Like a lot of people, I find TNR to be a maddening magazine. At the same time, I also find it indispensable. …just take a look at their masthead. I’m not a fan of every single one of TNR’s senior editors (a title that’s essentially code for “staff writer,” not someone who actually does any editing) but 80% of them are top notch. It’s hard to think of any other political magazine that can match that collection of talent, and they consistently churn out a remarkable amount of top notch political journalism.
So what’s their problem? … Their writing is better than most of their competitors. Do they need to cut down on what sometimes seems like knee jerk contrarianism? Maybe. One Michael Kinsley is enough.
[ellipses mine – A.L.]
No, Kevin, explains, there’s just one problem.
Do they need to finally figure out — plainly and unambiguously — that the Iraq war was a mistake?
Bingo. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to happen, and as long as they decline to learn the obvious lesson from our current adventure in Mesopotamia they’re just not going to find a very big liberal audience. And that’s too bad, because an awful lot of good stuff is being held hostage.
[emphasis mine – A.L.]
It’s been interesting, in the week of my blogging hiatus (taking two hours every day to watch TV just blows your at-home productivity all to hell), to watch the CW solidify as Bush’s popularity declines, and right wing idols Buckley and Fukayama step onto the train and declare the war a catastrophe.
I’m wrestling with it myself.
What I’m wrestling with as a first step is my belief in the power of groupthink. In the power of the innate human desire to go along with the group, and the effect it has on people.
When I was in college, I was a pretty serious photographer. I made some money doing it; I sold some pictures (journalism to local and regional papers and sports photos to some calendars) as well as took some fairly serious classes. I took a class from a photographer named Joe Czarnecki – I’ve remembered his name because of what he did.
He told us that he wanted to calibrate our meters, and walked up to a wall held up his expensive light meter, and announced that it was an EV of – I don’t remember – and that it would thus be an exposure at 1/250 at, say F 2.8 (I’m making up the values).
One by one, we walked up to the wall, looked through our SLR’s or at our meters, and announces that yes, the right exposure for ASA200 film was F2.8 @ 1/250.
I walked up to the wall, held up my camera (I had a meter stuck to the top of a rangefinder Leica) and it read something completely different. I remember looking at it, and in what even then felt like an act of complete, if minor, cowardice, announcing that I agreed with the group within a 1/4 stop.
Several others came by, agreed, and then once we were all in, Joe walked back to the wall.
“Oops,” he said. “I must have made a mistake. It’s really F1.4 at 1/60.” And he looked at us with what I can only describe as contempt.
The room was full of mortified silence. Everyone else had done what I did.
Czarnecki explained that his point was simple. When our eyes disagreed with what other people were telling us, we should trust our eyes.
He had a larger point, about artistic vision, which he went on to make. But his basic point – believe your eyes and don’t give in to the pressure of the group is a memory that’s pretty well rooted in me; and as I see sensible people like Kevin Drum explain that the only thing that keeps The New Republic from being the anchor point of modern liberalism is this one issue where they just won’t go along, the image I keep having is of my professor leaning into the wall, holding his light meter, and going “Oops”.