The War On Marty

Jack Shafer defends my old boss here. The sharpest point:

Say what you will about him, he has remained committed to ideas and intellectual life.

Two and three quarter cheers to that. When I was editor, I cannot imagine anyone else allowing me to air the kind of debates I did back then, against the teeth of many little orthodoxies, and throwing the dice on young talent like me or Kinsley or now Frank Foer. Time after time, when I went to bat for a magazine that would truly be open to debate, he backed me ... until the five-year cyclical Wieseltier coup against whichever editor he had come to envy. (The exception to open debate and intellectual honesty was and is anything to do with Israel, a subject where the debate at The New Republic is profoundly intellectually rigged, a fact that successive editors have simply had to accept or not take the job at all.)

Take gay rights, where Marty owned a magazine that pioneered the military and marriage debate that transformed a civil rights movement; or race, where his insistence on airing the really tough issues helped shift the debate, in my view, for the better. TNR's brave pioneering of welfare reform made a huge difference.

Shafer argues that Marty's loathing of all things Arab and Muslim goes back a very long way. So why the fuss now? I suspect it is because the blog-post came at a moment of very ugly, populist anti-Muslim hatred, where it is a moral responsibility of decent people to stand up against the mob rather than to egg it on. Marty decided to join the mob, not restrain it. To his credit, Marty belatedly apologized. The oddness of his apology - its almost Freudian formulation - is simply a confession that he sometimes cannot help himself. The combination of a blog and Marty was always going to be an explosive mix.

Marty is a man of deep passion and such passion, especially on a subject like the Middle East, sometimes leads to irrationality. He is not immune to this, but neither am I at times. Who is? We are all human. And as someone who knows this human being extremely well, I'd like simply to say that in his deepest heart, I believe Marty is a good man who has done good things. He has a real conscience and a history of great kindness, compassion and generosity. I am not the only person whose life would never have spread its wings so soon without him - even as I have come to differ with him as times have changed. And I, for one, hope this latest spark of hate in a very dry tinder box will not distract from the true content of his character, and the endurance of his legacy of intellectual vigor.