The real problem with The New Republic

by Corey Robin on December 6, 2014

The New Republic is coming to an end. And the autopsies have begun. So have the critiques. But the real problem with The New Republic is not that it was racist, though it was. It’s not that it was filled with warmongers, though it was. It’s not that it punched hippies, though it did. No, the real problem with The New Republic is that for the last three decades, it has had no energy. It has had no real project. The last time The New Republic had a project was in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when it was in the journalistic vanguard of what was then called neoliberalism (not what we now call neoliberalism). That is what a great magazine of politics and culture does: it creates a project, it fashions a sensibility. The Spectator did it in the early 18th century, Partisan Review in the 1930s did it, Dissent in the 1950s did it, and The New Republic in the 1970s/1980s did it. I’m not saying that I like that last project; I don’t. I’m just saying that it was a project, and that it was a creation. Love them or hate them, great magazines gather the diverse and disparate energies of a polity and a culture and give them focus. They shape assumptions, they direct attention, they articulate a direction. The New Republic hasn’t done that since I was a teenager. (That’s the irony/inanity of Stephen Glass’ famed—really, fabled—fabulism: there was nothing fabulistic about it at all. His lies weren’t stretchers. They were social truths: they played to, repeated, every conventional assumption of the age of which the magazine was capable.) That’s why virtually every obituary for the magazine that’s been written by people of roughly my age opens or closes with a memoir of one’s high school experience; the entire constituency of the magazine seems to be suffering from a Judd Apatow-like case of arrested development. In the last three decades, The New Republic has generated controversy, clickbait, talk of the town. It’s sponsored solid journalism, smart criticism, bad policy and bloody wars. God knows, it has not suffered for talent or intelligence. But what it hasn’t done is create a sense or sensibility, a deep style in the Nietzschean sense. It has instead been living off the borrowed energy and dead labor of its past. It has long ceased to be the place where the intellectual action is. To mourn its demise now is to mourn something that disappeared years ago.

{ 205 comments }

1

Claude Fischer 12.06.14 at 3:41 am

Beg to disagree (as a TNR subscriber for most of 40+ years).
A magazine with a mission soon becomes a b-o-r-i-n-g magazine.
At it’s best, TNR had a variety of interesting and even surprising takes on issues of the day. (Alas, Glass was indeed interesting.) That will be a loss.

2

Corey Robin 12.06.14 at 3:48 am

Ah, you mistake me, Professor Fischer. A project that’s the forging of a sensibility is not a mission. It’s something much greater. And though I can’t be sure, I suspect your memory of those interesting and even surprising takes on issues of the day is very much rooted in the heyday of the magazine that everyone remembers most. I.e., the 1980s. But I’m happy to agree to disagree.

3

PHB 12.06.14 at 4:28 am

I used to have real difficulty remembering the difference between the New Republic and the National Review. Eventually I got it straight: one was written by a group of racist warmongers that hated hippies and the other was written by a group of racist warmongers that hated all Liberals.

A magazine that publishes the racist filth of The Spine wasn’t worth my time reading. The only times I ever visited was when Atrios posted a link to some inanity.

One of the major problems with online publishing is that even if your magazine is only 5% racist, those are the articles that are going to be seen most widely. I don’t see it as being worth my time to distinguish between magazines that are a little bit racist and Stormfront mag. So having Marty Peretz on the masthead was always a liability for them.

Since I didn’t read the magazine in the print era, I neither know nor care what it was like twenty or thirty years ago. It was a magazine whose journalists were willing to work for an overt racist long after racism ceased being fashionable. Either they didn’t mind working for a racist or they couldn’t get a job elsewhere. Neither suggests to me that they are likely to be worth reading.

For some mourning the magazine’s passing, the racism was the main attraction. Although they call it ‘diversity of thought’. If I want to know what the racists are thinking then I can read it first hand easily enough.

What the New Republic really stood for was telling people that the beltway consensus represented true liberalism and anyone who objected their war mongering or their racism was a dirty, smelly hippie.

4

Thornton Hall 12.06.14 at 4:41 am

Wow. Awesome. Exactly right.

5

bianca steele 12.06.14 at 4:42 am

I used to eat with grad students in college (they had a better cafeteria), and I don’t know how many told me they read The New Republic. One or two told me the only magazines they read were TNR and the Economist. This was in, about 1986 or 1987. That’s how I think of it: as the opposite pole of a continuum that defines a certain “centrist” safe zone.

6

Donald Johnson 12.06.14 at 5:13 am

“TNR had a variety of interesting and even surprising takes on issues of the day. “

Too much of what they did was of the “even the liberal New Republic” strain, where they took conservative or even racist positions, coming out in favor of the contras, supported the Bell Curve, never had a good word to say about Arabs (Fouad Ajami was the in-house expert on everything wrong with the Arab world) and of course supported the Iraq War. Those are the things that pop into my head when discussing TNR–I didn’t even remember some of the other stuff that Corey linked, like the awful cover supporting welfare reform. That was TNR’s schtick ever since the early 80’s and after awhile, the novelty value of an ostensibly liberal magazine supporting the far right on numerous issues eventually wears out. That was also the era of the early neoliberals that Corey mentions, the Gary Hart and Charles Peters types or maybe even Dukakis. But if you were interested in that sort of thinking without the noxiousness that permeated TNR you could read the Washington Monthly (is that still around?)

7

Anderson 12.06.14 at 5:24 am

I loved the book reviews in the back. As I was musing earlier, the mag’s deviations from liberal thought were forgivable to me, because I’m from the South & not used to ideological purity of the left variety.

Here of late I’ve been subscribing, because I appreciated Julia Ioffe’s Russia coverage so much. But I agree with Corey that the mag lacked a soul. (Love that Gay Science bit btw.)

8

engels 12.06.14 at 5:27 am

The real problem with The New Republic was its limited absorbency.

9

MPAVictoria 12.06.14 at 5:29 am

“The only times I ever visited was when Atrios posted a link to some inanity.”

Atrios does not get nearly the attention he deserves around here. The man is a genius. He says more with less then anybody writing about current events.

/can you tell I am a fan!

10

js. 12.06.14 at 6:01 am

It’s a striking argument and one I’m sympathetic to, but I think it proves too much. I have been reading the Nation cover to cover for 10-ish years, and it’s probably not had a project in your sense either in that time (at least it anything that would fit “make it new”). (Tho it also luckily been free of the egregious racism.) Still, it’d be heartbreaking if it died. Tho to be clear, my heart is not broken at TNR’s death.

11

Rakesh 12.06.14 at 6:03 am

Remember the Bell Curve the first excerpts of which were published in the New Republic then edited by Andrew Sullivan? I would rather have a boring magazine such as the American Prospect.

12

Meredith 12.06.14 at 7:45 am

I. F. Stone.

13

Palindrome 12.06.14 at 8:26 am

Andrew Sullivan has much to answer for, and The New Republic did great harm to this country in the ’90s-00s. Still, in the last few years, with the departure of Martin Peretz and the improvements brought about by Foer, I had almost convinced myself to renew my long lapsed subscription. I feel that there was potentially a great magazine here that was on the cusp of realizing its potential. Shame.

14

Brett Bellmore 12.06.14 at 11:42 am

Yeah, sucks when your idea of the perfect magazine is so unpopular every magazine you really like dies. Not like *I* haven’t experienced that myself.

Which reminds me, time to ask the wife to renew my Mother Earth News subscription for Christmas.

15

novakant 12.06.14 at 12:48 pm

Have to disagree on both counts:

1.) TNR has been engaged in hippie bashing and “even the liberal TNR” goal post shifting continuously for a long, long time. cf Eric Altermann:

http://prospect.org/article/my-marty-peretz-problem-and-ours

2.) I don’t want a political magazine to pursue a project, unless that project is relentlessly analyzing and criticizing power and the corruption that invariably comes with it.

16

Ze Kraggash 12.06.14 at 1:18 pm

“I appreciated Julia Ioffe’s Russia coverage so much.”

Jeez, here’s one combination of words I’ve never expected to read. Learn something new everyday. Unless this is about appreciating its pure propaganda value.

Funny, I read her interview to some Russian website where she describes how her decision to become a journo was a ‘big tragedy’ (exact words) to her Soviet-mind-set parents. They believed (mistakenly, in her opinion) that the journos are mere conduits for the powers that be. Meanwhile, from what I’ve seen recently, this is exactly what she is, in respect to her Russia coverage: attacking viciously The Nation (Cohen) for their “of course Russia is evil, but…” half-assed dissent.

17

bill benzon 12.06.14 at 1:39 pm

When Stanley Kaufman died last year, that was the end of TNR. As a film critic he was, of course, at the back of the book.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Kauffmann

18

Anderson 12.06.14 at 2:07 pm

16: those who think Putin is a splendid person will know just where to read all about him.

19

John McGowan 12.06.14 at 2:47 pm

Thank you 15 for the Altermann link; it’s a great read and a very good summary of a sad history.

20

stevenjohnson 12.06.14 at 2:49 pm

The New Republic? Isn’t that the magazine whose greatest achievement in new ideas of late was when Leon Wieseltier finally attacked Steven Pinker *from the right*! Surely the surprise is that people that fucked up were able to keep going so long.

21

jwl 12.06.14 at 2:50 pm

I’m suspicious of grand projects by magazines that require charity. But surely it is important that TNR’s grand projects failed.

Iraq war: disaster
Opposing Clinton health care plan: disaster
Bell Curve: disaster
Peretz’s Spine column: disaster
9-11 response by Beinart: disaster
Elevating Sullivan, Kaus, Krauthammer, Barnes to national prominence: disaster

The literary section was good, but it was only allowed to exist because Wieseltier fully agreed with Peretz’s extreme positions on Israel.

I don’t think we are losing anything. On politics, TNR hasn’t been a positive force for decades. It just took people a while to notice.

Stephen Cohen of the Nation is an interesting case. He still mourns the breakup of the Soviet Union, an extremely unpopular position in the US. He doesn’t think the Soviet republics should have gained independence and wanted NATO disbanded. Since Putin believes the same things, he seems to believe in a commonality of attitudes and ideas between him and Putin’s Russia. It isn’t there, but it leads him to say ridiculous things about Ukraine invading and occupying parts of its own country.

His imperialist attitudes toward non-Russians and beliefs in the reform ability of the Soviet Union are common in Russia but weird in the US.

Peretz has fairly unusual views for the US as well. He’s basically a neoconservative who still has some liberal social views while being a Israeli nationalist and 19th century racist. Both of these guys have unusual or very unusual views in the American context that make them hard to pigeonhole.

But that doesn’t mean they add value. Supporting Russian imperialism and combining some liberal social values with aggressive foreign policy and stupid ethnic nationalism aren’t particularly useful positions in the US. They don’t add much to the discourse.

22

Peter Dorman 12.06.14 at 2:57 pm

I never read TNR, and I go back pretty far. Nevertheless, I sometimes sought out the book reviews, which could be deep, thoughtful and well-informed. We have a shortage of serious book review outlets, and losing even one will be noticed.

In this connection, it’s interesting that the internet has not yet, as far as I know, produced book review sites that compare with the main print venues. All the long-form reviews I read online are electronic versions of printed stuff.

Meanwhile, I get Cory’s point, and I think it’s right. A good magazine is a kind of world, where reading an article gives you not only the content of that specific piece but also a connection to the world/weltanschauung (Google spell-check wants me to type “unchangeable”!) it’s a part of. That world needs to be broad enough that you don’t know what the article will say until you read it, but if it’s as broad as the real world you might as well read the article separately somewhere. (The problem with The Nation, which I used to read extensively but don’t anymore, is that its world has become too narrow and predictable. There is no longer the sense of “figuring things out”, which used to be there.)

23

PHB 12.06.14 at 3:12 pm

I am rather mystified by the claim that the problem with TNR was the lack of a grand project. Peretz certainly had grand projects, the problem was that they were all despicable and ultimately failures.

While we can debate whether Zionism is intrinsically racist or not, it is clear that Peretz is the kind of Zionism whose Zionism stems from his racism rather than the other way round. He wasn’t just an anti-Arab bigot, he was willing to go bat for folk peddling the notion that the white man is more intelligent than the black man.

Oh and that ‘diverse range of views’ didn’t exactly extend to criticism of Israel. Which was of course the whole point.

Anyone who listens to the BBC World Service carefully will quickly realize that it is a propaganda station (it is funded by the UK foreign office) and a very, very good one. The propaganda lies in what news is presented, not the distortion of facts. It also spends a huge amount of time broadcasting programs on football and cricket. Now you might want to tink about the reason why the UK Foreign Office is so keen to inform people living in West Africa about the politics of the African football cup or the prospects of Chelsea winning the league. And the answer is they don’t give a damn but their audience do. And the millions who tune in for the football also listen to the World Service news bulletins.

For Peretz the liberal articles in TNR were simply a way to get an audience for his odious propaganda. Running as a liberal on issues that he didn’t care for allowed him to provide his real allies on the right with an ‘even the liberal TNR’ on the issues he really cared about.

24

bianca steele 12.06.14 at 3:40 pm

Meredith: Ha! But Stone stopped publishing, when? (Also, he convinced a friend of mine that Socrates was killed for being gay, and gave him the confidence to argue the point at length–this was before the Internet was widely available, but that book would have been catnip for Usenet–which has ever since then been a problem for me.)

stevenjohnson: Yes.

