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Friday, January 06, 2006

Martin Peretz, Real-Time Curmudgeon

When the New Republic launched the Plank back in October, it was billed as a group blog written by Michael Crowley, Franklin Foer, Jason Zengerle, and "TNR's staff." I hadn't picked up a copy of the New Republic since the days of Stephen Glass (weren't those stories great?) and most of the magazine's copy is behind a paywall, so I figured I'd check in on the Plank occasionally to reacquaint myself with the magazine. It has been exactly as you'd expect: Earnest, sincere, sober, and various other synonyms for earnest. If you really struggle as you read, you can actually see in your mind's eye a pair of spectacles being pushed back up at the completion of each paragraph. All the bombast and wit of a poli sci seminar.

So what was this wild wind blowing through the Plank yesterday? "And, instead of what one might think would have been from the 'other side,' at least in elementary fairness, NPR presented the misanthropic left-wing Israeli novelist David Grossman sputtering the bile that only a very few still feel for Sharon in Israel." As I read the post--an unreconstructed, angry rant about NPR's (you know, National Palestinian Radio) coverage of Sharon's stroke bearing all the subtlety of a Free Republic dispatch--I had a sense that the unhinged correspondent on the other side of the screen couldn't be a blog regular. And lo, the sign-off at the end revealed that it was none other than Martin Peretz, the doctrinaire owner of the New Republic and Grandpa Simpson of the blogosphere.

That was the first I'd noticed of Peretz popping up on the Plank, and since then he's contributed two more communiques that point to a T. Herman Zweibel in the offing. Here's Peretz in an apparently unprovoked and utterly baffling attack on Jack Shafer for a percieved slight incurred two decades ago--it's marred only by Peretz's failure to note that, back then, a gentlemen wore an onion on his belt, as was the fashion at the time:
Every time I see Jack Shafer's name, as I did on The Plank this morning, I recall him writing a nasty squib about me in the Washington City Paper some 20-odd years ago apropos my obsession with the Syrians thinking that Lebanon and other independent states (including Turkey and Israel) were actually parts of Greater Syria. Squib, squat. Now, Shafer knows just about squat of the Middle East, let alone the Syrians' view of their historic destiny. But recent events--like the Syrian assassination of Rafik Hariri after the nearly three decades occupation of poor Lebanon--also stirred my memory of Shafer's haughty ignorance. Did you, dear reader, know for example that Syria never had an ambassador in Lebanon? What does that mean about Syria's ambitions and designs?
Ha! Take that, Shafer, you vile squibster, you!