August 22, 2007

Glass Houses, Etc

One might think that the editors of The New Republic would use their energy to investigate the collapse of their credibility after publishing a fabulist for at least the second time in the last few years. Instead, Jonathan Chait takes aim at Bill Kristol for his criticism of the magazine, blithely sidestepping any editorial responsibility for Beauchamp's fabrications:

Kristol's sensibility is perfectly summed up in one representative passage from a recent issue. The topic was The New Republic's decision to publish an essay by Scott Beauchamp, an American soldier serving in Iraq, detailing some repugnant acts he said he and his comrades committed. Legitimate questions have been raised about this essay's veracity. (We've been publishing updates on our continuing efforts to get answers to them at But Kristol rushed past these questions, immediately declaring the piece a "fiction." Offering up his interpretation of why tnr would publish such slanders, he concluded, in an editorial titled, "They Don't Really Support the Troops":

Having turned against a war that some of them supported, the left is now turning against the troops they claim still to support. They sense that history is progressing away from them--that these soldiers, fighting courageously in a just cause, could still win the war, that they are proud of their service, and that they will be future leaders of this country.

In just two sentences, this passage provides a full summary of the decrepit intellectual state of neoconservatism.

Perhaps Chait may want to first address the decrepit state of editorial control at TNR before attacking anyone else's decrepit intellectual state. Chait has decrepitness himself when he offers a weak excuse that TNR merely published Beauchamp's diary "merely for the edification of readers." Really? A once-premier opinion publication like TNR no longer has any editorial reasons to publish articles other than "edification"? Let's take a look at the rest of their articles highlighted on their front page to see whether they express a political point of view, or are merely edifying:

  • America's Hypocritical Impulse To Spread Freedom And Democracy
  • Mitt Romney's Flimsy Iowa Victory
  • The U.S. Must Act in Darfur--Right Now
  • How Political Psychology Explains Bush's Ghastly Success
  • Are Terrorists Soldiers or Criminals?
  • My goodness! How dare Kristol assume a political purpose for TNR's editorial decisions!

    And let's face it -- Beauchamp's writings had a particular point of view, and one that appealed to TNR's editors. Beauchamp wanted to write about how the war dehumanized American soldiers, and he wasn't content to write non-fiction to make that point. TNR's editors didn't care to fact-check his exaggerations and outright fiction, probably because, as Chait suggests, they found Beauchamp edifying.

    Chait should save his shocked, shocked! hypocrisy for the people in his own office who violated journalistic standards to publish Beauchamp, apparently based on the word of his wife and sweetened by the themes of his inartful fabulism. Attacking Kristol for essentially nailing the strangely-silent editors and publisher of TNR may conform to the strategy of going on offense as the best defense, but it's rather transparent, like the glass house TNR has chosen to occupy. (via Power Line)


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