Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ezra Klein: This is the sort of writing few Washington writers will do, as many of them want to one day work for The New Republic, and see no reason t

Matt is doing important work exposing and naming Marty Peretz's anti-Arab sentiment and unthinking, unblinking, expansionary strain of Zionism for the hateful, violent ideology it is. This is the sort of writing few Washington writers will do, as many of them want to one day work for The New Republic, and see no reason to torch that particular bridge. The past few years have seen that hold weaken, as The New Republic's increasing alienation from the left has convinced many young writers that it's not the place for them -- now or in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, Peretz is rarely held to account, largely because there's an odd, tacit understanding that he's a cartoonish character and everyone knows it. As Glenn Greenwald writes:

I had not written more about Peretz because it seems as though there is some sort of tacit agreement that Peretz's hate-mongering won't be held against The New Republic, and that, for whatever reasons, Peretz will be accepted as a more or less mainstream figure despite spewing bigotry of the type one finds on white supremacist sites (albeit directed elsewhere). And since New Republic writers don't, to my knowledge, spout the same hate-filled diatribes, perhaps there was a sense that Peretz is even more irrelevant than the magazine itself and therefore does not merit any real discussion.

Hence his ghettoization to "The Spine" blog, where his separation from the "real staff" of the magazine he owns would be all the clearer, at least to those able to decipher the signal (on most magazine sites, of course, having your own blog while the majority of writers share a group site is a sign of respect for a particularly worthy pundit, not an implication of buffoonery).

The New Republic operates under an odd set of rules that's clear to the staff, made clear to their friends, and basically unknown to the world at large. That's partly why the rise of the blogosphere has been so wrenching for the magazine: Magazine writers used to get feedback from an array of people they knew and a couple letter-writers. So it used to be understood by majority of the sort of people Jon Chait got feedback from that Jon Chait was not, in fact, connected to or in agreement with Marty Peretz.

But with the rise of the net, the number of discernible voices increased exponentially, and they don't totally get why a magazine shouldn't be judged, at least in part, by its editorial line and the opinions of its editor-in-chief and owner. They don't know that Jon Chait is a likable guy or that The New Republic is one of an exceedingly small number of outlets willing to cut checks to young, liberal writers. Their experience of the magazine, in other words, is normal, untempered by the special rules of reading much of elite punditry has offered to TNR And so they judge TNR as an institution, and see the actions and published opinions of its longtime leader as, in fact, somewhat relevant to their assessment of the magazine.

In any case, this post is mainly to show support for Matt, who's doing the right thing for the right reasons, and not letting careerist considerations stifle his speech. It occurs to me too that TNR may want to avoid provoking Spencer on these matters. It is in fact the case that TNR chock-full of good writers, among them Chait, Cohn, Scheiber, Lizza, etc. But the magazine is led, and many of the final decisions made, by a rather intolerant zionist who holds deeply objectionable views, and whose average post implies or explains that Arabs are an uncivilized, near-barbarous people who have no culture worth mentioning and can't even do work. The problem is that this is the sort of thing that can be admitted privately, but not publicly, and it puts many writers (though not, I should be clear, all -- some folks at TNR agree with Marty) in a tough spot. Fine. But there's no reasons so many others should be complicit in the illusion.

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