Professor D.G. Myers has been writing for Commentary magazine for many years, and for the past 18 months he has been under contract for their literary blog. Last week, he was told to stop writing for a while. Editor John Podhoretz emailed him after seeing a post on Commentary’s literary blog which Podhoretz did not consider literary. It was policial.
Podhoretz expalins, “I told David that he could write at will on his blog without editorial supervision, as long as he stayed within the confines of the literary. … [With the post, “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage”] David had decided unilaterally to convert Literary Commentary into a sociopolitical blog without a moment’s consultation. This I considered an uncollegial and insubordinate act,and I’m afraid it was not the first of these.”
Myers says, “I did not conceive of my post as political; it was, to my mind, a literary and philosophical defense of gay marriage, derived from my reading, utterly silent on questions of public policy.” And he praises Podhoretz for being a great editor.
Many Internet voices have reacted to this news, accusing the Commentary editor of being the very old white guy they say Republicans need to shove out of the lifeboat. Podhoretz reminds them that he and other editors had approved a post Myers wrote for their main political blog in support of gay marriage, so the subject of Myers’ post on the literary blog was not the issue. Myers still thinks it is:
All of this was naïve of me—gobsmackingly, blindingly naïve. My wife says that I have “never learned how to play the game.” The argument is the only thing that matters to me—and too often I have pursued it in heedless disregard of any other consideration. What’s more, as an academic for more than twenty years, I have become too comfortable with intellectual autonomy; I clearly and admittedly did not show the proper deference to Mr Podhoretz’s authority. On the other hand, he had approved a post by me the day before—Wednesday, the day after the election—calling upon Republicans to “drop their opposition to gay marriage.” It never dawned on me that a followup to that earlier post, developing one of its premises, would be wrong.
Was I fired for writing in defense of gay marriage? Well, I think it’s equally naïve to think that I would have been sacked if I had used any other political topic as an occasion for literary and philosophical reflections—the topic of illegal immigration, for example. I’m the last one who could say for sure.
I find it troubling that they didn’t speak on the phone about this. It’s also disturbing that Myers went public with the whole thing after several of his emails were not immediately answered. What was the rush? Still more disturbing, though only tangental to this event, is the subject of the posts in question. For one thing, when is a philosophical post about a political issue not a political post? Does it become political only after the writer says, “Support Proposition #1,” and not until then?
But the larger issue is redefining marriage. Myers asks, “If marriage is everything we conservatives say it is, why should we want to deny its moral benefits to gays?” What moral benefits can be applied to an immoral relationship? That’s nonsense (I don’t mean to be disrespectful.) What framework do we have for declaring anything moral? Public opinion?