Weekly Review — June 10, 2014, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

Unity and disunity in Palestine, NYRB vs. CIA, and John Roberts marries art criticism with jurisprudence

Saluting the Town (Weekly)Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas swore in a unity government formed by his Fatah party and the militant group Hamas, resolving a split between the organizations that began in 2007 with Hamas’s armed takeover of the Gaza Strip. “This black page in our history has been turned forever and will never come back,” said Abbas. “Same thing, just different faces,” said a shawarma seller in Ramallah. Fights broke out at ATMs in Gaza between Palestinian Authority civil servants, 70,000 of whom are assigned to Gaza and have been paid but idle for the past seven years, and Hamas employees, who have not been paid in weeks and did not receive salaries from the new government. In retaliation for Fatah’s alliance with Hamas, Israel’s housing ministry expanded plans for new settler homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank from 1,500 to 3,300 units.[1][2][3][4][5] Egypt elected as president General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who initiated the coup that ousted former president Mohamed Morsi last July, with nearly 97 percent of the vote, and Syria re-elected President Bashar al-Assad with 89 percent of the vote, in an election held only in government-controlled areas and monitored by observers from Iran, North Korea, and Russia. “I voted five times,” said a man walking with his 12-year-old child. “Even my son voted.”[6][7][8] Vladimir Putin responded in a radio interview to a comparison drawn by Hillary Clinton between Russia’s issuing of passports in March to Russian-identified Ukrainians in March and Adolf Hitler’s calls to protect ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe before the Second World War. “When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak,” said Putin. “But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”[9][10] At the Grevin Wax Museum in Paris, a topless woman stabbed and bludgeoned a replica of Putin.[11]

Thousands of antimonarchist protesters rallied in Madrid following an announcement by King Juan Carlos of Spain that he would abdicate and pass the throne to his son, Crown Prince Felipe. “Send the Bourbons to the sharks!” they shouted.[12][13] The White House apologized for failing to notify Congress before completing a swap of five Taliban prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay for U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl; the town of Hailey, Idaho, canceled homecoming festivities for Bergdahl over complaints and threats it had received accusing him of being a deserter; and at least three congressional representatives deleted tweets celebrating his return. “Twenty-year-olds make stupid decisions,” said a former State Department lawyer. “I don’t think we’ll say, ‘If you make a stupid decision we’ll leave you in the hands of the Taliban.’ ”[14][15][16] A Taliban website crashed hours after posting a video of Bergdahl’s delivery into American hands, and Google released a new encryption system designed to thwart National Security Agency espionage that contained code mocking an Edward Snowden–leaked presentation slide about how the agency surreptitiously accesses the company’s servers.[17][18] The CIA joined Twitter. “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet,” wrote @CIA. “Main elements of the CIA Detention Program,” tweeted The New York Review of Books in response, “1.1 Arrest and Transfer 1.2 Continuous Solitary Confinement 1.3 Other Methods of Ill-treatment 1.3.1 Suffocation by water 1.3.2. Prolonged Stress Standing 1.3.3 Beatings by use of a collar 1.3.4 Beating and kicking 1.3.5 Confinement in a box.”[19][20] Ten Pakistani Taliban militants disguised as security officers killed at least 18 people after infiltrating the Karachi airport, and Boko Haram militants entered the Nigerian village of Attagara wearing army uniforms and gathered villagers with promises to protect them from Boko Haram, then opened fire and killed at least 42 people.[21][22][23][24] Seven people died during gun attacks on a courthouse in Georgia, a Methodist university in Seattle, and a CiCi’s pizza in Las Vegas, and the National Rifle Association retracted a statement issued by its lobbying group that called open-carry advocates who brought assault rifles into a Dallas Chipotle and a San Antonio Chili’s “downright weird.[25][26][27][28] Two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls were charged with attempted murder after stabbing a friend 19 times with the aim of becoming proxy killers for Slender Man, a blank-faced character they had read about on the horror-fiction website Creepypasta. “You can personalize the character,” said a University of Wisconsin folklorist, “and make it your own.”[29][30]

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

Thailand’s ruling junta banned the use of a three-finger salute protesters had adopted from the Hunger Games films, and introduced a “Return Happiness to the People” campaign featuring concerts with scantily clad female dancers, horse-petting, and the distribution of free “happy omelets.” “We were unhappy,” said General Prayuth Chan-ocha of last month’s coup. “I had to ask myself, ‘Can we let this continue?’ ”[31][32] Chemist Alexander Shulgin, who championed the therapeutic use of ecstasy, died at 88, and Chester Nez, the last of the original Navajo code talkers, died at 93.[33][34] An 89-year-old World War II veteran who was reported missing from his English nursing home turned up in Normandy at a commemoration for the seventieth anniversary of D-Day.[35] Physicists announced the development of robotic MagnetoSperm, and the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of Carol Anne Bond, who was prosecuted in 2007 for violating the 1998 Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act after burning the thumb of her husband’s mistress with industrial chemicals. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts recalled the use of mustard gas in World War I, as depicted in John Singer Sargent’s 7.5-by-20-foot 1919 painting, Gassed. “There are no life-sized paintings,” he wrote, “of Bond’s rival washing her thumb.”[36][37][38][39]


Sign up and get the Weekly Review delivered to your inbox every Tuesday morning.

