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What truly distinguishes Palin’s speech is its utter subjectivity: that is, she speaks very much from the inside of her head, as someone watching the issues from a considerable distance. The there fetish, for instance — Palin frequently displaces statements with an appended “there,” as in “We realize that more and more Americans are starting to see the light there…” But where? Why the distancing gesture? At another time, she referred to Condoleezza Rice trying to “forge that peace.” That peace? You mean that peace way over there — as opposed to the peace that you as Vice-President would have been responsible for forging? She’s far, far away from that peace.
All of us use there and that in this way in casual speech — it’s a way of placing topics as separate from us on a kind of abstract “desktop” that the conversation encompasses. “The people in accounting down there think they can just ….” But Palin, doing this even when speaking to the whole nation, is no further outside of her head than we are when talking about what’s going on at work over a beer. The issues, American people, you name it, are “there” — in other words, not in her head 24/7. She hasn’t given them much thought before; they are not her. They’re that, over there. –“What Does Palinspeak Mean?” John McWhorter, The New Republic
But more than the language, the most persuasively American quality of his movies is his use of foreigners. His leads were played by stars who would have fit in any number of mainstream Hollywood movies: Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea. But he created a unique stock company of supporting players who proved what is so often said but little shown about America: that we are a country of immigrants. His stories are filled not merely with Hollywood’s idea of ethnic characters—the black cook and the English butler—but with people from every corner of the world, including Jews who do the unheard-of thing and sound like Jews. The range of accents in his films sounds like the dining room at the U.N. Without ever directly preaching the glories of American values, Sturges offers us a screen full of Jews and Germans, English and Irish, Russians and Italians, bantering, flirting, sniping or swiping at each other; this said something about America that beat the message of any war-bond rally. –“The Seven Wonders of Preston Sturges,” Douglas McGrath, Vanity Fair
‘Twas a grim Easter: “Jesus” in a church passion play was confronted by police for being a bloody bearded man in public;
some Iowans went looking for eggs, but instead they found a corpse;
this woman wore an “inappropriate” outfit, so her cousin shot her
The idea for WikiLeaks came from one of the most notorious leaks of all. In 1969, Daniel Ellsberg, a disillusioned military analyst, made copies of the Department of Defense’s official history of the Vietnam War. After unsuccessfully trying to pass what became known as the Pentagon Papers to members of Congress, he eventually leaked them to the New York Times and Washington Post, where they sat while the Nixon White House tried to block their publication. The Pentagon Papers finally hit the presses more than two years after Ellsberg obtained them. “As a leak, it’s almost an example of what not to do,” says Assange. “By the time he got the info out, it was of little political consequence.” The basic model hasn’t changed much since then: Most whistleblowers still need a sympathetic politician or reporter to get the word out. Assange had the experience—and the ego—to try to change this. –“Inside Wikileaks’ Leak Factory,” David Kushner, Mother Jones
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”