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July 07, 2010

The Liberal Media: Celebrating 94 Years of Not Being Liberal

The New Republic was founded in 1914, and while it's hard to believe now, there was a period of time when it was considered an important magazine and a leading voice of liberalism in the U.S. So it's interesting to learn this, from an article the magazine itself just ran:

In 1916, Herbert Croly, the founder and editor of The New Republic, wrote to Willard Straight, the owner of the magazine, about the Supreme Court nomination of Louis Brandeis. Croly enclosed a draft editorial called “The Motive of Class Consciousness,” and also a chart prepared by a lawyer in Brandeis’s office showing the overlapping financial interests, social and business connections, and directorships of fifty-two prominent Bostonians who had signed a petition opposing Brandeis’s nomination. There are five circles on the chart delineating the various hubs of the Brahmin oligarchy: the Somerset Club, banker, State Street, Back Bay resident, and large corporation connections. On one side, the chart connects each of the signers of the petition, led by Harvard President Abbot Lawrence Lowell, to each of the five hubs; on the other side, the signers are connected to each other. “I want you to understand right away that this chart and article will not be published without your consent,” Croly assured Straight.

Neither the chart nor the article ultimately appeared in TNR. Straight had worked for Brandeis’s nemesis J. P. Morgan as the Morgan Bank’s representative in China, and he refused to associate the magazine with “ideological recriminations against his friends and social acquaintances,” according to an explanation accompanying the chart, which is now displayed in the current editor’s office. But although Straight confirmed the power of what Brandeis called “our financial oligarchy” by killing the chart, the magazine continued to strongly supported his nomination.

I'm exactly the kind of weirdo who you'd think would have heard this story. Yet I never had until now, and as far as I can tell, it appears nowhere online except in the article itself. That's some good work by Our Financial Oligarchy.

I wonder why Franklin Foer, the editor of the New Republic, keeps that on the wall? Maybe just to remind himself that all editors have to knuckle under to their owners, so he shouldn't feel too bad about what they publish.

In any case, I look forward to the year 2104, when the New Republic will tell us about what it refused to publish in 2010.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 7, 2010 06:11 AM

Let's not kid ourselves. Foer likely keeps it on the wall because it makes him feel cool and important.

I am also the sort of weirdo who knows that sort of thing, yet I didn't know that story either. Not that it surprises me, and Willard Straight was an awful lot more than someone who "had worked for" Morgan. It's hilarious how they make him sound like a working man.

Compare with TRN's verion these excerpts from Tragedy and Hope at 938-940 by Carroll Quigley, who was a very fine historian even if Bill Clinton does say so.

"The best example of this alliance of Wall Street and left-wing publications was The New Republic, a magazine founded by Willard Straight, using Payne Whitney money, in 1914. Straight . . . married Dorothy Payne Whitney whose names indicate the family alliance of two of America's greatest fortunes. She was the daughter of William C. Whitney, New York utility millionaire and the sister and co-heiress of Oliver Payne, of the Standard Oil "trust." One of her brothers married Gertrude Vanderbilt, while the other, Payne Whitney, married the daughter of Secretary of State John Hay, who enunciated the American policy of the "Open Door" in China. . . .

"The New Republic was founded by Willard and Dorothy Straight, using her money, in 1914, and continued to be supported by her financial contributions until March 23, 1953. The original purpose for establishing the paper was to provide an outlet for the Progressive Left and to guide it guietly in an Anglophile direction. This latter task was entrusted to a young man, only four years out of Harvard, but already a member of the mysterious Round Table group, which has played a major role in directing English foreign policy since its formal establishment in 1909. This new recruit, Walter Lippmann, has been, from 1914 to the present, the authentic spokesman in American journalism for the Establishments on both sides of hte Atlantic in international affairs."

"The first editor of The New Republic, the well-known liberal Herbert Croly, was always aware of the situation.. . . Croly's biography of Straight, published in 1924, makes perfectly clear that Straight was in no sense a liberal or a progressive, but was, indeed, a typical international banker and that The New Republic was simply a medium for advancing certain designs of such international bankers,notably to blunt the isolationism and anti-British sentiments so prevalent among many American progressives, while providing them with a vehicle for expression of their progressive views inliterature, art, music, social reform, and even domestic politics. In 1916, when the editorial board wanted tosupport Wilson for a second term in the Presidency, Willard Straight took two pages of the magazine to express his own support for Hughes."

That one has a little different flavor, doesn't it?

