The Blog

TAPs for a Magazine

In an effort to squeeze every last bit of fun out of liberalism, the Schumann Foundation starts to disassemble the American Prospect.

12:00 AM, Oct 17, 2002 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
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THE BOARD of the Schumann Foundation (president, Bill Moyers) met on Thursday to settle on a strategy that would allow one of its most expensive projects--the leftish American Prospect magazine--to survive in the current political climate. Perhaps the Schumann Foundation wants to cut costs so that it can continue to shower largesse on TomPaine.com (Executive Director, John Moyers, Bill's son). The sole function of that collection of summer soldiers seems to be buying ads in the New York Times that read: "Uncle oSAMa Says: I Want YOU To Invade Iraq." These ads threaten Americans--in the name of al Qaeda--with dire consequences, should the United States invade.

It was rumored all week that the cuts at the TAP would be draconian--taking the magazine from 26 to 10 issues a year, shuttering the Boston office that has served as its headquarters for most of its history, and closing down the weblog Tapped. First reports were that the damage proved less deep than expected. Our sources say that virtually everyone at the Boston office has indeed been cashiered (with a few weeks' notice) and the magazine will indeed put out fewer issues. The Tapped blog is supposed to hang on by its teeth.

No one of any political tendency rejoices at the death throes of a magazine--just as no one rejoices to see the left wing in this country so humorless and fun-phobic. Many people, not just on the left, hoped that TAP could be the left-wing equivalent of what the right-wing American Spectator was 10 years ago: well-informed but not preachy, thoughtful but full of stuff you might . . . em . . . actually want to read.

Maybe that was wishful thinking. Setting up TAP as the left-wing American Spectator has proved as wan a hope as casting Mario Cuomo as the left-wing Rush Limbaugh. All TAP writers who have shown a twinkle of wit, a scintilla of originality, a dash of political incorrectness, the slightest inclination to rethink anything--Joshua Micah Marshall, Joshua Green, Laura Secor, Nicholas Confessore, for starters--have either fled or been fired. They've abandoned the precincts to the deft but distracted Robert Reich, and that dinosaur of American liberalism, Robert Kuttner. Despite its ability to curry favor with corporate and foundation boardrooms (the interlocking directorates of the liberal-left elite), despite subventions from the Schumann foundation that amount to $10 million (according to the Washington Post), the task of maintaining both a serious left politics and a sense of fun has proved beyond them.

Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.