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Baker Gives 1974 Atherton Lecture At Leverett House

By Robert Ullmann

Russell Baker gave the annual Frederic William Atherton lecture last night, saying that he "didn't want to moralize," and choosing to amuse the audience rather than inform it.

Speaking before 300 people in the Leverett House dining hall, Baker derided those who "try to justify humor by giving it social significance or by trying to tell us why we laugh."

Baker said he did not want to discuss politics. But he alluded to President Nixon by describing a Charlie Chaplin film scene in which the tramp slowly eats the last peas off his plate, knowing that when he finishes, the restaurant owner will learn that he has no money and will call in his blood-hungry bouncers.

"There isn't going to be a new Nixon, just like there isn't going to be a new you, no matter how much milk you drink," he said.

Baker ridiculed television advertisements that get us to "walk around smelling like ambulatory branches of the DuPont Corporation" and books on the science of sex, which reassure us that "the most complex of human emotions is no more difficult than installing a new set of Venetian blinds."

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