Promoting regime change in Iraq paved the way to regime change at the New Republic

US Politics
on 23 Comments

The regime change at the New Republic is continuing to command headlines. The story is shifting, from the principled stance of the two dozen staffers, many of them excellent journalists, who jumped from the windows after owner Chris Hughes fired top editors Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, to two storylines that are more sympathetic to Hughes. One is technocratic/neoliberal: He bought the goddamn magazine, what did they expect? The other is political: despite the New Republic’s claim to being a progressive leader, the old regime was not liberal; it was racist and neoconservative/rightwing Zionist. Though typically not many critics are explicitly tackling the New Republic’s arch-Zionism.

The New York Times business page characterizes the shift as a battle between old and new media.

As The New Republic’s losses mounted, reaching $5 million a year according to one person with knowledge of its books, Mr. Hughes grew impatient….

Mr. Hughes began setting aggressive targets for web traffic, and calling for more “snackable content.” He told employees not to use the popular abbreviation “TNR” to refer to the magazine, explaining that “The New Republic” was a more recognizable brand.

In that piece, former editor Mike Kinsley defends Hughes’s autonomy.

“We live in a capitalistic society, and that’s something that The New Republic has historically stood for,” he went on. “It’s his magazine, and if he wants to wreck it, he can.”

In the Washington Post, Chris Hughes says he didn’t want to own a white elephant, but make the magazine a sustainable brand.

I came to protect the future of the New Republic by creating a sustainable business so that our journalism, values and voice — the things that make us singular — could survive.

…the dichotomy between techy buzzwords and tradition is a false choice. Journalists across the industry are using new techniques to tell vital stories and make passionate arguments. Innovation is happening in traditional newsrooms like the New York Times and The Post and at start-ups such as Vox and Politico. The New Republic should and will be mentioned in the same breath.

Remember that Marty Peretz made the New Republic over 40 years ago and also did a purge. He wanted the magazine to anchor the pro-Israel argument inside the Democratic Party. “Much of the staff, which then included Walter Pincus, Stanley Karnow, and Doris Grumbach, was either fired or chose to resign. The staffers were largely replaced by young men fresh out of Harvard, with plenty of talent but few journalistic credentials and little sense of the magazine’s place in the history of liberalism,” states one report. And a conservative site points out that the magazine was remade before that, in 1941.

(A lot of the huffing and puffing reminds me of when Si Newhouse bought the New Yorker and replaced William Shawn with Robert Gottlieb back in 1987. The editors of the magazine were then counting on Charles McGrath to take Shawn’s seat, and a good number quit, saying a great tradition was being deep-sixed. It was pointed out then that a magazine is not a democracy. No one remembers this anymore, for good reason.)

On to the more important storyline. Ta-Nehisi Coates once cited the magazine for publishing the most racist article he’d ever read. Donald Johnson has this weather report:

The majority of liberal/left types that I’ve seen are unsympathetic to The New Republic and some people (including me) are dancing on its grave, while recognizing that some good people (like John Judis) worked there. There was a TNR cover in favor of welfare “reform” (back in the 90’s) that was really shocking. I don’t remember it, but it was amazing in a bad way--a black woman smoking while holding a baby. You’ve probably seen it if you’ve clicked around. I’m about to go to bed or I’d look it up and link to it.

Jeet Heer has done a series of Tweets on Marty Peretz’s racist history.

Jacob Heilbrunn has published the best piece on the matter, “The Myth of the Liberal New Republic,” that focuses on the neoconservative foreign policy.

[Peretz and Leon Wieseltier] viewed any kind of hesitation about force as tantamount to a cold and heartless foreign policy. They saw themselves as always on the side of the angels and promoted a kind of group-think at the magazine that I believe explains its disastrous endorsement of the Iraq War and that cost it many of its readers.

As I recall it, once I joined the magazine and began writing opinion and reported pieces, it seemed as though there was never a stand that was hard-line enough to satisfy Peretz and Wieseltier. The weekly Thursday meetings, where Marty and Leon egged each other in their mutual hawkishness (not that it took all that much egging), started to feel oppressive.

The adherence was significant: The neoconservative groupthink of the publication set the tune for the liberal D.C. discourse:

Having been practically weaned on the New Republic’s bellicosity, I myself developed a fairly hawkish disposition and published a number of pieces attacking the Clinton administration for insufficient zealousness abroad. But I always viewed the neoconservatives with some skepticism, and by 1999 my antipathy toward the idea of ballistic missile defense probably helped to ensure that I fell into a state of ungrace. It was no accident that I was replaced by my talented friend Lawrence F. Kaplan, who was then a staunch neoconservative and co-author of a book with Weekly Standard editor William Kristol that demanded a new war against Iraq. At the time, my one word of advice to him was that you could never be too far right for them.

