The long read: She is venerated around the world. She has outlasted 12 US presidents. She stands for stability and order. But her kingdom is in turmoil, and her subjects are in denial that her reign will ever end. That’s why the palace has a plan.
Looking to Putin’s intelligence apparatus is not to witness the genesis of political information warfare. In fact, the United States was birthed in a stew of information, misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda projected by competing entities both internally and externally. Thus, instead of looking at the apparent success of Russian intelligence in the recent election as the perfected form of information warfare, it is worth considering colonial and revolutionary America to appreciate the historical precedent and perspective.
During my teaching days, along with courses on Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and Willa Cather, I taught an undergraduate course called Advanced Prose Style. What it was advanced over was never made clear, but each year the course was attended by 15 or so would-be—or, as we should say today, wannabe—novelists and poets. Usage, diction, syntax, rhythm, metaphor, irony were some of the subjects taken up in class. Around the sixth week of the eight-week term I passed out a list of 12 or so names and historical events—among them Sergei Diaghilev, Francis Poulenc, Mark Rothko, Alexander Herzen, the 1913 Armory Show, John Cage, the Spanish Civil War, George Balanchine, and Jean Cocteau—and asked how many of these items the students could identify. The identification rate among my students was inevitably low, which did not much surprise me. I mentioned that at their age (20 or 21), I should probably not have done much better, and then added: But if as writers you intend to present yourself to the world as cultured persons, you have to know these names and events and scores of others, and what is important about them. This is not something that one gets up as if for an exam, or Googles and promptly forgets, but that must be understood in historical context—at least it must for those who seek to live a cultured life.
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