Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Andrew Sullivan, Part [n]

Further to my disdain below, I can’t say anything to gloss what Andrew writes in tonight’s RNC liveblog.

MSKG - De idioot bij de vijver - Frits Van den Berghe (1926)

Truly, all you need to know about Andrew’s political and intellectual honesty is right there:

8:18 p.m. We have to answer this core question: how is it that liberal democracy in America is now flirting with strongman, ethno-nationalist authoritarianism? What happened to the democratic center?

It seems to me that the right bears the hefty majority of responsibility, moving from principled opposition to outright nullification of a presidency, trashing every important neutral institution, and now bad-mouthing the country they hope to “govern.” But the left’s abandonment of empiricism and liberalism – its rapid descent into neo-Marxist dogma, its portrayal of American history as a long unending story of white supremacy, its coarse impugning of political compromise and incrementalism, its facile equation of disagreement with bigotry – has also played a part. Liberal democracy needs liberal norms and manners to survive. Which is why it is now on life-support.

In between, moderate Christianity, once a unifying cultural fabric creating a fragile civil discourse, has evaporated into disparate spirituality on one side and fundamentalist dogma on the other, leaving us with little in the center to hold us morally together.

Annnnd, Scene!

Have at it, friends.

Image:  Frits Van den Berghe, The Idiot by the Pond1926

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy

This will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever happen, but it’s a good thought (via):

I have a fantasy. It’s that every politician and pundit who goes on TV to discuss the Iran deal is asked this question first: “Did you support the Iraq War, and how has that experience informed your position?”

Open Thread: Dinesh D’Souza, Meet Jeet Heer

Jeet Heer’s twitter feed is alway worth reading, but whoever hired him to write at TNR deserves a bonus, because now he’s got a reason to say more about American politics. Heer’s cover story for the first issue of the revamped TNR (“Whitewash: TNR’s Legacy on Race“) was rightly lauded. And now he’s handed Mr. “Obama the anti-colonialist doesn’t love America” D’Souza his… pants, in “How to Make It In Conservative America (If You Aren’t White)“:

… Anti-black racism, I’ve often thought, is one of the more unwholesome manifestations of assimilation. If blacks are near the bottom of the perceived racial hierarchy across North America, some enterprising immigrants find it useful to step on blacks as a way of climbing higher.

Racism among South Asians has some peculiar qualities; it’s not so much hatred of the other but the hatred of the almost-the-same, akin to a sibling rivalry. At the heart of this sort of immigrant racism is the desire to differentiate oneself from the group one could easily be identified with…

D’Souza’s racism makes sense if we view it as part of his long effort to succeed in a right-wing milieu that is both anti-Indian and anti-black. Within that context, D’Souza has given saliency to anti-black racism to compensate for a potentially embarrassing background as a Mumbai-born immigrant. Is D’Souza sincere in his beliefs or simply an intellectual mercenary? It’s impossible to know for sure. What can be said with certainty is that as an Indian willing to voice anti-black sentiment, D’Souza has carved out a lucrative niche for himself, enjoying a national audience from the time he was an undergraduate…

One of the saddest things about D’Souza’s racism is that it’s clearly built on some element of self-hatred. By aligning himself with figures like Hart and Burnham, he chose a form of upward mobility that required abasing himself before those who despised his heritage…

A mark, that will surely leave.

Chaitsplaining the Perils of PC

Jonathan Chait has written a lengthy screed on the perils of political correctness. He reviews its history, provides numerous examples of its pitfalls and even name-checks Balloon Juice fave Freddie deBoer, who is quoted as follows:

It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.

It’s a long piece, but if I may attempt to summarize, Chait divides libtards into two camps: Radical leftists (black hats!) who are the intellectual heirs of Marx; these social justice warriors infest Tumblr and other platforms and try to win the day by shutting down opponents. The second group, Classic Coke liberals (white hats!), are the heirs of Enlightenment traditions. These free speech advocates try to win through application of reason. Read more

Long Read Scroll: “Liking Jazz Is Not Enough”


Yes, of interest only to specialists or fellow OCD sufferers: Blog favorite Ta-Nehisi Coates applauding Jeet Heer (who just took a job with the “new” TNR) bashing favorite blog-target Andrew Sullivan.

I’d forgotten (I did hate-read the original “Bell Curve” issue, which caused me to cancel my subscription for the first or second time) that all the TNR writers who were not Andrew Sullivan or Marty Perez had strong disagreements with that article.

You may now resume your regularly scheduled Balloon Juice.

Thermite At A Funeral

Ta-Nehisi Coates comes not to praise The New Republic, but to bury it under big neon signs pointing to evidence that it was a festering canker of “liberal” racist drivel.  He gives the publication and its more famous staff no less than they deserve.

