The New New Republic?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wow. Hello to the visitors from Fark , Instapundit and Conservative Grapevine. Glad to have you drop by. This is a group blog that is partly political, and partly whatever pops into our head. Have a look around if you have some time to burn.


mike said...

p.s. I'm copying that and posting it on Fark (with all rightly due credit :-)

chuck said...

I'm waiting for the NY Times to start publishing stories of aliens and mermaids, as Pravda now does.

Too bad about TNR, though. think Fred Barnes nailed it.

Now, how did New Republic get so badly fooled? One might point out they have rather a record of being badly fooled – they were after all the home of Stephen Glass, and one of their editors was Michael Straight who belonged to the same Soviet spy ring as Kim Philby. But I think a more proximate explanation is simply to look at Franklin Foer's biography. He's only 31, and before becoming editor, he was at The New Republic for eight years. A bit of arithmetic tells you that he hasn't done much else.

Or look at this interview from when he took the job; you're not dealing with a guy with any broad experience of life here – he's essentially had one job in his life and he thinks about policy, not news. One of his major goals as the new editor seems to be to reverse Peter Beinart's pro-Iraq War stance, and to build up readership, which even a wonk such as himself can recognize will mean talking about the world we live in rather than the policies he plays with.

So here's our boy Foer. New on the job. Trying to move away from policy, which he understands (or at least does a credible job of manipulating the signs for) to reporting and attracting an audience, which he doesn't. Hasn't been outside the little world of big thoughts, but knows he's got to go there if the magazine that has been his whole working life is to survive.

And here's the "Scott Thomas" article, and it's all about manly stuff, stuff people like to read about (at least more than they like to read about subtle adjustments at Treasury or State). And here's Foer's chance for a little bit of performative speech (semiotics-talk for "speech that causes an immediate change in the world just by being spoken" – like "I now pronounce you man and wife," "I ask Congress to declare that since yesterday at midnight the United States of America has been at war with the Empire of Japan," or a shouted racial epithet on a busy city street.) Anybody have any trouble seeing what happened?

I suppose I wish Foer well. He's got a long life ahead of him and right now he's way up a tree and that looks like a long fall. But I can't help thinking that the sooner he falls out of that tree, the better for all of us on the left, and maybe for the country as a whole.

His blindness in this is exactly the kind of specialization, the belief that to-the-faculty-senate-born think tankers are where right thoughts come from, that has gotten us into a mess that goes way beyond "Scott Thomas". It is quite possible that somewhere in Iraq American soldiers have done (or are doing right now) things fully as noxious as what "Scott Thomas" describes. With 160,000 people, mostly young men, many armed, many beyond the eyes of authority, there will be some thuggery and sadism and it is doubtful that superior officers will be devoting any large amount of time and effort to finding or suppressing it. And despite the pleas of the war's apologists, yes, it is certainly relevant that some American troops, some of the time, are behaving badly (just as it should be relevant to the war's detractors that many American troops, much of the time, are engaged in things of lasting benefit to the people of Iraq).

I just don't think "Scott Thomas" is the guy who saw any of those things, good or bad, and I don't think Foer has the judgment to avoid being fooled again, and again, and again. You might say it's the tradition he was brought up in – and it's a tradition that needs to die with this generation.

Rick Ballard said...

Excellent, Ambi. Much more than 1,000 words worth.

John Barnes, Chuck. I don't think Fred would associate himself with the sentiment expressed regarding the troops.

I don't see why TNR and the NYT couldn't collaborate on a series of articles concerning alien mermaids. What do they have to lose?

Buddy Larsen said...

Chuck, Rick, great idea--they could investigate those Pravda reports of fire-beings leaping up out of Siberian oilwell boreholes, and the sounds of humans screaming that have been heard coming up from deep down in the bottoms of the wells (not kidding--do a search).

Yes, by all means, send in the ace reporters of TNR & NYT! NYT especially has some (a little dated)experience with Pulitzer prize-winning reportage from the Russian hinterlands.

Foobarista said...

FYI: the Amazon blog post was from John Barnes, not Fred Barnes (the pundit from the Weekly Standard)...

exparatroop said...

Excellent. I saw the link at Conservative Grapevine.

I just bookmarked your site. I'll be back.

Nomenklatura said...

Barnes quickly and honorably apologized on his blog for the one flaw in his piece, which was the gratuitous reference to inadequate supervision of US troops in Iraq.

He admitted he had no basis whatsoever for that remark. An unconscious vestige of mindless leftism, apparently.