Ed Driscoll

TNR: Running on Empty, Even Before Chris Hughes' Journalistic Seppuku

“Don’t Cry (Too Much) for The New Republic,” Lee Smith writes at the Weekly Standard (arguably its neoconservative spin-off), dubbing it “A magazine of ideas without ideas:”

There was no longer an argument in the magazine, or Peretz’s head, that might have taken on the serious issues the U.S.-led invasion and occupation raised—about projecting American power, for instance, or democracy promotion, both of which had been important issues to TNR in the past. Rather, the magazine simply advocated the position staked out by Democrats who, like TNR, had supported the war before they were against it.

Bush’s war, from their perspective, was so obviously bad, stupid, and vile that even American soldiers agreed with The New Republic. In July 2007, Pvt. Scott Beauchamp reported from Iraq and Kuwait that his fellow servicemen were violent jerks who, among other things, killed dogs and humiliated disfigured female soldiers. THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s Michael Goldfarb was the first to note problems with Beauchamp’s diary pieces, and then in August 2007, an Army investigation showed that Beauchamp’s reports were false.

But TNR and its editor at the time, Franklin Foer, didn’t budge. THE WEEKLY STANDARD was wrong, Goldfarb was wrong, the Army was wrong. What had Beauchamp, a novice journalist, done to merit the magazine’s trust, its willingness to stake its own reputation to the claims of an untested reporter? Nothing. The Beauchamp pieces weren’t part of a larger argument, rather they were part of a political campaign against Bush and his supporters, so any criticism of them from those quarters could only be more political warfare. Thus, TNR slid out of the world of ideas and facts. It wasn’t until four months later, in December 2007 that Foer finally decided that the magazine could no longer “stand by [Beauchmp’s] stories.”

Frank Foer is a good guy but the fact that he backed Beauchamp for so long was yet more evidence of a systemic problem with the culture of the magazine. It’s why Kelly stuck with Glass, why the staff was happy to take Hughes’s money when he bought the magazine in 2012, and why they walked out last week in self-righteous outrage. It’s not about ideas, but prestige, privilege, and self-image. They’re always right even when they’re wrong—like they were about Hughes, the wunderkind they once saw as the messiah: they’re arrogant. The TNR Hughes bought was a flattering looking glass that reflected back to its writers and editors, and readers, what they wanted to believe about themselves—that they’re serious people, which they are, with serious ideas, which they do not now have.

But then, that last paragraph, describing a smug arrogant mindset that thinks it’s “always right even when they’re wrong” doesn’t describe the worldview inside the old TNR bullpen, but of the 21st left itself:

 

Update:  “Three Top Lessons from the New Republic Implosion,”  from Kathy Shaidle at the PJ Lifestyle blog.