February 28, 2006

Marty Peretz's latest young man

Young Peter Beinart is out as editor of The New Republic and the even younger Franklin Foer, 31, is in.

There are two reasons that the editor of The New Republic is almost always a very young man. The first is illuminated by an opening title card for the movie "Shattered Glass" about the dozens of hoax articles Stephen Glass managed to publish in TNR. It explained why nobody at the magazine noticed his stories were utterly ridiculous (although many letters to the editor pointed that out): the median age of editors and staff writers at The New Republic was 26. For example, consider the following paragraph co-authored by Glass and Jonathan Chait, then only four years out of college, but now a "Senior" Editor at TNR. Chait was so clueless he put his name on this ludicrous invention of Glass's:

"... another bond-trading outfit has turned an empty office into a Greenspan shrine. Dozens of news photographs of Greenspan adorn the walls; glass casing encloses two Bic pens Greenspan supposedly used in 1993. Quotations from more than 30 of his speeches are posted under a sign that reads 'Greenspan’s Teachings.' The centerpiece is a red leather chair that sits in the middle of the room, surrounded by blue velvet ropes. A placard perched on the armrest says Greenspan sat in the chair in 1948 -- at the time, he was still in college. 'Some nights when we’ve lost money,' trader Brent Donalds confides, 'I come in here and sit in the chair and think. It gives me inspiration.'"

Yeah, sure, that's the way bond traders behave. No question about it.

I don't have much experience hanging around opinion magazines, but I fear it's a general rule: the staffers don't have enough life experience to have much understanding of how the world works. The pay is terrible and so you get what you pay for: kids.

The downside is that these babes in the woods get hoaxed -- on a small scale by Stephen Glass, or on a world-historical scale by the Bush Administration's Iraq Attaq hucksters.

The solution is clear: more money! If you know a billionaire or even a mere centi-millionaire, kindly point out to him that he can have his own intellectual/public policy magazine for pocket change each year. Us public policy intellectuals cannot be bought, but we sure can be rented for what any tycoon would consider a pittance.

And if your plutocrat friend objects that he may not have quite the sterling character and flawless personality required to be a lord of the opinion press, please reassure him that he probably couldn't help but raise the average.

The second reason TNR co-owner Marty Peretz takes an interest in idealistic young men appears to be, well, that he takes an interest in idealistic young men. The most notorious of Peretz's clammy obsessions was with handsome young Al Gore at Harvard.

Gore's academic career at Harvard was undistinguished, but his social career was striking. His roommate was football player Tommie Lee Jones, the future Oscar winner. Classics professor Erich Segal modeled the character, hockey player Oliver Barrett IV, played by Ryan O'Neal in the movie version of his novel "Love Story" on Tommie, but drew a few of the character's less attractive qualities from Al, who mistakenly claimed to be the main model (and wrongly suggested Tipper was the model for Ali MacGraw's character). However, Al was not bereft of enjoying a professor's creepy-sounding devotion to a hunky undergrad of his own: Professor Martin Peretz, who went on to marry rich women and buy The New Republic, was Al's valuable catch. (In the late 1990s, Peretz fired TNR editor Michael Kelly for not sharing his infatuation with Al.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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