A Note on Magazines in the Age of Twitter

by Charles C. W. Cooke

One of the questions I get asked most frequently on Twitter and by e-mail is, “Why did you publish this piece, when you also published that piece?” Sometimes this inquiry takes a polite and earnest form: e.g. “What is NR’s position on X?” More often, though, it comes via those generally witless “life comes at you fast!” memes that you see across social media. In both cases, the underlying charge is a simple one: hypocrisy — or, at least, inconsistency. “National Review supports the death penalty, but also opposes the death penalty. Life comes at you fast!” “National Review favors the drone war but also finds it abhorrent! Life comes at you fast!” “National Review defends the NSA’s metadata collection program, but also opposes it strongly! Life comes at you fast!” Etc. Given how regularly I am asked about this, I thought I’d address it publicly.

Ultimately, this question is built upon a misunderstanding of what a magazine — and, indeed, what National Review — is supposed to be. By design, NR has a large stable of writers, all of whom are conservatives, but not all of whom agree on everything. In consequence, we host some pretty robust debates between individual authors. Lately, we have published Rich Lowry v. Kyle Smith on Confederate monuments; Ramesh Ponnuru v. Kevin Williamson on the child tax credit; David French v. myself on Kim Davis; and Michael Brendan Dougherty v. Casey Michel on the wisdom of arming Ukraine. As the Trump presidency has progressed, we have invited a similarly broad array of reactions from our editors, contributors, and everyone else besides.

This is not — and should not be — a party-line shop. I disagree with Reihan on taxes, with David French on a range of military matters, with Jonah on the death penalty, with Gerald Walpin on the NSA, with Arthur Herman on the meaning of Confederate statuary (and more), with Kyle Smith on Guardians of the Galaxy and Sgt. Pepper, and so on and so forth. And that’s fine. That’s how it should be. Unless a piece is signed “The Editors,” it’s the view of a given writer and nobody else, and there’s nothing peculiar about its being next to a contradictory or opposing argument on the homepage. Life comes at you in a variety of different flavors.

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