Which is why I confess to rubbing my eyes in disbelief at some of the sentimental piffle being circulated about the magazine’s latest round of upheaval.

All roads lead to Israel in the New Republic’s worldview. Heilbrunn notes that Israel was “the neuralgic tender spot of the magazine” and that Leon Wieseltier “would, more often than not, devote himself to playing what might be called the anti-anti Israel card.” Wieseltier grew up a Revisionist Zionist, and he carried on with the militant Israel stuff after Marty Peretz left the building in disgrace in 2009:

He has constantly striven to package a crusading and militant moralism as synonymous with liberalism and American national interests. The most recent example was his endorsement of Brookings Institution fellow Robert Kagan’s article “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire” as a revelatory essay, even though Andrew J. Bacevich, writing in Commonweal, correctly called it “slickly mendacious” for remaining silent about the Iraq War and acting as though American power can set everything that is wrong abroad aright.

John Cole sneers:

Providing a forum for the noxious Marty Peretz to slander at will anyone to the left of Avigdor Lieberman

I can’t think of one occasion that sticks out where it was a force for good.

Another good piece on the New Republic’s racism is by Max Fisher at Vox. He worked at the place and is now embarrassed that he didn’t speak out, even as the magazine was insulting black people left and right

The overwhelmingly white writers and editors who worked for Peretz knew his work was monstrous, and often struggled over the morality of accepting his money (as did I, during my brief internship there). But none ever resigned en masse as they did over the firing of two white male editors today. That fact is just a particularly egregious example of a much larger problem among the elite Beltway publications: a lack of diversity and a begrudging tolerance of racism that go hand-in-hand… [T]he fact that many of them found Peretz’s promulgation of racism to be tolerable, whereas Chris Hughes’ firing of two beloved colleagues was not, speaks to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color.

I personally heard and saw a number of today’s resigning editors deride and privately object to Peretz’s racism, sometimes quite forcefully. But, to my knowledge, not one of them, including senior editors who could find a new job with ease and contributing editors who drew no salary at all, thought it was as resignation-worthy when Peretz repeatedly wrote that Arabs have lower “standards of civilization,” that blacks have an inferior “culture,” that Latinos are lazy.

But let’s give credit where it’s due. Eric Alterman spoke out when Fisher was silent; he broke the New Republic story years ago, in 2007, at considerable expenditure of his own professional/personal capital. As James North reminds me, Alterman’s bold story, “My Marty Peretz Problem— And Yours,” at the American Prospect honed in on the degree to which Peretz’s rightwing Zionism contaminated the left:

[Turning] TNR into a kind of ideological police dog, Peretz enjoyed the ability — at least for a while — to play a key role in defining the borders of “responsible” liberal discourse, thereby tarring anyone who disagreed as irresponsible or untrustworthy. But he did so on the basis of a politics simultaneously so narrow and idiosyncratic — in thrall almost entirely to an Israel-centric neoconservatism — that it’s difficult to understand how the magazine’s politics might be considered liberal anymore…

My Marty problem — and ours — is just this: By pretending to speak as a liberal but simultaneously endorsing the central crusades of the right, he has enlisted The New Republic in the service of a ruinous neoconservative doctrine, as the magazine sneered at those liberals who stood firm in the face of its insults. He has done so, moreover, in support of a blinkered and narrow view of Israeli security that, again, celebrates hawks and demonizes doves. Had the United States or even Israel followed the policies advocated by those genuine liberals whom TNR routinely slandered, much of the horror of the past four years would have been happily avoided — as most of its editors (but not Peretz) now admit. At the same time, the hard work of coming up with a genuinely liberal alternative to the neoconservative foreign-policy nightmare, an alternative to which TNR might have usefully contributed, remains not merely undone but undermined in the pages of the magazine.

Zionism was a consistent element of the magazine up to the Hughes era. Donald Johnson googled the Gaza war and the New Republic and found articles like this–

Israel Must Defeat Hamas, But Also Must Do More to Limit Civilian Deaths

The moral calculus of a messy war.

Basic shooting and crying, Johnson reports, with some criticism of Netanyahu from a liberal Zionist perspective; on the Israel issue, it still stinks.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to imagine the magazine running John Judis’s great piece on Truman and the Israel lobby under Peretz/Wieseltier. That ran last January. Wieseltier promptly smeared Judis for calling out the lobby.