I don’t remember the magazine from pre-Sullivan days, but even the back pages had a different flavor after he left, in my opinion. I’m not sure why that should be, but there it is.

25

Anarcissie 12.06.14 at 4:19 pm

I don’t know. It seems to me that a magazine written by racist, warmongering hippie-punchers ought to be very popular. Look at the leadership of our government and great institutions. Maybe there’s too much competition.

26

Ze Kraggash 12.06.14 at 4:36 pm

@21 “Supporting Russian imperialism and combining some liberal social values with aggressive foreign policy and stupid ethnic nationalism aren’t particularly useful positions in the US.”

Except that this has nothing to do with Cohen (this is your chance to prove me wrong).

I think I have an idea of what “useful positions in the US” are, and by that standard Ioffe is definitely ‘useful’, supporting American imperialism and combining some liberal social values with aggressive foreign policy and stupid (and, in fact, quite sinister) ethnic nationalism.

Incidentally, here’s the latest silliness (well, the latest I’ve seen anyway): “In the address the Federation of Greek Communities of Ukraine received a letter from the Ukrainian World Union of Professional Teachers in which the organization demanded that the Greeks living in the territory of Ukraine, to abandon the use of the Russian language.”
http://en.cyplive.com/ru/news/grekov-ukrainy-shokirovali-trebovaniem-otkazatsya-ot-russkogo-yazyka.html :

The Greeks, who are citizens of Ukraine are required (out of solidarity with the Ukrainian people) forget Putin’s language and become part of Ukrainian civil society, talking only in Greek and in the official language, enriching the culture of the Ukrainian Greek original culture, historical past.

Two languages ​​should sound in every family: native Greek and state (such are the demands of the European Union) and the whole civilized world to those who live in the territory of the other strany.Russky language in Ukraine today is perceived as a hostile Ukrainians.

In Greek family should ignore Putin’s speech imposed by the enemy, culture and eradicate alien spirit, language and culture of everyday life.

We offer to start taking care of Greek children here in Ukraine since preschool. Sow in the hearts of the children of the Greek grain of human kindness (so typical of your people), love, peace, harmony in the family and in our common Ukraine.

You get the idea, right? Is it really all that surprising that people in the east (Russians, by any standard except the citizenship) rebel and are willing to fight to the bitter end? Or, try this one: http://justicewithpeace.org/node/5238

27

Bruce Baugh 12.06.14 at 4:38 pm

Anarcissie: And the competition was and is willing to be more thorough about it. I’ve seen acquaintances a-plenty make the trip from “vital center” hippie-punching to full-bore Tea Party anti-morality. There’s more success in going all the way and beckoning others along than trying to stop partway and claim that you’re sufficiently fare along.

It’s like the line about voters preferring real Republicans to Democrats trying to act like them.

28

Anderson 12.06.14 at 4:56 pm

26: oh, please, post more like this.

29

Barry 12.06.14 at 5:08 pm

PHB: perfect!

30

Barry 12.06.14 at 5:11 pm

“it always seemed to me that TNR’s main sin is that it had writers that didn’t necessarily believe the same thing that other liberals did at certain key times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sometimes this was very bad, like in promoting the Bell Curve or being really wrong about Iraq II, and other times it was more neutral or even a good thing depending on your point of view on a particular subject.”

People are not complaining about lack of liberal purity; they are complaining that it repeatedly, consistently and deliberately published a large volume of right-wing lies.

31

Ze Kraggash 12.06.14 at 5:32 pm

@28, believe me, there are many. Do you know that they created Ministry of Information Policy a few days ago? Google it.

But this is a wrong thread for this stuff.

Okay, the last one from me in this thread, I swear.
Associated Press: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/ukraine-rebel-residential-areas-cover-27366957
Title: Ukraine Rebel: Residential Areas Used as Cover
Direct quote – the only relevant direct quote from the rebel in the title, Mr. Khodakovsky: “If there are one-off instances, believe me when I say that we will tackle this very strongly”.

32

jake the antisoshul soshulist 12.06.14 at 5:35 pm

Bianca Steele.
I have read Stone’s book on Socrates, and your friend had to have misread it. Stone’s theory was that Socrates was convicted of undermining democracy, particularly with the youth of the day.
Socrates views on democracy certainly influenced Plato’s Republic.

Semi OT, sometimes I wonder how much Socrates was a sock-puppet for Plato, since almost all of what we do know about Socrates comes from Plato himself. I suppose your opinion would depend on whether you think Plato is a reliable narrator.

33

J Thomas 12.06.14 at 5:40 pm

#30 Barry

“it always seemed to me that TNR’s main sin is that it had writers that didn’t necessarily believe the same thing that other liberals did at certain key times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sometimes this was very bad, like in promoting the Bell Curve or being really wrong about Iraq II, and other times it was more neutral or even a good thing depending on your point of view on a particular subject.”

People are not complaining about lack of liberal purity; they are complaining that it repeatedly, consistently and deliberately published a large volume of right-wing lies.

You and he do not really disagree, though.

Depending on your point of view, if your point of view was right-wing and you believed the large volume of lies or believed that they should be spread, then it would seem like a good thing to you that they spread them.

From my own point of view, I prefer to see new ideas that might be useful, and not just the same old ideas from the same old right-wing camp.

34

mattski 12.06.14 at 5:59 pm

24

Also, he [I. F. Stone] convinced a friend of mine that Socrates was killed for being gay

??

That’s not what he wrote in The Trial of Socrates.

35

William Timberman 12.06.14 at 6:05 pm

TNR dropped off my radar 40 years ago, give or take. If its masthead will now float above the Facebook version of USA Today, I’ll be thinking karma, or poetic justice, if I think about it at all. Then again, I gave up on The Atlantic too — for good, I thought — when in the early oughts it published an article, the gist of which was that in times of great danger to the nation, it is perhaps wise to overcome our privileged squeamishness and reconsider the utility of torture. Then, a decade or so later, kaboom, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Nothing is ever as simple as we’d like it to be.

36

Barry 12.06.14 at 6:25 pm

J Thomas: “You and he do not really disagree, though.”

No, we do.

37

gatherdust 12.06.14 at 6:26 pm

Don’t say nothing but good about the dead. The New Republic is dead. Good.

The era makes the magazine pretty much as much as the magazine makes an era. The Reagan years were tough for the TNR since it lost its spirit to rising tide of neo-conservativsm. Mind you the TNR was saturated in conventional wisdom and insider elitism. What the kids call The Village nowadays.But the 1990s defined the TNR as the leading lights of neo-liberalism were finally able to become neo-conservatives too. The TNR made white bigotry respectable again.

38

Barry 12.06.14 at 6:27 pm

Corey: “But the real problem with The New Republic is not that it was racist, though it was. It’s not that it was filled with warmongers, though it was. It’s not that it punched hippies, though it did. No, the real problem with The New Republic is that for the last three decades, it has had no energy. It has had no real project. “

As has been pointed out, it did have a project, but that project was evil.

And the worst thing it did was act as the left-most boundary of ‘decent’ liberalism (to quote Beinart’s scummy phrase). It helped drag the US political conversation right by delegitimizing liberal beliefs, and legitimizing right-wing to neo-fascist beliefs.

All the while pretending that it was a liberal magazine.

39

Andrew F. 12.06.14 at 6:29 pm

No, the real problem with The New Republic is that for the last three decades, it has had no energy. It has had no real project. The last time The New Republic had a project was in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when it was in the journalistic vanguard of what was then called neoliberalism (not what we now call neoliberalism). That is what a great magazine of politics and culture does: it creates a project, it fashions a sensibility.

Couldn’t that be a prescription for articles and essays that are monotonous, inflexible, and predictable? A strategy for a magazine which I need not read to know what the articles will say?

From my perspective, a great magazine of politics and culture provides surprising insights, expert and objective analysis of issues and events, and an obstinate refusal to act exclusively as the literary ally of any particular political faction.

40

gianni 12.06.14 at 6:33 pm

I have really enjoyed the past day or so, watching as everyone kicks tnr while it is down.

I was never much of a reader of theirs. I think the last thing they published that I remember reading was about the phenomenology of buying and eating lox. It left me with the impression that try as I might, I will never get top quality lox unless I find my way to Brooklyn with an empty belly. One of these days I will get around to properly testing that supposition.

41

Corey Robin 12.06.14 at 6:36 pm

Andrew F.: “Couldn’t that be a prescription for articles and essays that are monotonous, inflexible, and predictable?”

If you actually read Partisan Review in the 1930s, Dissent in the 1950s, and The New Republic in the late 1970s/early 1980s (one could add Commentary in the 1970s as well or the New Left Review in the 1960s or even Reason Magazine at various points in its history), you’d see that the answer to that question is no.

You’re conflating the in-house organ of a political party — or the inflight magazine of Air Force One — with the fashioning of a politics and a sensibility. They’re just very different things.

42

bianca steele 12.06.14 at 7:05 pm

jake, mattski–

A few years before that discussion, I’d read part of the book and skimmed the rest–I thought it was interesting, but less so if Socrates and Plato weren’t entirely new to you–and my impression had been that it didn’t support my friend’s reading, though I did remember there being something about homosexuality, and that the overall argument was almost as unconvincing as the one he took from it.

I suppose your opinion would depend on whether you think Plato is a reliable narrator.

Yes.

43

PHB 12.06.14 at 7:17 pm

“it always seemed to me that TNR’s main sin is that it had writers that didn’t necessarily believe the same thing that other liberals did at certain key times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sometimes this was very bad, like in promoting the Bell Curve or being really wrong about Iraq II, and other times it was more neutral or even a good thing depending on your point of view on a particular subject.”

I see this sort of comment a lot. But I note that the issues on which TNR took a rancid bigoted line are described with detail and specificity while the cases where TNR bravely took a stand against conventional liberal wisdom are not identified with any additional specificity.

The most likely explanation for this inconsistency is that there wasn’t actually a difference between the two and what people are remembering is their reaction to reading an article in a ‘liberal’ rag peddling some rather illiberal views that pandered to their unexamined prejudices.

44

Ronan(rf) 12.06.14 at 7:29 pm

According to Jonathan Chait it also printed 10+ articles in the same issue disputing the Bell Curve argument ? I never read the issue, but if that’s true then Im not sure what the problem is? People could equally hold a grudge against Simon & Schuster. (of course if Chait is wrong then I could see the problem. This also doesnt mean to dispute some of their other race stuff seems to be at least ‘problematic’)

45

geo 12.06.14 at 7:36 pm

One vote here for monotony, inflexibility, and predictability. The great truths of politics are truisms: the rich grind the faces of the poor; the strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must; in every age, the ideas of the rulers are the ruling ideas. And the great ideals are simple and enduring: no man is good enough to be another man’s master; one law for all; from each according to her abilities, to each according to her needs. In every epoch, much effort and ingenuity are expended to obscure or discredit these ideas and ideals, and so much effort and ingenuity must be expended to vindicate them. Tedious but necessary.

Christopher Hitchens, of blessed memory, knew what to think of contrarians before he became one: “In the charmed circle of neoliberal and neoconservative journalism, ‘unpredictability’ is the special emblem and certificate of self-congratulation. To be able to bray that ‘as a liberal, I say bomb the shit out of them’ is to have achieved that eye-catching, versatile marketability that is so beloved of editors and talk-show hosts.” Ditto for: “As a liberal, I say end welfare now” or “As a liberal, I say let’s shrink government.”

Martin Peretz once boasted during the New Republic’s fifteen minutes of fame: “The one sure thing about this unpredictable magazine is that we will go on being unpredictable.” And look where it got them.

46

Cian 12.06.14 at 7:49 pm

Jacobin today might be a good example of what Cory is talking about. They have a clear philosophy and agenda, while still allowing plenty of room for disagreement. It’s interesting to compare it to the Nation, or the modern (albeit recently improved) Dissent. There’s an energy and a liveliness to it.

47

Harold 12.06.14 at 8:17 pm

I wish the Coen brothers would do a film about The New Republic.

48

Barry 12.06.14 at 8:39 pm

Ronan(rf) 12.06.14 at 7:29 pm
“According to Jonathan Chait it also printed 10+ articles in the same issue disputing the Bell Curve argument ? I never read the issue, but if that’s true then Im not sure what the problem is? “

If you actually don’t see the problem, then something’s wrong with you.

49

novakant 12.06.14 at 8:53 pm

Great idea, but the Coens usually need a hapless, somewhat sympathetic anti-hero to be maltreated by outrageous fortune – who would that be?

50

Barry 12.06.14 at 8:53 pm

I’ll play nice – what TNR did there was take a crank piece of right-wing lies, and give it respectability.

Or course, so many supporters of ‘Even the Liberal’ New Republic seem to have massive trouble understanding what that’s a problem.

51

adam.smith 12.06.14 at 8:57 pm

yeah, all the liberals who are defending the Bell Curve, the “If a young black man hit my buzzer, should I let him in” or (my personal favorite) the “Case for the Contras” by saying that TNR published opposing views to those are puzzling to me. Presumably (hopefully!) they see through the “Teach the controversy” bullshit of creationists and “debating the controversy” about scientific racism or right-wing terrorism is arguably much worse than creationism.
“Sure we published that cover story about the virtues of craniology, but we also gave a lot of space to its opponents!”

52

jwl 12.06.14 at 8:58 pm

Peter Dorman: great comment! I feel that way reading the Nation too now.

The weltanschauung of TNR has been unpleasant and boring for a long time, largely because Peretz shaped it and he has the same problems.

