I Just Cannot Read Harper’s Any More

Okay, I am done trying. I have had it at last with Harper’s magazine, and the remainder of my subscription is going straight from the mailbox to the recycle bin.

I tried so very hard to read the August 2003 issue while I was at the gym the other night, but I couldn’t get more than a few paragraphs into anything, and I didn’t try hard, frankly.

Here’s what I read:

  • In the “Letters” section, Iain Murray writes a letter to respond to a snarky piece in a previous Harper’s which I have never read and never will, now. Apparently, the author of the piece savaged the fact that the Competitive Enterprise Institute impugned the science of the National Assessment on Climate Change, using properly-crafted insinuations and ad homenims. Iain’s letter points out that the National Assessment is widely debunked by real scientists. Since the author of the piece gets a chance to get in the final snark, Bryant Urstadt responds to a scientific rebuttal with….Manhattan ad homenims and insinuations.
  • Lewis Lapham, in his monthly column “Notebook”, titles his rant “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and it begins:

    During the eight months prior to the invasion of Iraq, the American news media were content to believe the government’s fairy tale about its reasons for sending the tanks eastward into Eden. The Bush Administration’s buncombe artists could tell any story they pleased about Western civilization being held for ransom by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, and even when the plot lines were shown to depend upon suborned testimony and counterfeit intelligence, the media vouched for the wisdom of Oz. Why not? What was to be gained by casting doubts? The fairy tale sold newspapers, boosted television ratings, curried favor at the White House and the FCC, drummed up invitations from the Pentagon to attend the military costume party in the Persian Gulf.

    I am pretty sure he goes from there into the common missing trope about Bush lying, la la la. Whatever. Point of order, Mr. Editor. I am getting awfully tired of the misapplication of the term lie (or fairy tale) regarding the build up to war in Iraq.

    You want a lie? Here’s one, Lewey: “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” You see, the speaker is uttering something he absolutely knows is true because he has first, uh, hand knowledge of the reality. And he says the opposite. For his own benefit mind you, and thanks to shills around the world, he got benefits from the lie. I know you looked down upon the Arkansas governor, too, Lewey, because I could stomach your weary tone then. But others of your rarefied Manhattan ilk did.

    A little sex of which you have first gland hand knowledge is a little different from the decision to go to war. The decision, and the expression of that decision, is based on facts, assumptions, interpretations, intelligence, and guesses which might be true and gambles made on worst case scenarios. To say that George W. Bush lied, or made a myth or fairy tale, is to belittle the complicated nature of the decision and to say that George W. Bush had first hand knowledge that everything he said was absolutely, irreputably untrue. That’s a hard case to prove unless you’re omniscient. Oh, wait, some of these pinheads think they are.

    Also, Lapham, I hold you ultimately accountable for that condescension bomb called Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America. Cripes, I opened that thing and it blew its classist pitytoric all over, and I am still scraping Ehrenreich off the walls. Thank goodness I bought it in softcover, or the crapnel might have been the end of me.

  • Harper’s Index always contains a few gems that make a point out of a contextless statistic. For example:

    Percentage of South Carolinians prosecuted under the state’s “anti-lynching” law since 1998 who are black
    : 63

    Because, obviously, the law was intended to be marked Whites Only, and blacks cannot do whatever the law prohibits to whites or each other.

  • Finally, to the Readings section, a kind of Snobber’s Digest. First outtake, I mean piece, is entitled “The New Censorship” and it’s by Curtis White, an excerpt from his forthgoing book The Middle Mind : Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves. I’m already inspired thrilled and that’s just the intro. First paragraph:

    Americans are not much in the habit of poking at the dominant realities of our lives. We’re delicate. We’re used to deferring, though we like to think of ourselves as rebels. What parents, teachers, presidents, and Dan Rather say is usually good enough for us. Even if it is demonstrably false, we submit out of habit and fright over what not submitting might require of us. We sacrifice our lives out of feeling that there is some sort of comfort in deferring.

    Charming. So we should believe instead what Harper’s and its select authors say instead. Bullocks. Good enough for those rebellous thinkers churned from our universities’ liberal arts programs to descend upon New York City and Washington D.C. to live like kings and courtiers in order to better the lot of the common man.

ENOUGH! That’s the first four things in the schnucking magazine. Even the GM ad in the front cover tried to make me feel guilty for driving a car, except that I drove a brand that would put an apologetic ad in an enlightened magazine.

I’ve been a Harper’s subscriber for more than ten years, regularly remitting a portion of my sub-sustenance wage salary to get a slick and remain educated, but no more. I have a couple months of the magazine piled up, and they’re all going out. I have other, more relevant magazines, like FHM to read.

I’ve got seven months left on the subscription I had paid up for three or four years in advance, and that’s it. I’m done until such time as Lapham’s gone and the magazine returns to a more even-handed set of viewpoints.

I’m sure Harper’s won’t miss me. Enough cosmo coastal sycophants will continue to buy the magazine to learn what to think, what vodkas to drink, and that Xandria and the Blowfish catalog both offer creative merchandise for consenting adults. A Midwestern conservative isn’t its target audience anyway, or else they would cover tractor pulls and corn futures more frequently, or whatever stereotypes they’ve developed for everyone west of New Jersey.

So be it. An amicable parting. Except for the screaming and the throwing of the dirty laundry on the front lawn.

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