Peretz on the New New Republic

Last year, Martin Peretz sold The New Republic to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. The magazine’s new owner installed himself as editor-in-chief, as Peretz had, and proclaimed his commitment to independent thinking that has characterized much of its recent history. Looking at the new magazine, however, Peretz is not convinced Hughes is fulfilling that commitment. In his view, the most recent issue “established as fact what had only been suggested by the magazine in the early days of its new administration: The New Republic has abandoned its liberal but heterodox tradition and embraced a leftist outlook as predictable as that of Mother Jones or the Nation.” Peretz continues:

That was hardly the fate I expected for the magazine. Yes, Mr. Hughes had run Barack Obama’s highly successful social-media operation during the 2008 presidential campaign, so a certain Democratic affinity was to be expected. But his assurances of open-mindedness in running the magazine inspired confidence. . . .

There is something strange about Chris Hughes’s journalistic vision. He has said in public and to me that he intended for the magazine no longer to be known as a liberal journal, for it not to take up only one side of an issue. Fair enough. An earnest expression of this sentiment is the fact that the magazine has stopped publishing editorials.

But maybe editorials are no longer needed, given the articles themselves. The magazine now seems to live in a space where those “little insurrections of the mind” are unwelcome. It is akin to the atmosphere in many colleges and universities: There are prevailing orthodoxies but they aren’t recognized as such. Mr. Obama himself is the main one. The president is an object of fealty at the New Republic in a way that Woodrow Wilson and even Franklin Roosevelt never were.

It will be interesting to see if this assessment holds.