitely not the only thing we do. It’s not preferred or even the first option.”

For the past 17 years, Jenkins has traveled around the country, pestering white supremacist groups. He shows up at their rallies, films them, takes their pictures, and exposes them publicly. “I show who these people are, what they do, and what they believe,” he says.

Jenkins is also known for trying to engage with the other side. “You have to recognize that these people are still human, and a lot of them have all kinds of baggage. I try to reach out when I can….But at the end of the day, these people are trying to hurt others and that comes first. That’s…what we have to stop, no matter what it takes. If I can help turn any of these people around, great. If not, I’ll see them in the streets.”

Jenkins believes cooler heads will prevail. “My response to critics is simple: If you think what antifa is doing is wrong, then you stand up and do what’s right.” He adds, “If you don’t think we have the answer, then you better be putting the solution into motion. You can’t be an armchair quarterback on this. You’ve got to do something.”

Have smartphones destroyed a generation?

(The Atlantic) More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials—also called iGen—are physically safer than adolescents have ever been. But, according to author and psychologist Jean Twenge, they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis. And much of this deterioration can be traced to the teens’ phones.

Citing an annual survey of adolescents that started in 1975, Twenge says that, without exception, cellphone and tablet activities are linked to less happiness. Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide. In fact, since 2007, the homicide rate among teens has declined, but the suicide rate has increased.

Twenge explains the connection between smartphones and the apparent psychological distress this generation is experiencing. While teen use of phones helps kids build bonds, social media also exacerbate the age-old teen concern about being left out. And the number of teens who feel left out has reached all-time highs.

Twenge concludes that the strong correlations between depression and smartphone use suggest that more parents should be telling their kids to put down their phone. The good news is that some teens have started telling themselves to do the same.