What’s Happened to The New Republic

Delong looks at the worsening journalistic ethics of The New Republic, a magazine I haven’t been able to stomach in forever, and links to this claim in a piece by Second Lt. John Renehan in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education.

In 2004, shortly before I left for basic training, The New Republic ran a piece in which Peter Beinart, then the magazine’s editor, bemoaned the increasingly narrow demographics of those who serve and the consequent emergence of ‘two countries’ — one that serves, and a second, more-affluent one that thinks of service as a thing done by other Americans. Notably, Beinart admitted his own mixed feelings on being a member of the nonserving elite, wondering aloud what he might say when a child of his someday asks, ‘What did you do in the terror war, Daddy?’

Impressed, I wrote a letter to Beinart praising his frankness and noting my own decision to join the military — one prompted by similar callings of conscience. Then I offered him what I called a ‘public-spirited challenge’: One of The New Republic’s own should serve, and the magazine should write about it…It was a naïve sort of thing to write. My girlfriend took a look at the letter and said, ‘You know they’re never going to print this, don’t you?’ I did. But they did print it — with a notable omission. My ‘public-spirited challenge’ had been excised, leaving only praise for Beinart.

Delong goes on to wonder:

You know, if I had been sitting in Peter Beinart’s chair in June of 2004 and somebody had brought this proposed letter edit to me, I would have said: “We can’t do this. This is not moral. This substantially changes the points that the author of the letter was trying to make. We either preserve the author’s main points, or we don’t print the letter at all.” I would have gone to say: “Moreover, this would be stupid. Technology is changing very fast. If I were the author of the letter and if we posted this truncated version, I would be seriously pissed. It’s likely that the author’s being pissed will end up on the internet someday, in which case crazed persons in bathrobes accessing search engines will then be able to use it to give this magazine a real black eye.”