Editor's Note — August 14, 2017, 11:33 am

Inside the September Issue

Seyward Darby on the women of the alt-right, Naomi Klein on our reality-television president, Alexandria Neason on Betsy DeVos’s war on public education, a story by John Keeble, and more…

The alt-right—a nice name for a small army of racist thugs—was out in force last week in Charlottesville, Virginia. Not surprisingly, things spun out of control, culminating in a terrorist attack on a peaceful crowd that led to numerous injuries and at least one death. What brought this parade of torch-bearing grotesques into the street? The impending removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee—a reminder, as if we needed it, that the entire enterprise is underpinned by a toxic fantasy of white supremacy. Mixed in with these Aryan daydreams, however, is a less noted thread of misogyny, which Seyward Darby explores in this month’s cover story, “The Rise of the Valkyries.” The movement has hardly been shy about its distaste for women, whose “vindictiveness,” in the words of its kingpin Richard Spencer, “knows no bounds.” Nonetheless, the alt-right has a sprinkling of female pundits, preaching the gospel of family values and Caucasian destiny while sidestepping the contempt of their colleagues. Darby sketches out the movement’s distaff wing and spends some time with one of its rising stars, Lana Lokteff. An articulate and telegenic figure—David Duke, in his capacity as the neo-Nazi Roger Ebert, has praised her “movie-star quality”—Lokteff seems particularly adept at dodging the contradictions of her own position. Will she be the Pied Piper of the alt-right, bringing in the sort of female auxiliary that characterized the Ku Klux Klan? And can a woman ascend to the upper ranks of a movement that tends to view her only as a walking womb?

Elsewhere in the magazine, Alexandria Neason travels to ground zero in the battle between public schools and private-sector alternatives: Arizona. In “Class Dismissed,” she visits schools and listens to advocates from both sides, noting how the state has worked to funnel money and resources away from the public sector. It’s an outcome that would please the new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos—but it is unlikely to benefit most of Arizona’s students. Meanwhile, Michael S. Collins ponders the troubled state of affirmative action in “A Matter of Degrees.” The author has been a beneficiary of affirmative action, and argues that the playing field must still be leveled in our supposedly post-racial nation: “I have come around to the idea that regardless of class, black Americans are still swimming with weights on.” Yet he recognizes the psychological fallout of such programs, and the way in which they stir up our deepest anxieties about race, class, and that great American will-of-the-wisp: meritocracy.

Ted Genoways delivers a deep-focus portrait of a Midwestern family farm in “Bringing in the Beans.” He also puts modern agriculture in a novel context: who knew that soybean farming was the brainchild of Henry Ford, who was less interested in vegan cuisine than in the little legume’s potential role as the savior of industrial chemistry? We also have a memoir of our era’s greatest living war photographer, Don McCullin, written by his longtime comrade-in-arms, Charles Glass. “All the Last Wars” is a touching recollection of trials shared in various combat zones over more than four decades—and includes an assortment of McCullin’s indelible images, ranging from Nigeria to Iraq, Berlin to Beirut, and beyond.

John Keeble contributes an excellent and quietly apocalyptic fiction, “Synchronicity,” and there are shrewd literary assessments by Christine Smallwood, Jonathan Dee, and Ruth Franklin. In Readings, Naomi Klein blasts away at reality television, which she calls “a kind of capitalist burlesque,” and we take a peek at the jury selection process for Martin Shkreli, the price-gouging prince of the drug industry, whose sheer lovability caused one potential juror to note, “I’m aware of the defendant and I hate him.” There is also a poem by Keith Waldrop, a letter by Patrick Leigh Fermor, and a riff on facial-recognition software in China—all of which is to say, beach blanket bingo for Harper’s Magazine readers!

Single Page

More from James Marcus:

Editor's Note April 12, 2018, 5:58 pm

Inside the May Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Rick Moody, Rachel Cusk, Jonathan Dee, and more

Editor's Note March 19, 2018, 12:18 pm

Inside the April Issue

Thomas Frank, Elaine Blair, Andrew Cockburn, Lidija Haas, Corey Robin, and more…

Editor's Note February 12, 2018, 11:15 am

Inside the March Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Katie Roiphe, Sallie Tisdale, and more

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

United States Canada



December 2018


The Gatekeepers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Toward the end of the Obama presidency, the work of James Baldwin began to enjoy a renaissance that was both much overdue and comfortless. Baldwin stands as one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century, and any celebration of his work is more than welcome. But it was less a reveling than a panic. The eight years of the first black president were giving way to some of the most blatant and vitriolic displays of racism in decades, while the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and others too numerous to list sparked a movement in defense of black lives. In Baldwin, people found a voice from the past so relevant that he seemed prophetic.

