Dear editor,

As a tremendous admirer of Masha Gessen’s previous work, I was disappointed to read her latest comment in The New Yorker on “John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup.” I think Ms. Gessen speaks with little understanding of the civic depth of our society, the checks and balances in our system, the storied, culled and ambivalent relationship we have with our military, the health of our free universities, businesses and press. She does the classic move of many authors: she projects the subject of her latest book (totalitarianism) onto what she sees. So, lo and behold, she watches Adm. Kelly’s extraordinarily complex speech–by equal parts moving and disturbing, a historic text that will no doubt be dissected for years, decades to come–and she lodges her book’s totalitarian thesis into this latest space. Before reading her reaction, I had just turned on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as a retired four-star was calling Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders “ignorant” because earlier today she demanded that no one question a four-star such as Kelly. David Axelrod was fuming. Meanwhile Sen. John McCain and co. have been running Defense Secretary Mattis et al through the ringer all day at the Senate. Two former presidents just took our current president to the woodshed just yesterday. That’s how our system, unlike the authoritarian Soviet Union in which Ms. Gessen grew up, works. It’s not pretty and we are still working on the recipe but the sausage still comes out damn fine.

Zachary Jonathan Jacobson, PhD

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