The New Republic, White Tears & The Privilege To Be An A-Hole About Leaving Your Job

The New Republic’s publisher, Chris Hughes, is getting backlash from a bunch of white guys and yaaaaaaawwwwwnnnnn… Oh, I know already that that first sentence is exactly the kind of youthful, web-influenced repartée about which the now-former editors of The New Republic are experiencing such fist-shaking outrage. I’m not, in the words of Lloyd Grove’s puff piece on the house-clearing at TNR, a “belle-lettrist.” That’s all right. 

Some background, and I’ll try to be brief, because this truly is boring and irrelevant, and has absolutely no impact on anything of serious import in the world: Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, bought The New Republic in 2012. Hughes is 31 and, clearly, interested in digital strategy. He’s publisher and editor-in-chief of the magazine.

Hughes hired Guy Vidra as CEO of The New Republic in October. Vidra has worked in development at The Washington Post, and served as general manager of Yahoo! News. And yesterday, it was announced that Gabriel Snyder would become editor of TNR. Snyder has an impressive resumé: He worked most recently as the digital advisor at Bloomberg, he was editor for The Atlantic Wire, he was executive editor of Newsweek Digital, he was a senior writer for W and Variety, and he was editor-in-chief at Gawker. He has both print and digital experience. He’s not exactly unqualified.

However, in order to hire Snyder, Hughes had to pass over respected editor Franklin Foer, who promptly resigned. In support of Foer, literary editor Leon Wieseltier also resigned. Hughes announced he’d be moving the magazine’s offices to New York, and cutting the number of print issues per year in half. 

And all the white guys lost their shit. 

Now-former editor Ryan Lizza has been tweeting about it nonstop since yesterday. In an incredibly ironic move, he resigned over Twitter… because The New Republic is getting too digital media-friendly. Let that sink in for a second. Jonathan Chait followed suit. John B. Judis, Julia Ioffe, Jeff Rosen, Jason Zengerle, Judith Shulevitz, Noam Scheiber, Adam Kirsch, Isaac Chotiner, Jonathan Cohn, Rachel Morris, Greg Veis, Hillary Kelly, Henri Cole, Jennifer Homans, Alec MacGillis, Anne Applebaum, Paul Berman, Christopher Benfey, William Deresiewicz, TA Frank, Ruth Franklin, Jack Goldsmith, Anthony Grafton, David Grann, David Greenberg, Robert Kagan, Enrique Krauze, Damon Linker, John McWhorter, Sacha Z. Scoblic, Cass Sunstein, Alan Taylor, Helen Vendler and Sean Wilentz have all also resigned.

Meanwhile, Peter Baker and Ross Douthat from The New York Times and Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic have been voicing their support for the editors who are leaving. James Wolcott at Vanity Fair took a shot at Hughes’ penis length because we’re in seventh grade now, I guess.

For fun, I made this collage of all of the above-mentioned staffers and journalists:

WOW! That’s a heck of a lot of white folks! (And two people of color.) That makes me think that maybe a house-clearing isn’t such a bad thing for The New Republic, anyway.

Bear with me here. I’m not saying that these people are racists. I’m not pointing at them and saying that they don’t deserve their jobs because they’re white. I’m also not saying that they don’t have every right to quit their jobs if they don’t like their work environment, which is just what the majority of them have done. Julia Ioffe claimed that the work environment at TNR had gotten hostile under Hughes’ leadership. I sympathize. I also have an incredible amount of respect for writers like Foer and Vendler, specifically.

But I am saying that, for the reactionaries who have been making Hughes, Vidra, and Snyder’s work experiences and professional interests out to be travesties, the people who didn’t react with calm clarity as, say, Ioffe did — I’m looking at Lloyd Grove, Ryan Lizza, Jonathan Chait, and the various former subscribers who are touting their TNR cancellations like they’ve accomplished something for some great cause — this shows a tremendous lack of perspective. To look at a bunch of mostly-white, mostly-male journalists quitting their jobs with the assurance that they will be able to find another job elsewhere, some of them not citing a hostile work environment but just the mere fact that TNR is cozying up with digital media in a way they don’t like, and act like that’s the real outrage this week, like that’s what you should be spending your time writing and tweeting about — just, no.

It’s intolerable to a normal, reasonable person to read about sad white men and how sad they are about a white man being replaced by a different white man in a media landscape that is mostly white and male in a week when thousands of people are out on the streets pleading for a restructuring not of a fucking magazine but of a society that lets its authority figures kill off and incarcerate black people en masse and get off scot free. It shows a lack of perspective.

It is intolerable to a normal, reasonable person for someone like Ryan Lizza to be such a dick about leaving his job when normal, reasonable, poor people are held hostage to their bosses because they need references on their resumés. Example: I worked a job where there was ongoing, systemic sexual discrimination and harassment that got very serious. When I left, I didn’t go out in a blaze of glory. I walked in, found one of my supervisors, handed him an immediate resignation letter that thanked my past and present supervisors for their guidance and the company for the valuable experience, told him, “I’m sorry, I just can’t work here anymore, but please tell everyone that I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them,” shook his hand, and walked away. I couldn’t risk a bad reference, even if what happened in that workplace was patently unjust, because I would have gotten evicted from my apartment if I couldn’t find a new job. I needed the reference. What happened at The New Republic wasn’t unjust. It wasn’t oppressive. It wasn’t exploitative. It was just annoying. And to behave as Lizza and Chait have demonstrates an extraordinary lack of perspective: They are privileged to be able to quit their jobs, be really inappropriate about it, and still be able to work. That privilege is the same privilege that benefits people like, say, Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo.

They are journalists. They report on our world. They research it, analyze it, interpret it, and communicate what they see. Not just this week and in this climate, but always, they should know better.

[The Daily Beast]

[Washington Post]

[Twitter (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6)]

[Politico]

[New York Magazine]

[h/t Gawker]

Follow me on Twitter.