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Marty Peretz vs. Ron Paul. Kids (And "Mentor") vs. Grown-Ups
Martin Peretz, veteran editor-in-chief of the neoliberal New Republic magazine, has cultivated a long line of youthful protégés stretching back through Andrew Sullivan all the way to the 17-year-old Al Gore. Peretz's latest bright young man, James Kirchick, his new assistant and winner of the 2006 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Excellence in Student Journalism award, has published last week in TNR a furious 4000 word article bitterly denouncing Congressman Ron Paul as an "Angry White Man."
After laborious research in the dusty archives of two Midwestern university libraries, Kirchick proves that some old newsletters once sent out by the GOP Presidential candidate…well, I'm not quite sure exactly what Kirchick proves, other than that Dr. Paul's newsletters weren't as boring as the MainStream Media.
The newsletter also printed this insensitive dialogue about the rioters:
"Robin: 'I was going to bring you a VCR, but the stores had none.'
"Johnny: 'A little low are they?'
"Robin: 'Somebody, I guess, had done a little "political shopping." [Suddenly imitating an angry black male] "Yo, man, this [giving the clenched-fist Black Power salute] is for Rodney King … and the five TVs are for me."'""
Oh, sorry—that wasn't actually in Ron Paul's newsletter at all! That was an exchange from perhaps the most fondly remembered talk show episode in American television show history, the penultimate broadcast of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show on May 21, 1992, with Carson's favorite guests, Bette Midler and Robin Williams. (You can watch Williams' classic routine on Youtube here)
Darn. It's so hard to keep straight what you are supposed to be amused by and what you are supposed to be offended by.
Similarly, Kirchick implies that Congressman Paul is an anti-Semite who nurses "deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays". After all, as Kirchick thoroughly documents, Dr. Paul has close ties to the paleolibertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute, founded by his former aide Lew Rockwell, who was profoundly inspired by the late Murray Rothbard.
Oh, wait! It appears that von Mises and Rothbard were Jewish.
The New Republic is also alarmed that:
"The newsletters display an obsession with Israel; no other country is mentioned more often in the editions I saw …"
That's in complete contrast to Marty Peretz's magazine, where Israel, being a small, distant foreign country, is almost never mentioned, and the only test applied to our foreign policy is whether it advances the general welfare of the American people.
Oh, sorry…that's the Bizarro World version of The New Republic. In our space-time continuum, Israel is the most important country in the galaxy, at least according to Peretz's priorities.
In the liberal American Prospect, Eric Alterman mused in his article My Marty Peretz Problem—And Ours, [June 19, 2007] on the 34 years of Peretz's stewardship of The New Republic:
"It would be theoretically possible, I imagine, to overstate the centrality of Peretz's obsession with the Arab-Israeli conflict to the magazine's politics and to its editorial voice. But … it is really not too much to say that almost all of Peretz's political beliefs are subordinate to his commitment to Israel's best interests, and these interests as Peretz defines them almost always involve more war."
Kirchick, enraged by what he has dug up in the antiwar candidate's newsletters, concludes that the libertarian surgeon is "a man filled with hate".
In sharp contrast, Kirchick's boss, Marty Peretz, is the reincarnation of St. Francis of Assisi.
Oh, oops, check that … As Alterman points out, Peretz is in thrall to an "obsessive and unapologetic hatred of Arabs". Alterman quotes Peretz as recently saying about Arabs:
"They are 'violent, fratricidal, unreliable, primitive and crazed … barbarian'; they have created a 'wretched society' and are 'cruel, belligerent, intolerant, fearing'; they are 'murderous and grotesque' and 'can't even run a post office'; their societies 'have gone bonkers over jihad' and they are 'feigning outrage when they protest what they call American (or Israeli) atrocities'; they 'behave like lemmings', and 'are not shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at all'; and to top it all off, their rugs are not as 'subtle' and are more 'glimmery' than those of the Berbers."
This is not to say that Peretz might not be right about many things.
I've had my doubts about certain peoples' rugs, too.
And I've also been denounced on The American Prospect website in the exact same manner as Alterman attacks Peretz: by taking quotations out of context with no attempt at refutation, merely holding them up for gasps from all right-thinking folk. Indeed, American Prospect staffer Garance Franke-Ruta vented her horror on the magazine's website that I had expressed the following example of crimethink:
"But I believe the truth is better for us than ignorance, lies, or wishful thinking."[Tapped Blog Archive, December 7, 2004]
Franke-Ruta was so worked up she couldn’t even be bothered to quote me out of context, thus putting herself on record as being against truth.
Still, people who live in houses as glassy, even as glimmery, as Peretz's shouldn't throw stones at Ron Paul.
When you look beneath the surface, however, the people who wield power in today's press often turn out to be a little … odd.
So let’s look some more at Marty Peretz.
This Peretz-Kirchick fiasco reminds me of one of the stranger stories of the 2000 election: Al Gore's claim that, when he was an undergraduate at Harvard, he and his wife inspired the bestselling 1970 novel Love Story. It was made into a huge hit movie starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in, according to Gore, the Al and Tipper roles.