No one is ever likely to meet someone smarter than Brandeis, and the message Brandeis gave to Croly and Straight is pretty clear: Ease up on opposing my Supreme Court nomination or I'll blow the lid on all this elite manipulation of opinion. Brandeis needed to make that threat because he was being opposed by the elite because he really was a threat to them. They were of course anti-Semitic at that time, but they were united against Brandeis because he challenged their economic interests, not because they cared about religion.

For example, Brandeis wrote articles in 1913 which were then released as a book which you can now download online for free. The name of the book is Other People's Money And How the Bankers Use It by Louis D. Brandeis (Frederick A. Stokes Company 1914). I haven't really read much of it, though it's on my list (with Mitchell and Mosler).
But it isn't something the financial interests liked, as it referred to them with words like "usurpation" and "monopoly interests". And of course it's smart, because I doubt Brandeis could write something that wasn't.'s+intitle:money+inauthor:brandeis&num=10

Note that The New Republic was created and used as "a vehicle" to direct progressive thought where Power (aka Money) wanted it to go. Unlike Croly, those who wrote for TNR then didn't need to know that, and most probably didn't know it. So thinking that would have been crazy and paranoid. But that's me, so that's what I meant in saying that those who speak with a public voice inevitably speak for power (when power chooses to use their voice). Just as other people's money can be used, other people's ideas and writings can be used too.

And of course they are.

Posted by: N E at July 7, 2010 10:01 AM

I love little gifts like this. Slightly disappointed after seeing that there was only one comment, I said to myself there was still hope it could be a really long one by N E. :)

Posted by: Lurker at July 8, 2010 07:03 PM

yeah N E, that was some remarkable stuff. i can't believe anyone has actually read all of Tragedy & Hope.

Posted by: druff at July 8, 2010 07:17 PM

Brandeis's book predates and does not discuss the Federal Reserve System.

"...Brandeis, the brilliant lawyer and reformer, advised [President Woodrow] Wilson that the bankers should be excluded entirely from control of the [Federal Reserve] system. 'The conflict between the policies of the Administration and the desires of the financiers and of big business is an irrenconcilable one,' Brandeis warned. 'Concessions to the big-business interests must in the end prove futile.'"

Greider, Secrets of the Temple/i>, page 277

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 8, 2010 07:32 PM

Lurker, glad to share.


I must confess that I haven't read the whole thing either, but Quigley is the man when it comes to cabals and oligarchy, so of course I'm a fan. Not too many academics go there these days. Not that it is hard to understand why. Even Quigley couldn't get his shorter book, The Anglo-American Establishment, published for something like twenty years. And that was before the dreaded "conspiricist" tag became a scarlet letter.

mistah charley ph.d.

Too bad Wilson didn't listen to Brandies, eh? (I guess Brandeis wasn't quite enough of a threat.) And Wilson didn't listen to Du Bois either. Or Debs. And yet the GOP and the military and the center-right of the Democratic Party thought him a contemptible traitor for being so peace-loving and radical-loving and Jew-loving (as in Brandeis) and so on. Wilson was surrounded by vipers, though of course he did let that happen. A full century later and we seem to be in much the same damn place politically, though of course race is not the issue of the 21st century, except possibly for arabs.

Posted by: N E at July 8, 2010 10:01 PM

I have read Tragedy and Hope--TWICE--because it was so damn interesting. I first read it in 1993 because I wanted to find out what Clinton's history teacher at Georgetown had to say. Turns out, he had to say a LOT.

Posted by: techno at July 9, 2010 10:00 AM


I agree with you, and you are the man (even if only figurately).

Posted by: N E at July 9, 2010 11:06 AM

@Jonathan and all:

Speaking of the financial oligarchy, here's a wonderful, extremely clear and vivid animation of a talk by David Harvey on the financial crisis as a symptom of the contradictions of capitalism. Via Felix Salmon (!).

Posted by: Nell at July 9, 2010 12:37 PM

That guys knows his stuff,and he sure can draw too.

Posted by: N E at July 9, 2010 02:08 PM

As to what it means to have the Fed instead of a central bank under political control, here's a link to someone with a really good question quoted below:

"The executive and legislative branches are literally pulling out their hair trying to think of stimulus packages that won’t blow up the deficit. [well, some are, some aren't] And here is Bullard [of the St. Louis Federal Reserve bank] basically saying, “Yeah, we could do “plenty” more to boosting AD without increasing the deficit by one cent, but we don’t want to. How did the world’s greatest power get into a position where there appeared to be an easy way out of 9.5% unemployment, but we weren’t doing it solely because of an independent central bank?"

EVERYONE should be thinking about what Bullard has said and asking that last question.

Posted by: N E at July 9, 2010 06:45 PM