Ed Driscoll

'You’ll Never Guess What Happened to This Magazine! Click Here for More!'


Everybody’s written about Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes gutting the New Republic yesterday, but John Podhoretz’s headline at Commentary sums up perfectly the looming Vox/Buzzfeed-ification of the century-old center-left publication that, as with the left itself, went badly off the rails over the past decade.

John’s actual post under his headline isn’t too shabby, either:

The New Republic went through ownership spasms that may have distracted or hindered its editors. But still there’s no question 2009 was a potential hinge moment in American political-intellectual life, as the Gingrich Revolution was in 2004. But the fact is that TNR never found its voice in the Age of Obama, either as a sympathetic intellectual leader capable of offering honest and serious criticism to and for those in power (which the Standard has always done for the Right) or as an effectively aggressive intellectual foe against the serious arguments posed against Obamaism by the Right.

Why? I think the answer is that there never was any Obamaism to champion; there was no serious vision of America and the world being laid out by the administration that provided fertile ground out for intellectual cultivation, for voices on the outside to make sense of that serious vision and help it cohere into an argument. (In the 1980s, ironically, it was the New Republic‘s own Charles Krauthammer who did just that in explicating the “Reagan Doctrine,” though even more ironically, he did it in the pages of Time Magazine rather than in TNR.)

What there was, instead, was the increasing reliance on the cheap-shottery of the Internet era—in which TNR and others were driven more by a kind of grinding loathing of the Right than by an effort to create a more effective and serious Center-Left. The magazine foundered because liberals foundered, because Obamaism was a cult of personality that demanded fealty rather than a philosophy that demanded explication.

As Steve Hayward added at Power Line last night, “The remaining glory of The New Republic ended today, with the firing of talented editor Franklin Foer and long-time literary editor Leon Wieseltier. More purging of TNR’s editorial ranks is likely to happen before the week is out.”

Last night, Moe Lane of Red State added:

Topping on the cake?  What Politico neglected to mention is that the new editor (Gabriel Snyder) used to work for Gawker.

Gawker!  It’s a miracle that the remaining staff didn’t commit seppeku en masse at the shame.

They did:

But what’s happened to the New Republic over the last decade echoes the transformation of the left itself; in 2007, the magazine was rocked by the scandal of Scott Thomas Beauchamp:

The Weekly Standard has learned from a military source close to the investigation that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp–author of the much-disputed “Shock Troops” article in the New Republic’s July 23 issue as well as two previous “Baghdad Diarist” columns–signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods–fabrications containing only “a smidgen of truth,” in the words of our source.

The end of the following year ushered in that now-infamous period of self-delusion and mass hypnosis, during which everyone on the left attempted to simultaneously convince themselves and further humiliate already demoralized conservatives into believing that Lightworker Obama was the second coming of FDR ushering in decades of untrammeled socialist rule. On Christmas eve of 2008, John Judis of the New Republic openly declared, “A decade ago, I might have been embarrassed to admit that I was raised on Marx and Marxism, but I am convinced that the left is coming back.”

(As they say at David Horowitz’s Front Page, “Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out.”)

What could go wrong? For TNR, and the ideology that used to call itself “liberalism,” and the country at large? As Jim Geraghty deadpans today, really sticking the knife in, “It’s Been a Bad Couple of Years for Republics:”

For fans of TNR and its contributors, who feel like they’re watching a beloved institution with an unparalleled history and place in their lives get taken over by a bunch of irresponsible, arrogant, smug, habitually dishonest radicals with more money than good sense, who don’t appreciate the institution’s tradition, greatness, or place in history, who are convinced they know best, who disregard all criticism, ignore all warning signs, and are running the place into the ground . . .

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. . . millions of Americans know exactly how you feel.

Sadly, yes. On Twitter yesterday, Ace had a modest proposal for TNR’s next move:

As part of its shake-up, The New Republic will brand itself as an edgier, more “urban” magazine, and call itself Golf Digest

But because, as Malcolm Muggeridge warned us all over a half-century ago, no satirist can compete with real life — especially where the left are involved — for its pure absurdity, Golf Digest already took a test drive at becoming TNR itself, way back in late 2009. Remember this infamous Photoshopped cover on its January 2010 issue, which because of the long lead time of print-based magazines was quickly rendered a laughing stock?

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By the time the issue hit the streets, Tiger Woods’ squeaky-clean reputation was in tatters when news of Woods’ peccadilloes permanently shattered his carefully built and rigorously-defended narrative. broke, and the new president smell was definitely off the Obama administration. The resulting issue made everyone involved (including Thomas Friedman, Tom Brokaw, and over a dozen other “journalists” from the Times, NBC and elsewhere) look even more sycophantic than usual and remind readers that hack is not a term reserved exclusively for the fairways.

But then, that’s the danger of politicizing all aspects of your life, and your journalism, as Chris Hughes is finding out the hard way this week.

On the other hand, cheer up, TNR — you could be Rolling Stone.

Update: Elsewhere at PJM, Ron Radosh on “The Long, Slow Death of The New Republic.”