HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

July 23, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


I read a pleasant account from reporter Johann Hari who signed on for a cruise sponsored by The National Review. He tells us what real right-wingers say when they are amongst only themselves and therefore can let their genuine sentiments flow. Dinesh D'Souza announced that "Republicans are the party of winners. Democrats are the party of losers." Norman Podhoretz screamed so loudly at everybody, including William Buckley, that he almost lost his voice. And an elegant elderly lady, not named, proclaimed that our nation needs to cleanse itself by executing a goodly number of liberals, thereby showing people what happens when they speak disparagingly of America.

From time to time I try to sample the arguments in the right-wing press -- Commentary, The Weekly Standard, The National Review, The American Enterprise Institute, and so forth. It doesn't bother me when people have opinions different from my own or that they like things other than what I like. After all, I can scarcely expect everyone to share my tastes. So when I see arguments supporting developments I oppose, I don't mind them and they certainly don't make me angry. But I confess that in reading the sort of publications mentioned above I do sometime get exasperated because the quality of most of the argument there strikes me as being very low. It's not what they say but how they say it that leaves me frustrated. I don't agree with everything I read in The Nation either. But the quality of argument in The Nation is far better. The writers there have greater respect for truth than do the writers in right-wing publications. It may be the right-wing is in a bind because it believes much that can't be admitted nowadays, such as that rich white people really are inherently superior to poor black people. I guess I ought to sympathize more with the right-wing problem -- how do you promote positions that can't be openly expressed? But, I confess, my sympathies don't extend that far.

After a two-year hiatus, I restarted my radio career this week, doing an interview and posting an essay on a local station which is too small for most you to hear. As I said in a note to friends, "I'm not certain it's perfectly seemly to be sending out my voice so people I don't know can hear it. God only knows what they might make of what I say. I have never been a radio listener so I don't know how others respond to radio talk. I hope what I say isn't an abomination." Given how radio works in this country now, it may not be the place for me. But I can imagine it working differently, so I'm willing to keep trying.

At Barnes and Noble in Burlington I browsed through a book I think is worth reading, Alan M. Brandt's The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America. A question that puzzles me continually is how it can be that corporations are God's primary gift to world freedom when the directors of corporations regularly show that they will protect their profits at the expense of the lives of their customers? Some kind of ethos is at work there and it doesn't strike me as fitting perfectly with freedom, though I suppose the definition of that term has become so muddled it means almost nothing any longer.

In a few hours I'll be off to Chicago to attend an academic ceremony. While I'm in the windy -- and I suppose now, hot -- city I'll be on the lookout for interesting developments. If I discover any I'll report them to you next week.


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