The Return of Martin Peretz


Sunday’s New York Magazine
featured a profile of The New Republic’s controversial editor
and partial owner, Martin Peretz. Benjamin Wallace-Wells chronicles the
path that created Peretz’s “belligerent” personality and his relentless
devotion to Israel. The author follows Peretz in the wake of his
latest, and perhaps greatest controversy, in which he was chastised by
fellow journalists and Harvard alumni for making unflattering
generalizations
about Muslims.

The profile has solicited mixed
reactions, and while it appears that it perhaps evoked some degree of
sympathy for Peretz, many readers merely found their negative opinions of the man reinforced.

  • Unconvincing Denial of Racism  In one part of the
    profile, Peretz attempts to counter accusations that he is racist by
    listing examples of black or Muslim friends and employees. Salon’s Alex Pareene
    is unimpressed by this demonstration, writing, “Not sure how being
    friends with black people proves you don’t hate Muslims, though
    especially when you write so often about how much you hate Muslims.”
    Pareene insists that the profile is sad but worth reading and
    concludes, “The New Republic and the American press in general, are
    better off without him.”
  • A Lesson in Tokenism  When reading the article, the same scene reminds Daily Caller blogger Mike Riggs of his own grandmother who had once made a similar vain attempt to deny her own prejudices. The moral of Riggs’ story:

This
is what is so tricky about tokenism: You do not have to be a liberal to
know that there is something gross about listing human beings as if
they were items on a grocery list. And you do not have to be a bigot to
believe, or hope, that knowing and loving and associating with people
who are different than you matters for something, and that those
associations can improve and redeem you.

  • ‘Blogging Can Be Dangerous’  Ben Smith
    at Politico sees the profile supporting his own belief that Peretz’s
    slip into controversy can be blamed on his
    blog. “I’ve thought for a while that blogging can be dangerous, and
    cited Peretz’s blog, The Spine,
    as the case in point,” Smith explains. “A blog can extend a writer’s
    reach and voice. But it can also diminish someone who, like Peretz, had
    no evident filter and a reputation to lose.”
  • Good News for The New Republic’s Readers  Not a fan of Peretz, Talking Points Memo blogger M.J. Rosenberg
    is relieved by the former editor-in-chiefs decision to step down to a
    less-involved position and discontinue his blog, declaring that “now I
    can start reading the New Republic again, which somehow survived
    Peretz, and remains, in my opinion, a good magazine.”
  • A Few Details Are Still Unclear At Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss
    is left with unanswered questions after reading the Wallace-Wells story
    which he refers to as “an excellent piece, very sad.” In response to
    the news that Peretz’s blog, The Spine, will soon cease to exist, Weiss
    writes:

I’d like to know the whole story. His blog items are often
the most the most popular items on the New Republic site. Who killed
Peretz’s column, and why, because of racism? When will this happen?

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