53

engels 12.06.14 at 10:06 pm

‘The one sure thing about this unpredictable magazine is that we will go on being unpredictable.’

What a complete dick. Sounds like a middle manager having a mid-life crisis.

54

PHB 12.07.14 at 1:03 am

Ronan(rf) 12.06.14 at 7:29 pm
“According to Jonathan Chait it also printed 10+ articles in the same issue disputing the Bell Curve argument ? I never read the issue, but if that’s true then Im not sure what the problem is? “

The problem is that by publishing the Bell Curve, TNR was giving it respectability. The Bell Curve would have been much easier to dismiss as the racist crap it was if it had first appeared in The National Review or the American Spectator. Publication in TNR allowed Murray to claim that he was writing legitimate research rather than peddling racist claptrap printed by a far right publisher.

55

mattski 12.07.14 at 1:18 am

bianca,

though I did remember there being something about homosexuality

Ha! What I remember–I hope this is correct–is that Alcibiades rued the “uneventful night” he spent under the blankets with Socrates.

56

shah8 12.07.14 at 2:21 am

Peter Dorman, I consider Alexandra’s Eve to be a pretty good book review site, especially for speculative fiction. It doesn’t do the sort of thing you read in places like London Book Review, though…

57

Nine 12.07.14 at 3:37 am

So the literatii are upset because an incoming CEO says that he is going to “break stuff” … Is that it ?!!! Heh.
Welcome to Silicon Valley, Mr. TNR.

58

Anderson 12.07.14 at 4:19 am

55: correct. It’s in the Symposium.

59

Barry 12.07.14 at 5:06 pm

Nine 12.07.14 at 3:37 am
“So the literatii are upset because an incoming CEO says that he is going to “break stuff” … Is that it ?!!! Heh.
Welcome to Silicon Valley, Mr. TNR.”

Welcome to the USA of the past 40 years, Mr. Content Producer for TnrEnterpriseContentSpace.com.

60

Claude Fischer 12.07.14 at 5:34 pm

The string of bespittled denunciations of the TNR in the comments above often include damnation of its 1994 “The Bell Curve” story. That makes for an interesting and relevant case study. I remember that issue very well and became heavily involved. Other mainstream media beyond TNR also gave the book serious treatment as a news event, as a scientific project. Bill Clinton even got a press conference question about it (and gave a quite thoughtful reply).

What did the Left do? For the most part, it ranted. Working off of the news reports rather than the book, the Left denounced the authors, the reporters, and social science research itself. (If science shows race differences, many argued, then toss science.) By not actually engaging with the argument and the evidence, the Left ceded the national debate to Herrnstein and Murray. Because of this impotent response, several colleagues and I undertook a project that resulted in Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth (Princeton, 1996), the first researched rejoinder to both the data analysis and the conceptual frame of The Bell Curve. I would like to think that it contributed a bit to turning back that surge of neo-eugenics.

The related lessons I take are that talking in a closed circle accomplishes little than beefing up one’s righteousness and that a magazine that alternatively affirms and upsets your priors may be doing something right.

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Barry 12.07.14 at 5:50 pm

“By not actually engaging with the argument and the evidence, the Left ceded the national debate to Herrnstein and Murray. Because of this impotent response, several colleagues and I undertook a project that resulted in Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth (Princeton, 1996), the first researched rejoinder to both the data analysis and the conceptual frame of The Bell Curve. I would like to think that it contributed a bit to turning back that surge of neo-eugenics.”

That’s odd. I had roughly a half-dozen books on my shelf about that, including yours, and ‘The Bell Curve Wars’ and ‘The Mismeasure of Man’.

A lot of liberals were engaging with Murray.

And I’ll call ‘liar’ on this statement ‘By not actually engaging with the argument and the evidence, …’

62

Claude Fischer 12.07.14 at 6:09 pm

#61 — Gee, “The Mismeasure of Man” was published in 1981; hard to see how Gould, smart as he was, responded to “The Bell Curve” 13 years before it appeared — and also years before H&M’s preliminary essay on the topic appeared in The Atlantic…. “The Bell Curve Wars” is a collection of essays, many fulminating, about the “wars.” Little of it is responsive to the research itself.
And then, you call me a “liar” — why not call me mistaken, doddering, forgetful…. Why “liar”? I do not call you a liar for the easy-to-check errors you made.

63

Ronan(rf) 12.07.14 at 6:10 pm

Claude Fischer said better what I was trying to get at above. Again though, I never read the TNR issue (being as I was only a young lad with no conception of race-IQ ‘science’ at the time) so a lot depends on how TNR pulled it off, was the synposium biased towards Murray etc ? Were the responses effective ?
I do find a two decade long grudge over the situation odd, though, but I really dont fully understand some aspects of US political culture.
On the argument that TNR gave it legitimacy ..well, perhaps. I dont know. I would have guessed that the authors reputations and affiliations (whatever people might think of them) gave it legitimacy. In that context I do think you need to account for their argument and find flaws in it. (It wasn’t, in other words, Pastor Dave from the Ohio Baptist Church writing about creationism, to use an example offered above. There are different seasons of this stuff.)

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Corey Robin 12.07.14 at 6:10 pm

Anecdotally, I often find that manifestos for empiricism precede empirically-addled claims.

65

bianca steele 12.07.14 at 6:16 pm

Prof. Fischer @ 60

I appreciate your work, which I do think is the best approach in addressing something like Murray’s work (up to the point, possibly, where it’s absolutely obvious that someone pretending to use scientific arguments is doing nothing of the sort), and I mean this respectfully (and I’m sorry it’s coming after the remark by Barry, who I know doesn’t like my approach any more than they like yours).

But the rhetoric you use is exactly what people are objecting to in the classic TNR style, and the impact it has on civil discussion. Apparently, everything “the left” says to discredit the book is wrong, and anything that can be accused of “ranting” is wrong. Your own book is fine, okay. Presumably people citing your book are also fine? Or do they still count as “[w]orking off news reports rather than the book”? (What would be the solution to that dilemma? Refuse to discuss it unless they can work off the book to the same level of expertise as yourself?) After all the people who are reacting “wrong” to the issue are eliminated from the debate, who’s still in? Anyone who can’t be accused of being on the left, can’t be accused of attacking the authors themselves, and can’t be accused of dismissing the book’s arguments without engaging them (whatever those individuals think “engaging” means).

What I take from all this is that academic scientists are frequently unaware of (or unconcerned about) how their approach plays out among the broad spectrum of educated people who can read their books.

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bianca steele 12.07.14 at 6:19 pm

My comment cross-posted Ronan’s and Corey’s, as well as Prof. Fischer’s reply, and shouldn’t be taken to be referring to them.

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PHB 12.07.14 at 6:36 pm

@Claude Fischer 62

Stephen Jay Gould did anticipate that racists like Hernstein and Murray would rehash old claims in the future in the original edition of The Mismeasure of Man. And his publishers spotted the opportunity to reissue the book shortly after the bell curve appeared.

The final chapter of the new edition does address the claims made and shows how they are not only fraudulent, they aren’t even new. Racists had been misrepresenting data in the way Hernstein and Murray did since IQ tests first appeared.

If you really think that the reason the Bell Curve was successful was that its critics didn’t provide enough facts then you weren’t paying attention. The establishment media made clear that the facts didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how many people demonstrated that Murray was a fraud, they would only use the ‘controversy’ to invite him to rehash his rancid racist nonsense.

A political book that provides the appearance of academic credibility for some popularly held prejudice will often sell very well. Joan Peters did very well with From Time Immemorial and the central claims the book made are still held as fact despite the fact that Finkelstein produced a very thorough debunking with abundant evidence that the ‘evidence’ was cherry picked. The book was published to glowing reviews in the US and completely demolished by UK reviewers.

Facts really don’t matter to the right. They are obstacles to be overcome, not the basis for making conclusions.

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Ronan(rf) 12.07.14 at 6:38 pm

Corey Robin @64 – is that in reply to me ? Im not sure what you mean if so.

I agree with Bianca @65 aswell, fwiw.

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Claude Fischer 12.07.14 at 7:03 pm

#67. Good catch on the re-issue of Mismeasure; I’ll concede the point, though, if I recall correctly, it was an abstract critique.
“If you really think that the reason the Bell Curve was successful was that its critics didn’t provide enough facts then you weren’t paying attention. The establishment media made clear that the facts didn’t matter.” — Here we get into subtler interpretations. Yes, the media love to have things stirred up, one way or the other; there are plenty of distortions to go around, left and right. But as I was tracking the arguments in the fall of 1994, there was imbalance with one side pointing to “hard data” — and, by the way, prima facia the BC analysis is serious and plausible — and the other side largely saying “You can’t say that.” Maybe someone can do a dissertation on TBC as a media event.
Anyway, we have drifted — my fault — from trashing vs. un-trashing TNR. So, I’ll get off this train. (Finally, why do I get called “Professor”? Not even my students call me that, though it’s better than “liar.”)

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PHB 12.07.14 at 7:33 pm

@Claude 69

Well my field is media, specifically new media so I have a rather more cynical view of how the establishment media worked in the 90s. Yes, I am ‘that’ PHB. I got involved in the Web in reaction to Murdoch’s theft of the 1992 UK general election. I really didn’t see why a bigoted Australian press baron should get to choose who governs the UK.

The old media didn’t just decide the agenda, they decided who got to participate in the argument as well. So they picked their own opposition. And that was what was so pernicious about TNR, they presented themselves as liberal while actually promoting the bigoted right wing views of its owner.

71

PHB 12.07.14 at 7:35 pm

Oh and forgot to mention that the reason I mentioned Joan Peters is that she was a journalist whose fraudulent theories were given currency by Peretz in TNR.

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Rakesh 12.07.14 at 7:35 pm

So let’s say an editor claims that women witches being a persistent or resilient source of misfortune throughout the world should not be dismissed as a patriarchal claim on the basis of a new book in which new evidence is presented and careful criticisms are not addressed.
I would think that the job is not only or not even mostly to show yet again that witches (like deep heritable racial differences in cognitive and socio-emotional skill) do not exist; the academic puzzle would be understand the conditions that make it possible for such false belief to take hold of so many again.
In fact there is the danger that by getting on the terrain of proving that evil women witches do not exit, one gets up in the distortion and possibly strengthens it.

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Rakesh 12.07.14 at 7:39 pm

oops a few typos
in which NO new evidence is presented
gets caught UP in the distortion

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Rich Puchalsky 12.07.14 at 7:49 pm

Comment #60 is rather a classic of the genre. Should it suffice to point out that TNR was not a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and that the means of reply shouldn’t be taken to be only restricted to social scientists?

All the bits of rhetoric: “bespittled”, “ranting”, “impotent”, “talking in a closed circle” etc. pretty much come down to a wholesale rejection of political activity — certainly if you can characterize the Left’s response as “the Left denounced the authors, the reporters, and social science research itself”, you can equally well say that this comment denounces political activity itself. Just as with the recent thread on economics, it’s not supposed to be up to the public in a democracy to familiarize itself with the latest research within a topic before chiming in on a matter of political importance that someone has done research on. We don’t live in a technocracy.

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Rakesh 12.07.14 at 7:53 pm

What was the new hard data?
that IQ could now be shown to account for more of the variance in income than parental SES?
Yet wasn’t Gould’s point (recently referred to on the econ thread by TM) that IQ was actually now shown to account for much of the variance at all (R2 was surprisingly small). I don’t remember now, but I think TM is right here. The book was not hot due to whatever new empirical findings it contained, but to the racial pornography that it included.
I also don’t think parental wealth (as opposed to income) was taken into account in measuring SES.
And there were surely no similar media events about the findings in racial wealth disparity
(Oliver and Shapiro). My sense is that reminding parents in mixed schools about what the family disparities in wealth are is a very uncomfortable topic. My sense is that the real underachievement in America is among white middle class kids, given what their opportunities are; not among the minority poor who are much poorer than conventional SES measures say they are.
Here is an uncomfortable topic. Did Andrew Sullivan feature it?

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Rakesh 12.07.14 at 7:55 pm

typing too fast, perhaps agitated
IQ was actually NOT shown to account for much of the variance at all (R2 was surprisingly small).

77

LFC 12.07.14 at 9:29 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong as I haven’t read every comment, but I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned, just as a pt of info, that TNR, founded 1914 or thereabouts I believe, was a remarkable magazine in its first years. Or so I infer from the fact that the young Walter Lippmann was on its staff and that it published reviews by V. Woolf and, I think, a lot of other excellent writers. There is a recently published anthology of pieces from TNR’s history, edited by the editor who just resigned.

I surmise TNR started to go rather downhill when Peretz bought it and Gilbert I-forget-his-last-name left as the editor. (As people have already mentioned, some of the bk reviews were still worth reading, and an occasional other piece, perhaps e.g. by John Judis, was ok. But I never was a regular reader of TNR and barely at all in recent yrs.)

78

Andrew F. 12.07.14 at 10:23 pm

Corey @41: You’re conflating the in-house organ of a political party — or the inflight magazine of Air Force One — with the fashioning of a politics and a sensibility. They’re just very different things.

That’s fair enough – but then could you expand on what you mean by a “fashioning of a politics and a sensibility” and how that differs from being a journal with political goals and values that are sufficiently determinative to render its publications on any given topic predictable?

geo @54: One vote here for monotony, inflexibility, and predictability. The great truths of politics are truisms: the rich grind the faces of the poor; the strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must; in every age, the ideas of the rulers are the ruling ideas. And the great ideals are simple and enduring: no man is good enough to be another man’s master; one law for all; from each according to her abilities, to each according to her needs.

