Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 10, 2012

A Note

There’s some talk over my decision last week to part ways with D.G. Myers, who has contributed monthly articles on fiction to the magazine and authored a blog, Literary Commentary, on this site. I would ordinarily not discuss such things; the relations of editors to writers are a private matter between them. But David has now chosen to discuss them. (He calls what happened to him a “firing,” which it was not; he was not and never has been an employee of COMMENTARY; he was paid as a freelancer.)

I understand his anger and hurt and I sympathize with those emotions more than I expect he knows or can believe at this moment. But since he is expressing them in a manner that is unjust to this institution and unfair to me—since he is suggesting I acted to censor his views on gay marriage, which is nothing more nor less than an abominable lie—I feel obliged to respond.

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There’s some talk over my decision last week to part ways with D.G. Myers, who has contributed monthly articles on fiction to the magazine and authored a blog, Literary Commentary, on this site. I would ordinarily not discuss such things; the relations of editors to writers are a private matter between them. But David has now chosen to discuss them. (He calls what happened to him a “firing,” which it was not; he was not and never has been an employee of COMMENTARY; he was paid as a freelancer.)

I understand his anger and hurt and I sympathize with those emotions more than I expect he knows or can believe at this moment. But since he is expressing them in a manner that is unjust to this institution and unfair to me—since he is suggesting I acted to censor his views on gay marriage, which is nothing more nor less than an abominable lie—I feel obliged to respond.

In the spring of 2011, David brought his personal blog to the COMMENTARY site and was asked to write a monthly review of current fiction.

I made it clear that what I wanted was a literary blog. Period. Indeed, in the first two years that COMMENTARY published blogs, it had a separate cultural and literary blog precisely to divide those subjects out from the politics that appeared here. (For budgetary reasons, COMMENTARY ended that blog in 2008.) I told David that he could write at will on his blog without editorial supervision, as long as he stayed within the confines of the literary. By contrast, this blog you are reading right now is heavily edited; posts typically go through two editors, and most topics are approved in advance and discussed communally before an item appears. Literary Commentary was excused from this system precisely because it was supposed to concentrate exclusively on literary matters.

This is something David understood, without question—to the extent that when he really wanted to write something on politics, he would request space on this blog to do so. He participated in some of our live-blogging of debates, and wrote a few posts for this blog here and there.

Now to the part of this post I wish I didn’t have to write, but I have to. The working relationship between David and Commentary was problematic in various ways from the start. All I can say is that at various points before the events of this week, I would have ended the relationship under conventional circumstances. But for reasons I can’t go into, I could not bring myself to do so.

Now we get to this week. On Wednesday, after the election, David sent in an item for this blog. The blog’s editor, Jonathan Tobin, said he thought it was good and asked me to read it. I did. I agreed. The post is here. This is a paragraph from it:

What conservatives do not seem to grasp is that same-sex marriage is not an issue for gays only, but also for the young, who support it overwhelmingly, without question. And if the GOP really is the party of marriage, shouldn’t it be in favor of extending the goods of marriage to as many as possible? If marriage is everything we conservatives say it is, why should we want to deny its moral benefits to gays? The point is to stand for marriage, for an institution that promotes human freedom, and not to barricade ourselves behind the status quo ante. That’s how the party of freedom becomes the party of reaction.

We published this blog post Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday afternoon around 5 pm, I discovered that David had published a post on Literary Commentary an hour earlier in which he wrote more than 1,000 more words in support of gay marriage.Please note that I was not opposed to him writing in defense of gay marriage on COMMENTARY’s website. He had just done so a day earlier—and this blog has a readership many, many orders larger than the readership of Literary Commentary.

What I did not like, and what I could not accept, was that David had decided unilaterally to convert Literary Commentary  into a sociopolitical blog without a moment’s consultation. This I considered an uncollegial and insubordinate act,and I’m afraid it was not the first of these. I would not have allowed him to do so had he asked; I might have considered publishing the item on this blog, though to tell you the truth, I found his take goopy and overheated.

But the issue was not the content. He did not have the authority to redefine his blog in this fashion. This is something he clearly accepted and understood in the past, because there have been times when he has reverted to his old blog, A Commonplace Blog, as he did tonight, to publish things he clearly understood were beyond the scope of Literary Commentary.

This overstepping—coupled with other, more bureaucratic matters I’ve alluded to here—was not the cause of the parting of the ways between D.G. Myers and COMMENTARY. It was more like the last straw. And I would have done the same if he’d put up a post on tax policy, or China, or Dick Morris’s prognostications.

I assure you David was fully aware I had been unhappy with his conduct and was frequently apologetic about it. And it was he, not I or anyone else at COMMENTARY, who deleted the post he put up on gay marriage on his blog.He did that as unilaterally as he put it up. I certainly did not ask him to do it, as he will attest. I would not have wanted him to do it. It had been up for an hour, it was there to stay, so be it. Literary Commentary remains reachable at COMMENTARY if you click here, and if David had not deleted that post, it would be right there for you to read. What’s more, on Thursday, after the parting, I told him in an email that we could reconnect in a few months’ time and discuss him writing more reviews for the magazine.

Now to the larger subject. As it happens, like our president, I was for a long time an opponent of gay marriage. I am not any longer—indeed, I am relieved that on Tuesday night citizens of four states chose freely to allow gay marriage within their borders rather than having such a thing imposed through judicial fiat. However, I am deeply respectful of those traditionalists who stand in opposition to it for profound reasons of conscience and faith and do not deserve to have the word “bigot” hurled unjustly at them. David Myers is himself an Orthodox Jew, and official Orthodox Jewry certainly does not share his views of gay marriage; I doubt he considers the Orthodox rabbinate institutionally evil.

Nor is COMMENTARY institutionally hostile to gay marriage. Indeed, one of the foremost backers of gay-marriage initiatives in the United States, Paul E. Singer, is a valued and honored member of COMMENTARY’s board of directors.

But, yes, I want to know what is being said and written about political subjects on this website before such things appear “in print.” I want them edited and I want them discussed. Why David Myers, who knew this to be the case, decided to act as he did on this site I don’t know, but gay marriage and his support for it were not the cause of the split, and any suggestion that they were is a lie.

UPDATE: I’m closing off comments on this post for legal reasons.

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A Strange Twist in the Petraeus Story? / UPDATE: No

UPDATE TO THIS ITEM: The editor of the New York Times Magazine said this afternoon that “the column is NOT about the Petraeus affair, based on our factchecking.” So interesting it may be, but it has nothing to do with David Petraeus’s resignation.

On Twitter this morning, someone uncovered an astonishing letter written to the New York Times Magazine’s Ethicist column and published on July 13, 2012. Here’s the letter.

My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job. I strongly feel that exposing the affair will create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort. My issue: Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be “true to my heart” and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me? NAME WITHHELD

Paula Broadwell, the writer who appears to have been David Petraeus’s paramour, is married with two children.

UPDATE TO THIS ITEM: The editor of the New York Times Magazine said this afternoon that “the column is NOT about the Petraeus affair, based on our factchecking.” So interesting it may be, but it has nothing to do with David Petraeus’s resignation.

On Twitter this morning, someone uncovered an astonishing letter written to the New York Times Magazine’s Ethicist column and published on July 13, 2012. Here’s the letter.

My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job. I strongly feel that exposing the affair will create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort. My issue: Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be “true to my heart” and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me? NAME WITHHELD

Paula Broadwell, the writer who appears to have been David Petraeus’s paramour, is married with two children.

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