The parallels are obvious. How sad but unsurprising that they don’t see them. Chris Hughes, the new owner of the liberal magazine the New Republic, is that magazine’s new Stephen Glass. Glass, of course, is the notorious fabulist who made up, then published, at least three dozen fake stories in the New Republic in the late 1990s. Glass got away with it because he was surrounded by fellow journalists who cared more about looking hip and cool than the truth.
History repeats. The New Republic was recently bought and redesigned by Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder and Obama supporter. One of the first pieces Hughes published was an essay by Sam Tanenhaus, “Original Sin: Why the GOP Is and Will Continue to Be the Party of White People.”
The piece has come under fire from Ann Coulter and Martin Peretz. Peretz was the editor of the New Republic for 35 years. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Peretz makes this claim: “The provocative theme would not have been unthinkable in the magazine’s 99-year history, but the essay’s reliance on insinuations of GOP racism (‘the inimical “they” were being targeted by a spurious campaign to pass voter-identification laws, a throwback to Jim Crow’) and gross oversimplifications hardly reflected the intellectual traditions of a journal of ideas.”
So, as in the Stephen Glass case, both outsiders and eventually an insider have charged Hughes and Tanenhaus with sloppy journalism at best, outright lying at worst. The reaction to the charge by our tough, seasoned media professionals has been no different from the New Republic groupies who surrounded Glass: deflection, denial, and a refusal to commit journalism.
Take Adam Clark Estes in The Atlantic. Estes recounts the facts of the case, and Peretz’s complaint, and then proceeds to psychoanalyze Peretz rather than investigate whether Peretz’s charges are true, never mind Coulter’s. To repeat: Sam Tanenhaus is accusing an entire political party of having a racial problem that goes back decades. Investigating this is something that journalists are supposedly made for. Was Tanenhaus’s reporting half-baked and even false? We may never know, because, at least according to Adam Clark Estes, questions about the truth of Tanenhaus’s piece boil down to this: “maybe Peretz just feels left out.” Estes makes zero effort in examining the piece in question. Remember in “Shattered Glass,” the film about Stephen Glass, when the hip New Republic staff accused Glass doubter and New Republic editor Charles Lane of jealousy? It appears that Hughes’s new, Obama-approved New Republic has a new group of sycophants.
Among the other ankle-grabbers is Dave Weigel at Slate. “The word ‘Iraq’ doesn’t make it into the Peretz op-ed at all,” Weigel writes, “which makes sense, because it’s easier to fulminate about how ‘jeremiads against ‘neoconservatives’’ are ‘fashionable’ and thus wrong.” Bravo, Dave. You managed to avoid doing any work at all examining the Tanenhaus piece for misleading statements and errors. Because it’s all about George Bush and Iraq. Weigel then tweeted that he had “just re-upped” his New Republic subscription because “that was the point” of the Peretz editorial. Weigel’s tweet was then retweeted by that fearless media watchdog Jack Shafer of Reuters, Mr. Monkeyfishing himself.
It’s always fun to play role reversal with journalists, because so many of them are liberal hypocrites, and the Tanenhaus piece offers a good example of this. Imagine if National Review or The Weekly Standard — or God forbid The Daily Caller — ran a lengthy essay accusing the Democratic Party of being racist against white people. And suppose that a person who had been a former editor at one of those places published an editorial calling into question the journalistic standards of the piece. Of course it would be a story in every media outlet in America, including Fox. Soledad O’Brien would dedicate a week of shows to it. Al Sharpton would be suing everything that moved. And I have no doubt that amid the piles of newspaper and magazine articles, and gigabytes of commentary, and hours of television tut-tutting, someone would bring up the name Stephen Glass.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.