But how far do such truisms get us? International relations turns out to be more complicated than the Athenian perspective in the Melian dialogue, no? See e.g. Ikenberry’s After Victory. “One law for all” doesn’t tell us much about when the laws should take into account certain differences between individuals and when they should not – and may find some tension with other truisms, such as “from each according to his abilities….” I think that without some degree of open argument, and surprising perspectives, a community’s truisms can often become dogmatic blinders.

79

bianca steele 12.07.14 at 10:47 pm

Rich P.: Just as with the recent thread on economics, it’s not supposed to be up to the public in a democracy to familiarize itself with the latest research within a topic before chiming in on a matter of political importance that someone has done research on. We don’t live in a technocracy.

Presumably it is, in at least some cases–whether or not we live in a technocracy, which is irrelevant–up to readers to figure out what a book is saying and to what extent its argument makes sense. At some point, rather than “engaging,” yes, it does make sense to label a book and dismiss it, instead of considering it seriously. But supposedly we are interested in educating readers so they can understand the issues–supposedly that’s the opposite of a technocracy–so (while I’m sympathetic to the point about legislating away politics altogether) surely it should not amount to “politics” to make a criticism of an argument.

80

Roger Gathmann 12.08.14 at 12:34 am

I didn’t read TNR much, except for the book reviews. Sometimes, these were good.
Otherwise, however, I found it totally irritating. When I have a conservative opinion, I label it a conservative opinion – I don’t pretend it is the fruit of the ideas of the entire history of American progressivism. That was the housestyle of TNR.
It is the dishonesty in labeling that always grated. As for the political ideas and analysis, they were all pretty conventional, in the vein of the VSP line in D.C., for the last twenty years. The op ed page of the Washington Post is the heir of TNR. So is the Weekly Standard. It is the line of movers and shakers in the Democratic party, like Emmanuel Rahm and Andrew Cuomo, as well as, of course, the probable next presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton.
I have major doubts that anybody read TNR to be “surprised”. If, for instance, TNR had come out for unilateral disarmament in 1980 when it endorsed Anderson (a decision that the editorial board would forget when scolding anybody who thought of voting for Nader in 2000), that would have been surprising, but I doubt any of TNR’s supporters (who apparently – re 60, only praise TNR with a proper amount of spittle, unlike the denouncers, who seem to have an excess – moderate in politics, moderate in saliva is the motto) really would have wanted to read that, surprising as it would be. I can think of a surprising set of article in the 2000s about what a success Hugo Chavez was – about as surprising as you can get, given TNR’s kneejerk stance – but again, that would not have pleased the salivary moderates,
If you were looking for a magazine that would help you effect the transition from the liberalism of the sixties and seventies to the center-right in the eighties and nineties, TNR was for you. Seems simple to me. Interestingly, the American Prospect, which was founded to combat that rightward drift, seems to have ended up defending its great inheritor, Obama, which I guess shows how difficult it is to resist the DC consensus.

81

geo 12.08.14 at 12:50 am

Andrew @78: But how far do such truisms get us?

Quite a way, I’d say. But as I noted in the rest of the comment, there are always rationalizations for class rule that need to be countered, which furnishes us truism-believers a more or less honest day’s work.

International relations turns out to be more complicated than the Athenian perspective in the Melian dialogue, no?

I’m afraid I don’t see it. Judging from the review you link to, the Ikenberry book seems to accept the standard explanation of the Cold War, which I don’t think much of. (See Chomsky’s “The Cold War Reconsidered” in World Orders Old and New and “The Cold War: Fact and Fancy” in Deterring Democracy.)

I think that without some degree of open argument, and surprising perspectives, a community’s truisms can often become dogmatic blinders.

I join you in warmly embracing this truism.

82

mattski 12.08.14 at 1:06 am

Apologies for straying OT, just wanted to share something with geo re Chomsky and history. Are you familiar, geo, with Chomsky’s series in the 90’s in Z magazine on Kennedy & Vietnam? A prime example I think of Chomsky horribly bungling history. For some unknown reason Chomsky seemed to have a crush on LBJ and argued passionately that the disaster of Vietnam was JFK’s making.

To put it mildly, documentation released over the years vaporizes his thesis.

83

engels 12.08.14 at 1:25 am

Apropos of not very much, it’s Chomsky’s birthday today (or is still in US).

84

Rakesh 12.08.14 at 2:05 am

Ok so it’s time to move on TNR’s foreign policy positions. What were they in regards to the Vietnam War, bombing of Laos and Cambodia, overthrow of Allende, support of Duarte and Rios Montt and Savimbi, Israeli invasion of Lebanon? I guess this discussion can’t be any more depressing…
Or we can continue to debate social Darwinism ( Resolved–there are increasingly few good jobs given skill-biased technical change, and genetically well-endowed smart people from an increasingly endogamous, assortatively-mating caste of smart, private tuition-paying parents are more likely to get them than simply spoiled, bratty kids who alas may have patrimonial capitalism to bail them out; dignified, high tech Indian reservations are the best the rest can hope for, with the police positions in them for the white unfit and the policed positions for the minority unfit).

85

Bloix 12.08.14 at 2:15 am

#84- they were consistent, though – when Wilson decided to take the U.S. into WWI in 1917 – after winning reelection on the slogan “he kept us out of war” – The New Republic was full-throated in its support.

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Harold 12.08.14 at 3:37 am

83 Chomsky’s birthday is the same day as mine!

87

geo 12.08.14 at 3:40 am

mattski @82: That’s not quite how I remember the controversy. Chomsky was trying to refute the notion (popularized by the Oliver Stone film JFK) that Kennedy would have wound up the Vietnam intervention after his re-election, and that this may have been one reason he was assassinated. He argued that on the contrary, “basic policy remained constant in essentials: disentanglement from an unpopular and costly venture as soon as possible, but only after the virus [ie, the national-independence movement] was destroyed and victory assured … Changes of administration, including the Kennedy assassination, had no large-scale effect on policy” (Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture, p. 35). I read some of the subsequent debate, though not enough to decide who was right. But I don’t remember any bungling or vaporizing — or did you just mean to say that you disagreed with him?

Anyway, it is off-topic, and I’m on deadline, so I’ll leave you the last word.

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mattski 12.08.14 at 3:52 am

geo,

OK, yes, I disagree with him. And I am inclined to believe reports indicating that Stone’s thesis was largely sound. Fwiw, I wasn’t persuaded of this until recently, after years of on and off reading on the assassination.

Peace, and hope you tuck the deadline handily.

89

mattski 12.08.14 at 3:55 am

**An enormous trove of classified documents was released by the ARRB starting in ’94. So much new information has come to light.

90

js. 12.08.14 at 5:30 am

Harold, happy birthday! (Amazingly off-topic, yes, but you gotta wish people happy birthday!)

More on topic (since I’ve now started typing), I still don’t really get the argument. Surely, it’s good to have good magazines around even if they’re not great/lack a defining project. So if TNR were just a magazine like that, there would be reason to mourn its death. Instead, it was an egregiously racist magazine (as of the last couple of decades), and that’s why it seems like there’s no reason to mourn its death. So… it still seems to me like the “real problem” with TNR was its racism, not its lack of a project.

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Harold 12.08.14 at 6:34 am

Thank you, Js. I agree with you about TNR. Another problem was that its archive was behind a pay wall so you couldn’t reread their few good articles. I am thinking of Tony Judt’s elegant evisceration of Norman Davies History of Poland, the hard copy of which I sent to my father-in-law — whose eyes it opened — back in the day. Rest his soul and Tony Judt’s, too. We are none of us getting any younger.

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Nine 12.08.14 at 6:49 am

Barry@59 – “Welcome to the USA of the past 40 years, Mr. Content Producer for TnrEnterpriseContentSpace.com.”

You really shouldn’t scoff, bob mcmanus is going to have to let at least a few of us live in order to help data-mine the revolution … just you wait and see.

93

PatrickMF 12.08.14 at 7:44 am

I had this exact same thought. Jacobin is openly socialist and believers in the Enlightment, for example. They believe wholeheartedly in public housing and critique neoliberalism completely. Yet, they are not scared to post conflicting views either. This is what is means to be part of a project. TNR claims they were part of and underscored Liberalism with a capital-T. However, they are quite neoliberal and as everyone so aptly pointed out: racist, puts on ideological blinders regarding Israel, and believes in the U.S. State in a way that most liberals would criticize.

94

kidneystones 12.08.14 at 10:36 am

I can’t remember reading five articles I liked in the five-odd years I subscribed to TNR. Can’t remember the dates, even, although twas during the transition to the digital editions. A proven money loser can’t be all bad, but TNR managed to be the exception to that rule. John Judis is un-afraid to tug on the donkey tail, but he’s the only one I remember reading in the last year. Chait is unbearable, and I’d be delighted to see Sullivan deported. TAP, Mojo, NYT, Wapo, either became predictable, excessively biased, or just plain dull. Used to subscribe, now don’t.

Ramparts was a much more interesting piece of work, imo, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/07/books/07garner.html?_r=0

I also enjoyed the National Lampoon during its glory years. It was just the thing to give hippies fits. City counter-culture newspapers and arts magazines offer/ed something good. In order for magazines to have missions, the magazine must be staffed with those consumed by a mission, and the missionaries have mostly moved to other media.
Most of the American young people I meet, almost all liberal university grads, give reading a very low grade as an investment of time. So, I don’t expect any new great print magazines to arise from the print ashes.
I read a lot of 18th and 19th century digitized texts, so I’m pleased with the trade off. My favorite writer/editor is probably Arsene Houssaye.

95

LFC 12.08.14 at 3:03 pm

Rakesh 84 / Bloix 85

TNR was opposed to the Vietnam War, if I recall correctly, under the editor whose last name is escaping me (see my previous comment) and whom apparently no one here, I guess incl. me, cares enough about to look up…

96

LFC 12.08.14 at 3:07 pm

Btw for those interested in journalists & policymakers & Vietnam, happened to see a new bk by historian Gregg Herken, The Georgetown Set. Spent about three minutes w it in a bkstore. Appears to be well-researched, tho at the end he repeats the frequent error about US helicopters lifting off the roof of the US embassy in Saigon in ’75. Iirc, it was a different building, not the embassy. But whatever.

97

Trader Joe 12.08.14 at 4:33 pm

Back in the 80s my roommate got TNR as a gift from an Uncle who advised that it’s always good to know what the enemy is thinking.

I recall that the articles made the best sense after a long night out at the bars as something to simultaneously put you to sleep but keep you from getting the spins.

To this day I find it useful to read heavily slanted commentary (either left or right) since it tends to help bookend the issue at hand (Particular CT commentators occasionally being a case in point).

I’m sure I won’t miss it, but the memory lane trip was o.k.

98

alkali 12.08.14 at 5:30 pm

I agree with Corey Robin’s original post, both in generalities and specifically as regards TNR, and wonder if it is past time to realize that magazines, like restaurants, are not failures if their doors someday close.

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TM 12.08.14 at 6:01 pm

js 90 and others: “I still don’t really get the argument… it still seems to me like the “real problem” with TNR was its racism, not its lack of a project.”

Wholeheartedly agree. Does Corey really think that a fascist publication with a “real project” and lots of energy is something to be wished for? His stance seems to me an attempt at inserting a bit of contrarianism. And also agree with geo’s truisms.

100

TM 12.08.14 at 6:48 pm

Claude Fischer 60 on the Bell Curve:

I followed the controversy from afar but with intense interest. At the time I never dreamed I would end up in the US myself but I think I learned a lot from reading about the Bell Curve. I published a review in an obscure German publication (which is not available online but I’ll put up a copy – rereading it, I think it wasn’t that bad). My main source, apart from the Bell Curve itself (which I did read), was Russell Jacoby & Naomi Glauberman (eds.): The Bell Curve Debate. History, Documents, Opinions . New York: Times Books 1995, a collection of reviews and responses to the book (it also includes some useful historic material). Maybe this collection is not quite representative but judging from its contents, Fischer’s claim that there was no serious engagement with the Bell Curve’s supposedly scientific claims (until Fischer’s own book, of course) appears bizarre. For example, Gould’s response is online here: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chance/course/topics/curveball.html. Kamin’s critique: http://www.intelltheory.com/bellcurve.shtml#kamin

“If science shows race differences, many argued, then toss science.” Who exactly made that argument, Mr. Fischer? Who exactly is “the left” are you referring to?

Did this book have so much impact because “by not actually engaging with the argument and the evidence, the Left ceded the national debate to Herrnstein and Murray” (Fischer)? Nonsense. There was no shortage of fact-based, scientific rebuttal. Most critics went out of their way to be nice and polite and refrained from calling Murray and Herrnstein racists. It is mighty naive to think that you beat racism by just politely explaining to the racists how wrong they are. Although few commenters at the time would profess their full-throated support of the Bell Curve’s message of racial superiority, the fact that the book was being taken seriously “even in the liberal TNR” (but by no means only there) changed the parameters of what could be said in polite company and no amount of well-researched criticism could undo the damage.
That of course includes Fischer’s own book; however worthy it undoubtedly is, I doubt it was that much more effective than other efforts in “turning back that surge of neo-eugenics” .