And at the risk of repeating myself, that is the political-cultural significance of the Hughes putsch. It is epochal: it ends an era in which neoconservatism was fanned inside the liberal Democratic political community, out of concern for maintaining US support for the Jewish state. We’re in the midst of a transformation in the US discourse. Some day Max Fisher will write about how he sat there and said not a word when liberal Beltway types who knew no Arabs talked about the necessity of launching indiscriminate strikes on Palestinian neighborhoods.

Thanks to Adam Horowitz.

 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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23 Responses

  1. bilal a
    December 9, 2014, 12:46 pm

    what a whitewash

    The overwhelmingly white writers and editors who worked for Peretz knew his work was monstrous

  2. unverified__5ilf90kd
    December 9, 2014, 1:17 pm

    This putsch is a metaphor for the pathological state of commentary on Israel/Palestine – the smoke and mirrors from so-called liberal Zionists like those at the TNR has been hard for normal people to see through. Thank you to Mondoweiss for making this fraud so clear for us to understand. The MSM will be slow to admit these heretical notions. You quoted “By pretending to speak as a liberal but simultaneously endorsing the central crusades of the right, he has enlisted The New Republic in the service of a ruinous neoconservative doctrine, as the magazine sneered at those liberals who stood firm in the face of its insults.”
    In a way, just as JStreet can be seen as a Trojan horse for AIPAC, the devious TNR strategy highjacked liberals and corralled them into endorsing Neoconservative thought. The TNR was a Trojan Horse designed to distort liberal thought and neutralize criticism of Israel. If I had written this last year I would have been dismissed as a crackpot antisemite. The power of the internet has changed all this in a very short time.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 9, 2014, 2:02 pm

      the devious TNR strategy highjacked liberals and corralled them into endorsing Neoconservative thought. The TNR was a Trojan Horse designed to distort liberal thought and neutralize criticism of Israel. If I had written this last year I would have been dismissed as a crackpot antisemite.

      that’s interesting. i may be the only person around here (of my age group) who was not that familiar w/TNR. i wasn’t aware of it at all until i got on the internet around 2003. but i never thought of it as liberal. it don’t occur to me. the only times i happened to link to it .. which i can hardly recall, i assumed it was a neocon rag. i can’t recall any times anyone on our threads linking to it. the neocons always claimed to be liberal (the way dershowitz is liberal).where i come from that’s not liberal. war mongers are not liberal. i can’t believe anyone would fall for that. so if you had written that here last year i wouldn’t have thought you were an anti semite.

      i’m dancing on the grave for sure. and i like the name new republic. it had potential. i hope hughes does something significant with it and he’s lucky he didn’t have to clean the slate of the hanger ons, they did it for him.

      • Mooser
        December 9, 2014, 11:20 pm

        “the smoke and mirrors from so-called liberal Zionists like those at the TNR has been hard for normal people to see through. Thank you to Mondoweiss for making this fraud so clear for us to understand.”

        And because Mondo didn’t get caught in the Lib-Zio media trap, it now has a unique perspective from it’s contributors, and a unique authority in the issues it covers. And 2015 is going to be a huge year for Mondoweiss.

      • CigarGod
        December 10, 2014, 10:01 am

        Im with you, annie. Only had to flip thru it a few times to know it was toxic rag…one that threw off a disgusting odor that i recoiled from…each time i walked by its spot on my libraries shelf.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 10, 2014, 5:03 pm

        i hope so mooser, about it being a big year. i just hope our biggest stories are not about another slaughter like last summer. as phil mentioned to me (paraphrasing), it’s not so cool getting way more traffic/exposure because of people dying, or something like that. i’d like it to be covering other kinds of stories, like retributions/the hague/justice and of course freedom freedom freedom.

      • bilal a
        December 11, 2014, 10:09 am

        Liberalism is the domestic weapon , the pentagon the foreign one: Two sides of the same coin.

        Bienart in Haaretz:

        As a force in American journalism, we certainly have. Jews edit The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Weekly Standard, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Vox, Buzzfeed, Politico, and the opinion pages of The New York Times and Washington Post.

        ..
        Under literary editor Leon Wieseltier, the magazine remained an indispensable source of commentary on Jewish history and culture. And inside the magazine, yiddishkeit was rarely far away. I remember once hearing Wieseltier explain that he had asked an author to submit his book review by Rosh Hodesh. “That’s how Malcolm Cowley used to do it,” he added wryly. The implication was clear. Cowley had been TNR’s literary editor in the 1930s, when American Jews were still outsiders. Now his successor was a graduate of Yeshivah of Flatbush. American Jews had arrived.

