Reprinted from Consortium News
There has been much handwringing of late in Official Washington about an editorial shakeup at The New Republic and the possibility that the century-old political magazine's legacy will somehow be tarnished by its new owner. But the truth about The New Republic is that it has more blood on its hands than almost any other publication around, which is saying something.
In my four decades in national journalism -- that's two-fifths of The New Republic's life -- what I have seen from the magazine is mostly its smug advocacy for U.S. interventionism abroad and snarky putdowns of antiwar skeptics at home. Indeed, you could view The New Republic as the most productive hothouse for cultivating neoconservative dogma -- and at least partly responsible for the senseless slaughter associated with that ideology.
Indeed, the magazine's long-ago-outdated status as "liberal" has long served the cause of right-wingers. The Reagan administration loved to plant flattering stories about the Nicaraguan Contras in The New Republic because its "liberal" cachet would give the propaganda more credibility. A favorite refrain from President Ronald Reagan's team was "even the liberal New Republic agrees ..."
In other words, the magazine became the neocon wolf advancing the slaughter of Central Americans in the sheep's clothing of intellectual liberalism. Similarly, over the past two decades, it has dressed up bloody U.S. interventionism in the Middle East in the pretty clothes of "humanitarianism" and "democracy."
The magazine -- which has given us the writings of neocons Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Steven Emerson, Robert Kagan and many more -- has become a case study in the special evil that can come from intellectualism when it supplies high-minded rationalizations for low-brow brutality.
In the world of the mind, where The New Republic likes to think it lives, the magazine has published countless essays that have spun excuses for mass murder, rape, torture and other real-world crimes. Put differently, the magazine afforded the polite people of Official Washington an acceptable way to compartmentalize and justify the ungodly bloodshed.
Perhaps The New Republic had a different existence in the years before I arrived on the scene. I've heard some longtime New Republic lovers wax on about its era of thoughtful progressivism. But The New Republic that I encountered from the 1970s onward was the magazine of Martin Peretz, a nasty neocon who cared little about journalism or even thoughtful analyses, but rather pushed a dishonest and cruel agenda including crude insults against Muslims.
In his later years after moving part-time to Israel, Peretz began to expose more of his personal agenda. In one TNR blog post regarding the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan which prompted post-9/11 right-wing outrage, Peretz declared:
"Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf [the promoter of the Islamic center] there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood.
"So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse."
(Facing accusations of racism, Peretz later issued a half-hearted apology which reiterated that his reference to Muslim life being cheap was "a statement of fact, not opinion.")
A New York Times magazine profile of Peretz in 2011 noted that Peretz's hostility toward Muslims was nothing new. "As early as 1988, Peretz was courting danger in The New Republic with disturbing Arab stereotypes not terribly different from his 2010 remarks," wrote Stephen Rodrick.
Steven Emerson, one of Peretz's favored TNR writers, also became notorious for similar Islamophobia as well as shoddy and dishonest journalism. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Unmasking October Surprise Debunker."]
Ignoring the History
Yet, very little of this real history of The New Republic can be found in the mainstream media's coverage of the recent staff revolt against plans by new owner (and Facebook co-founder) Chris Hughes to modernize the publication. Hughes's new chief executive -- former Yahoo official Guy Vidra -- vowed to rebuild the magazine as a "vertically integrated digital media company."
At the Washington Post, the New York Times and pretty much the entire MSM, there has been much rending of garments over these plans and the ouster of some top editors but almost nothing about what some of those now ex-TNR editors actually did.