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It seems apparent, alas, that Facebook, Twitter, etc. have not improved American democracy, and yet we expect these tools to promote democracy elsewhere. The basic problem is that web 2.0 tools are not supportive of democracy by design. They are tools designed to gather spy-agency-like data in a seductive way, first and foremost, but as a side effect they tend to provide software support for mob-like phenomena. There are some nice mob effects, but the intensity of the failures is more profound than the delights of the successes. A flash mob in San Francisco in which people suddenly hold a pose and disperse doesn’t compensate for a flash mob in Philadelphia in which people are beaten up. –“On Digital Power and its Discontents,” Jaron Lanier, Edge
From then on for two years or more, in hospital and out, I was convinced that I was infested. ‘Infested’ was the word, I thought, as well as ‘contaminated’. The pubic lice multiplied to a plethora and became imaginatively licensed to inhabit my entire body. They crawled on my arms, my torso, my legs, my hair, sometimes my face and neck. They had become all-rounder lice. Not even lice, if someone had pointed out the impossible ethology I had invented for them. They were … I didn’t know what they were, but they were. Insects, lice-like, flea-like, tic-like crawling creatures that lived on me, and indeed, in me. I thought they burrowed under my skin and emerged to wander about on the surface in the dark of night or under cover of my clothes. I felt them, tickling me in specific parts, and the redness I saw when I finished scratching my skin convinced me that they were there (so easy now to write that rational sentence). I saw them, always out of the corner of my eye. I became most distressed at night. I would feel their presence and then turn on the light quickly to catch them, but of course they had burrowed back into my skin by the time I could focus. It was a malevolent game of hide and seek. They had super-lice powers: they sensed me looking for them, and always dodged me. I was sure I saw them, yet I could never quite say what they looked like. I found evidence of them, even occasionally caught one and killed it as you do a flea, squeezing it between my fingers. Then I would put it in my palm and examine it carefully under a light. I saw it was something, a mote, a dot, black, white, grey, but never quite well enough to be sure exactly what. It could have been a flake of skin, a speck of dust, a tiny thread, but I knew it wasn’t. In that special way you know when you really know or are crazy. –“Diary,” Jenny Diski, London Review of Books
Diehipster.com: bitterness never sounded so sweet;
nearly all of Tajikistan is “wookin’ pa nub in all da wong places”;
the week in pictures: a Jesus-like man riding a caribou-like animal, a guinea pig stuffed into a clear plastic handbag, and a gesture of human-canine solidarity
In the experiences of both Ngo Dinh Diem and Hamid Karzai lurks a self-defeating pattern common to Washington’s alliances with dictators throughout the Third World, then and now. Selected and often installed in office by Washington, or at least backed by massive American military aid, these client figures become desperately dependent, even as they fail to implement the sorts of reforms that might enable them to build an independent political base. Torn between pleasing their foreign patrons or their own people, they wind up pleasing neither. As opposition to their rule grows, a downward spiral of repression and corruption often ends in collapse; while, for all its power, Washington descends into frustration and despair, unable to force its allies to adopt reforms which might allow them to survive. Such a collapse is a major crisis for the White House, but often — Diem’s case is obviously an exception — little more than an airplane ride into exile for the local autocrat or dictator. –“America and the Dictators,” Alfred W. McCoy, TomDispatch.com
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.”