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Annals of Swinishness, New York Times edition

August 5th, 2010 - 5:40 am

Yesterday, a friend called my attention to a review that ran Sunday in the book review of our former paper of record. The review was by one Damon Linker. It concerned two books: a new biography about the writer and editor Norman Podhoretz and a sort of institutional biography of Commentary, the magazine Mr. Podhoretz edited with conspicuous distinction for several decades.

I had missed Linker’s review, as I miss most things in The New York Times, since I long ago decided that the paper’s  irrelevancy was exceeded only by its political tendentiousness.  It was that combination of qualities that led me, a couple of years ago, to issue a public letter announcing that Encounter Books, of which I am the publisher, would no longer be sending its books to the Times. Why collude in their pretense of evenhandedness by sending them books that they would never notice?  Like many conservative books, the only place Encounter books appear in The New York Times is on their best-seller list. (The most recent such book is Andy McCarthy’s The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.)

The less said about Damon Linker’s review the better. Indeed, I hesitate to mention it, or him, at all, lest the publicity impart more importance to it, or him, than either deserves, which is none. Damon Linker, some readers may recall, is the man who owes his career to Richard John Neuhaus, the late, great founding editor of First Things, where Linker cut his teeth as a writer.  In due course, Linker left First Things and promptly repaid Fr. Neuhaus’s benefactions by writing a book attacking him and his ideas.

It was a disgusting if forgettable performance–the book, I mean, not the betrayal which, though disgusting, is certainly memorable.  Equally disgusting and forgettable is Linker’s bijou for the Times. Norman Podhoretz, according to Damon Linker,  “has grown so intolerant of criticism and dissent, so terrified of impending doom at the hands of militant Muslims, and so furious with his fellow Jews that his intemperate rantings are dismissed by all but his neoconservative progeny. The Brownsville wunderkind has ended up an embittered, paranoid crank, standing by and for himself alone.”

Quite a list: “intolerant of criticism and dissent,” “terrified,” given to “intemperate rantings,” an “embittered, paranoid crank.” This is what passes for judicious  criticism in The New York Times. No thanks.

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