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TM 12.08.14 at 7:25 pm

Rakesh 75: The Bell Curve consists mostly of a series of regression analyses purporting to show that American inequality is driven not by privilege but by (supposedly) inherent differences in IQ. The authors used these regressions to make up bizarre as-if scenarios: ‘if average IQ were only a few points higher, incomes would be so much higher, unemployment, criminality and teen pregnancy so much lower’ etc. By the book’s telling, all societal ills could be traced to (people with) low IQs. It isn’t hard to see how silly the argument is (for example, even if it were true that job opportunities go to the applicants with the highest cognitive ability irrespective of their SES, it doesn’t follow that there would be more jobs if the applicants had higher IQs) but no amount of careful scientific scrutiny can negate the appeal of these extremely manipulative diagrams telling a simple story that so many people want to hear: that America is a meritocracy where everybody gets exactly what they deserve.

I was recently, in a rather different context (as explained on the other thread) reminded of Gould’s (link at 100) critique of the Bell Curve’s manipulative data presentation, pointing out that even if the regressions were taken at face value, the actual relationship with IQ was always very weak:

“Their numerous graphs present only the form of the relationships; that is, they draw the regression curves of their variables against IQ and parental socioeconomic status. But, in violation of all statistical norms that I’ve ever learned, they plot only the regression curve and do not show the scatter of variation around the curve, so their graphs do not show anything about the strength of the relationships.” (…) “In Appendix 4, then, one discovers that the vast majority of the conventional measures of R2, excluded from the main body of the text, are less than 0.1. These very low values of R2 expose the true weakness, in any meaningful vernacular sense, of nearly all the relationships that form the meat of The Bell Curve.”

102

Roger Gathmann 12.08.14 at 7:46 pm

What is happening at TNR is happening at the Washington Post too, which brings up an interesting question of demographics and audience.
It seems to me that the DC media long ago made a shift from left to right, while retaining, for a long time, the reputation of being liberal. But in the 00s, I think that reputation was shattered. Certainly a generation that came of college age in the 90s and 00s did not see the Post or the New Republic as liberal. The liberals in that generation just turned their back on these two papers. But the right did not fill in the gap. If I am a conservative, why subscribe to the Post, even if it does have editorials shedding elegiac tears over Pinochet, when I can get the Washington Times? Or the Weekly Standard?
The bet was that there was an audience out there for moderate to right positions, with a smidgen of social liberalism. It seems to me that there just isn’t, and that though this accurately describes the dominant position of the media establishment, it doesn’t really have any roots outside of its bubble. It is this group, for instance, that thinks it is wildly popular to prune back social security, or to send troops to Syria, because it is wildly popular in that thin sector.
The new owner of the New Republic is part of that college age group. I think he is treated the establishment in the way you’d expect someone raised on Gawker-ish liberalism, rather than the Fred Hiatt variety, to act.

103

Ronan(rf) 12.08.14 at 8:08 pm

Has anyone read Gregory Clarkes book

http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/kaufmann_04_14.php

on intergenerational inequality (with numerous studies, not US-centric) Ive only read bits, but his argument (afaict) is that mobility is rare and genes are a plausible reason (though he doesnt find racial differences, and Im not really saying his argument is convincing)

104

TM 12.08.14 at 8:12 pm

I think it’s worth pointing out something else, not least in connection with the TNR and its supposed credentials as a journal of liberal intellectualism. While the racist provocation is what the Bell Curve became most notorious for, and most heavily criticized, another ideological ingredient got very little attention. After hundreds of pages blaming society’s ills on the “cognitive underclass”, following ancient eugenic convention, the authors turned against the so-called cognitive elite itself, exposing its purported “liberal cosmopolitanism” and “unnatural” egalitarianism as the ultimate culprits of America’s decadence. The book’s argument in its entirety is a mature fascist manifesto, rejecting modernity, democracy, and enlightenment itself in favor of a romanticized organic society with strict hierarchies and rules. But critics – supposedly liberal intellectuals – mostly failed to make the connection. The late Ellen Willis is a rare exception (and her excellent piece – “The Median Is the Message” – is not available online). The bizarre argument about the country supposedly being run by a cabal of intellectuals has surprising traction in the US these days (even on CT as I once learned): “Do you think that the rich in America already have too much power? Or do you think that intellectuals already have too much power? We are suggesting that a ‘yes’ to both questions is probably right. And if you think the power of these groups is too great, just watch what happens as their outlooks and interests converge” (TBC p. 518).

If you don’t realize that passages like this could be taken straight from the Stuermer, then – you are probably a liberal American intellectual.

105

LFC 12.08.14 at 8:21 pm

Roger Gathman 102
What is happening at TNR is happening at the Washington Post too

I’m not sure this is quite right. WaPo under Bezos remains recognizably a newspaper; WaPo has even been hiring additional journalists lately (or so I gather). TNR under Hughes’s new appointee Vidra, however, will become, in the latter’s words, “a vertically integrated digital media company.” Whatever that means, it evidently convinced a great deal of the TNR staff, incl the top editors, that TNR wd no longer remain mainly a magazine of the sort it has been — structurally, I mean (I’m not talking about the substance of its politics). So I think the two cases are at least somewhat different, albeit similar in that the two owners (Bezos and Hughes) are v. wealthy from Amazon and Facebook, respectively.

106

TM 12.08.14 at 8:23 pm

“his argument (afaict) is that mobility is rare and genes are a plausible reason”

Can we please just roll eyes and move on, or do we have to “engage” with every piece of discredited social Darwinism?

107

LFC 12.08.14 at 8:24 pm

Indeed, glancing at the WaPo home page, I see Dana Milbank has a column headlined “TNR is dead, thanks to its owner” — haven’t read the piece, but not the sort of thing Milbank wd feel comfortable writing, probably, if the two concerns were going in exactly the same direction…

108

Ronan(rf) 12.08.14 at 8:26 pm

TM – who is ‘we’ ? you can do what you like.

109

LFC 12.08.14 at 8:29 pm

If you all want to debate The Bell Curve or whatever, have at it. But I thought this thread was about TNR not one specific thing it ran X years ago.

Very few people on this thread have acknowledged, and Corey’s OP acknowledged only indirectly, that TNR, over the course of its history, was an important journal of opinion in terms of the influence it wielded and the quality of the writers it published.

Not only that, but inaccuracies have been posted here — e.g., that TNR supported the Vietnam War — and I when corrected this, no one even bothered to retract the inaccuracy.

I’m beginning to understand why Corey often finds CT comment threads exasperating “clusterfucks,” to use his word.

110

LFC 12.08.14 at 8:32 pm

Just checked quickly Wikipedia — the editor/owner from whom Peretz bought TNR, and whose last name I couldn’t remember, was Gilbert Harrison. (Not that anyone here gives a flying fu*k, of course.)

111

TM 12.08.14 at 9:03 pm

I too am interested in hearing more actual facts about TNR’s development, such as where TNR stood on foreign policy/imperialism before the 1990s. Ronan 103 you were completely off-topic and I suggest we (meaning everybody) leave it there.

112

LFC 12.08.14 at 9:06 pm

The comment thread (which I’ve only glanced at) attached to Andy Seal’s post on TNR at the S-USIH blog is probably more to the point than the comment thread here.

http://s-usih.org/2014/12/drift-and-mastery-the-new-republic-1914-2014.html

113

LFC 12.08.14 at 9:10 pm

p.s. Clearly the Bell Curve thing was a significant moment in TNR’s history and I don’t mean to say it wasn’t. Just to say it perhaps shd be put in context of the 100-year history (1914-2014) of the magazine.

114

Ronan(rf) 12.08.14 at 9:11 pm

TM – well obviously not ‘completely’ off topic, as you had expended considerable energy on the precise same topic in the two previous comments.
But anyway I agree, back on topic and all that. The topic being TNR, I think.

115

Rich Puchalsky 12.08.14 at 9:17 pm

LFC: “Very few people on this thread have acknowledged, and Corey’s OP acknowledged only indirectly, that TNR, over the course of its history, was an important journal of opinion in terms of the influence it wielded and the quality of the writers it published.”

This is one of the weirdest statements I’ve read in some time. Why would the entire thread exist if TNR wasn’t “an important journal of opinion in terms of the influence it wielded”? Nearly everyone seems to agree that it had influence, including the people who think that it had malign influence. As for “the quality of the writers if published”, I refer you to the OP: “It’s sponsored solid journalism, smart criticism, bad policy and bloody wars. God knows, it has not suffered for talent or intelligence.”

116

AB 12.08.14 at 9:48 pm

Chomsky’s fine 1995 rant “Rollback” has some sharp observations about the ideological role of fearless liberals boldly asking the unthinkable tough questions about meritocracy, (with specific reference to the intelligencia’s enthusiasm for the Bell Curve and associated kookery).

http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199505–.htm

117

LFC 12.08.14 at 9:55 pm

R. P.:
As for “the quality of the writers if published”, I refer you to the OP: “It’s sponsored solid journalism, smart criticism, bad policy and bloody wars. God knows, it has not suffered for talent or intelligence.”

Yes, Corey did say that. I’ll retract my “only indirectly” remark about the OP.

118

gianni 12.08.14 at 10:01 pm

i know Corey will be saddened to hear this, given his pretensions to the title, but it has just been duly announced that Leon Wieseltier is the last of the New York intellectuals .

i hate to bear the ill news, fellow citizens of the eastern american metropolii, but i fear we must now prepare ourselves for a Dark Age of Culture.

centuries from now, the history iTomes will mark this date as the advent of the long foretold closing of the american mind: when the last great bastion of High Culture in our great globalized metropolis succumbed to the unwashed myspace armies of Silicon Valley techno-utopians, with their insatiable hunger for ‘click-bait’ , rallying to the primal call to ‘break shit’….

119

Anderson 12.08.14 at 10:04 pm

The sad thing to me is that Chris Hughes’s getting the magazine away from Peretz seemed like an opportunity for TNR to turn around and be a proudly liberal magazine.

120

LFC 12.08.14 at 10:05 pm

“Leon Wieseltier is the last of the New York intellectuals”

Yeah, right. He doesn’t even live in New York.

121

Steve Sailer 12.08.14 at 10:05 pm

My vague recollection is The New Republic took the lead in promoting gay marriage, starting with a 1989 Andrew Sullivan piece on the injustice of one individual losing the rent control on his apartment when his boyfriend, who held the lease, died:

http://sullivanarchives.theatlantic.com/homosexuality.php

122

Steve Sailer 12.08.14 at 10:09 pm

Roman(RF) asks:

“Has anyone read Gregory Clarkes book?”

Yes, I reviewed it here:

http://takimag.com/article/give_it_up_psmithe_steves_sailer/print#axzz3LILjDRc8

123

bianca steele 12.08.14 at 10:21 pm

The Linker piece gianni links to suggests one of the problems, even with the back pages (and I would argue that James Wood, whom I’d forgotten about though he has his virtues, more than once “broke things” in his blundering attempts to be “traditional,” and contributed to the narrowing of the acceptable range of “good” fiction): the right was politicizing ideas, and TNR refused either to distinguish “ideas shouldn’t be in poetry” from “ideas shouldn’t be in philosophy,” or to acknowledge that refusing to accept the politicization of ideas had a different meaning than it had when Stalinism was a danger. They published too many glowing reviews of and by writers whose set task was to try to prove, against conservative values, that liberalism ought to just maybe be given a chance.

@112 I’d recommend pretty much anything Andy Seal writes.

124

Steve Sailer 12.08.14 at 10:21 pm

I recently reviewed the more dystopian predictions made 20 years ago in “The Bell Curve” (e.g., a revival of “stop and frisk” policing):

http://takimag.com/article/a_new_caste_society_steve_sailer/print#axzz3LILjDRc8

125

gianni 12.08.14 at 10:23 pm

for another helping of schadenfreude – Z Jilani pokes fun at tnr authors for cheering neoliberalism up until it is at their doorstep

http://www.alternet.org/media/new-republic-gets-dose-its-own-neoliberal-medicine

someone above mentioned that they would miss tnr for the book reviews – i hope that they were not thinking of the J Chait review of N Klein’s Shock Doctrine when they said this (linked in above article). were all these supposedly invaluable book reviews just hippie punching masquerading as literary review? or is that just a special talent of Chait’s ?

126

Virginia Postrel 12.08.14 at 10:24 pm

It’s sad that only Steve Sailor remembers Andrew Sullivan’s actual legacy as TNR’s editor, as opposed to the Bell Curve article, which was the kind of provocation people publish to get buzz. Sullivan did succeed in gathering “the diverse and disparate energies of a polity and a culture” around a bourgeois model of gay life, including equal rights to marriage and military service.

127

Anderson 12.08.14 at 10:47 pm

Now see what you foolish people have done?

It’s like that Candyman movie.

If you type “The Bell Curve” into a thread five times, Steve Sailer appears.

128

Donald Johnson 12.08.14 at 10:49 pm

“Ok so it’s time to move on TNR’s foreign policy positions. What were they in regards to the Vietnam War, bombing of Laos and Cambodia, overthrow of Allende, support of Duarte and Rios Montt and Savimbi, Israeli invasion of Lebanon? “

I don’t know what they were like in 60’s or early to mid 70’s. On Rios Montt, I actually think I remember them starting out the 80’s with a sensible liberal abhorrence of the death squad right, and so I was unpleasantly shocked when they came out in favor of the contras. This is all from memory, which might be wrong, but I think they took the line that yes, there were unpleasant rightwing extremists, but the US could pick out the good guys and train our side not to murder civilians, which was not too different from what the Reaganites professed to believe. In reality I think the Reagan Administration knew perfectly well who and what it was supporting , but they had their useful idiots in the DC press.

