The Corner

Ramesh’s Response & Nro’s Problem

I think Ramesh should be commended for penning such a thoughtful response to so many complaints, especially so late in the day.

As close readers of this space have no doubt noticed recently, I tend to get agitated by some of the prevailing criticisms of NRO from folks on the Right — because I often know they are not based in fact: NR’s fictional “support” for gay marriage, its “surrender” on immigration, etc.

One comment I hear often from serious-minded people on the Right is that one source of this (mis)perception is the broad disconnect between NR and NRO. So what, they ask, if print NR has run so many anti-gay marriage pieces? NRO seems to take a different position and so many people read only NRO.

I’ve thought about this a lot for a long time and we should probably have a longer conversation about it later, internally and externally. But let me just make two points on this here.

First of all, from its outset — and I should know because I was there — NRO has never, ever, taken an editorial line different from the magazine. In fact, we really don’t run editorials at all. That was the deal when I was first asked to build the thing. Any comment on this site which isn’t clearly identified as an editorial from the editors is simply the view of the author.

Now of course there are larger editorial reasons why a contrary esssay might appear on our site. And, yes, it’s reasonable to assume there’s some kind of “endorsement” of that view. But that endorsement is not necessarily agreement on the substance. Rather, as Ramesh suggested, its presence on NRO reflects the editors’ belief that the argument made therein is worth hearing, particularly by conservatives. From the begining, we always thought that NRO could afford to be more diverse in its content if for not other reason than there’s an unlimited supply of space and a daily quota to fill. Also, the nature of the web and the nature of our readers are such, that we always felt it was an important message to send that not all conservatives think alike. Since Kathryn has taken over the reigns of the site, I think she has done a superb job at maintaining that mission while improving the quality of the material we run. I know that she personally doesn’t always agree with everything she publishes, including my own columns just as I often disagree with things said here and in the magazine.

Second, I sometimes suspect that one of the reasons so many people “to our right” attack NR/NRO for its alleged weakness stems from the fact they are misled by the atmosphere on NRO. From the get-go, we thought it was important to have fun around here. We make jokes. We discuss pop culture. We write about what interests us. We reveal that we are humans, not the mean-spirited monks conservatives are so often caricatured as. This, too, stems from a number of editorial choices we made from the outset. But I think some decent and sincere people on the Right misunderstand the jocularity around here for a lack of sincerity. That’s simply unfair and inaccurate.

But when you add these — and a few other — factors together, one can see how the perception that we are a bunch of glib, worldly, libertarian go-along/get-along Republicans starts to spread. On the substance, I think this perception is debunked very easily. But I’m not sure what we can do about the perception.