        Former TNR Editor: “How the New Republic Stopped Being a Jewish Magazine”, Unz Review

  3. Mooser
    December 9, 2014, 1:33 pm

    I don’t by any means claim to be the first one to notice this, but there’s another German word which fits very nicely into the cadences of “Edelwiess” from “Sound of Music”.

    • just
      December 9, 2014, 11:27 pm

      Personal favorites of mine. Both of them.

      “Every morning you greet me
      Small and white, clean and bright
      You look happy to meet me
      Blossom of snow
      May you bloom and grow
      Bloom and grow forever.”

  4. JLewisDickerson
    December 9, 2014, 2:06 pm

    ALSO SEE: “The New Republic’s Ugly Reality”, By Robert Parry, ConsortiumNews.com, December 8, 2014
    Mainstream pundits are outraged over a Silicon Valley barbarian riding in and defacing The New Republic, a temple to all that is wonderful about deep-thinking policymaking and long-form journalism. But the truth about the Washington-based magazine is much less honorable, writes Robert Parry.
    LINK – https://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/08/the-new-republics-ugly-reality/

  5. surewin
    December 9, 2014, 2:14 pm

    This is an important event, possibly epochal. There’s a lot happening these days. The way things are setting up, either the little thing called the rest of the world will enforce a solution to the Israel/Palestine problem, or Israel will self-destruct under a leader like Naftali Bennett. There is some kind of blind urge to play out the latter scenario, which would undoubtedly become a global drama.

  6. ckg
    December 9, 2014, 2:50 pm

    There is an interesting development today at Bloomberg News. Matthew Winkler, the editor in chief and longtime disciple of Michael Bloomberg, the company’s founder, is being replaced by the top editor of The Economist John Micklethwait. Micklethwait’s views of Israel are critical enough that Richard Cohen once devoted an op-ed to castigating him for such.

    Cohen’s op-ed is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-john-micklethwaits-misreading-of-henry-kissinger-on-israel/2014/09/15/e28a7d20-3cff-11e4-b0ea-8141703bbf6f_story.html

  7. W.Jones
    December 9, 2014, 5:25 pm

    Wieseltier is in the movie “Constantine’s Sword”, which you can see on Netflix and portrays Christian culture in the US as fundamentally anti-semitic. As an example, it spends the beginning of the movie talking about how there were posters for Passion of the Christ when it came out at an army barracks. I think that this movie may play a role in Marc Ellis’ label of Christianity as “Constantinian”.

    • Mooser
      December 9, 2014, 10:07 pm

      “I think that this movie may play a role in Marc Ellis’ label of Christianity as “Constantinian”.”

      Okay, okay, so Marc Ellis is a little late to the party, but can’t we just let it go? I mean, Ellis is hardly the first guy to “label (of) Christianity as “Constantinian””, is he?

      • W.Jones
        December 14, 2014, 12:58 am

        “Okay, okay, so Marc Ellis is a little late to the party, but can’t we just let it go?”

        I am not blaming Ellis for being late to the anti-Constantine party.

        :D

        Peace.

  8. gamal
    December 9, 2014, 7:28 pm

    “Another good piece on the New Republic’s racism is by Max Fisher at Vox. He worked at the place and is now embarrassed that he didn’t speak out, even as the magazine was insulting black people left and right”

    what counts as left in America is a mystery to me and many others in the socialist nightmare of the EU but the Nafeez Ahmed scandal at the Guardian is interesting he wrote an article about Gaza, J Freedland is implicated, Ahmed blogs at “The Cutting Edge”

    http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Openings-in-the-Liberal-Media-Will-Never-Be-Enough-So-What-Do-We-Do-20141209-0036.html

    and

    http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2014/12/518852.html

    • Annie Robbins
      December 9, 2014, 9:15 pm

      gamal, this is the first i had heard of the Nafeez Ahmed scandal. of course i know who he is but wasn’t aware his blog had been dumped by the guardian. thanks. wow, what a drag. here’s an initiative he’s started https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/manifesto-for-a-media-revolution-abf42a16c870

      • gamal
        December 9, 2014, 10:16 pm

        well as you will see once you research it, its causing a bit of stir, there were some tweets i think between Ahmed and Freedland, The Guardian may seem to an American reader to be superior to some American organs but it performs the same function as the mainstream media your side of the pond, blunting opposition to whatever the policies of the day are, however like the New Statesman of old it always patronized a few really radical writers, I am not following this stuff any more, but there is some disgust with their conduct in this matter, only time servers are welcome in the halls of the press nowadays.

