Commentary Magazine


Luce's Time

To the Editor:

Joseph Epstein’s “Henry Luce and His Time” [November 1967] is interesting and . . . adds a welcome perspective on this most unusual man of our times . . . but the author has a bias which one can sense throughout the article. It comes to the surface with his statement: “surprisingly enough, the specter of Hitler has no real prominence in this [Luce] essay; at no time does Luce broach the possibility that America might have limited aims in the war such as helping to destroy Nazism. According to Luce the purpose of the war is to ‘defend and even promote, encourage, and incite so-called democratic principles throughout the world.’”

Joseph Epstein didn’t do his homework well or else he deliberately overlooked this matter of record:

Within a year or two of the advent of Adolph Hitler or within ten or twelve years after its founding . . . Time featured Hitler as a front cover subject. Some of your older readers may remember this picture of Hitler seated before the “great organ of hate.” The editorial content of this front cover subject was in keeping with the front cover.

Interestingly, despite fruitless urgings and invidious comparisons with Republican predecessors Taft and Roosevelt, it took Franklin Delano Roosevelt some years before he was willing to antagonize the Nazi regime. During those years he was besieged by requests to use his influence with the Nazis to ameliorate the condition of the hapless Jews in Germany.

Whether Roosevelt torpedoed the 1938 Evian Conference in behalf of the refugees in general (and the hapless Jews in particular), I won’t say, but it is an incontrovertible fact that it was only in 1944 that his Executive Order 9417 created the War Refugee Board. Contrast this with the foresightedness of Henry Luce in 1934 or 1935 in giving public recognition to the great evil inherent in Hitler when others of us including the incumbents in Washington thought they could do business with the Hitler regime. Of course there were other great efforts by the late Henry Luce—effective work far in advance of the times—in behalf of the Negro and before it had become politic or fashionable.

Julius Braun
Chicago, Illinois

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To the Editor:

Over the years I have become an addict of Time magazine. It may have all the faults you ascribe to it, but do you know of something better in its class? Once, when I got very disgusted with the degree to which Time is politically opinionated, I switched to a competing magazine. I found the competing magazine equally opinionated, but its reporting much worse. So, I went back to Time magazine.

Alfred S. Markus
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Mr. Epstein writes:

Mr. Braun is quite right. When you get right down to it, I suppose I’m not exactly wild about Harry. So I must plead guilty to his charge of bias; guilty, that is, if by bias Mr. Braun means having a clear and certain view of a given subject.

I regret to have to say that it is Mr. Braun and not I who has not done his homework. The simple fact of the matter is that in Luce’s essay, “The American Century,” the Jews are not mentioned once. Moreover, on page 42 of my article I mention that Luce and the liberal community found common ground on the following causes: “the fight against Fascism . . . and the civil-rights movement, at least in its more respectable manifestations.” As for Nazism and the Jews, I am in agreement with Mr. Braun in finding the position of the United States and other nations toward the European Jewish refugees deplorable. That Luce was, in this instance, not unsympathetic to a downtrodden people is of course very much to his credit. Being a Jew myself, I suppose it is my particular “prejudice”—to use a word of Mr. Braun’s—to look with special favor on anyone who has acted honorably toward my fellow Jews at a time when it was easy to do otherwise. But it would be parochial in the extreme to allow this single item to stand as the sole criterion for judgment. And because of this, I should like to stick to my original judgment of Henry Luce: “Through the agency of his magazines, he confused more issues than he clarified, harmed more people than he helped, and contributed more to the Gross National Product than to American culture.”

As for Mr. Markus, he, apparently, would rather write than switch. As a fellow addict of Time, I hope I have not made him feel guilty about reading the magazine. All that I would urge on him is the argument, already made at great length in my article, that Time is the B-movie of current events and personalities. It goes down best, in other words, with popcorn.

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