I don’t remember what they said about Savimbi. On Israel, they published a piece defending Israel’s record in the 82 Lebanon War against its critics in the press who were portraying Israel (correctly) as the mad bombers of Beirut.

129

Ogden Wernstrom 12.08.14 at 10:56 pm

For example, 26 years ago my wife and I were standing on Chicago’s North Avenue, a block from the notorious Cabrini Green housing project, whose residents blighted what otherwise would have been some of the most valuable acreage in the Midwest.

The blight on Cabrini Green is people?

130

TomL 12.08.14 at 10:57 pm

I learned about TNR in 1963, my last year of high school. Sometime during undergraduate school I subscribed and continued my subscription until TNR came out in support of the Contras. Prior to Peretz, the magazine was splendid. It contained some of the finest writing to be found anywhere by authors on the left. I still mourn the TNR of my youth. As to its recent passing, my only question is “How did they know?” (borrowing from Gertrude Stein).

131

Ogden Wernstrom 12.08.14 at 10:57 pm

Sorry – that quote is from Sailer’s review of dystopian predictions.

132

PatrickinIowa 12.08.14 at 11:00 pm

@Claude Fischer 60

It wasn’t just the left, and it wasn’t just ranting.

I was at a party with a bunch of statisticians in Iowa City just after the book came out. Over in the corner there were gales of laughter. I wandered over and discovered several senior members of the U of Iowa College of Education faculty (some of whom helped create the ACT), reading the statistical material and howling with laughter.

Derision would have been the appropriate response to the book if it hadn’t been clearly put to so pernicious use.

133

bianca steele 12.08.14 at 11:36 pm

gianni @ 125 – In TNR’s defense on that point, they were never really all that pro-business and I don’t remember them being especially rah-rah capitalism, or opposed to regulation. It seems they didn’t love the corporate world–and yet, as in that piece, didn’t have any specific criticisms, but felt that the free market was pretty much good when it worked okay and all that, and it’s too partisan to blame the right for the failings of unregulated markets, I suppose.

134

Main Street Muse 12.08.14 at 11:58 pm

The real problem with TNR can be seen in the statement given to HuffPo by those who quit – which includes things like:

“The New Republic cannot be merely a “brand.” It has never been and cannot be a “media company” that markets “content.” Its essays, criticism, reportage, and poetry are not “product.” It is not, or not primarily, a business. It is a voice, even a cause.”

“The New Republic is a kind of public trust.”

“The promise of American life has been dealt a lamentable blow.”

Rather presumptuous to think “the promise of American life” has somehow taken a hit because a magazine that few people read is in the midst of a meltdown.

Magazines ARE a business. TNR never exemplified the “the promise of American life.” Nor was this particular magazine “a kind of public trust.” I am curious to see where these editors/writers end up, now that their voice has been silenced by the mercenary richy-rich Facebook devil who owns the rag.

Here’s the full statement – which you can also find here: http://huff.to/1IoHfwi

(I do not know how to do block indents on this blog)

“As former editors and writers for The New Republic, we write to express our dismay and sorrow at its destruction in all but name.

“From its founding in 1914, The New Republic has been the flagship and forum of American liberalism. Its reporting and commentary on politics, society, and arts and letters have nurtured a broad liberal spirit in our national life.

“The magazine’s present owner and managers claim they are giving it new relevance while remaining true to its century-old mission. Instead, they seem determined to strip it of the intellectual, literary, and political commitments that have been its essence and meaning. Their pronouncements suggest that they hold those commitments in contempt.

“The New Republic cannot be merely a “brand.” It has never been and cannot be a “media company” that markets “content.” Its essays, criticism, reportage, and poetry are not “product.” It is not, or not primarily, a business. It is a voice, even a cause. It has lasted through numerous transformations of the “media landscape”—transformations that, far from rendering its work obsolete, have made that work ever more valuable.

“The New Republic is a kind of public trust. That is something all its previous owners and publishers understood and respected. The legacy has now been trashed, the trust violated.

“It is a sad irony that at this perilous moment, with a reactionary variant of conservatism in the ascendancy, liberalism’s central journal should be scuttled with flagrant and frivolous abandon. The promise of American life has been dealt a lamentable blow.

“Peter Beinart (Editor)
Sidney Blumenthal (Senior editor)
Jonathan Chait (Senior editor)
David Grann (Senior editor)
David Greenberg (Acting editor)
Hendrik Hertzberg (Editor)
Ann Hulbert (Senior editor)
Robert Kuttner (Economics editor)
Robert B. Reich (Contributing editor)
Katherine Marsh (Managing editor)
Jeffrey Rosen (Legal editor)
Peter Scoblic (Executive editor)
Evan Smith (Deputy editor)
Joan Stapleton Tooley (Publisher)
Paul Starr (Contributing editor)
Ronald Steel (Contributing editor)
Andrew Sullivan (Editor)
Margaret Talbot (Deputy editor)
Dorothy Wickenden (Executive editor)
Sean Wilentz (Contributing editor)”

135

PHB 12.09.14 at 1:49 am

@ Roger Gathmann 102

The ‘Liberal Media’ cry was always projection from the right who refused to believe just how skewed to the right that the US media is. Like the majority of the mainstream print media everywhere, they were of the establishment and for the establishment.

The Post did finally expose Nixon as a crook. But after that they tried to make up for it by helping the right with their Clinton fake scandal of the week. And they enthusiastically formed the right wing echo chamber for Fox News.

The only reason the establishment media stopped being in the tank for the right was when they saw their reader numbers decline further and faster than anywhere else in the developed world. By which time it was too late, they had lost the under 30s generation of readers.

And to cap it all, while failing to mention that the Bush administration was telling lie after lie, the establishment media spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about the pernicious influence of ‘bloggers’ whose reporting might fall short of their exacting standards.

136

LFC 12.09.14 at 2:46 am

Bianca S. 123
the right was politicizing ideas, and TNR refused either to distinguish “ideas shouldn’t be in poetry” from “ideas shouldn’t be in philosophy,” or to acknowledge that refusing to accept the politicization of ideas had a different meaning than it had when Stalinism was a danger. They published too many glowing reviews of and by writers whose set task was to try to prove, against conservative values, that liberalism ought to just maybe be given a chance.

I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “politicizing ideas” here, but as to the last sentence: wouldn’t you sort of expect a liberal magazine (when it was one) to publish favorable reviews of books whose “task was to try to prove, against conservative values, that liberalism ought to just maybe be given a chance”?

If you could perhaps say more straightforwardly what your point is, I’d appreciate it. I find your comments often insightful, but the frequently somewhat convoluted mode of expression does occasionally get frustrating. Is there anything so terrible, so awful, about a simple, straightforward declarative sentence? You seem to avoid them if at all possible (which it usually is). Nuance is great, but not, IMHO, at the cost of comprehensibility.

137

LFC 12.09.14 at 2:52 am

Main Street Muse:

The real problem with TNR can be seen in the statement given to HuffPo by those who quit – which includes things like:

“The New Republic cannot be merely a “brand.” It has never been and cannot be a “media company” that markets “content.” Its essays, criticism, reportage, and poetry are not “product.” It is not, or not primarily, a business. It is a voice, even a cause.

“It is a voice, even a cause” is probably a little grandiloquent, but as for the rest of this statement, I say: Right on! A serious magazine is not primarily a “brand”, and its contents are not “product.” The statement is completely right about this.

138

js. 12.09.14 at 2:54 am

For anyone interested in CR’s “project”-related critique (I’m still stuck on this somehow), here’s CR in the comments at the Seal post LFC linked to (112):

And so we come today, and I ask myself: if I wanted to read something interesting, if I wanted to find that energy, today, where would I turn? Often to blogs. In the magazine world to the LA Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the back pages of The Nation, increasingly and surprisingly to Dissent (except on certain topics), to Jacobin, to Aaron Bady’s Twitter feed (for links to other articles), to The American Conservative or Reason (for complicated reasons), and so on.

This is a much longer list than I would have expected given the argument in the OP, and it makes me think I don’t really understand what Corey’s argument is supposed to be. Or, less generously: that Corey is conflating at least a couple of different things under the “project” label—this is argued quite well by a commenter responding to Corey on that same thread. Worth checking out.

139

LFC 12.09.14 at 2:59 am

Main Street Muse:
TNR never exemplified “the promise of American life.”

Fyi, “the promise of American life” is an allusion to a once well-known book by Herbert Croly, one of (iirc) the founders of the magazine, or at least an early contributor. So while the statement does sound a little self-important (I myself wd not describe TNR as “the flagship of liberalism,” or whatever phrase they used, certainly not in recent years), it’s not totally off-the-wall.

Moreover, you are wrong to assert that all magazines are a business. Not all magazines are. The Nation I don’t think really ever makes much money, it’s always in the red. So was TNR for a lot of its history. The aim of such magazines (and others that I cd mention) is not to make money. If they do, great, but for these sorts of magazines that’s not the main goal.

140

LFC 12.09.14 at 3:03 am

js. @138
You may be right that Corey’s “lack-of-a-project” critique is unconvincing or problematic; I’m not sure. I do commend you for directly responding to the OP and its argument. A number of commenters here have simply taken the occasion to fling about more or less the usual invective.

141

LFC 12.09.14 at 3:06 am

Donald Johnson 128

When Peretz bought TNR in ’74 (I think this is the right date, will have to double check), the magazine’s politics, esp. on foreign policy and esp incl the Middle East, changed. Before Peretz, under G. Harrison, it had opposed the Vietnam War, as I’ve had occasion to say now for about the third time in this thread.

142

bianca steele 12.09.14 at 3:14 am

LFC: You ask for two clarifications. One of them, I think, you could clear up yourself, if you followed the link.

On the second, I grew tired of reading article after article about liberalism that seemed intended to win tiny points away from the right, one by one, even points I would have thought had been dealt with long ago–that seemed to assume the only readers and the only critics who matter are conservatives. And I’m sorry my sentences are confusing for you. Maybe you should skip them.

143

LFC 12.09.14 at 3:19 am

b. steele:
On the second, I grew tired of reading article after article about liberalism that seemed intended to win tiny points away from the right, one by one, even points I would have thought had been dealt with long ago–that seemed to assume the only readers and the only critics who matter are conservatives.

This clarifies it; thanks.

144

L.D. Burnett 12.09.14 at 3:26 am

LFC (@112), thanks for linking to the discussion at S-USIH. Corey left an early and fruitfully provocative comment in the thread there along the same lines of the argument he has laid out in this post and at his blog. As a meta-matter, it’s interesting to see how the same basic idea “plays” — and is played off of — so differently in different communities of discourse.

145

LFC 12.09.14 at 3:45 am

@ L.D. B.:
I read Andy Seal’s post, albeit quickly, but I have not yet properly read the comment thread there, incl. your contributions (though I did see that Corey left a comment, and js. @138 mentions it here). I’m a bit behind on my USIH blog reading ;), but I wanted to put the link in here before this thread closed.

146

Steve Sailer 12.09.14 at 3:56 am

Stephen Jay Gould was a mellifluous prose stylist but not much of a quantitative thinker. His reputation is fading as science progresses. Here, for example, is a 2011 New York Times Editorial:

Bias and the Beholder
Published: June 14, 2011

Stephen Jay Gould, a prominent evolutionary biologist, gained broad public attention for exposing how scientists’ biases can skew their research. In one celebrated case, he charged that a famous study of human skulls in the mid-19th century had been manipulated, probably unconsciously, to support racist notions. …

Now a team of six physical anthropologists has filled almost half the skulls with pellets and concluded that Morton’s data were generally reliable and not manipulated. …

The team expressed admiration for Dr. Gould’s body of work in staunch opposition to racism, but, in this case, it accused him of various errors and manipulations that supported his own hypothesis. “Ironically, Gould’s own analysis of Morton is likely the stronger example of a bias influencing results,” the team said. We wish Dr. Gould were here to defend himself. Right now it looks as though he proved his point, just not as he intended.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/opinion/15wed4.html?_r=0

147

js. 12.09.14 at 3:57 am

It’s probably worth noting that there are a lot more comments here than at the S-USIH blog. And if you have a lot of comments, it’s going cut against having a neat, tight discussion.

148

LFC 12.09.14 at 3:59 am

TomL @130
I learned about TNR in 1963, my last year of high school. Sometime during undergraduate school I subscribed and continued my subscription until TNR came out in support of the Contras. Prior to Peretz, the magazine was splendid. It contained some of the finest writing to be found anywhere by authors on the left. I still mourn the TNR of my youth.

TomL is older than I am (by a decade+), but I too can remember, if somewhat hazily, the pre-Peretz TNR. Thank goodness I’m not the only one here who does!

149

kidneystones 12.09.14 at 10:31 am

Judis speaks: http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/32318

Dirt, background, and good discussion from a couple of TNR purists.

150

Main Street Muse 12.09.14 at 11:38 am

LFC: “Moreover, you are wrong to assert that all magazines are a business. Not all magazines are.”

Everything is product! Even magazines and their articles. These stories are consumed by their audience, which, in the case of TNR, has dwindled over time.

That statement written by the former editors? That’s their brand essence. Unavoidable in today’s world, but something intellectuals like to refute. These editors are pissed that someone with money has power to transform a brand languishing in the dusty accomplishments of the early 20th century writing (the promise of American life!) Print is dead. (Witness the NYTimes latest business report – print is pulling the business down.)

