A weird thing about the New Yorker’s annual Cartoon Issue is that it pretty much always creates high expectations and doesn’t live up to them. This week, as in the past, the cartoons don’t seem as good as many regular issues, even though there are twice as many.
The best thing about this issue is “The Lie Factory,” Jill Lepore’s American Chronicles piece about the two individuals who created the whole industry of political lobbying . Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, a couple of right-wing conservative, created Campaigns Inc. in 1933. They started out in newspapers and then figured out how to run political campaigns in favor of businesses by smudging the line between advertising, advocacy, and journalism. They were the ones who first undertook to persuade the American public that universal health care was “socialized medicine” and therefore unspeakably evil. It’s a fascinating and disheartening chapter of American political history.
Key quote from William Gavin, an advisor to Richard Nixon who wrote in a memo: “Voters are basically lazy, basically uninterested in making an effort to understand what we’re talking about…Reason requires a higher degree of discipline, of concentration; impression is easier. Reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making an intellectual demand. . . . When we argue with him we demand that he make the effort of replying. We seek to engage his intellect, and for most people this is the most difficult work of all. The emotions are more easily roused, closer to the surface, more malleable.”
I did also love this amazing photo by Martin Roemers that accompanied Mohsin Hamid’s short story “The Third-Born”:
Last week’s issue, by the way, had a terrific profile of Elizabeth Warren by Jeffrey Toobin, an excerpt from Salman Rushdie’s new book about his life under the fatwa that made him a target for assassination by Muslim fanatics, and a good piece by Hilton Als on Robert Wilson and the evolution of Einstein on the Beach.