Harper’s Notes (3/18)

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: Martin Scorsese, marketplaces, the Meiji era, and more.

The editors

March 18, 2024

Fire in a crowded theater: Many Americans cherish the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of speech, but some worry that speech is no longer as free as it should be. This is because many see it as the government’s responsibility to regulate harmful or objectionable speech, especially online misinformation. As The Harper Review’s cofounder Surya Gowda argues, this phenomenon, if ill-executed, may be a “real and present danger.” Reviewing Jeff Kosseff’s new book Liar in a Crowded Theater: Freedom of Speech in a World of Misinformation, Gowda writes that the correct response to harmful speech is more complicated than many free speech advocates acknowledge. Kosseff, a professor of cybersecurity law at the Naval Academy, advocates for a self-regulatory, independent framework he calls “the marketplace of ideas,” in which ideas are tested and tried out, and, eventually, the best ones prevail. Gowda, while noting the threat to democracy of regulated speech, pushes back against the practicality of Kosseff’s marketplace. In a polarized world, it will be an uphill battle to fix the present, disunited marketplace.

Something old, something new: Japan’s Meiji era (1868–1912) saw unprecedented changes in Japanese society: the transition from a feudal to an industrialized society, economic and cultural exchange with Western nations, and militarization that resulted in imperial expansionism in the early twentieth century. These changes are reflected in Meiji-era artwork, much of which combines elements of traditional Japanese aesthetics with imported styles and methods of manufacture. In the touring exhibit Meiji Modern: Fifty Years of New Japan, viewers now have the opportunity to see many of the period’s finest photographs, textiles, paintings, and objets d’art. Featuring pieces borrowed from public and private collections around the world, Meiji Modern will run at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art from March 21 to June 9 of this year and will visit Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts later this year. Admission to the Smart Museum is free to the public.

A prayer for the dead: Martin Scorsese’s recent film Killers of the Flower Moon has received much acclaim for its cinematography, acting, and compassionate portrayal of the Osage Murders. In a new piece for The Point magazine, film critic Niles Schwartz analyzes the ways in which Scorsese’s movie addresses the nature of memorials. Schwartz discusses the way the movie deals with the uncanny ambiguities of religious belief, such as the main character’s family adhering both to Catholicism and traditional Osage religious practices or another character vacating her deathbed beckoned by visions of her ancestors. Schwartz contrasts the willingness of the Osage to see the world through a wider, more mystical lens with the antagonist William King Hale’s focus on materialistic rationality, and argues that the film demonstrates a refusal to see the world in a narrow, materialistic way.

Golden girls: If you find yourself in New York City these days, consider visiting the Neue Galerie for its magnificent exhibition of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s landscapes. Home to one of Klimt’s masterworks, The Woman in Gold (1907), the Galerie also showcases his lesser-known landscapes, painted after he had perfected his Golden Style. Paintings such as Park at Kammer Castle (1909) and Forester’s House in Weissenbach II (Garden) (1914) are perfect examples of Klimt’s incorporation of French Impressionist influence. The exhibit aims to situate Klimt’s role in the Vienna Secession movement within the context of his career and features several prints of his more famous works and photographs of his time in the Austrian countryside. The exhibition will run until May 6.