Share
Single Page

More from Ryann Liebenthal:

From the July 2015 issue

Bleakness Stakes

Weekly Review May 19, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

An Amtrak train derails, a Bangladeshi blogger is hacked to death, and an African-American boy who was maced at an anti–police-brutality protest is grateful he wasn’t shot

Weekly Review February 17, 2015, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

A Muslim family is killed over a parking space in North Carolina, Netflix launches in Cuba, and an Indian woman who is 95 percent genetically male gives birth to twins

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2018

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Printed Word in Peril·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In February, at an event at the 92nd Street Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center in New York, while sharing the stage with my fellow British writer Martin Amis and discussing the impact of screen-based reading and bidirectional digital media on the Republic of Letters, I threw this query out to an audience that I estimate was about three hundred strong: “Have any of you been reading anything by Norman Mailer in the past year?” After a while, one hand went up, then another tentatively semi-elevated. Frankly I was surprised it was that many. Of course, there are good reasons why Mailer in particular should suffer posthumous obscurity with such alacrity: his brand of male essentialist braggadocio is arguably extraneous in the age of Trump, Weinstein, and fourth-wave feminism. Moreover, Mailer’s brilliance, such as it was, seemed, even at the time he wrote, to be sparks struck by a steely intellect against the tortuous rocks of a particular age, even though he labored tirelessly to the very end, principally as the booster of his own reputation.

It’s also true that, as J. G. Ballard sagely remarked, for a writer, death is always a career move, and for most of us the move is a demotion, as we’re simultaneously lowered into the grave and our works into the dustbin. But having noted all of the above, it remains the case that Mailer’s death coincided with another far greater extinction: that of the literary milieu in which he’d come to prominence and been sustained for decades. It’s a milieu that I hesitate to identify entirely with what’s understood by the ringing phrase “the Republic of Letters,” even though the overlap between the two was once great indeed; and I cannot be alone in wondering what will remain of the latter once the former, which not long ago seemed so very solid, has melted into air.

What I do feel isolated in—if not entirely alone in—is my determination, as a novelist, essayist, and journalist, not to rage against the dying of literature’s light, although it’s surprising how little of this there is, but merely to examine the great technological discontinuity of our era, as we pivot from the wave to the particle, the fractal to the fungible, and the mechanical to the computable. I first began consciously responding, as a literary practitioner, to the manifold impacts of ­BDDM in the early 2000s—although, being the age I am, I have been feeling its effects throughout my working life—and I first started to write and speak publicly about it around a decade ago. Initially I had the impression I was being heard out, if reluctantly, but as the years have passed, my attempts to limn the shape of this epochal transformation have been met increasingly with outrage, and even abuse, in particular from my fellow writers.

As for my attempts to express the impact of the screen on the page, on the actual pages of literary novels, I now understand that these were altogether irrelevant to the requirement of the age that everything be easier, faster, and slicker in order to compel the attention of screen viewers. It strikes me that we’re now suffering collectively from a “tyranny of the virtual,” since we find ourselves unable to look away from the screens that mediate not just print but, increasingly, reality itself.

Photograph (detail) by Ellen Cantor from her Prior Pleasures series © The artist. Courtesy dnj Gallery, Santa Monica, California
Article
Among Britain’s Anti-Semites·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

This is the story of how the institutions of British Jewry went to war with Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party. Corbyn is another feather in the wind of populism and a fragmentation of the old consensus and politesse. He was elected to the leadership by the party membership in 2015, and no one was more surprised than he. Between 1997 and 2010, Corbyn voted against his own party 428 times. He existed as an ideal, a rebuke to the Blairite leadership, and the only wise man on a ship of fools. His schtick is that of a weary, kindly, socialist Father Christmas, dragged from his vegetable patch to create a utopia almost against his will. But in 2015 the ideal became, reluctantly, flesh. Satirists mock him as Jesus Christ, and this is apt. But only just. He courts sainthood, and if you are very cynical you might say that, like Christ, he shows Jews what they should be. He once sat on the floor of a crowded train, though he was offered a first-class seat, possibly as a private act of penance to those who had, at one time or another, had no seat on a train.

When Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the British media, who are used to punching socialists, crawled over his record and found much to alarm the tiny Jewish community of 260,000. Corbyn called Hez­bollah “friends” and said Hamas, also his “friends,” were devoted “to long-term peace and social justice.” (He later said he regretted using that language.) He invited the Islamist leader Raed Salah, who has accused Jews of killing Christian children to drink their blood, to Parliament, and opposed his extradition. Corbyn is also a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a former chair of Stop the War, at whose rallies they chant, “From the river to the sea / Palestine will be free.” (There is no rhyme for what will happen to the Jewish population in this paradise.) He was an early supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and its global campaign to delegitimize Israel and, through the right of return for Palestinians, end its existence as a Jewish state. (His office now maintains that he does not support BDS. The official Labour Party position is for a two-state solution.) In the most recent general election, only 13 percent of British Jews intended to vote Labour.

Corbyn freed something. The scandals bloomed, swiftly. In 2016 Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, was suspended from the party for sharing a Facebook post that suggested Israel be relocated to the United States. She apologized publicly, was reinstated, and is now a shadow women and equalities minister. Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London and a political supporter of Corbyn, appeared on the radio to defend Shah and said, “When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.” For this comment, Livingstone was suspended from the party.

A protest against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in Parliament Square, London, March 26, 2018 (detail) © Yui Mok/PA Images/Getty Images
Article
Nothing but Gifts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

If necessity is the stern but respectable mother of invention, then perhaps desperation is the derelict father of subterfuge. That was certainly the case when I moved to Seattle in 1979.

Though I’d lived there twice during the previous five years, I wasn’t prepared for the economic boom I found upon this latest arrival. Not only had rent increased sharply in all but the most destitute neighborhoods, landlords now routinely demanded first, last, and a hefty security deposit, which meant I was short by about fifty percent. Over the first week or so, I watched with mounting anxiety as food, gas, and lodging expenses reduced the meager half I did have to a severely deficient third. To make matters even more nerve-racking, I was relocating with my nine-year-old son, Ezra. More than my well-being was at stake.

A veteran of cold, solitary starts in strange cities, I knew our best hope wasn’t the classifieds, and certainly not an agency, but the serendipity of the streets—handmade for rent signs, crowded bulletin boards in laundromats and corner grocery stores, passersby on the sidewalk; I had to exploit every opportunity that might present itself, no matter how oblique or improbable. In Eastlake, at the edge of Lake Union between downtown Seattle and the University District, I spied a shabby but vacant one-story house on the corner of a block that was obviously undergoing transition—overgrown lots and foundation remnants where other houses once stood—and that had at least one permanent feature most right-minded people would find forbidding: an elevated section of Interstate 5 just across the street, attended by the incessant roar of cars and trucks. The house needed a new roof, a couple of coats of paint, and, judging by what Ezra and I could detect during a furtive inspection, major repair work inside, including replacing damaged plaster-and-lath walls with sheetrock. All of this, from my standpoint, meant that I might have found a solution to my dilemma.

The next step was locating the owner, a roundabout process that eventually required a trip to the tax assessor’s office. I called the person listed on the rolls and made an appointment. Then came the moment of truth, or, more precisely, untruth, when dire circumstance begot strategic deception. I’d never renovated so much as a closet, but that didn’t stop me from declaring confidently that I possessed both the skills and the willingness to restore the entire place to a presentable—and, therefore, rentable—state in exchange for being able to live there for free, with the length of stay to be determined as work progressed. To my immense relief, the pretense was well received. Indeed, the owner also seemed relieved, if a bit surprised, that he’d have seemingly trustworthy tenants; homeless people who camped beneath the freeway, he explained, had repeatedly broken into the house and used it for all manner of depravity. Telling myself that inspired charlatanry is superior to mundane trespassing—especially this instance of charlatanry, which would yield some actual good—I accepted the keys from my new landlord.

Photograph (detail) © Larry Towell/Magnum Photos
Article
Checkpoint Nation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Laura Sandoval threaded her way through idling taxis and men selling bottles of water toward the entrance of the Cordova International Bridge, which links Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas. Earlier that day, a bright Saturday in December 2012, Sandoval had crossed over to Juárez to console a friend whose wife had recently died. She had brought him a few items he had requested—eye drops, the chimichangas from Allsup’s he liked—and now that her care package had been delivered, she was in a hurry to get back to the Texas side, where she’d left her car. She had a …
Checkpoint on I-35 near Encinal, Texas (detail) © Gabriella Demczuk

Chance that a woman in one of the U.S. military’s three service academies claims to have been sexually harassed:

1 in 2

Stimulating people’s brains with an electric current while they sleep can improve their powers of memory.

Paul Manafort accepts a plea deal; Brett Kavanaugh accused of sexual assault; Jeff Bezos gets into the kindergarten racket.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today