Politics & Policy

Without You, We’d Be Kaput

As Bill Buckley used to say, “We exist to make a point, not a profit.”

Can you stand one more pitch, from one more National Review guy? (And when I say “guy,” I certainly don’t mean to exclude National Review gals. But why do I even mention this? Our readers are blessedly untouchy about such things.) I know we’ve been webathonning for days. You must have pitch fatigue. But I’ll be brief(ish).

Since the very beginning, National Review has had to do some fast dancing to stay in business. We’ve had to scrounge for money. We have depended on the kindness of strangers — not strangers, actually: our readers, friends, comrades, well-wishers. Over these 55 years, we have had a few big contributors — but very few. Mainly, we have relied on the modest contributions of shallow-pocketed but generous readers.

Bill Buckley used to say — I know you’ve heard this — “We exist to make a point, not a profit.” All too true.

Not so long ago, the website came along: National Review Online. That was a fabulous addition, a National Review daily. Someone once called NR “a blue-bordered oasis in a sea of desolation.” NRO may not have a blue border. But I find it an oasis, and sometimes a carnival: a carnival to which I want tickets.

NRO is free to readers; but it’s not really free. Someone has to pay for it. Rather, many someones have to pay for it. And if they don’t . . . Kaputsville.

I have no trouble making a pitch for the website, because I am a reader and fan of it, much more than I am a writer for it. I write a tiny fraction of what’s on the website. (“It should be tinier!” some of you may say.) For the most part, I read it.

I read the articles, the blogs — just about everything. I love the stuff that’s unique to NRO: the David Pryce-Jones blog, a Bob Costa report, Kevin Williamson’s warnings of economic doom, the back-and-forth in the Corner, etc., etc. And I love what NRO aggregates — for instance, the columns of Thomas Sowell, Mona Charen, and Charles Krauthammer. NRO feeds you the best stuff, or a lot of it.

In my opinion, the site is interesting, informative, diverse (in a right-of-center way), sparky — even consoling. NRO makes a good companion, many readers say, and I say it too. If it went kaput, I would miss it sorely.

“Well,” you are entitled to ask, “if you think NRO’s so hot, why don’t you pay for it?” I do. And I should pay more.

Here’s a little secret (though not much of a secret): I not only enjoy reading NRO, I enjoy writing for it, too. There’s a great freedom in it. I can say things on this site that I can’t quite say elsewhere. I’m reminded of this when I write for other publications and find myself getting punch-pully. Not many punches need to be pulled on NRO.

I wish that websites such as ours paid for themselves. But they simply do not. What sites do make money, by the way? Porn sites? I’ve said that I watch Chris Christie videos the way others watch X-rated ones. When the governor of New Jersey stands up to yet another teacher’s-union bully, I practically get the shakes. But we, alas, are a mere political site — and, as we sing, we have to set down a hat every once in a while, for those who like us to toss coins into.

NR and NRO mean a lot to people. I know this, because they write and tell me so. They often say something like this: “I learn so much from you guys, and you make me feel less alone. Liberals sometimes have no idea that another side exists. You feed me with arguments and words and insights. You give flesh to what I feel or suspect. You give me courage and heart. Thanks so much.”

These letters are immensely gratifying, as you can imagine, and I know exactly what these readers mean: because I felt the same way about NR, when I discovered it. To a degree, I still do, about both the magazine and the website. National Review had a huge impact on me: a huge impact on my political thinking and maturation. It, and the website, still do.

I will wind up, because I said I would be “brief(ish),” and I am in danger of going past “ish,” if I haven’t already. I am writing you from NR’s post-election cruise in the Caribbean. (We’re stopping by Cozumel, Mexico, too — does that count as the Caribbean? I will have to consult a globe.) This is another thing we do to raise money: stage these cruises, with glittering speakers, and a wonderful crowd of passenger-readers. We raise money as we raise consciousnesses, ha ha ha. Won’t you come along on one of these jaunts, if you have yet to try one?

They are stimulating, relaxing, surprising, enlightening — and a lot of fun. Like NRO, I think. Thanks for listening to this pitch, and I’ll see you later.

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