Martin Peretz, The New Republic's owner and editor, has apologized for speculating that Muslims might not deserve First Amendment "privileges." He has also clarified his statement that "Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims." The offending lines appeared in a post that caused great consternation last week (Wire coverage here).
Responding to criticism from Nicholas Kristof in his Sunday New York Times column, Peretz says that he does not, in fact, believe "that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment," and apologizes for so writing. The statement about Muslim life, on the other hand, he says is "a statement of fact, not value." In his view, Muslims do not sufficiently condemn fellow Muslims who kill each other, and Peretz cites a section of Kristof's column that suggests "he concurs."
But the apology and acknowledgment of the criticism, despite being, as Politico's Ben Smith quips, "an event hitherto unknown to the Internet," has not bought Peretz much sympathy. On the contrary, many pundits have criticized the apology. Some have also taken the occasion to argue that in such moments, when a pundit goes too far, it's a duty for fellow writers to speak up.
Applaud the Apology, Disagree on Details "It's easy when we say dumb things to dig ourselves deeper," writes Nicholas Kristof, who says he "welcome[s] and respect[s]" Peretz's apology. But he thinks Peretz misread him on the matter of the cheapness of Muslim life: "But I’ve also seen Muslim aid workers risking their lives--in Darfur, for example, or in Gaza, or in Iraq, or in Pakistan, or in Afghanistan, or in Indonesia--in a way that we could all emulate." Says Kristof:
Islam is no more monolithic than Christianity or Judaism, and these kinds of sweeping generalizations have historically led to dehumanizing other groups in ways that lead to discrimination and violence. They’re invidious and dangerous whether it’s we or Afghans who fall for them.
- Why It's Important to Call This What It Is The Atlantic's James Fallows finds the apology "unusual." In his response to Kristof's column came out, he regrets not having pressed "publish" on a condemnation he had already written. He had thought that, since "other people were pointing out the bigotry," his post was needless. Changing his mind, he decides that speaking out against Peretz is, in fact, a duty:
Martin Peretz's stated complaint about mainstream Muslims is that they don't step up to condemn egregious acts by people who could be considered "their own." Let's apply that logic here. Around the world, Martin Peretz would be seen as one of "our own," for people in the press and at his magazine. He is an American, and a prominent member of the media. So by his standards, we should raise our voices to say about one of "our own," this is wrong.
- 'Don't Let Marty Peretz off the Hook,' warns Slate's Jack Shafer on Twitter, linking to his own piece on Peretz back in 1991, which chronicled Peretz's history of "whomping Arabs" in print.
- This Apology Doesn't Even Make Sense Many are also latching on to Peretz's statement regarding Muslims and the First Amendment: "I wrote that, but I do not believe that." James Fallows responds: "???" While Media Matters Senior Fellow Eric Boehlert wonders on Twitter: "what % of his OWN writings does Peretz not believe? 10%? 15%? 20%? Is there a working number?"