Martin H. Peretz|
December 6, 1938
New York City
Brandeis University (BA)|
Harvard University (MA, PhD)
|Known for||The New Republic|
|Anne Devereux (Labouisse) Farnsworth Peretz (1967-2009)|
Martin H. "Marty" Peretz (; born December 6, 1938) is an American publisher. Formerly an assistant professor at Harvard University, he purchased The New Republic in 1974 and took editorial control soon afterwards. Peretz is known for his strong support of Israel and support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. He retained majority ownership of The New Republic until 2002, when he sold a two-thirds stake in the magazine to two financiers. Peretz sold the remainder of his ownership rights in 2007 to CanWest Global Communications, though he retained his position as editor-in-chief. In March 2009, Peretz repurchased the magazine with a group of investors led by ex-Lazard executive Laurence Grafstein. In late 2010, Peretz gave up his title of editor-in-chief at The New Republic, becoming instead editor emeritus, and also terminated his blog The Spine.
Peretz graduated from the Bronx High School of Science at age 15. He received his BA degree from Brandeis University in 1959, and MA and PhD from Harvard University in Government, then going on to lecture in social studies.
Peretz was married briefly in his twenties to Linda Heller, the daughter of prominent Citrus growers who lived on Fifth Avenue, and Miami Beach. The pair had met in Boston. The ceremony took place at the Plaza Hotel. They separated shorty thereafter.
From 1967 to 2009, he was married to Anne Devereux (Labouisse) Farnsworth Peretz, daughter of Henry Richardson Labouisse, Jr. and an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine Company fortune. Anne helped him buy The New Republic in 1974. The couple divorced in 2009, his wife citing infidelity and bad temper as problems in the marriage.
He has seven honorary doctorates: "the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Bard College (1982), Coe College (1983), Long Island University (1988), Brandeis University (1989), Hebrew College (1990), Chicago Theological Seminary (1994), and the degree of Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1987)." In 1982, he received the Jerusalem Medal.
Under the leadership of Peretz, The New Republic generally maintained liberal and neoliberal positions on economic and social issues, and assumed correspondingly pro-Israel stances in foreign affairs. Peretz has said "Support for Israel is deep down, an expression of America's best view of itself."Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein have stated that Peretz said "I am in love with the state of Israel." In a December 27, 2012 article, "Martin Peretz: An Appreciation," Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick praised Peretz for his unshakable loyalty to Israel: "As a man of the Left, he has fought the fight for Israel and Jewish rights, increasingly alone for nearly fifty years, and has done so despite what must have been enormous personal costs as his comrades all jumped ship, and in many cases, joined the cause of Israel's enemies."
Media critic Eric Alterman wrote in the American Prospect regarding Peretz's tenure as editor of the New Republic: "[D]uring his reign, Peretz has also done lasting damage to the cause of American liberalism. By turning TNR into a kind of ideological police dog, Peretz enjoyed... [playing] a key role in defining the borders of "responsible" liberal discourse, thereby tarring anyone who disagreed as irresponsible or untrustworthy. But he did so on the basis of a politics simultaneously so narrow and idiosyncratic -- in thrall almost entirely to an Israel-centric neoconservatism."
Peretz has used the editorial page of The New Republic to attack people whom he perceives as enemies of Israel—"sometimes we attack people unfairly" according to his close friend and TNR literary editor Leon Wieseltier. For example, Peretz attacked I. F. Stone after the journalist signed a public appeal for water and medical supplies for siege victims trapped in West Beirut during the 1982 Israeli Siege of Beirut: Peretz editorialized, "So this is what I. F. Stone has come to, asking his admirers to put up money so that the PLO can continue to fight." In an editorial titled "Blacklisted", Peretz claimed during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 that he was "the only writer on the Middle East not invited by PBS or NPR to speak about the Gulf."
Peretz does not support Israeli settlements in the West Bank, describing the settlers as "self-righteous and often brutal."
Peretz has long supported Democrats over Republicans, including being a major behind-the-scenes benefactor of Eugene McCarthy's primary presidential bid in 1968. He supported Senator Barack Obama in both his Democratic primary race and in the 2008 general election. Later, Peretz expressed disappointment with Obama, telling The New York Times Magazine: "I'm not sure I feel betrayed, but it's close... our first African-American president has done less to fight AIDS in Africa than George Bush, he's done nothing on human rights."
A supporter of Israel, Peretz was a key editorial voice--despite at the time having decreasing influence in Washington politics and editorial circles--in opposing the appointment of Charles W. Freeman, Jr. as chief of the National Intelligence Council, Peretz wrote:
But Freeman's real offense (and the president's if he were to appoint him) is that he has questioned the loyalty and patriotism of not only Zionists and other friends of Israel, the great swath of American Jews and their Christian countrymen, who believed that the protection of Zion is at the core of our religious and secular history.
On November 8, 2010, Peretz indicated that he would prefer the Democratic Party nominate someone other than Obama for President in 2012:
Press people are speculating that maybe Barack Obama will be a one-term president. Yet wouldn't it be better that, rather than have a Republican candidate trounce him in the general elections, a Democrat try to unseat him in the party primaries and at the convention. Surely, there are many sensible Democrats who realize that the "yes, we can" dream is, in fact, Obama's own hallucination.
Peretz has described Obama's foreign policy as "a folly and a fraud" and the principles of it as "at best, stupid and, at worst, treacherous."