That explains why the family rows at TNR’s virtual funeral look like the “Whites Only” section of a Jim Crow-era movie-house. For most its modern history, TNR has been an entirely white publication, which published stories confirming white people’s worst instincts. During the culture wars of the ’80s and ’90s, TNR regarded black people with an attitude ranging from removed disregard to blatant bigotry. When people discuss TNR’s racism, Andrew Sullivan’s publication of excerpts from Charles Murray’s book The Bell Curve (and a series of dissents) gets the most attention. But this fuels the lie that one infamous issue stands apart. In fact, the Bell Curve episode is remarkable for how well it fits with the rest of TNR’s history.

The personal attitude of TNR’s longtime owner, the bigoted Martin Peretz, should be mentioned here. Peretz’s dossier of racist hits (mostly at the expense of blacks and Arabs) is shameful, and one does not have to look hard to find evidence of it in Peretz’s writing or in the sensibility of the magazine during his ownership. In 1984, long before Sullivan was tapped to helm TNR, Charles Murray was dubbing affirmative action a form of “new racism” that targeted white people.

Two years later, Washington Post writer Richard Cohen was roundly rebuked for advocating that D.C. jewelry stores discriminate against young black men—but not by TNR. The magazine took the opportunity to convene a panel to “reflect briefly” on whether it was moral for merchants to bar black men from their stores. (“Expecting a jewelry store owner to risk his life in the service of color-blind justice is expecting too much,” the magazine concluded.)

TNR made a habit of “reflecting briefly” on matters that were life and death to black people but were mostly abstract thought experiments to the magazine’s editors. Before, during, and after Sullivan’s tenure, the magazine seemed to believe that the kind of racism that mattered most was best evidenced in the evils of Afrocentrism, the excesses of multiculturalism, and the machinations of Jesse Jackson. It’s true that TNR’s staff roundly objected to excerpting The Bell Curve, but I was never quite sure why. Sullivan was simply exposing the dark premise that lay beneath much of the magazine’s coverage of America’s ancient dilemma.

And Coates continues with his vicious slashing, like a literary velociraptor let loose in a sheep pasture, the whole article is breathtaking. Was everybody at the magazine complicit in this?  No, but that’s irrelevant, frankly. As far as I’m concerned, Chris Hughes’s massive techbro hubris actually did the world a favor for once, and mortally wounded something that should have been taken out back and shot years ago. And Sully, Marty Peretz, Charles Murray, Stephen Glass, all those guys can go straight to the septic tank of history as far as I’m concerned along with their damn “liberal” New Republic.

Even The “Liberal” New Republic

Seems Chris Hughes broke his toy to the point where Frank Foer is out as editor at The New Republic and everyone else is jumping ship in protest.  People are resigning by Twitter.  It’s freaking AWESOME.

Jon Chait is pissed.

I expect the circumstances surrounding TNR’s transformation will be framed as a matter of modernity versus tradition. There is certainly an element of this. At the magazine’s 100th anniversary gala two weeks ago, where Hughes, Foer, Wieseltier, and Hughes’s new CEO, Guy Vidra, all spoke, the speeches took a sharply, awkwardly divergent tone. Foer and Weiseltier gave soaring paeans to the magazine’s immense role in shaping American liberal thought. Hughes and Vidra used words like brand and boasted about page views, giving no sense of appreciation at all for the magazine’s place in American life. In a comic moment, Vidra mispronounced Foer’s name. I happened to run into Wieseltier a few days after the gala, and when he asked me what I thought, I told him he and Foer won the debate.

But the conflict between Hughes and most of the staff of The New Republic is not about technology. Foer and the staff, with the exception of Wieseltier, are comfortable with modernity. They are joyous bloggers, and willingly submitted to the introduction of cringe-worthy Upworthy headlines to their stories and other compromises one must make with commercial needs.

The problem, rather, is that Hughes and Vidra are afflicted with the belief that they can copy the formula that transformed the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed into economic successes, which is probably wrong, and that this formula can be applied to The New Republic, which is certainly wrong.

Several weeks ago, Vidra communicated the new vision to the staff in what I am told was an uncomfortable stream of business clichés ungrounded in any apparent strategy other than saying things like “let’s break shit” and “we’re a tech company now.” His memo to the staff predictably uses terms like “straddle generation” and “brand.” It promises to make TNR “a vertically integrated digital media company,” possibly unaware that “vertically integrated” is an actual business concept, not a term for a media company that integrates verticals.

Hughes and Vidra have provided no reason at all for anybody to believe they have a plausible plan to modernize The New Republic. If they did, Frank Foer would still be editor. My only hope now is that one day this vital American institution can be rebuilt.

Me?  The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV.  The thing survived two world wars, the Great Depression, Watergate, the fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11, New Coke, and 74,927 episodes of Law and Order, but couldn’t handle one Silicon Valley douchebag with a giant checkbook in possession of all the common sense of a chunk of asphalt.  I guess it’s a little sad to see something like that implode but….


Also, anybody else notice that Techbros Turning Journalism Outlets Into Huge Piles Of Shit(tm) seems to be a recurring theme of 2014?  There’s an awful lot of that going around.