The journalism world is up in arms today that Chris Hughes the Facebook mogul who bought The New Republic magazine had the temerity to fire editor Franklin Foer and literary editor Leon Wieseltier, beheadings that have led to the resignation of twenty-some editors and writers at the magazine. Here’s Lloyd Grove at the Daily Beast saying a great magazine is being demolished. Here’s Jonathan Chait, saying that Hughes is a nitwit who is undermining “an essential foundation of American progressive thought.” Gosh!
I’m not shedding any tears. So Leon Wieseltier is going to have to cut his hair and go out and suck up like the rest of us. He was a proponent of a feverish ideology, rightwing Zionism. He appeared on the main stage at AIPAC, the Israelis gave him a $1 million prize a year ago. The New Republic has for forty years been a bastion of the Israel lobby. During much of that time Marty Peretz was spouting bigoted comments about Arabs. As Larry Zuckerman reminds us:
Most of those resigning from
@TNR tolerated Marty Peretz’s racism & Islamophobia but they can’t handle Chris Hughes?
Scott McConnell writes to me:
The TNR been a venerable and talent-full magazine serving up a noxious ideology (neocon foreign policy, swathed in ostensibly Democratic Party leaning social liberalism.) TNR’s main goal has been to keep the Democratic Party in line behind Israel, and to support other forms of neo-liberal hawkishness, and that will become a bit more difficult.
Didn’t Marty Peretz get a top Al Gore aide fired over Israel? [A speechwriter fired because he compared the Israeli secret police to the Gestapo once.]
Now I admit my response is salted with schadenfreude. I’ve been blacklisted or fired from a number of places in the late great Jewish Zionist establishment because of my views on foreign policy, and no one (beside me) got on their high horse. Chait once called for my blacklisting at a J Street panel. Remember J Street?
Having watched as a college student when Marty Peretz took over the New Republic 40 years ago and some other group of writers was up in arms, this shift strikes me as generational. I can’t believe Chris Hughes cares one way or another about Israel. He’s an anodyne techie, to judge from his public statements. He’s from North Carolina. His husband cares a lot about marriage equality.
This is a landmark in the era of the Jewish establishment. It’s petering out in an elite generation of far greater diversity. The New Republic had been supported by one neocon after another, from Michael Steinhardt to Bruce Kovner to Roger Hertog. For years the magazine helped impose its litmus test within the mainstream media: You must be a Zionist to write about the conflict; and if you’re not, then keep your mouth shut. Most everyone at that magazine supported the Iraq war, including Peter Beinart. Among those leaving now are many supporters of Israel’s wars, including Paul Berman, Michael Walzer, and Robert Kagan. An era is over, and the Israel lobby (whose influence the magazine sought to belittle) is losing power; and that’s just fine.
P.S. John Judis has been the best thing about The New Republic for years; check out his latest essay on Teddy Roosevelt’s rationale for ethnically cleansing the Indians. Or his great reporting on Truman and the lobby. Judis is sure to do fine.
Update: I’m not the only one to see the New Republic’s changes in a Jewish light. Julia Ioffe, an editor at the magazine, reports on Facebook that a large group is “sitting shiva for The New Republic.” Maybe Andrew Sullivan is holding a wake?