May 19, 2007


Dear Subscriber,

Can you keep a secret? OK, there are no secrets on the Internet. But I am excited to divulge to you the first word of an intellectual explosion that The New Republic will case in our June 4 issue. Paul Berman has written a 28,000 word essay--an incendiary pamphlet, really--about the extraordinary -though exemplary- case of the Islamicist thinker Tariq Ramadan, who has become the darling of liberal commentators in Europe and increasingly also in the United States. Berman's essay is a detailed examination of not only of Ramadan's thought, but more generally of Islamicist thought since the 1920s--and more, of the bizarrely cordial reception that certain strands of Islamicist thought have recently found in the West. Berman's essay is erudite and vivid, a model of the history of contemporary ideas. And a model also of the battle of ideas: Berman has written a stirring defense of the liberal ideal against its enemies (and even against some of its friends)--an unforgettable call to intellectual responsibility. People will be arguing about it for a very long time. Do not miss it.

You may recall Berman's 2004 book, Terror and Liberalism, which was on the serious best-seller lists for months and months, and began the intellectual debate in which we are all, willy-nilly, now unavoidably ensnared. Reading his essay in our upcoming June 4 issue will be both a responsibility and an opportunity.

Martin Peretz
The New Republic

For a second, when this hit my in-box, I thought it might be a parody. But no, I see I've been served rather a treat (distinguished TNR subscriber that I am), that is to say, advance notice of an imminent "intellectual explosion" (sorry, "incendiary pamphlet"). Yes, before it hits the newstands! Forgive me Marty P, but this read rather more like an unfortunate example of the middlebrow-ization of the New Republic, than uber-titillating fare warranting rushing to the newstand on 52nd and Lex for hard-copy. More Atlantic for me, I guess, going forward!

Posted by Gregory at May 19, 2007 02:05 AM

I would have thought, in context of current policy in the Middle East, he'd have preferred to avoid the phrase, "we are now, willy-nilly, now unavoidably ensnared."

Posted by: K at May 19, 2007 03:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whoever TNR uses as a junk-mail, er, sorry, direct marketing agency seems to send these to a more or less targeted list. But I wonder how they do their targeting. I happen to be a few clicks to the right of you, yet I get the "Dear Reader" ones (I'm not a subscriber) from Franklin Foer, hawking all the most liberal wares of the TNR in equally nauseating fashion. I have no doubt that both Martin Peretz and Franklin Foer are holding their noses while these go out, because the board has seen a glossy-paper Powerpoint on response rates, new subscribers and retention, but sheesh. Middle-browization is right. When I compare this to the relatively slick and effective things I get from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or pretty much any retail outfit, I wonder if the marketers assign some kind of B-team to this small-money business that is periodical literature.

Posted by: Ben at May 19, 2007 01:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There's a *reason* they're not sending that to ex-subscribers like me in hopes of wooing us back.

Posted by: Anderson at May 19, 2007 07:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is Marty's wife gonna cut off the money spigot if his lemonade stand doesn't start to break even?

Posted by: sglover at May 20, 2007 12:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An erudite fool is a greater fool than an ignorant fool. — Jean Baptiste Moliere

If I quote Moliere to bash Peretz am I more intellectually acceptable than if I called him a silly wanker even while the sentiment is exactly identical?

Posted by: joejoejoe at May 20, 2007 11:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Did Terror and Liberalism really begin any kind of debate? I though it was just silly.

Posted by: David Tomlin at May 21, 2007 01:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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