The ex-TNR editors are like those who lamented the printing press… opposed to the inevitable changes that come from such transformative communication tools.

151

kidneystones 12.09.14 at 12:12 pm

Re: 150. Actually, in the link above at 149, Judis explains that TNR never made money, nor should it be expected to. Judis himself states that print is more or less dead, so Judis at least, is not ‘lamenting…the inevitable changes that come from transformative communication tools.’ He and Robert Wright discuss the viability of political magazines, funding, the need for editorials, and long-form versus short-form analysis in the internet age. Runs about thirty minutes and well worth a listen.

152

Barry 12.09.14 at 12:44 pm

Steve, that’s an editorial, otherwise known as an opinion piece.

Also, pot, kettle, black.

153

LFC 12.09.14 at 2:41 pm

@kidneystones: thanks for the link.

@Main Street Muse: A print magazine, at least a journalistic one, also needs an online presence obvs. But that’s probably all we’ll be able to agree on, as I don’t agree w the rest of yr views on this. Everything in this sphere is not “product,” or at least shdn’t be.

154

Donald Johnson 12.09.14 at 2:42 pm

“Before Peretz, under G. Harrison, it had opposed the Vietnam War, as I’ve had occasion to say now for about the third time in this thread.”

Yeah, I know–I was just giving what I know about TNR from having actually read it–my reading started sporadically in the late 70’s and picked up in the early 80’s. I was moving left as they were moving right, so I started out liking them and ended up hating them.

.

155

J Thomas 12.09.14 at 3:17 pm

#146 Steve Sailor

Now a team of six physical anthropologists has filled almost half the skulls with pellets and concluded that Morton’s data were generally reliable and not manipulated. …

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001071&representation=PDF
I looked at the paper.

They make a convincing case that Gould made some mistakes.

Morton measured cranial capacity two ways, using seeds and lead shot. He got very different results the two ways and concluded the lead shot was more accurate. There was no good reason for Gould to pay much attention to the seed data except to note that it allowed more bias. No reason to limit his analysis of the later results to just those that were also measured with seeds.

I’m not clear why Gould wanted to throw out all the subpopulation data with less than four skulls. What I think is going on is that Gould thought that each race was made of subpopulations that had different skull sizes, and he thought the collection had too many skulls from subpopulations with small skulls for some races, and too many from subpopulations with large skulls for others. So he wanted to break it down, and he couldn’t do statistics on subpopulations that were too small.

Similarly he thought the collection had too many female skulls from some races and not enough from others. This is important because on average women are smaller than men and so have smaller skulls. But Morton couldn’t reliably tell which skulls were female — size was one of the big criteria. Similarly Morton didn’t know how tall the people were from just skulls so he couldn’t adjust for that.

So those are sources of bias in the collection, that Morton could not have done anything about, all he could do was to measure his collection and report his results from that biased sample. Gould could be right that the sample was biased, and Lewis could be right that there was nothing Morton could have done about it.

Lewis’s own results look peculiar. He wants to claim that Morton’s results were not biased, so he repeats the measurements to show that they weren’t, and he samples less than half the skulls! Gould said that scientists often unconsciously bias their data, and then Lewis’s data is incomplete. He says only some of the original skulls are still available.

Lewis found that on average, his own measurements differed from Morton’s lead shot results by 4%. (His results differed from Morton’s seed results by 1%. He and everybody else agree that the seed method is less precise, though.) He found a few skulls where the difference was significantly more than usual for the lead shot, and he declared those to be the mismeasures. He finds that the 7 biggest mismeasures were all in the wrong direction, making nonwhite cranial capacities bigger than they really were. This part gets a lot of attention.

He does not say much about all the little errors, showing how they changed the averages. There is considerable discussion about Morton’s numbers, and Gould’s apparent errors analyzing Morton’s numbers, but the analysis that would show whether Morton’s many small errors actually added up to much bias is only mentioned. Assuming that Lewis’s numbers are right, Morton’s were wrong by an average of 4%. Did those many small errors tend to enhance the racial differences Morton claimed? Here is everything in the body of the paper that mentions that.

If Gould’s hypothesis that
Morton physically mismeasured some
skulls due to racial bias were correct, we
would expect the mismeasured crania to
be non-randomly distributed by popula-
tion. Specifically, we would expect Mor-
ton’s overestimates to be concentrated on
‘‘white’’ crania, whereas his underesti-
mates would be mostly ‘‘non-white’’ cra-
nia. We tested this using the binomial
probability on population-quantile tables
(Text S2) and found only one significant
difference: Morton overestimated more
Egyptian crania (3 of 13) than would be
expected by chance. The overmeasured
Egyptian skulls are specimens that Morton
considered clearly ‘‘Negro,’’ so his overes-
timation is obviously at odds with his
predicted bias. Otherwise, Morton’s errors
were random with respect to population.

That’s all. Everything else they say about what they measured is only about the individual skulls that had the biggest errors.

They provided their raw data and their statistical methods in separate documents. My immediate complaints are first that they rounded their cc measurements into cubic inches, going from about three significant digits to two. I see no reason for that. Second, they collected their errors into groups before testing for the groups, completely ignoring small errors. I think it would be better to just use the errors directly. If the small errors average out then fine. If they don’t, they could be part of experimenter bias. Also, I think that their approach of grouping errors makes it harder to get a statistically significant result. Each the things I complain about looks to me like it’s designed to make it harder to reach official significance. But I haven’t done the work to find out whether a better approach would give a different result.

A commenter on the paper pointed out that Morton looked at the skulls people sent him, and sometimes decided that skulls that were supposedly native americans were actually european or african, and he relabeled them if he thought that. This is of course bias. But he could have been correct. Lots of people can tell the race of a skull by looking at it.

Another commenter who is translating Gould into Turkish claimed that Lewis et al misrepresented Gould in various ways. I didn’t follow up on that.

156

bianca steele 12.09.14 at 3:21 pm

LFC: A magazine that’s so convinced of its righteousness that it can’t see any change except as someone trying to force it to “become BuzzFeed” . . . is never going to notice when it does become BuzzFeed or something just as bad. The problem isn’t the idea of the market. The problem probably isn’t reflexive hatred of market-based jargon, either, and a refusal to think about problems when they’re presented by people who use the “wrong” vocabulary–but it can’t have helped.

I’m certain the editors had their own vocabulary for thinking about readers and who the magazine should appeal to. Readers are nice, presumably, whether or not you need their money. Apparently the way they thought about it stopped working. Maybe they put too much effort into distinguishing themselves from their readers (and from the nasty bloggers) to notice that the people they used to appeal to didn’t want to associate with them anymore.

157

bianca steele 12.09.14 at 4:41 pm

Also, if you can bear a little more jargon: Changing leadership multiple times in a short period is a bad sign for any organization. The chances of pulling out of that are similar to the chances for a miracle. It’s entirely plausible that actual improvements made to TNR in the past five years couldn’t be made into something that worked, for whatever definition of “works” magazines use, and without a lot of trauma.

158

LFC 12.09.14 at 5:27 pm

@ bianca steele
All I really know about the current story is that Hughes appointed a new executive who said he proposed to turn the thing into a “vertically integrated digital media company.” Presumably that phrase was accompanied by some more detailed changes, but I don’t know exactly what they were. The top editors objected and resigned, and a lot of the senior staff followed suit. They released a statement, quoted by Main Street Muse above, objecting to the proposed changes (whatever they are) and also, quite evidently, to the language in which they were being couched.

Corey R. wrote a post saying TNR had not had a “project” for years and “has long ceased to be the place where the intellectual action is.” I didn’t engage w this, the main aspect of the OP, b/c frankly I haven’t read TNR, except for a very occasional piece online, in years. Afaict, and correct me if I’m wrong, only a relatively small number of people in this thread have directly engaged with Corey’s argument: (1) js.; (2) TM, who said something like if a fascist magazine had a ‘project’ wd that make it ok; (3) Virginia Postrel, who said that under the editorship of Andrew Sullivan TNR did have a ‘project’ (namely a “bourgeois” concept of gay rights, i.e. gay marriage and integration into the military); (4) PHB, who said that TNR had ‘projects’ under Peretz and they were “despicable”; and to some extent (5) R. Gathmann (see his comments above).

I don’t really care that much whether a magazine has a ‘project’. I entered the thread mostly to point out that there was time when TNR was a good journal. TomL @130 has made this point quite eloquently, so I think, the point having been made, I will probably retire from this thread.

159

LFC 12.09.14 at 5:30 pm

p.s. I intend to read Dana Milbank’s WaPo column (that I mentioned above) and perhaps listen to the youtube link posted by kidneystones, above, but haven’t had a chance to do so yet.

160

TM 12.09.14 at 5:37 pm

I disagree that print is dead. I like to be able to look something I read in print up online but most often, when I read something interesting, I read it first in print.

161

bianca steele 12.09.14 at 5:50 pm

LFC: It seemed to me the big problem was that someone was hired in between Hughes and Foer, the editor; and that person was a business person, not a publishing person; and Foer then found out he was being fired through some site like Gawker (even worse, through the rumor mill of people who’d already read it on the site); and then there was a meeting where people felt like they were being dissed and anyway hated the new management. Understandable that Foer would resign under those circumstances, also understandable that a lot of people who were loyal to him, and didn’t want to work under the conditions on offer, would also resign.

But the magazine and web site have been reorganized in the past few years; I personally haven’t gotten comfortable with the new site yet, and only rarely find stuff there I think I want to read, and then want to finish; the web site has been terrible for a long time, with unpredictable paywall policies, and no good even for finding out what’s in the print issue. I’ve heard that there were huge improvements in the past couple of years, whatever they were didn’t personally appeal to me, but this already wasn’t the TNR of fifteen years ago. Apparently.

The articles, though, that say the problems arose because journalists lack social graces, while software people are polite and authority-loving, were pretty hilarious.

162

Brett Bellmore 12.09.14 at 5:58 pm

The older I get, the more I appreciate print media. My Nook has slid off my face every single time I’ve tried to take a nap with it.

Seriously, I’ve got several thousand volumes in my library, and the only ones that can vanish if a remote corporation decides to press a button are the ones on the Nook. That means a lot to me, after all the perfectly legal content I’d paid for on MP3.com went “poof” when the RIAA took it over. I have no love for digital media.

163

Anarcissie 12.09.14 at 6:58 pm

Brett Bellmore 12.09.14 at 5:58 pm @ 162 — Not all digital media is/are susceptible to that kind of external control. I agree it is reprehensible. Fortunately it can be defeated.

164

js. 12.09.14 at 7:32 pm

Greg Grandin at the Nation on the death metamorphosis of TNR. I’ll just note that he’s exactly right that if TNR becomes more like Gawker, that would be far from the worst outcome imaginable—indeed, it would be a noticeable improvement.

165

Brett Bellmore 12.09.14 at 8:05 pm

“Not all digital media is/are susceptible to that kind of external control.”

Yes and no. Some forms of digital media, you may have the data under your own control, but as technology progresses, and hardware wears out, suddenly you find that you have data under your control that you can’t access. I’ve got a huge box of videotapes I simply can’t view, and I could easily see my DVDs and Blueray disks going the same way, especially with the Blueray involving encryption. I can’t just copy the data onto a hard drive, and read it, it has deliberately rendered opaque without the viewer.

That isn’t a problem with my books, and it’s not a problem with earlier digital media, either. But it seems to be the trend, to tie things up so that people can’t simply own their copy of your work, and continue to access it, without your continuing aid.

166

js. 12.09.14 at 8:07 pm

And Ta-Nehisi Coates, essential as always.

167

Roger Gathmann 12.09.14 at 8:23 pm

135 – I think the “liberal media” represented the way the media, by the sixties, had absorbed the changes in the configuration of the elite that had really occurred thirty years previously, in the 30s. In other words, when the Rooseveltian democratic party was the DC establishment, it was what the elite press represented. The change in the structure of the elite in 1980 had already been preceded by the end of the liberal era – as the establishment became conservative, so did the press. But I think the press’s most important thumbsuckers were never comfortable calling themselves conservative, and thus they simply redid the liberal label to make it fit their new positions. One of the things TNR did well is provide covering fire, making anyone clinging to the old liberal label seem “conventional” and “dogmatic” – which is a neat trick that has spread all over the press and tv. Contrarianism became a way of never being contrary to the groupthink of the business and political elites, but in a very clever way. Kinsley, that spawn of Buckley and Peretz, was the absolute master at this, and has not been called on it until recently. But I think the contrarianism is now growing old – when, for instance, his “contrarian” take on Greenwald led to an epic establishmentarian splutter fest, it was something that I don’t think he expected.
It is this ethos that I think became less and less palatable in the 00s with the Iraq war. The old neo-liberals gravitated either to the right altogether, or became suspicious of the whole TNR-istic deal. That is why I think the Washington Post (which served as a sort of career stop for ex TNR people) began to have serious financial troubles in the 00s, failing to attract a young audience that was simply through with that kind of bs. Perhaps this is too optimistic a take, however: nothing has really moved in this, the decade after the 00s, and we are about to have a re-run presidential candidate who has long embodied neo-liberalism in Hilary Clinton. The spirit of TNR, alas, lives on.

168

gianni 12.09.14 at 8:32 pm

nice links js., tyty

169

LFC 12.09.14 at 8:53 pm

js. @164
The Grandin piece (which I just read) is I think a pretty good critique of TNR on f.policy, esp. L. America, in recent decades. (Can’t comment on Gawkerization specifically as I don’t know much of anything about Gawker.)

