The New Republic has done a great job with its coverage of health care reform this time time around, so much so that I was starting to think it might be time to end the anti-TNR blogofascist jihad. But the Wieseltier-Sully dust-up reminded me of why I’ve always disliked the magazine so much. Eric Alterman:
But what Leon is doing here is seeking to criminalize the kinds of criticism of Israel of which he does not approve. His boss, and patron, Marty Peretz, long ago lost his mind—and the respect of everyone who is not on TNR’s payroll—over exactly this issue, turning himself into a comically neurotic old Jewish man who spouts anti-Arab hatred on the magazine’s website as if seeking to incite a daily race riot. Together with young Kirchick, who as a Jew-obsessed gay Neocon jihadist–and hence, might fairly be viewed as the evil spawn of Peretz and Andrew-in-his-earlier-incarnation, their achievement lies in their ability to destroy not only the value of the term “pro-Israel” as I wrote here, but now, sadly, the value of the actual accusation of anti-Semitism even where it might be real.
Anyway, perhaps there’s something in the water they serve in the office. Jonathan Chait was, onceupon a time, immune to this kind of thing and was a fine liberal writer. But he’s caught the disease now as well….
I’ve always wondered how much of the New Republic’s failings are directly attributable to Peretz. They certainly have some talented contributors. Cohn and Chait in particular, have been terrific on HCR — wonky but accessible, smart but not smart-ass. It makes me wonder how much better the magazine might be if it spent less time promoting Likudist tripe and facile contrarianism.
Obviously, there’s no denying that the magazine has been on the wrong side of most recent major political/government debacles — from the defeat of Clintoncare, to the Iraq war, to the 2004 Joe Lieberman campaign — or that its contributors mostly sound like smug, overly boyish Ivy League punks. A lot of that is what you might expect from a magazine run by an aging Harvard Social Studies instructor who hates Arabs. Lieberman and Iraq can be explained by the anti-Arab hatred and the taste for contrarianism by having spent a lifetime watching young bucks win section arguments with their Lincoln-Douglas debate techniques.
The New Republic is not a business per se, it is a Marty Peretz vanity project. It’s likely that its right-wing stances alienated its readership and are partly responsible for the precipitous drop in its circulation (the fact that Slate is a more-internet friendly forum for the same attitudes and stances probably doesn’t help either). But in a vanity project, I suspect that pleasing the boss is more important than selling magazines.
Jack Shafer had an interesting piece a few months ago on the possible pitfalls of nonprofit journalism, saying that when outlets are bankrolled by wealthy donors, they will inevitably come to reflect the donors’ views and idiosyncrasies. Perhaps TNR is the ultimate example of that.