Friday, June 15, 2018


22 years, really?

• I see Commentary has put out a number baldly entitled, in 50s-social paintbrush typositor, "African Americans vs. American Jews," and it features an essay by Jamie (now "James" -- today he is a man!) Kirchick, as well as one by an actual black guy, Jason D. Hill, who has previously written for The Federalist "Loveless, Narcissistic Sex Addicts: A Gay Man Critiques His Community," so we can imagine what kind of a love letter his other community will be getting here. I'm getting too old for this shit so I doubt I'll read -- I know, maybe it's miraculously stupendous; nonetheless, at a certain point one has to play the odds -- but I am titillated by the reference in Hill's title to "My Negro Problem -- and Ours," written by Commentary's former editor, Norman Podhoretz, who is the father of Commentary's current editor. "Negro Problem" is awful (go find Marvin Mudrick's evisceration, not alas online, though Jeet Heer reproduces some of it here), but I prefer to recall N. Podhoretz's 2013 revisitation, "'My Negro Problem -- and Ours' at 50," in which he tells us how he came to write the thing, in conversation with James Baldwin. He was yelling at Baldwin for giving a story to The New Yorker rather than to Commentary notwithstanding, N. Podhoretz suggests, Commentary had commissioned it. Over a drink N. Podhoretz "let him have it with both barrels even after the minimal contrition he now showed" -- the first (I assume unintended by the author) sign that Baldwin was not only playing it cool with the hotheaded N. Podhoretz but genuinely could not give a shit, and had met with him just to see how much he would embarrass himself. This N. Podhoretz did in spades, per his own account, ranting about "my childhood encounters with black thugs of my own age" and how the solution to racial problems in America was not, as the Black Muslims had it, separation but "the opposite extreme: the wholesale merger of the two races through miscegenation." Then:
As I talked, Baldwin’s normally bulging eyes bulged and blazed even more fiercely than usual. “You ought,” he whispered as though participating in a conspiracy, “to write all that down.” It was important, more important than I realized, for such things to be said; and they had to be said in public. Thus it was that Baldwin repaid me for giving him the idea and the incentive for The Fire Next Time with the idea and the encouragement for “My Negro Problem—and Ours.”
N. Podhoretz seems never to have realized what a cruel practical joke Baldwin was playing on him, getting him to publish his ravings and ensuring that his reputation would be forever yoked to them. And, given that even in that 2013 essay N. Podhoretz was still frothing about the "almost complete abdication of black responsibility and the commensurately total dependence on government engendered by so obsessive and exclusive a fixation on white racism," it seems he never will.

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