It is difficult to see recent events at The New Republic (TNR) as anything other than poetic justice. That magazine, for a century dedicated to the notion that the United States could be made into a social democratic paradise in which everyone would be equal, especially leftist intellectuals, has seen its bastard children come home, not to roost, but to burn it to the ground. The editor has been fired, his staff has resigned in solidarity, and the institution has been gutted. One is reminded, here, of the reactions of so many French nobles who, having fomented the French Revolution, were shocked to find themselves among the first led to the guillotine. They could not imagine that all the talk of revolution and new beginnings might implicate their privileges, after all.
When Chris Hughes, whose greatest contribution to the common good was serving as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate, collected his mountains of cash, he did what most of the undeserving rich within the Silicon Valley-Wall Street nexus do, engaging in pompous left-wing politicking and using his money to destroy institutions and people’s lives.
Like their paradigmatic leader, Steve Jobs, the wunderkind of Silicon Valley and their financial whiz kid enablers (whose paradigmatic leader is, of course, Bernie Madoff) have turned a few good ideas and a facility with morally neutral computer code, along with loads of ambition and a gleeful desire to, as TNR’s Hughes-appointed editor put it, “break s–t,” into a highly destructive lifestyle. Of course, they also have sought, quite successfully, to maintain an industry best seen as a combination of information infrastructure (like sewer lines for, well, sewage) and consumer goods into the bully boy of corporate and public policy.
Now Mr. Hughes, having failed to buy his husband a seat in Congress, has burnt down the flagship of the liberal intellectual establishment in pursuit of—well that is not clear, except that it will have Mr. Hughes’ fingerprints all over it, and leave his tread marks on many backs. We do know that Mr. Hughes’ employees had little reason to stay amid bleak prospects at a “magazine” slated to become a primarily on-line “media” presence run by functional illiterates, with goals only Mr. Hughes knows (assuming he knows himself what he wants at any given time).
In typical Silicon Valley style, Mr. Hughes stealth-fired longtime TNR editor Franklin Foer by leaking the news to the media. Pretty much everyone at the magazine with any pride or other employment prospects soon left on their own. This bothers TNR’s new leaders not at all as they have imbibed the Kool-Aid of “creative destruction.” When Joseph Schumpeter coined that term, referencing the tendency of some forms of greed to destroy old institutions in pursuit of newer, more profitable ones, he did so in describing a dangerous failing of capitalist systems that had lost their moral compass. He also argued that this failing would lead to the demise of free markets and individual initiative itself. Never mind, though: Wunderkind need not read Mr. Schumpeter. They do not need to read any books at all, or even TNR’s long articles if they had the right roommate.
Schadenfreude is not an attractive feeling. We should pity rather than enjoy the sufferings of others. And a number of good people, no doubt, are suffering emotionally, financially, and in terms of career prospects on account of one man’s investment-backed narcissism. Then again, the countless individuals whose careers have been destroyed by race and sex based policies of “inclusion” and the families, churches, companies, and local associations whose traditional rights of self-government have been destroyed by the juggernaut of federal regulation aimed at implementing TNR’s longstanding utopian vision hardly have found sympathy from that quarter over these many years. All of us, even TNR editors and contributors, apparently are eggs to be broken at need to make omelets for our betters.
What TNR’s gutting shows is the logical next stage of the slow-moving revolution set in motion and maintained by America’s “moderate” left, in which social democracy is to be achieved in regulatory increments. It just so happens that there is no logical stopping point to the demand for equality and individual autonomy. As not even Harvard is immune to the latest dictates of the Obama Education Department to dumb itself down for the good of ideology, so TNR is not immune to the economic barbarism of those whom they have for a century taught that economics is a jungle in which only the vicious survive and thrive. Small wonder their pampered, self-involved students have entered that jungle, convinced that they could succeed through luck, amoral tactics (there are no other kind, according to current views), and come out victors, entitled to the spoils of their misdeeds and of their roommates, so long as they recycle and vote Democratic.
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