Twist The Knife

Wow.  Mental note to self — never get on the bad side of Ta-nahesi Coates.  Regarding the recent upheaval at The New Republic, and the throngs of former TNR staffers lamenting the supposed death of something great and important, he writes:

“I always knew I could never work at TNR. In the latter portion of the magazine’s heyday, in the mid-’90s, I was at Howard University with aspirations toward writing. Howard has a way of inculcating its students with a sense of mission. If you are going into writing, you understand that you are not a free agent, but the bearer of heritage walking in the steps of Hurston, Morrison, Baldwin, Wright, and Ellison. None of these writers appear in Insurrections of the Mind. Howard University taught me to be unsurprised by this. It also taught me that writing was war, and I knew, even then, that TNR represented much of what I was at war with. I knew that TNR’s much celebrated “heterodoxy” was built on a strain of erudite neo-Dixiecratism. When The Bell Curve excerpt was published, one of my professors handed out the issue to every interested student. This was not a compliment. This was knowing your enemy.

TNR did not come to racism out of evil. Very few people ever do. Many of the white people working for the magazine were very young and very smart. This is always a dangerous combination. It must have been that much more dangerous given that their boss was a racist. (Though I am told he had many black friends and protégés.) Peretz was not always a regular presence in the office. This allowed TNR’s saner staff to regard him as the crazy uncle who says racist shit at Thanksgiving. But Peretz was not a crazy uncle—he was the wealthy benefactor of an influential magazine that published ideas that damaged black people.”

Ouch.

As for the magazine itself, I was a reader back in the 90’s.  It had some good stuff.  It had some bad stuff.  Then it had two different serial plagiarists making up some laughably racist stuff, and they got away with it for much longer than any competent editor would have allowed.

It sucks when people lose jobs, especially writers and journalists coping with the new era of digital media.  But it’s also telling that, as far as I can tell, the only people really upset about the death of TNR used to draw a paycheck from it.  That’s loyalty, not righteous indignation.

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