More than any other writer, Baldwin has become the model for black public-intellectual work. The role of the public intellectual is to proffer new ideas, encourage deep thinking, challenge norms, and model forms of debate that enrich our discourse. For black intellectuals, that work has revolved around the persistence of white supremacy. Black abolitionists, ministers, and poets theorized freedom and exposed the hypocrisy of American democracy throughout the period of slavery. After emancipation, black colleges began training generations of scholars, writers, and artists who broadened black intellectual life. They helped build movements toward racial justice during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whether through pathbreaking journalism, research, or activism.

Bloom, acrylic, ink, wood, and fabric on canvas, by David Shrobe © The artist. Courtesy Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco
The Vanishing·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a Friday afternoon in the fall of 2017, a few months after the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State, a group of neighbors gathered at Mar Mattai, a monastery founded in the fourth century. They unloaded baskets of food, and arranged themselves around a long table in a courtyard. A woman named Niser spread out a tablecloth and put down a plate of dolmas. “It’s a way of celebrating that we still exist,” she told me. More people were arriving—children, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and distant relations—members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world who had not seen one another for three years.

Overlooking the village of Mergey from the old section of the Mar Mattai Monastery, Mount Maqlub, Iraq. All photographs from Iraq (October 2017) and Jerusalem (March 2018) by Nicole Tung (Detail)
Investigating Hate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Around three in the morning on a cold December Sunday, brothers José and Romel Sucuzhañay began to walk home from a bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It was a cloudy night, only a few degrees above freezing, and the houses and stores lining their route wore impassive, nighttime guises—shades drawn, metal grates locked down. Romel had only recently arrived from Ecuador. José, a thirty-­one-year-old father of two, ran a successful real estate agency in the neighborhood. The two had spent the evening eating and drinking at a quinceañera at St. Brigid Church, and afterward, they stopped at a local bar called Christopher’s Palace. They were feeling the alcohol as they headed back to José’s apartment. When they realized that José had left his coat behind in the bar, Romel took off his jacket and draped it around his younger brother’s shoulders. They continued to walk up Bushwick Avenue, swaying a bit, arms around each other for warmth and ballast.

As they approached the corner of Kossuth Place and Bushwick Avenue, a red SUV stopped at the traffic light. “Check out those faggots!” the driver yelled out the window. José may have said something in reply. Very rapidly, a man jumped out of the passenger side door and smashed José on the head with a bottle, dropping him to the ground. He then turned to attack Romel. As Romel fled from the man down Kossuth, the driver exited the car, grabbed an aluminum baseball bat out of the vehicle, and began to beat José until someone emerged from the back seat and called him off. The driver was walking away when he saw some movement from José, a twitch of his hand or his leg sliding across the pavement—trying to rise, perhaps—and he strode back, straddled him, and raised the bat high in the air. He brought it down on José’s head, again and again, as if he were chopping wood.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae (Detail)
Preservation Acts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

After eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Bergis Jules found himself worrying not only over the horrors of the present, but also over how little of the present was likely to be preserved for the future. The best reporting on the aftermath in Ferguson was being produced by activists on Twitter, a notoriously ephemeral medium. Jules, then an archivist at the University of California, Riverside, had the impulse to start saving tweets, but wasn’t sure how. “That whole weekend, watching things unfold, I thought, ‘This is a really amazing historical moment; we should think about capturing it,’ but I was just talking to myself,” he says. The following week, attending a Society of American Archivists conference in Washington, D.C., he voiced his fears en route to drinks at the hotel bar. He caught the ear of Ed Summers, a developer who just so happened to be the author of a Twitter archiving tool—and who promptly programmed it to va­cuum up #Ferguson tweets. Within two weeks, he had amassed more than 13 million.

Three weeks after the shooting, Summers blogged about the archive, which he and Jules were considering making public. Shortly thereafter, they received an inquiry from a data-mining company. When they pulled up the firm’s website, they read that its clients included the Department of Defense and, ominously, “the intelligence community.” What did the company want with the data? And what were the ethical implications of handing it over—perhaps indirectly to law enforcement—when the protesters’ tweets would otherwise evade collection? Using Twitter’s Application Programming Interface (API), the code that developers use to call up Twitter data, anyone can sift through tweets that were posted in the past week, but older posts disappear from the API’s search function, even if they still exist out on the web. The data-mining company was too late to nab a swath of the #Ferguson tweets. (Twitter has since unveiled a “premium” API that allows access to older data, for a substantial fee.) Newly mindful of the risks, Jules and Summers waited almost a year to publish their cache.

Illustration by Hanna Barczyk

Estimated number of times in the Fall of 1990 that George Bush told a joke about his dog asking for a wine list with her Alpo:


French researchers reported that 52 percent of young women exposed to Francis Cabrel’s ballad “Je l’aime à mourir” gave their phone numbers to an average-looking young man who hit on them, whereas only 28 percent of those exposed to Vincent Delerm’s “L’heure du thé” did so.

Migrant children were teargassed; carbon dioxide levels have reached three to five million year high; missionary killed by remote tribe

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


Happiness Is a Worn Gun


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