Saturday, February 1, 2014

National Review in Trouble

The National Review, the conservative journal founded by William F. Buckley, faces a libel suit from climate scientist and Penn State faculty member Michael Mann for comparing Mann to convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky.
Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of political science, except that instead of molesting children he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.
 David Cay Johnston reports in The National Memo.
Libel lawsuits are notoriously difficult to win, as they should be. But Mann has powerful allies: facts, independent investigations that found “no basis” for any accusation of intellectual dishonesty and, perhaps most significantly, the studied refusal by both the magazine and (NR writer Mark) Steyn to acknowledge error and correct the record.
This week it asked subscribers like me for donations to pay lawyers fending off a libel suit. Those legal bills, even before a trial it may well lose, could sink the leading right-wing journal in America, The Week says. Progressives, liberals, conservatives and middle-of-the-roaders should all care about this, but not for the reasons National Review cites (free speech threatened by political correctness).
The problem is that National Review is so lightweight that it’s easy to mock. And the same holds true in varying degrees for Fox News, Paul Gigot’s opinion pages in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, Emmett Tyrell’s conspiratorial American Spectator and the nutty reports on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network.
Thankfully there exist The American Conservative and the libertarian monthly Reason, with its provocative substance. America needs first-rate publications that articulate conservative perspectives by marshaling hard facts and sound logic. It needs right-wing publications as steeped in reporting, and just as political, as The Nation and Mother Jones. Instead, we get an array of conservative outlets worthy mostly of ridicule. (There are, to be clear, plenty of loonies on the left and with ambiguous perspectives, but they are sideshows, not dominant.)
Those not on the far right need quality conservative publications against which to develop, refine and test their own ideas. Just as Toyotas and Hondas made Americans aware of how much better inexpensive cars could be, forcing Detroit to do better, serious right-wing journalism would produce better political ideas from the majority of the political spectrum. Journalistic Yugos and Gazelles don’t improve the competition. One result of intellectual vacuity on the right is that too many progressive ideas for a better America are not thoroughly vetted.

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