Last thoughts on Easterbrook
The New Republic’s editors have just posted their response to the Easterbrook donnybrook. Worth a read. A key paragraph: But, while we understand the outrage that Easterbrook’s comment has caused, we are concerned also about the brutality of some of the criticism. There is another, important side to this story. We have known Easterbrook for ...
The New Republic's editors have just posted their response to the Easterbrook donnybrook. Worth a read. A key paragraph:
The New Republic’s editors have just posted their response to the Easterbrook donnybrook. Worth a read. A key paragraph:
But, while we understand the outrage that Easterbrook’s comment has caused, we are concerned also about the brutality of some of the criticism. There is another, important side to this story. We have known Easterbrook for many years, and we wish to say without doubt or hesitation that he is not an anti-Semite. Indeed, he is a person of high integrity. He has written prolifically and thoughtfully and with great erudition on many subjects, including science, the environment, politics, and religion; and the moral sensibility that appears in his writings is that of tolerance and open-mindedness. The many editors and writers who have worked with him over the decades of his career–at Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Washington Monthly, to name but a few–can all attest not only to his talent, but to his character. A good individual said a bad thing. Sometimes this happens. (Sometimes a bad individual says a good thing.) When it happens, he must credibly express his regret, and his understanding of how he erred. This Easterbrook has done. We have seen too many reputations unjustly ruined by media inquisitions and the vituperative politics of ethnic insult in America. We hope that the firmness with which Easterbrook’s awful remark has been judged will be attended by fairness in the consideration of his character and his career. What he wrote last week is the terrible exception, not the terrible rule.
Mickey Kaus’ post on the subject strikes a similar tone:
I’ve known Gregg Easterbrook since 1979, when he was hired as a fellow editor at The Washington Monthly. He’s not remotely an anti-Semite, as his colleagues from the The New Republic have attested, nor have I ever heard him express a bigoted thought in the 24 years I’ve known him. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and he’s produced some of the best journalism I’ve ever read, and he’s extremely funny (as his ESPN readers know)–yet he also has a slightly clumsy, emotional, well-meaning earnestness about him. That may be part of what got him into trouble. But the easiest thing to to say about the Easterblogg controversy is that this wasn’t a case of the mask slipping to reveal a writer’s previously concealed, ugly thoughts (despite Roger Simon’s reasonable suspicions). Forget that idea.
Finally, The Power Line reprints an e-mail from Easterbrook that is making the rounds of the blogosphere. [UPDATE: Easterbrook says this e-mail is not genuine. See this post for more.]
Some of the disconcerting sections:
Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn’t happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in…. Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book [The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse] — to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I’ve not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I’m up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world. (emphasis added)
As I’ve said before, Easterbrook must bear the costs of exercising his right to free speech. However, if this is true, then Eisner is enggaging in mass overkill. UPDATE: Eugene Volokh gets a response to his letter from ESPN. Go read it for a concrete example of the term “Orwellian.”
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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