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Harper's Magazine

Harper's Magazine February 2020

HARPER’S MAGAZINE, the oldest general interest monthly in America, explores the issues that drive our national conversation through such celebrated features as Readings, Annotation, and Findings, as well as the iconic Harper’s Index.

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United States
Harper's Magazine Foundation
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12 Issues

in this issue

5 min.

A Shack of One’s Own Thanks to Wes Enzinna [“Gimme Shelter,” Letter from California, December], I finally understand why millennials hate baby boomers. In many ways, my own experience has been not entirely unlike the one he describes. In 1980, after ditching a job at Ms. magazine to go freelance (and having left a boyfriend who occupied his loft illegally), I spent six months on friends’ couches and floors before landing a 280-square-foot apartment in Alphabet City. A third of the block’s buildings were burned out, some of them occupied by squatters. A building next to mine served as a shooting gallery, carefully policed by dealers who kept the block free of the violent offenses that might have attracted law enforcement. My earlier postgrad years, in 1970s Manhattan, were a far cry…

12 min.
easy chair

Last fall, Tobi Haslett, a young writer and critic with Marxist leanings, noticed a shift in the contours of popular intellectual debate. “Something is happening out there in the dark fields of ‘the discourse,’ ” Haslett wrote in Bookforum. “Incoherence is now a virtue.” By incoherence I don’t mean an “extreme” position or the shriek of the provocateur, but a specific genre of chinstroking, brow-furrowing, “eye opening” sophistry that’s now robustly represented in mainstream newspapers and magazines. Fluttering near the political center (they refuse to be pinned down!), the exponents of the new incoherence look at the Right’s mushrooming despotism, then at the enfeebled, regrouping Left—and, with theatrical exasperation, declare that both are a bit tyrannical. These pundits are the opposite of adherents; all hail the Incoherents! In the interest of full…

3 min.
harper’s index

Portion of South Koreans who say they would support North Korea in a war with Japan : ½ Estimated number of drones that governments worldwide will purchase in the next decade for combat use : 1,800 For surveillance use : 75,000 Percentage of nonmilitary drones for sale in the United States that were manufactured in China : 80 Minimum number of products that are available for purchase on Amazon : 500,000,000 Estimated percentage of New York City apartments that receive at least one package every day : 15 Minimum number of contractors employed by Google to evaluate the usefulness of search results : 10,000 Number of changes that Google made to its search algorithm and interface in 2018 : 3,234 Portion of U.S. voting precincts that rely on electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail : 1/10 Number…

26 min.

[Essay] SEARCH AND DESTROY By Joanne McNeil, from Lurking: How a Person Became a User, published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A user of Google products might be put off by the company’s cheerfulness and believe that its old byword, “Don’t Be Evil,” was always bunk. But its steady dominance over internet infrastructure leaves skeptics with few alternative products. With consumers in this bind, Google released boggling ventures. At Gmail’s launch, users complained about the ads—they’re creepy and it feels like a robot is reading my email! Google Street View appeared, at first, as an obvious invasion of privacy, not to mention an act of hubris with an undercurrent of colonialism. But a person can hardly rail against a ubiquitous technology forever. It wouldn’t be easy to give up searching and,…

46 min.
trumpism after trump

DAY ONE The course of true nationalism never did run smooth. —Ernest Gellner The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the…

3 min.
the radical right

In tracing the pedigree of the American conservative movement we must note that from, say, 1935 to 1955 (from the rise of Father Coughlin to the demise of Joseph McCarthy), the emergence of a powerful radical “right” in America was a possibility. This followed a development in Europe, though with the usual time lag. There, 1920 to 1945 was a quarter-century during which radicalism was no longer the monopoly of the left; when neither Communism nor capitalism but what is—inadequately and imprecisely—called “fascism” was the rising and dynamic political phenomenon, eventually leading to the Second World War, when men such as Hitler and Mussolini proved to be the dynamic world statesmen once Wilson and Lenin were gone. In the United States, too, the Depression was followed by the rise of…