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Ed Driscoll

Marty Peretz has Second Thoughts

February 14th, 2013 - 1:11 pm

In the Wall Street Journal, the longtime former owner of the New Republic has second thoughts about cashing out:

Like many readers of the New Republic, I didn’t at first recognize the most recent issue of the magazine. The stark white cover was unlike anything the New Republic ran during my 35 years as the owner. Having read the cover story, I still don’t recognize the magazine that I sold in 2012 to the Facebook zillionaire Chris Hughes.

“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.

Moe Lane writes that the password is…predictable:

There’s no way that Peretz didn’t know that Hughes was a high priest of the Obama personality cult; and I certainly refuse to believe that Peretz didn’t get that the only reason why Hughes even wanted TNR was because of the masthead and trademark.  TNR’s intellectual history and traditions?  Utterly irrelevant, if not actively inimical to the needs of the aforementioned Cult of Obama.  The new owner has different goals in mind; and Martin Perertz really should have realized that from day one.  In short: being surprised about a rabid pro-Obama partisan taking his new magazine in a rabidly pro-Obama direction is like getting surprised when Disney buys out your magazine, then puts Mickey Mouse up on the masthead.  This is something that happens.

Indeed. When Tom Wolfe sold the movie rights for Bonfire of the Vanities to Warner Brothers, only to watch that corporation, its collective intellect increasingly defenestrated beginning in the 1980s by political correctness (see also: sister corporations CNN and HBO), and therefore literally unable to adopt his novel as written to the screen, he replied, “I think it’s bad manners in the Southern sense to be sharp and critical of it. I did cash the check.”

Like arch-environmentalist Al Gore selling to big oil-funded Al-Jazeera, Marty cashed the check. Given the intense hatred of leftist journalists — many of whom got their start by working for Peretz at TNR — demonstrated when they wrote about him on the JournoList, Peretz had to know what was coming next.

Which is why Ed Morrissey adds at Hot Air: 

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.

We quoted Moe Lane above, who wrote, “TNR’s intellectual history and traditions?  Utterly irrelevant, if not actively inimical to the needs of the aforementioned Cult of Obama.”  As Jonah Goldberg has noted on numerous occasions, the left wears its ability to discard its intellectual history and traditions on its sleeve:

Obviously this is a sweeping — and therefore unfair — generalization. But I read a lot of liberal stuff and have attended more than a few college confabs with liberal speakers speaking on the subject of liberalism itself. And it seems to me that liberals are intellectually deracinated. Read conservative publications or attend conservative conferences and there will almost always be at least some mention of our intellectual forefathers and often a spirited debate about them. The same goes for Libertarians, at least that branch which can be called a part or partner of the conservative movement.

Just look at the conservative blogosphere. There’s all sorts of stuff about Burke, Hayek, von Mises, Oakeshott, Kirk, Buckley, Strauss, Meyer, the Southern Agrarians, et al. I can’t think of a single editor or contributing editor of National Review who can’t speak intelligently about the intellectual titans of conservatism going back generations. I’m not saying everybody’s an expert, but I think everybody’s made at least the minimal effort to understand their intellectual lineage and I think that’s reflected in conservative writing, for good and for ill. I would guess that the same hold true about the gang over at Reason.

I just don’t get the sense that’s true of most liberal journalists. When was the last time you saw more than a passing reference to Herbert Croly? When was the last time you read an article or blog posting where a liberal asked “What would Charles Beard think of this?”

See also: changing roles of Eurasia and Eastasia in Oceania. Which brings us to Stacy McCain, who brutally dubs TNR, “Stormfront for Liberals.”

That’s harsh stuff, but when you find your publication’s ideals being questioned by both Marty Peretz and Stacy McCain, it might be time to “check your premises,” as another veteran writer and publisher used to say.

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