The aftershocks following the collapse of The New Republic following an editorial change by Facebook millionaire owner Chris Hughes (no doubt still stinging from his inability to buy his boyfriend a congressional seat) continue to reverberate around the punditocracy.
For those who care, here’s the list of those who resigned:
Senior editors Jonathan Cohn, Isaac Chotiner, Julia Ioffe, John Judis, Adam Kirsch, Alec MacGillis, Noam Scheiber, Judith Shulevitz and Jason Zengerle; executive editors Rachel Morris and Greg Veis; digital media editor Hillary Kelly (who resigned from her honeymoon in Africa); legal affairs editor Jeffrey Rosen; and poetry editor Henri Cole and dance editor Jennifer Homans. Contributing editors Anne Applebaum, Paul Berman, Christopher Benfey, Jonathan Chait, William Deresiewicz, Justin Driver, TA Frank, Ruth Franklin, Jack Goldsmith, Anthony Grafton, David Grann, David Greenberg, Robert Kagan, Enrique Krauze, Damon Linker, Ryan Lizza, John McWhorter, Sacha Z. Scoblic, Cass Sunstein, Alan Taylor, Helen Vendler and Sean Wilentz.
There’s some real talent in there (Applebaum and Kagan among them). As well as some of the usual liberal chattering class. And if you hadn’t heard, the magazine has cancelled its next issue amidst the exodus.
There’s so much tasty schadenfreude on each side of the dispute it’s hard to know whose tears to start lapping up first. Or, as Mark Hemingway put it, “If I have to pick sides between liberal policy journalists insisting they are immune to the reality of business economics and a Silicon Valley enfant terrible who tried to buy his hapless husband a Congressional seat, I’m afraid I’m left rooting for injuries.”
Let it be said at the outset that as liberalism’s flagship magazine, The New Republic was kind of important for a quite a long time, and that in the last few decades it did offer an intellectually moderating influence to the hard left and their Social Justice Warrior cadres. That said, when’s the last time a New Republic piece that wasn’t a fabrication rocked people’s worlds? It had been in decline for a while, and the Obama era merely hastened the process.
Proving that even a winy liberal sycophant can be right twice a day, Dana Milbank offers up perhaps the most even-handed assessment of how Hughes screwed the pooch.
Check out the comically high dudgeon evident in this letter from former staffers: “The New Republic is a kind of public trust. That is something all its previous owners and publishers understood and respected. The legacy has now been trashed, the trust violated.”
As Clive Crook put it, “Sometimes you just have to marvel at the self-importance of the American political commentator. The outrage in that high caste provoked by the drama at the New Republic has been something to behold.”
Getting back to Mark Heminigway, “The New Republic’s demise appears to be a direct consequence of the liberal ideology it espoused.”
The New Republic took on a genuinely interesting role of being a magazine for liberals that had the guts to regularly question their assumptions. “One reason for the New Republic’s demise has not been fully appreciated, and that has to do with its unique tradition of heterodox liberalism,” observes former New Republic editor David Greenberg. Indeed, it’s not really appreciated at all. While the magazine was so heterodox that “Even the liberal New Republic [insert the magazine espousing conservative/contrarian policy here]” is an actual Beltway banality, people only pretended to see this as a virtue. Lip service is given to its diversity of opinion, but a great many on the left are using recent events to hammer the magazine for betraying the progressive cause. Even sympathetic obituaries for the magazine have gone out of their way to disdain the pivotal moments in recent decades where the magazine expressed genuine intellectual courage, including publishing Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, killing Hillary Clinton’s likely-to-have-been disastrous attempt at a overhauling health care, endorsing the Iraq war, and being a strong voice in support of Israel.
Not only is Hughes gutting of the magazine not particularly surprising, it’s such a common story that this ending was essentially foretold two years ago.
Liberalism needs heterodox opinions the way a sucking chest wound needs chest seal dressing, but liberals want heterodox opinions the way a teenage girl wants to hear how badly her favorite boy band sucks.