Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blogging, Propaganda and Polemics


2. liberal reformer:

You have got to be kidding, Mr. Peretz: Podhoretz fils is "producing a fine and fresh Commentary?" More like a stale and mediocre Commentary. I read Commentary back in the glory days of the 1970's and 80's and I can assure the readers of TNR that there is nothing fine and fresh about that magazine these days. John Podhoretz is a poster child for the lectures I like to give on regression to the mean and on nepotism. Virtually all of the neoconservative progeny are inferior products compared to the Irving Kristols, the Midge Decters, the Norman Podhoretzs, et al. What Mark Lilla has written about the now-defunct Public Interest, that it was a bang-up publication at the outset but all too soon became a home to the likes of the supply-side ideologues goes double for Commentary under J. Podhoretz. Yes, they are more realistic on the Mideast than many commentators are and this must be the only reason that you heap accolades on this tired periodical. About the only thing worth reading in Commentary, besides some of the coverage of the Middle East, is the excellent Terry Teachout and occasionally, a book review or two. The New Republic is a far superior magazine to Commentary but thirty years ago it was a much closer call

3. me:

libref: agree and disagree with you.

On the agree side: It says something that Peretz can be so benign about Jennifer Rubin being "over the top”. That phrase is euphemistic and rationalizing--as in "There goes Jennifer just being Jennifer. What are you going to do?"--of a multitude of intellectual sins.

She's smart and writes well and is unrelenting. I'll grant her that. But on the blurry line between polemics and propaganda she has both feet clearly planted on the propaganda side. "Over the top" is insufficient to characterize her egregious, unrelenting and, finally, rabid hatred of Obama and the Democratic--read Liberal--agenda. She cuts him not an ounce of slack and she is patently unfair in laying all criticism at his feet in the most supercilious, one sided and circular manner imaginable. Reading her, you'd think he is the worst president in the history of your republic and has not done a single good thing.

Blogging is in part the art of translating the idiosyncratic into the interesting and persuasive. For me, it's, at its heart, a polemical art. But that it is that does not of course justify intellectual disreputability, which in Jennifer Rubin is manifest, and in which Peretz unwittingly steeps himself by equating her being over the top to that in himself.

In fact, he's not as bad as her but it’s revealing of an ocean of self unknowing and poor judgment that he does not see what a terrible equation it is for him.

What he should answer for himself is, given that he favors the passage of health care reform and given his criticism of ideologically demented Republican resistance to it, how can he cite her quality and strength as a blogger when she is, on the question of health care reform, the poster woman of such ideological extremism. That extremism is not to be dismissed as "over the top"; it's to be seen as viral, virulent, bad faith, anti intellectual disreputability.

Here's a kind of irony: Wieseltier's well taken, recent and highly controversial criticism here of Andrew Sullivan applies to Peretz as well. The hinge of Wieseltier’s criticism as I read him was not anti Semitism but, rather, intellectual disreputability.

Disagree: I subscribe to Commentary having done so from the late sixties, when it was beginning to leave its liberalism behind, to date. I was about to give up its ghost before John Podhoretz gussied it up. Before that, save for occasionally good articles, it was like wading through the repetitive sludge each time I read it.

But its new iteration, though I find the content predictable, it’s spritely and varied with newer, younger, better writers, expert in their areas, though they write out of a fixed perspective.
don't know really how to engage with you on the new Commentary save for trading subjectivities. But I'd be happy, if you’re interested, to take, say, the March issue and tell you why I think it’s pretty good.

I'd say generally though as against Jennifer Rubin's blogging propaganda, it's by and large on the polemical side of that line (even though she contributes articles to it as well. Nothing, after all, is perfect or close to it.)

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