170

js. 12.09.14 at 9:23 pm

@gianni — cheers. Wasting time on Twitter has its upsides, it turns out!

@LFC — Right, I’ve never been a regular TNR reader but that rings about true to me based on other things I’ve read. And Gawker’s pretty great, by the way. It’s not what it was in the Pareene/Nolan heyday ca. 2007, but it’s bizarrely better than it ought to be (in some sense).

171

Steve Sailer 12.09.14 at 9:56 pm

‘m strck by hw n 170 cmmnts, th sbjct s nvr brchd tht sm f th ll-flngs mng th rsgnng stff twrd th wnr ctng lk h rlly wns th mgzn hs smthng vgly t d wth th wnr bng nt jst gntl bt th mst xtrrdnrly gntl-lkng wnr mgnbl, nd th mgzn hvng bn fr th fr dcds ‘v bn fmlr wth t d fct Jwsh mgzn. TNR wsn’t ffclly Jwsh pblctn lk Cmmntry ws, nd gntl jrnlstc prdgs lk ndrw Sllvn cld rs t th #2 pstn, bt n my lftm t ws prdmnntly mgzn fr smrt Jws nd ppl wh lk smrt Jws. Ths s nt t sy tht thnc tnsns r cntrl t th mgzns fnncl nd strtgc cntrvrss, bt d mgn tht Jwsh wnr wld hv bn bl t cm t sm mr mcbl grmnt wth th stff t lst ntl th nxt cnmc dwntrn.

172

Anderson 12.09.14 at 10:12 pm

171: hoo, boy. The Zionist conspiracy.

173

sharculese 12.09.14 at 10:22 pm

@Anderson

You expected Steve Sailer to say something that wasn’t shockingly racist?

Dude has one setting.

174

Anarcissie 12.09.14 at 10:26 pm

Brett Bellmore 12.09.14 at 8:05 pm @ 165 — You are talking about two different problems. One is the obsolescence of media, which can be overcome technologically — there are people who will copy your tapes onto DVDs, for a price, of course. The other problem is the hypertrophy of copyright and other ‘intellectual property’ laws. We are evolving towards a state of affairs where (like some software) you will not buy copies of things but only limited access to them at the discretion of the owner, who reserves the right to rescind the license at any time (as when Amazon deleted copies of 1984 on Kindles several years ago). Since our political system responds chiefly to large sums of money and secondarily to important connections, the industries who benefit from these monopolies seem to have no trouble getting what they want, even though what they want disadvantages most people. In spite of the exploits of hackers, technology is not a certain solution to the problem, as the laws become ever more draconian.

175

gianni 12.09.14 at 10:29 pm

while TNR certainly has a strong element of ‘NY Jewish culture’ to it, it does not at all follow that this is a notable motivation behind the mass exodus of the writers. there is no clear indication that this element of the magazine is especially threatened by the new ownership aside from an extremely simplistic focus on the new owner’s identity, and i have not seen any solid evidence that this concern is a motivating factor for the relevant writers/editors

176

LFC 12.09.14 at 10:58 pm

S. Sailer @171
In reaction to this comment, words fail. It’s ineffably stupid.

177

Corey Robin 12.09.14 at 11:03 pm

Okay, Sailer’s comment has been disemvowelled. We’re not going to head down to this particular cesspool today. Everyone, drop the topic, let’s go back to debating whatever it was we were debating. I mean it.

178

mattski 12.09.14 at 11:18 pm

Shit. I just missed it.

Not fair.

179

J Thomas 12.09.14 at 11:28 pm

I thought that Gianni’s implied request for actual evidence might possibly have led to something interesting. Though maybe not in present company, so never mind.

180

Barry 12.10.14 at 4:13 pm

Corey Robin 12.09.14 at 11:03 pm
“Okay, Sailer’s comment has been disemvowelled. We’re not going to head down to this particular cesspool today. Everyone, drop the topic, let’s go back to debating whatever it was we were debating. I mean it.”

Corey, could we take *him* down to the cesspool?
[walks off, whistling a song from Devo]

181

TM 12.10.14 at 4:55 pm

CR: “let’s go back to debating whatever it was we were debating.”

A few of us (e.g. 90, 99, 158) were wondering whether you really think that a fascist magazine energetically pursuing a project is preferable to a less energetic alternative. I’m sure I’m overinterpreting you somewhat but would appreciate your clarification.

182

Corey Robin 12.10.14 at 5:18 pm

TM: “I’m sure I’m overinterpreting you somewhat.”

You are.

183

TM 12.10.14 at 5:48 pm

Very helpful comment. I guess we’ll just continue to not debate what we were not debating.

184

Rich Puchalsky 12.10.14 at 5:59 pm

Everyone learns to just ignore Steve Sailer eventually. You still see noobs throwing themselves in to “debate” or “denounce” him, but they learn.

It’s only with more respectable figures — where respectability is defined by access to power, not by content — that the people here never learn. That’s the real difference between Andrew Sullivan and Sailer.

185

gianni 12.10.14 at 6:39 pm

didn’t realize this Sailer fellow was a known buffoon; my b, noted.

TM – i think that if there were an active and energetic magazine advocating fascism, that we could all admire the energy while also, potentially, finding other things to criticize it for. just like you can admire the energy with which your pet scratches at the furniture, but advise them that said energy might best be applied to a less destructive outlet

say what you want about fascism, but it oftentimes has a powerful energy to it. this is, if i may be so bold, is one of its principle dangers, especially to the left. i would hazard that the notion of ‘accelerationism’ is an instance of this sort of phenomenon, although with all its roots in high theory it has certainly not hit the mainstream.

186

TM 12.10.14 at 7:55 pm

Fasci-nating comment. Might it be possible to acknowledge fascist (or racist or war-mongering or just hateful) energy and not admire it? Maybe even fight it?

187

gianni 12.11.14 at 12:45 am

my immediate personal relations are given over to such a great deal of apathy that I find political energy of any sort enticing.

188

Jerry Vinokurov 12.11.14 at 1:34 am

Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

189

gianni 12.11.14 at 2:09 am

precisely ;)

190

TM 12.11.14 at 3:31 am

From what I have heard, it is true that fascism in the 1920 and 1930 held great attraction to many people who should have known better exactly because it wasn’t boring (or so they thought). I assume you are joking gianni but the joke is really on liberals who just don’t get it.

191

js. 12.11.14 at 3:40 am

I have completely lost my irony meter at this point, but I might as well note that a very good friend of mine studied fascism for reasons not entirely unrelated to @187/188. In case it needs to be said, their sympathies aligned well along the lines of all the people in this discussion.

192

gianni 12.11.14 at 4:28 am

yes, i am having a bit of fun with you all, also trying a bit too eagerly to wave my hands and shout ‘look over here’ in an attempt to move on from the bit of unsavory stuff above

193

Ze Kraggash 12.11.14 at 8:26 am

Well, if you think of it as a form of corporatism, the attraction is clear: unity and harmony (presumably), as an alternative to liberal atomization and marxist class conflict. What’s not to like?

194

kidneystones 12.11.14 at 1:26 pm

Guardian Editor Steps Down: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/dec/10/alan-rusbridger-stand-down-guardian-editor-in-chief

Rushbridger effectively managed the transition of a print media icon into the “most widely-read serious newspaper in English.” I don’t recall reading the word “profit” in the entire piece. Rushbridger instead credits stable funding via the Scott Trust set up in the thirties. He’s clearly doing something right. Perhaps Judis is right: forget the profit, and simply stay true to a higher purpose. Capitalism well-managed in other markets provides the necessary funding. Works for me.

195

Rob 12.11.14 at 6:06 pm

Perhaps it is because I am not American, but I have never in my life heard anyone say, “did you see that excellent article in TNR?”

196

LFC 12.11.14 at 6:30 pm

@js:
It’s not hard to lose one’s irony meter here (and that’s all I’m going to say about it rt now).

197

Steve Sailer 12.12.14 at 2:22 am

Hr’s frmr Nw Rpblc dtr Ptr Bnrt wrtng n th srl nwsppr Hrtz:

< hrf="http://www.hrtz.cm/pnn/1.630953#.Vhv5Gnj.twttr" rl="nfllw">http://www.hrtz.cm/pnn/1.630953#.Vhv5Gnj.twttr

“Hw Th Nw Rpblc stppd bng Jwsh mgzn

“Whn t ws brn cntry g, Jwsh ntllctl nflnc n mrc ws n th rs. Nw t’s strtng t dcln.

“By Ptr Bnrt | Dc. 10, 2014 | 3:00 PM

“Lst wk, Th Nw Rpblc, th mgzn sd t dt, fll prt. Th wnr std th tp tw dtrs, mst f th snr stff rsgnd, nd whl smthng clld Th Nw Rpblc wll cntn, t s nlkly t br mch rltnshp t th crsdng, ltrry pblctn fndd by Wltr Lppmnn nd thr prgrssv ntllctls 100 yrs g.

“t’s n mprtnt mmnt nt nly n th hstry f mrcn jrnlsm, bt n th hstry f mrcn Jws.

“t’s n mprtnt mmnt fr mrcn Jws bcs fr th lst 40 yrs, Th Nw Rpblc hs bn cltrlly Jwsh mgzn. …

“Bt vn whn Prtz stppd dwn s dtr n chf n 2010, TNR’s Jwsh dntty ndrd.

“ndr ltrry dtr Ln Wsltr, th mgzn rmnd n ndspnsbl src f cmmntry n Jwsh hstry nd cltr. nd nsd th mgzn, yddshkt ws rrly fr wy. rmmbr nc hrng Wsltr xpln tht h hd skd n thr t sbmt hs bk rvw by Rsh Hdsh. “Tht’s hw Mlclm Cwly sd t d t,” h ddd wryly. Th mplctn ws clr. Cwly hd bn TNR’s ltrry dtr n th 1930s, whn mrcn Jws wr stll tsdrs. Nw hs sccssr ws grdt f Yshvh f Fltbsh. mrcn Jws hd rrvd.

“s frc n mrcn jrnlsm, w crtnly hv. Jws dt Th Nw Yrk Rvw f Bks, Th Nw Yrkr, Th Wkly Stndrd, Th tlntc, Frgn ffrs, Frgn Plcy, Vx, Bzzfd, Pltc, nd th pnn pgs f Th Nw Yrk Tms nd Wshngtn Pst.”

198

Steve Sailer 12.12.14 at 9:02 pm

Ha ha, very classy, removing all the vowels from former TNR Editor Peter Beinart’s Haaretz column on The New Republic. Here’s the link to Beinart in Haaretz:

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.630953#.VIhv5GienjA.twitter

199

Collin Street 12.12.14 at 11:58 pm

> Perhaps Judis is right: forget the profit, and simply stay true to a higher purpose.

“Capital” is on the debit side of the ledger for a reason.

200

J Thomas 12.13.14 at 12:29 am

#198 Steve Sailer

Ha ha, very classy, removing all the vowels from former TNR Editor Peter Beinart’s Haaretz column on The New Republic.

Surely you understand. It’s one thing to write approvingly in an Israeli newspaper that Jews control the US media. It’s a very different thing to quote that in a place that a lot of Americans read, when people already think you’re anti-semitic. You’re not supposed to say that sort of thing where Americans will hear.

201

Anarcissie 12.13.14 at 1:57 am

Actually, the article in Haaretz (one of at least four about TNR) didn’t exactly say that Jews control the US media. Or at least that’s not how I read it.

202

kidneystones 12.13.14 at 7:05 am

The part missing, and the part that remains. For me, TNR was never about a political mission. As others have noted, TNR has for many years been a rich man’s hobby, certainly as far as politics are concerned. What drew me to TNR and literary institutions like it, were the words, and those who fashioned them. Ryan Lizza has an excellent essay complete with interviews that is sure to be one of most widely-read obits of what truly is one of the English languages most venerable, and once vibrant, productions.

Could the magazine still sing in a digital age? My vote is yes. More political diversity and more writing like this from the Lizza piece:

“One particularly high-flown expression of the pervasive frustration among the writers came from Cynthia Ozick, a novelist and critic who has written for The New Republic for many years. After Wieseltier resigned, she e-mailed him a poem, inspired by Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” that former staffers circulated:

The Siliconian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in wireless gold,
Crying Media Company Vertically Integrated!
As all before them they willfully extirpated:
The Back of the Book and the Front and the Middle,
Until all that was left was digital piddle,
And Thought and Word lay dead and cold.”

With luck the carpetbaggers will be drawn to some shiny object and allow those who respect writing to bring the corpse back to life. I sincerely hope so.

203

J Thomas 12.13.14 at 1:07 pm

#201 Anarcissie

Actually, the article in Haaretz (one of at least four about TNR) didn’t exactly say that Jews control the US media. Or at least that’s not how I read it.

Your reading may well have been right, however you read it.

What do you think the Haaretz article said that was worth disemvowelling?

204

Corey Robin 12.13.14 at 2:02 pm

Guys: Like I said above, get off this topic of Jews and the media, speculating or responding to Sailer’s comments, or circling around anything having to do with that. It’s not the topic here. If you’d like me to simply shut down the comments thread here, I will.

205

J Thomas 12.13.14 at 4:16 pm

Corey, thank you for leaving the link to the article written in Haaretz by the former TNR editor. The article itself is directly on-topic, even if the discussion about what it said is not.

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