A magazine of ideas without ideas.5:20 PM, Dec 10, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
If Chris Hughes knew anything about journalism, he’d throw a big party in New York and another in Washington and the media wags now heaping abuse on him would be hailing him as the last of the Medicis. But the 31-year-old owner and editor in chief of the New Republic doesn’t know a damn thing about journalism, which is why scores of hungry and thirsty journalists won’t shut up.
Hughes is getting it from the left, nostalgic for a magazine that hasn’t existed in a while, and the right, nostalgic for a magazine that never really existed at all. In their estimation, Hughes is guilty of destroying one of America’s great cultural institutions. His two top editors, Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, resigned last week, spearheading a mass exodus of staffers and contributors. In his response, published in the Washington Post last weekend, Hughes writes: “I didn’t buy the New Republic to be the conservator of a small print magazine whose long-term influence and survival were at risk. I came to protect the future of the New Republic by creating a sustainable business so that our journalism, values and voice — the things that make us singular — could survive.”
Hughes deserves credit for seeing that TNR’s model wasn’t working. What he didn’t understand was that the biggest problem facing TNR wasn’t about markets or revenue streams. Rather it was simply that the magazine of ideas he bought back in 2012 had no ideas. Even worse is that it’s unlikely Hughes can do much about it, since he too stands for nothing.
Hughes is regularly knocked for having lucked into his wealth by rooming in college with Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. And yet the reality is that most really rich people in America—rich meaning not just millions, but hundreds of millions or billions—are rich because they luck into it. It is lucky to inherit money and it is lucky to make something that people want to pay lots of money for, especially when it is something as puerile as Facebook. Zuckerberg was just as lucky as Hughes. All he did was take a staple of New England prep school and college life—a book handed out to students in the fall with the pictures and dorm addresses of all your classmates—and change the platform, from printed book to the Internet.
This is all that Hughes means when he refers to his property as a “vertically integrated media company.” Digital TNR will be to print magazine TNR what Facebook is to Harvard’s paperback facebook. Like, with old facebook, you can’t send messages to the cute boys and girls in your class. But you can do that on Facebook! Maybe TNR readers will now be able to send messages to the cute boys and girls who write for the magazine. Hughes regrets that the staffers who resigned missed the chance to help him create the next generation TNR. “If you really care about an institution and want to make it strong for the ages, you don’t walk out,” Hughes writes. “You roll up your sleeves, you redouble your commitment to those ideals in a changing world, and you fight.”
Hughes’ passionate exhortation begs the key question: what ideals? TNR has not stood for anything for quite some time now, perhaps not for twenty years. Back then it was a very good magazine insofar as it dramatized the political, cultural, and personal conflicts within the head of an interesting person, its owner and editor-in-chief Martin Peretz. Accordingly, the New Republic argued with itself—Charles Krauthammer vs. Hendrik Hertzberg, Andrew Sullivan vs. Michael Kinsley, etc.—which was the source of its glamor and cachet. The point was to make good arguments—better than the ones made by the guy in the office next to you.
That brief golden age ended for a number of reasons. Bill Clinton became president, which made the magazine somewhat irrelevant since many of the arguments taking place in Peretz’s head were now taking place in the Oval Office. Editor Michael Kinsley knew it was time to move on, so he left Washington and went to Seattle to start Slate and get close to another kind of power, Bill Gates. Another editor, Michael Kelly, stood by Stephen Glass, a sociopath whose published lies did lasting damage to the magazine’s credibility. And then when Al Gore didn’t become president in 2000, TNR went into its fatal tailspin.
Remember the liberal war on the automobile? Feb 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 23 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Seems like this is the season for showing the American automobile some love. Also, the town that the automobile built—Detroit, aka the Motor City, where packs of feral dogs now roam the streets and den up in vacant lots between the abandoned buildings. Detroit, these days, seems far more deserving of pity than celebration.
Still, Vice President Joe Biden showed up for the annual Detroit auto show in January and delivered the usual talking points. American manufacturing is back. “We bet on American ingenuity, we bet on you, and we won.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:35 PM, Dec 31, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with editor William Kristol with a look back at 2013 and how President Obama's liberalism fared this year.
Obamacare is inimical to their values, tooDec 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 15 • By CHRISTOPHER DEMUTH SR.
Obamacare may or may not survive its inauspicious beginnings. It has become dangerously unpopular and accident-prone and faces a minefield of difficulties. Still, the Obama administration has a plausible strategy: to titrate the program’s numerous taxes, subsidies, mandates, and restrictions so as to forestall immediate legislative or electoral reversal, thereby entrenching its basic structure for tightening as future circumstances permit.
8:15 AM, Nov 28, 2013 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
On the one hand, this is a pretty dour Thanksgiving. Iran has just won an enormous diplomatic victory, which not only sets them on the road to nuclear weapons but makes the fecklessness of the Western powers clear to the world. Harry Reid's decision to destroy the filibuster signals an escalation in the ugliness of American politics. And let's not forget that we're still mired in a recovery that's looking more like the new normal with each passing week. Humbug.
Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By PETER WEHNER
The president’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is in serious trouble. As a result, so is modern liberalism. The problems with Obamacare are increasingly obvious, beginning with the administration unilaterally delaying the employer mandate. But that turned out to be merely one link in a long and troublesome chain.
11:13 AM, Sep 12, 2013 • By JONATHAN BRONITSKY
Hardly an academic semester goes by without a high-profile opportunity arising for the right to address pervasive, perennial anti-conservative animus on the American college campus. And hardly an academic semester goes by without the right, reflexively blinded by righteous indignation, blowing an opportunity to do so.
No, but it doesn’t understand them. Jul 8, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 41 • By PETER BERKOWITZ
Study of the humanities has never been more important to the welfare of the nation. Information whizzes by at breakneck speed. The contest between conservative and progressive visions of government’s scope and aim in a free society implicates rival understandings of human nature. The ways of life of people in far-off lands have direct impact on our prosperity and security.
An Obama administration ‘blueprint’ targets free expression on campuses. Jun 10, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 37 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
It's a well-known fact that on most college campuses, supposedly havens of academic freedom, you really have to watch what you say.
Alas, the Woody Guthrie industry unearths a novel. Apr 15, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 29 • By MICHAEL WARREN
To many in our cultural elite, Woody Guthrie is an American saint. The legendary songwriter from Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, is introduced to every American child by way of his folk anthem “This Land Is Your Land.” But for gatekeepers of the arts, Guthrie is much more: All of his work—every song, every article, every poem—is good and honest and true, the gospel according to Woody. What other justification is there for the release of this deservedly long-lost novel?
The left-wing stranglehold on academia.Mar 25, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 27 • By MARK BAUERLEIN
Neil Gross is a sociologist at the University of British Columbia who previously held posts at the University of Southern California and Harvard, has a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, and received undergraduate training at Berkeley. He edits Sociological Theory and has written a book on the liberal philosopher Richard Rorty.
PBS’s well-feathered nest.Oct 22, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 06 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
The mini-storm over Mitt Romney, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Big Bird pitted two visions of the show’s finances against one another. Mitt Romney claimed he’d cut funding so that Sesame Street would have to air commercials. Big Bird defenders imagined a world in which a lack of federal money would put Big Bird out of business.