A very helpful reader informs me that the National Review ran a gloating piece on TAC's internal turmoil about a month ago. The piece is by one Betsy Woodruff of something called the National Review Institute where she has the great good fortune to be a William F. Buckley Fellow. Her take is that Ron Unz is on the outs with the board and no longer has the run of the place. This is roughly what I understood from sources within the mag.
I once mistakenly attributed the leftward drift of TAC to Unz, but was corrected by people closer to the scene. So having jettisoned all the founders; Taki, Buchanan, et al, the board led by McCarthy is running the mag into the ground in a mad attempt to attract readers from a demographic that can only be viewed under a microscope. That is, Conservatives who hate Neocons while embracing Neocon contempt for traditional values.
Here is my take on the points raised in the article.
Unz reports that Rod Dreher's column brings in half the readership but Dreher is not paid accordingly. Unz says that while Dreher is underpaid, while others are either overpaid or not paid enough. Sadly we are not given any names. I have been told that TAC spent a sizable sum bringing Dreher on board. I can believe that he has a large audience, given his previous perches as the religio-handwring guru on other sites. He is the original "Crunchy Con." All I can say is that judging by his commenters, his following is composed of people who really, really loath any sort of conservative perspective. What he brings to TAC is reader hits without a corresponding readership. Dreher's audience also seems to influence other content choices. If Rod Dreher draws hits, why not a complete liberal like the awful Noah Millman? And so Millman appeared. Millman contributes material that could easily appear in the Village Voice. Dreher's prominence on the site illustrates a central flaw. If the biggest hitter on your team is such because he draws people who come do boo, you're in trouble. He could be a good novelty act on a real conservative site, but his presence as the main draw means, it not a conservative site at all.
Unz also cites obviously provocative episodes like the spate of pro-gay marriage pieces. Who can deny that those pieces were a pointless and unnecessary affront to TAC's remaining conservative readers?
I've noticed that from the beginning, TAC posted work from people from varying roosts on the ideological continuum, just as long as they were against American wars of choice in the Middle East. Many of these were insightful. But some were just flimsy, poorly researched propaganda pieces such as those by Kelly Vlahos. The editors should have more faith in the correctness of the non-interventionist case than to bolster that case with stuff more fitting on Russian Television (RT). This willingness to front material which is plainly anti-American, such as Chase Madar's recent book review of "Kill Everything that Moves," is an example. Madar's main qualification as an author for TAC is that he doesn't like our Middle East adventures and he is a New York Civil Rights Lawyer and member of the National Lawyers Guild. Of course the National Lawyers Guild stands against all American feats of arms since we broke up with comrade Stalin. Philip Giraldi's work is excellent and a stark contrast to Vlaho's.
Daniel Larison's tortured, Slavophile analysis is erudite but given his endless pro-Russian perspective, is rather suspect in my view. Both he and Dreher are converts to Easter Christian Orthodoxy and wear their new faith on their sleeves. This may not be so significant in Dreher's case as he changes religions frequently. Larison also doesn't seem to understand that the sort of reasoning useful in defending one's thesis doesn't translate well in the semi-rational world of politics and foreign relations. It should perhaps, but it doesn't.
Woodruff reports that "In 2010 a few people persuaded Unz to turn the magazine into a non-profit." Once again no names. I'd like to know if any are now on the board. One name that is on the Board is that of Ronald E. Burr. I believe that this is the same Burr who rode the American Spectator into the ground in the 1990's. I gather he jumped ship before the the final collapse, but he was there during the mismanagement that led to the Spectator bankruptcy. If my reading is correct, his firm handles TAC's advertising. I am not a Lawyer but a board member in that role seems odd to me.
I like Pinkerton's positive note posts and wish there were more of them. I still view TAC and value some of the content. As mentioned, Giraldi's insights are very good. The various visiting firemen posting conservative essays are really appreciated. If nothing else , it's a place to catch up on Pat Buchanan's column.
It seems that TAC's run is coming to an end, at least as a print magazine. Internal affairs in political journals are always contentious. Unfortunately, with a board of opportunistic
weenies, the traditional fix of a deep pockets savior may be out of the question. I hope that such a person does emerge to fund some actual conservative journal.
We still need one.