In praise of Marty Peretz. No, that's not a misprint! Do not adjust your browser!

Media criticism.
Sept. 14 2010 5:53 PM

In Praise of Marty Peretz

No, that's not a misprint! Do not adjust your browser!

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The current furor will have no effect on Peretz, whose pride, wealth, and self-image as the big boss has made him deaf to his detractors. He thinks of himself as little Israel. If you attack him, he thinks you're attacking Israel. And we all know what happens to those who attack Israel.

No matter what crazy things Marty Peretz might say, write, assign—or kill—he's been the one constant at the New Republicfor the past 36 years, and any assessment of his crazy behavior must include that fact. Say what you will about him, he has remained committed to ideas and intellectual life. Whether we end up remembering him for his deep investments in journalism or his kited checks like the one he passed earlier this month, is still up to him.

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PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer worked Peretz into his 1993 Washington novel Blue Hearts as "Jonathan Perry." Lehrer writes:

[Perry] was a lightweight sociology professor of no special talent or accomplishment who owned and edited the magazine The New World because his wife was a shoe company heiress who bought it for him. He was a joke in all circles except those that believed money was important. Perry was an occasional dinner guest at the Hollowells' solely because his magazine published a long think piece by Bill Hollowell once a month. ...

Perry, what Bruce [Conn Clark] would call a predictable fool's fool, had made himself even more foolish by writing a recent column accusing the producers of talk shows, particularly on public television and radio, of blacklisting him for his strong pro-Israel views. It was an embarrassing incoherence that only the owner of a publication could have brought to public print.

Other Peretz sightings in Washington novels? (Addendum, Sept. 15: How could I forget The Fabulist by Stephen Glass?!) Please send to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. I think of my Twitter as a minimalist Washington novel. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slate runs a "Press Box" correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the word Peretz in the subject head of an e-mail message, and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

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Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.

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