29 July 2016

A venerable tradition honoured

Lord knows I do not always agree with The Nation magazine and its editorial approach. On cultural and sexual politics particularly, they follow the usual nominalist line common among the American liberal left, which often leads to the miseries of social atomism, or at worst to truly profound injustices. But when it comes to foreign policy and gauging the range of acceptable opinion in the press, The Nation has a long and venerable tradition of opposition to the fear-and-loathing yellow journalism which precedes calls to war, and to the domestic abuses of the public sphere of which Joe McCarthy remains the prevailing symbol, which is highly laudable, which they are right to take pride in, and which I wish more of our normally subservient and uncritical media outlets would emulate.

The recent article by The Editors stands in firm and fine continuity with this tradition, and the fact that they are aiming their guns solidly against their own political tribe this time makes their stand all the braver. The ‘Kremlin-bait[ing]’ of the Republicans ‘in lieu of reasoned argument and factual critique’ by such partizan actors as Paul Krugman, Jeffrey Goldberg and Jonathan Chait, is in their view utterly reprehensible, as a tactic which sees fit ‘to adopt the pernicious language of McCarthyism is to turn our backs on the best traditions of our country in favor of the worst’. Though no fans of Donald J Trump, they nonetheless defend him against the charges of un-Americanism which could, with justice, be turned back at any time on the current administration, which has (intermittently, imperfectly and with precious little commitment) sought détente rather than escalation and confrontation with Russia under Putin.

This kind of moral clarity, particularly in an election year when our nation’s damnable tribalism takes on a fever pitch and critical faculties of every sort go flying out the window, is immensely valuable and to be treasured. Particularly in an age where news media are vulnerable to what Wang Hui calls ‘partification’ – that is, taking on the aspects of a partizan interest group rather than being a voice for the common good in the public sphere – this kind of reflective critique is much-needed. Long life to The Nation and her Editors!

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