goodbye to the New Republic
I was originally going to post here about an article that I read in the New Republic. It is Anne-Marie Slaughter's review of Henry Kissenger's latest book, World Order. I have no expertise in the great debates over the grand strategies of foreign policy and, to be honest, not much interest in them either. But because I hope to become a better citizen and more well-rounded person, I frequently slog through articles that I don't expect to interest me. Occasionally this practice pays off, as it did Monday. Reading Slaughter's article was a joy; long after I was done with my lunch, I could still be found in the pizzeria finishing the review.
Henry Kissinger's views in support of foreign policy realism are well-known. Moreover, it is no real surprise that an experienced Democratic State Department hand like Slaughter would not agree with them. But speaking, again, as someone who has little experience with debates over geopolitical strategy, I found myself drawn in to the subject by Slaughter's execution. Her essay demonstrates an understanding of Kissinger's viewpoint, explains what is at stake and why anyone should care, documents serious flaws with his position while still taking the concerns that motivated it seriously, and suggests alternatives. (I am only recommending it here, not summarizing it or commenting on it. If you want to know what she and Kissenger actually say, I refer you to the article itself.) Slaughter's knowledge and writing had the power to make me interested in something that, to that point, I had cared little about.
This sort of experience is why I read the New Republic. Academic prose can be tedious and narrow, and political journalism too concerned with "balance" to say anything interesting. But the New Republic often hit that sweet spot between reporting and commentary, and between news and the arts. A great piece in that magazine could make the the distinctions between scholarly and popular writing, highbrow and lowbrow art, political and cultural expression, seem petty ones to make.
But this morning the magazine was in the news, and the developments were bad. Yesterday, the New Republic's editor, Franklin Foer, and its longtime literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, resigned from the magazine. They were unable to see eye-to-eye with the magazine's new owner, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, and the chief executive he hired, Guy Vidra, who professed his desire to transform the venerable magazine into a "vertically integrated digital media company."
On hearing of the departures, nine of the magazine's twelve senior editors resigned this morning, along with a much larger number of staffers. These are pretty big names, including Julia Ioffe, Jonathan Cohn, John Judis, Jonathan Chait, David Hajdu, Anthony Grafton, Jeffrey Rosen, David Greenberg, Cass Sunstein and Sean Wilentz.
I cannot imagine that the magazine will not suffer from the loss of this talent and institutional memory. Additionally, I have no interest in supporting the new direction of the digital platform that will bear the name of this once fine journal of politics and the arts. I have resigned my subscription.