        I worked for the BBC World Service for years and when BBC Radio 4 told to me go to hell, only allowing me to do prayer for the day I was told by my producer at the WS “Dont worry dear boy they are very ideological at R4” truth is they are pretty ideological everywhere, i even wrote for the Financial Times but the WS and Radio2 liked my crazy ghetto boy drug and crime saga’s, a little local colour always sells. That you have heard of Nafeez Mosadegh Ahmed is a testament to your alertness, he linked protective edge to energy issues, which is apparently to some people going too far.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 9, 2014, 11:28 pm

        yes i’ve definitely heard of him and i have followed him on twitter for awhile i just have not been reading twitter much lately. thanks again gamal.

    • Mooser
      December 9, 2014, 10:14 pm

      “what counts as left in America is a mystery to me and many others”

      You don’t want to know. Suffice to say, there’s very, very little left of it. Now, as to what right-wingers conjure up as the spectre of “the Left”, well that’s another story.

      • gamal
        December 9, 2014, 10:29 pm

        truth is there is no one like Angela Davis, if not the whole of the wing she sure is the leading edge, moralism and apologetics have crippled the leftist discourse that is allowed in to the press, neo-liberal ideas have infected everything, after all fundamentalisms are all about not reading or contemplating and stamping on indeterminacy till it turns in to fascism.

        somewhere in the great Dharmakaya one hopes that foucault, zitta acosta and abou ala al marri and combining in the swirling hulm into a radical godzilla, looks like this is what we have now

        http://youtu.be/XliZpgDS6XU

  9. just
    December 10, 2014, 7:48 am

    Beinart opines:

    “How The New Republic stopped being a Jewish magazine

    When it was born a century ago, Jewish intellectual influence in America was on the rise. Now it’s starting to decline.

    Last week, The New Republic, the magazine I used to edit, fell apart. The owner ousted the top two editors, most of the senior staff resigned, and while something called The New Republic will continue, it is unlikely to bear much relationship to the crusading, literary publication founded by Walter Lippmann and other progressive intellectuals 100 years ago.

    It’s an important moment not only in the history of American journalism, but in the history of American Jews.

    This is how it has always worked in America. When The New Republic was founded 100 years ago, Jews were rising in both numbers and influence. Now we’re beginning to decline. It’s the nature of living in a country that allows in immigrants from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and, for the most part, lets them shed those backgrounds if they wish.

    As a force in American journalism, we certainly have. Jews edit The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Weekly Standard, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Vox, Buzzfeed, Politico, and the opinion pages of The New York Times and Washington Post.

    But it’s unlikely to last. Although the ouster of Wieseltier and editor Frank Foer had nothing to do with their being Jewish, the likely end of TNR’s Jewish sensibility may portend the declining influence of Jewish culture in American intellectual life. One driver of that decline will be assimilation. With the intermarriage rate among non-Orthodox Jews now above 70 percent, Jewish identity in the United States is becoming less and less distinct. For many decades to come, there will still be plenty of people with some Jewish ancestry writing and editing at America’s most prominent publications. But increasingly, being of Jewish descent will no more inform their work than being of Italian or Irish descent informs the work of their assimilated Christian colleagues. One likely result will be declining coverage of Israel. Many of the most prominent American Jewish journalists in their late 40s, 50s or 60s – Wieseltier, Thomas Friedman, David Remnick, Roger Cohen, Jeffrey Goldberg, William Kristol, Jennifer Rubin, Charles Krauthammer – write about Israel frequently. By contrast, the most successful Jewish journalists in their 20s and 30s – Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, Ben Smith, Dana Goldstein, Spencer Ackerman – write it about it much less.

    In my mid-20s, when I came to The New Republic full time, I remember being delighted that I could so easily integrate my Jewishness into my work. After two years at Oxford, where being Jewish was considered something best kept to oneself, I felt like I could finally exhale. It saddens me that in the decades to come, young American-Jewish journalists may neither have that experience, nor even desire it. On the other hand, I can imagine a day when an editor at The New York Times or The New Yorker or maybe even The New Republic wryly tells a colleague that her article is due by Diwali, Chinese New Year, Eid al-Fitr or the Day of the Dead. The thought makes me smile.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.630953?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

  10. lysias
    December 10, 2014, 11:24 am

    I don’t think the New Republic became what one could honestly call a Jewish magazine until Peretz took it over. Walter Lippmann may have been of Jewish descent, but he always played his Jewishness very much down. I don’t recall reading a review by Stanley Kaufmann where he played up his Jewishness.

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