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Harper's Magazine October 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
R 115,66
R 578,87
12 Issues

in this issue

2 min
editor’s desk

On July 7, we published on our website an open letter signed by more than one hundred and fifty prominent writers, artists, and scholars. “The free exchange of information and ideas,” the letter warned, “is daily becoming more constricted.” This constriction, it argued, was happening across the American political spectrum, but the left’s version of it presupposed a “false choice between justice and freedom.” Stifling speech will not achieve social progress, the letter insisted. Indeed, such an atmosphere “will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time.” I’d been sent the letter a week earlier by the Harper’s Magazine contributor Thomas Chatterton Williams, who was among a group responsible for writing it and gathering signatures. I agreed to put it online and to print it in our Letters section this…

11 min

On Justice and Open Debate Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to…

10 min
easy chair

Shirley Jackson’s devastating 1948 short story “The Lottery” takes place in what might be a provincial corner of America in which an annual, compulsory lottery lends a degree of adventure and meaning to otherwise uneventful lives. One summer morning a man named Bill Hutchinson draws a winning ticket. Bill’s wife, Tessie, whose demeanor has been calm until this point, shifts, and she pleads for a redraw. Instead a second round determines which of the five members of their family will be the ultimate winner. This time, Tessie pulls the marked slip. “It isn’t fair!” she screams, but no one is listening. The townspeople, including her husband and children, close in and stone her to death. In subtle, ruthlessly efficient prose, Jackson portrays the tendency, surely as old as humankind itself, to…

28 min

[Essay] NO TIME BUT THE PRESENT By Alan Jacobs, from Breaking Bread with the Dead, which was published last month by Penguin Press. Navigating life in the internet age is a lot like doing battlefield triage. There are days we can’t even put gas in our cars without being assaulted by advertisements blared at ear-rattling volume. And so we learn to be ruthless in deciding how to deploy our attention. We only have so much of it, and often the decision of whether or not to “pay” it must be made in an instant. To avoid madness we must learn to reject appeals for our time, and reject them without hesitation or pity. Add to this problem of information overload what the sociologist Hartmut Rosa calls “social acceleration,” the widespread belief that “the ‘tempo…

1 min
save the whales

By Rebecca Giggs, from Fathoms: The World in the Whale, which was published in July by Simon and Schuster. Many international collecting institutions aim to feature a blue whale among their centerpieces. Suspended from the ceiling of the American Museum of Natural History is a ninety-four-foot replica of a female blue, found dead off the coast of South America in 1923, made of polyurethane, a fiberglass coating, and six hundred pounds of paint. A heart, salvaged from a blue whale killed in a heavy sea-ice season near Newfoundland in 2014, was sent by the Royal Ontario Museum to Germany to be plastinated—it is the size of a wrecking ball and very pink. But the Museum of Natural History in Gothenburg, Sweden, holds the only real stuffed blue whale. In 1865, a…

1 min
brute force

From reports of weapons used by demonstrators and police officers in Portland, Oregon, where authorities have repeatedly used force to break up crowds protesting the police killing of George Floyd. Deployed by protesters: Leaf blowersFecesPaint-filled balloonsA partially eaten Granny Smith appleA can of White ClawA can of garbanzo beansRocksBall bearingsA lacrosse stickHammersEmpty gas canisters Deployed by the police: Pepper sprayLong Range Acoustic DevicesFoam-tipped bulletsRubber bulletsPlastic bulletsGrenade-launcher-propelled flash-bangsCS gas banned by the Geneva Convention…