Over the course of his career, Peretz has drawn criticism from some fellow commentators, particularly Jack Shafer of Slate and Eric Alterman of The Nation for making comments they considered bigoted, particularly towards Arabs and Muslims. He has written (among other things) that "'Arab society' is 'hidebound and backward' [and] [t]hat the Druze are 'congenitally untrustworthy'".
On September 4, 2010, Peretz drew media attention and controversy when he posted an editorial which concluded:
But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.
Peretz issued an apology on September 13. Regarding his statement about Muslims and the First Amendment, Peretz said: "I wrote that, but I do not believe that. I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever." Peretz also said that his comment that "Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims" was "a statement of fact, not of value" and pointed out that Kristof himself agreed that Muslims have not adequately condemned violence perpetrated by Muslims on fellow Muslims.
Kristof responded by criticizing Peretz for falsely claiming that Kristof agreed with him, and also for continuing to generalize that all Muslims had the attitude of Muslim terrorists toward human life:
Making generalizations about racial, ethnic or religious groups is a dangerous game. Many Muslims see Americans dropping bombs in Iraq or Afghanistan and think that Christians don't value human life. Arabs see Israelis invading Gaza and insist that Jews don't value human life. Islam is no more monolithic than Christianity or Judaism, and these kinds of sweeping generalizations have historically led to dehumanizing other groups in ways that lead to discrimination and violence. They're invidious and dangerous whether it's we or Afghans who fall for them.
On September 17, 2010, Peretz issued another apology:
… [I]n this past year I have publicly committed the sin of wild and wounding language, especially hurtful to our Muslim brothers and sisters. I do not console myself that many other Americans at this moment are committing the same transgressions, against others. I allowed emotion to run way ahead of reason, and feelings to trample arguments. For this I am sorry.
On September 20, 2010, five major Harvard student organizations, citing Peretz's long "history of making terribly racist statements" urged Harvard not to go ahead with honors planned for Peretz. The organizations--the Harvard Islamic Society, Latinas Unidas, and the Harvard Black Students Association--asserted that Peretz over the course of more than a decade had not only made racist comments against Muslims, but also regarding African Americans and Mexicans.
Also following the controversy, Harvard University canceled Peretz's scheduled September 25 speech on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Harvard's Social Studies Department where Peretz once taught.
The Atlantic's James Fallows summarized Peretz's reputation, concluding that if his legacy were settled that day, despite being "beloved by many students and respected by some magazine colleagues", in his 70s he would be considered a bigot. Fallows also wrote: "Martin Peretz has been undeniably shamed. And lastingly shamed."
Marc Tracy wrote in the Jewish magazine The Tablet:
[I]f you will--this is not the first time he has written something racist, and it isn't the fifteenth time, either... But the tonnage of these quotations and the consistency of their content demonstrate that Peretz's insensitivity and bigotry toward Muslims and Arabs (er, and black people) yank him out of the realm of people you should be reading on the subject.
Jefferson Morley, a Peretz friend, who worked at The New Republic from 1983 to 1987, told Jack Shafer of Slate, "I could never reconcile this intellectual strength with his racism and unpleasant attempts to play the bully."
In January 2015, The New Republic, after having been purchased by a new owner, Chris Hughes, published a long report regarding the magazine's history of alleged racism. The article, by Jeet Heer, also alleged that during Peretz's tenure as owner of The New Republic, women were rarely if ever given opportunities to write or edit for the magazine:
One may also ask if a staff dominated by privileged white males might not have benefited from greater diversity, and not just along racial lines. 'Marty [Peretz] doesn't take women seriously for positions of responsibility,' staff writer Henry Fairlie told Esquire magazine in 1985. 'He's really most comfortable with a room full of Harvard males." In a 1988 article for Vanity Fair, occasional contributor James Wolcott concurred, noting, "The New Republic has a history of shunting women to the sidelines and today injects itself with fresh blood drawn largely from male interns down from Harvard.' When Robert Wright succeeded Michael Kinsley in 1988, he joked he was hired as part of an 'affirmative action program' since he went to Princeton, not Harvard.'"
During Peretz's tenure as editor of the New Republic, the magazine faced one of journalism's most notorious fabrication scandals. One of the magazine's writers, Stephen Glass, was found to have fabricated portions or all of 27 of 41 stories he wrote for the magazine. Stories were found to have included some accurate reporting interwoven with fabricated quotations, scenes, and incidents. In some instances, stories were made up in their entirety.
The Glass fabrications were "the greatest scandal in the magazine's history and marked a decade of waning influence and mounting financial losses," the New York Times would later report. Explaining why it took so long to catch Glass' fraud, Peretz blamed two of his editors, Michael Kelly and Charles Lane, for not catching the fraud earlier. Lane, Peretz claimed, ignored obvious warning signs of the fabrication, and then attempted to unfairly lay the blame to his predecessor, Kelly. Peretz claimed that Lane's alleged inaction "sullied the good name of the New Republic. Peretz subsequently fired Lane." According to an account in the American Prospect, "Lane got the news [of his firing] from a Washington Post reporter who called to inquire about his future plans."
Marty Peretz bought the magazine in 1974 from Gilbert Harrison with $380,000 garnered from the wealth of his wife, Anne Labouisse Farnsworth, heir to one of the great fortunes created by the Singer Sewing Machine company.
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