Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Dissent, the social-democratic Left magazine founded by Irving Howe in the 50s, has recently come under the ownership of UPenn Press after having been independently owned and operated for more than 55 years. Tough times for print media coupled with economic calamity left the magazine with no choice. The editorial staff has not changed at all, indeed they reassure their readers that nothing about the magazine (least of all its politics) will change. I suppose that means I will continue to be unlikely to resubscribe any time soon.

I read Mitchell Cohen's "editor's page" in the newest Dissent yesterday, where he says that although Obama was frequently called a socialist by moronic Republicans, he clearly is not one. Nonetheless, Cohen says, everyone at Dissent wishes he was. I assumed that the implication I was supposed to draw was that they are socialists and would welcome a socialist leader. Fair enough. But then I read later on the issue an article about Latin America in which Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia were described as suffering from the politics of "social resentment" and consequently were failing to adequately "develop". At this point I felt as though I was reading "Reason" magazine or The American Spectator. I put the magazine back on the rack.

There is enough interesting and smart writing in the magazine that usually, I find myself unable not to at least take a look. But I am always amazed by how tepid (well... support for the 67' war and mixed support for the Iraq War aren't exactly tepid, but...) some of the politics are at the same time that the magazine's leadership is always paternalistically anointing itself the 'smart Left', the 'critical Left' or the only game in town Left of the Democrats.

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