Sunday, March 11, 2007

Answer the questions


In the January 22, 2007 issue of The Nation, Victor Navasky offered up "Ford, Nixon, The Nation" all about the bravery involved in The Nation being handed a scoop (we wouldn't call beating the street date of a published volume "digging up a scoop"). Naval gazing at its most extreme. This was followed on February 25th by Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Suppressing News: Deja Vu" who left the 70s to Navasky and went to the 60s and Cuba when The Nation actually did have a scoop. If they're done self-stroking, we salute their past bravery. Past?

[Christopher] Ketcham took the story to a number of other magazines and got nowhere. Then, in the late summer of 2006 he took it to the Nation, whose editors said that yes, they wanted the story, but wouldn't schedule it till after the crush of political coverage in the run-up to the November elections. The target publication date was December 8. At the last minute, the Nation pulled the piece.

That's from Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Claire's "Ketcham's Story." If you missed the story, back on February 8th, Amy Goodman interview Cockburn and Christopher Ketcham (along with Marc Perelman) for "Cheering Movers and Art Student Spies: Was Israel Tracking the HijackersBefore the 9/11 Attacks?" (Democracy Now! -- read, listen, watch). In that interview, the fact that Salon took a pass on the article (after planning to run it) was addressed. The Nation?

Why did The Nation pull the article? Since both the "publisher emeritus" Victor Navasky (who is at CJR and needs to be off The Nation masthead -- it's really insulting when you grasp that no man had such a lofty title when he was publisher but make a woman the publisher and suddenly there's a need to create titles) and Katrina vanden Heuvel (editor and publisher) have recently self-stroked the magazine's no-hold-barred, we won't be censored past, they should be explaining to readers why it took CounterPunch to run the story that The Nation agreed to and then took a pass on?

Cockburn and St. Clair note:

When we first read it, we felt--and still feel--somewhat baffled at the difficulty this piece had in getting published. It's a report that deals with substantiated events that demand explanation, starting with the van on the New Jersey shore and the Israelis who were seen cheering as the planes crashed into the towers, and who on the afternoon of 9/11 were arrested following an FBI alert.

But The Nation, after agreeing to publish it, suddenly had a change of heart. Though not a "Sweet Victory" (we'd dub it "Cowardly Confusion"), it's something that needs to be addressed and the Editor's Cut blog is the perfect place to do so. The date for publication that Cockburn and St. Clair give is around the time that Christopher Hayes' article appeared, the one Katrina vanden Heuvel, in commmercials aired on Air America, breathlessly whispered was fully researched. Possibly, Ketcham's article was killed because of questions that it raised?

As editor and publisher, vanden Heuvel could answer why the piece was killed. Since navel gazing hasn't been a problem for the magazine this year and since this an issue that goes to censorship, the question of why the piece was killed should be answered.

It's really easy to point bravery in the past but it's a bit hypocritical to do so while you've recently engaged in censorship -- if that was the case. (We're not sure it was censorship. We're fully aware that The Nation is nothing but The Elector on page after page for most issues and it's highly possible that when the piece was read in full and they realized it included no shout out to Hillary or Obama, they lost interest for that simple reason.)

CounterPunch has published two article by Ketcham on this topic, "What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?" and "The Kuala Lumpur Deceit: a CIA Cover Up." While Cockburn and St. Clair deserve credit for that, it's time people stopped saying, "I can't believe Salon killed the article!" and started asking why The Nation did the same?

On the issue of answering questions . . .

In the March 19, 2007 issue of The Nation, Clint Hendler contributes "TNR's New Owners" (pp. 6-8) and Nation readers are supposed to be concerned about the fate of The New Republic(an). The only real impact that the demise of TNR would have on The Nation is that it would allow many of the writers they publish more free time (since so many work for The New Republic). That's an important point to remember (Little Lee Lee is not the only one) when freelancer Hendler wants to instruct readers that "no matter what one thinks of The New Republic's politics, the public sphere will suffer if it becomes just another content provider in the CanWest media empire." It's already served as a content provider to The Nation (though TNR writers aren't generally identified as such when they pen the reviews for The Nation). Hendler's article appears to argue that even if TNR is a bad magazine (it is) we should all be alarmed because this might be the end of the road for TNR's independence.

We're not into wating our time fighting for unworthy causes. If The New Republic closes shop, it's not a tragedy. It should have happened long ago. (And their online 'model' is part of their problem though Hendler seems unaware of that.) The demise of Clamor (which The Nation couldn't bother to note) was a very sad thing. The magazine was producing real journalism, was doing so far from NYC, was producing pieces that made you think long after you closed the issue you'd be reading. The New Republic is a dopey magazine and, if it now goes under, the only real shame there is that it didn't do so before it did so much damage (and provided so much cover for attacking the left). We, in fact, think it's more than justice if the magazine which pushed the notion of "taking a bunker buster to Arundhati Roy" went under. [FYI, Christopher Hayes' still uncorrected error about John Kerry's DNC speech in 2004? The same point is raised in TNR -- don't think the publications are all that different. Although, in fairness, T.A. Frank doesn't get the citation wrong. It should also be noted that Frank contributes to Washington Monthly and that The Nation has an open door policy for those writers as well.] We also will note that, as usual, The Nation magazine shows a willing disregard towards violence against women by printing this sappy little piece that seeks to portray The New Republic(an) as some sort of Little Orphan Annie.

But it's interesting that The Nation has run a piece where the fretting is that writing by a publication will be farmed elsewhere considering that writers at another magazine are grumbling that this is exactly what's happening to pieces that instead of running in that magazine keep popping up in The Nation. Possibly, when the issue of why the decision was made by The Nation to kill the piece is finally addressed, the magazine might also want to address the notion of "sister publication"?

If those questions are ever addressed, we'd encourage the magazine to address why they are insistent upon watering down the magazine by including writers from publications that are supposed to be odds at with The Nation? The at odds got much slimmer when The Nation decided it was nothing but The Elector. John Mellencamp once warned, "You've gotta stand right up for somethin' or you're gonna fall for anything yeah yeah yeah" (Scarecrow). Who knew he was predicting the future of The Nation?
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