Former TNR owner/publisher has seller’s remorse
posted at 2:33 pm on February 14, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Marty Peretz sold The New Republic — which billed itself as “the inflight magazine of Air Force One” during the Clinton administration — to Facebook co-founder and Barack Obama campaign guru Chris Hughes almost a year ago. Some people get buyer’s remorse, but Peretz has seller’s remorse after watching his former magazine turn from a relatively independent center-left voice to a progressive Obama cheerleader. And almost as notable as the seller’s remorse is the venue in which the center-left Peretz decided to vent it … the Wall Street Journal (via Dylan Byers):
“Original Sin,” by Sam Tanenhaus, purported to explain “Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people.” The provocative theme would not have been unthinkable in the magazine’s 99-year history, but the essay’s reliance on insinuations of GOP racism (“the inimical ‘they’ were being targeted by a spurious campaign to pass voter-identification laws, a throwback to Jim Crow”) and gross oversimplifications hardly reflected the intellectual traditions of a journal of ideas. What made the “Original Sin” issue unrecognizable to this former owner is that it established as fact what had only been suggested by the magazine in the early days of its new administration: The New Republic has abandoned its liberal but heterodox tradition and embraced a leftist outlook as predictable as that of Mother Jones or the Nation.
That was hardly the fate I expected for the magazine. Yes, Mr. Hughes had run Barack Obama‘s highly successful social-media operation during the 2008 presidential campaign, so a certain Democratic affinity was to be expected. But his assurances of open-mindedness in running the magazine inspired confidence.
Well, we’ve identified the first problem.
Mr. Hughes is not from the world of Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann, the old-school liberals who founded the “journal of opinion” in the hope that it would foment in its readers “little insurrections of the mind.” The first and second cohort of editors and writers included such giants as Felix Frankfurter, Virginia Woolf, Reinhold Niebuhr, Rebecca West, John Maynard Keynes and Edmund Wilson.
He was from Facebook and the Obama campaign. What exactly about that screamed “Virginia Woolf” or “Felix Frankfurter” to Peretz in the first place?
There is something strange about Chris Hughes’s journalistic vision.
Again, Hughes came from Facebook and the Obama campaign. Seriously.
He has said in public and to me that he intended for the magazine no longer to be known as a liberal journal, for it not to take up only one side of an issue. Fair enough. An earnest expression of this sentiment is the fact that the magazine has stopped publishing editorials.
But maybe editorials are no longer needed, given the articles themselves. The magazine now seems to live in a space where those “little insurrections of the mind” are unwelcome. It is akin to the atmosphere in many colleges and universities: There are prevailing orthodoxies but they aren’t recognized as such. Mr. Obama himself is the main one. The president is an object of fealty at the New Republic in a way that Woodrow Wilson and even Franklin Roosevelt never were.
Sorry. I’d like to generate some sympathy for Peretz, but this sounds like a man who should be angry with himself. If these issues had really mattered to Peretz, he’d have found a buyer who actually has a “journalistic vision,” or not sold it at all. Hughes had the money, and Peretz wanted it more than he wanted TNR’s journalistic vision to continue. After all, it wasn’t really all that difficult to see this coming.