In fact Love Story's author, Erich Segal, a Harvard professor of Greek and Latin literature, said that his hero Oliver, "the tough, macho guy who's a poet at heart", was not inspired by Gore, but by Gore's roommate, Tommy Lee Jones, the college football player who went on to win an Oscar in The Fugitive. According to Segal, only a bit of Oliver's character—the family baggage of being intimidated by a famous, domineering father—was drawn from the son of Senator Albert Gore Sr.
Yet, the former Vice President's assumption that Professor Segal must have been fascinated by his undergraduate self is understandable. Because at about the same time, another Harvard professor, Martin Peretz, was beginning a lifelong infatuation with Gore.
"Perhaps the most significant friendship Gore formed at Harvard was with his resident instructor, Martin Peretz …"
Of course, the depths of Peretz's passion can be exaggerated. After all, as late as 1968, Gore didn't make Peretz's all time Top Three list, according to radical muckraker Alexander Cockburn's book Al Gore: A User's Manual:
"By 1968 Peretz was telling the late Blair Clark that 'I have been in love only three times in my life. I was in love with my college roommate. I am in love with the state of Israel and I love Gene McCarthy.'"
Still, Peretz's feelings for Gore have certainly been enduring. In 2006, he endorsed Gore for President (for the third time, after 1988 and 2000), writing:
"Let me tell you a few words about the question as to whether Al Gore has changed. Actually, to me he is essentially the same young man I met in a Harvard freshman seminar 41 years ago…"
Peretz went on to marry an heiress, who provided him with the money to buy The New Republic in 1974. But he never forgot Gore, taking him on his first trip to Israel.
Their relationship eventually led to Peretz famously firing his editor Michael Kelly. Peretz had appointed 28-year-old Andrew Sullivan as editor of TNR in 1991, but by 1996, Sullivan's HIV infection was dragging him down. Peretz replaced him with Kelly, an unusual choice for running TNR, because Kelly, a 39-year-old husband and father, was a grown-up. But Kelly despised Gore, so Peretz fired him in less than a year.
It was left to the next editor, journeyman journalist Chuck Lane, to expose and dispose of Stephen Glass, TNR's 25-year-old "reporter" who had published 27 fabrications, many of them absurdly obvious. Peretz then dumped Lane and installed 28-year-old Peter Beinart, He was eventually replaced by the current editor, 31-year-old Franklin Foer. He is particularly young-looking for his age. But he must be nervously looking over his shoulder at the rise of Peretz's latest favorite, Kirchick, who graduated from Yale only last May.
There's even a movie about Marty Peretz's magazine: 2003's Shattered Glass, starring Hayden Christiansen (of the recent Star Wars prequel whoop-tee-doos) as lying journalist Stephen Glass.
This movie answered the big question I've always had about the Glass case:
Why in the world didn't the other people at The New Republic recognize the utter implausibility of Glass’s fictions?
Unlike discredited reporter Jayson Blair of the New York Times, who just made up plausible-sounding details about Pvt. Jessica Lynch's house so he wouldn't have to leave his cool lifestyle in NYC and actually go to godforsaken West Virginia, Glass reveled in piling on ridiculous fibs. For example, I only read one article by Glass during the 1990s, but I can vividly recall my reaction to the following paragraph:
"... another bond-trading outfit has turned an empty office into a Greenspan shrine. Dozens of news photographs of Greenspan adorn the walls; glass casing encloses two Bic pens Greenspan supposedly used in 1993. Quotations from more than 30 of his speeches are posted under a sign that reads 'Greenspan’s Teachings.' The centerpiece is a red leather chair that sits in the middle of the room, surrounded by blue velvet ropes. A placard perched on the armrest says Greenspan sat in the chair in 1948—at the time, he was still in college. 'Some nights when we’ve lost money,' trader Brent Donalds confides, 'I come in here and sit in the chair and think. It gives me inspiration.'"
Here, very roughly, is the dialogue that went on in my head as I read this in 1998:
Little white angel sitting on my right shoulder: "That's amazing!"
Little red devil sitting on my left shoulder: "That's so amazing it can't be true! I've been in the corporate world for 15 years. I can't imagine anybody I ever met acting like that."
Little white angel: "But they wouldn't put it in The New Republic if it weren't true!"
Little red devil: "Oh, yeah?"
Me: "Shut up, you two. I've reached a decision. I will not believe this unless I hear more evidence confirming it."
The staffers and editors are children.
An opening title card for the movie announces that the median age of editors and staff writers at The New Republic was 26. For example, that pathetic concoction about Greenspan was co-authored by Glass and Jonathan Chait, then only four years out of college, but soon a "Senior" Editor at TNR. He was so clueless he put his name on Glass's inventions.
I don't have all that much experience hanging around opinion magazines, but I fear it's a general rule: the staffers don't have enough life experience to have much understanding of how the world works.
Why? The pay is terrible. So you get what you pay for: kids.
The downside is that these babes in the woods get hoaxed all the time—on a small scale by Stephen Glass, or on a world-historical scale by the Invade the World / Invite the World / In Hock to the World hucksters.
The solution is clear:
More money for journalists!
We public policy intellectuals cannot be bought. But we sure can be rented for what any tycoon would consider a pittance.
On the other hand, even if you are not a billionaire, you can help VDARE.com continue to be one of the few places that pay grown-ups to write honestly about the crucial challenges facing America by contributing to our (currently dormant but never dead) fund-raising drive.