I Remember It Like It Was Next Week


In the latest issue of Harper's, Lewis Lapham has a long, tiresome essay on the "Republican propaganda mill"--which, to judge by one of the accompanying graphs, includes the foundation that publishes Reason. (No wonder we find ourselves praising the president so often.) Lapham briefly mentions but otherwise ignores ideological divisions on "the right," lumping together "the Catholic conservatives with the Jewish neoconservatives, the libertarians with the authoritarians, the evangelical nationalists with the paranoid monetarists, Pat Robertson with the friends of the Ku Klux Klan." According to Lapham, all are part of the same conspiracy against decency and compassion, bound together by a common "resentment" (of what, exactly, he doesn't say). It tells you something about Lapham's acuity that he sees George W. Bush as a faithful disciple of Barry Goldwater. The main thrust of the piece is that all conservatives are stupid and closed-minded, with the possible exception of Irving Kristol.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the article is the paragraph where Lapham pretends to have heard the speeches at the Republican National Convention that does not open until a week from today. Referring to "the platform on which [George W. Bush] was trundled into New York City this August with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the heavy law enforcement, and the paper elephants," Lapham writes:

The speeches in Madison Square Garden affirmed the great truths now routinely preached from the pulpits of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal--government the problem, not the solution; the social contract a dead letter; the free market the answer to every maiden's prayer--and while listening to the hollow rattle of the rhetorical brass and tin, I remembered the question that [Richard] Hofstadter didn't stay to answer. How did a set of ideas both archaic and bizarre make its way into the center ring of the American political circus?

True, the issue is dated September, but I got my copy in early August, and Lapham must have written those words in July. Didn't it occur to him that his readers might notice he was claiming to have witnessed an event that had not occurred when the magazine went to press? Evidently, Republicans are not the only ones Lapham thinks are stupid.