Andrew Sullivan says goodbye to New York Magazine

July 18, 2020 • 9:30 am

Journalism lost two valuable voices last week: Bari Weiss and Andrew Sullivan. Both will, I’m sure, find new homes, and Andrew has already rebuilt his home—a new version of his old blog The Daily Dish.  Weiss wasn’t fired from the New York Times; she quit. According to her letter of resignation, it was because of the disapprobation and harassment by her colleagues, as well as the paper’s well-known climate of ideological intolerance. While some have accused Weiss of whining about her situation, her description of her “hostile work environment.” occupies but one scant paragraph among eighteen. The rest is devoted to the paper’s intolerance of even a centrist political attitude among op-ed writers. I’m curious to know where Bari will wind up (it won’t be the Washington Post, that’s for sure!)—but perhaps she could find a home in a place like The Atlantic.

What happened to Sullivan is not so clear; read his farewell column in New York Magazine by clicking on the screenshot below.

Sullivan doesn’t say whether he left, was pushed out, or was fired outright (this omission is probably deliberate), but his departure clearly had something to do with the magazine not running one of his columns a few weeks ago. And a few words in his column suggest that maybe he was shown the door:

What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative. They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space. Actually attacking, and even mocking, critical theory’s ideas and methods, as I have done continually in this space, is therefore out of sync with the values of Vox Media. That, to the best of my understanding, is why I’m out of here.

Two years ago, I wrote that we all live on campus now. That is an understatement. In academia, a tiny fraction of professors and administrators have not yet bent the knee to the woke program [JAC: I’m one!] — and those few left are being purged. The latest study of Harvard University faculty, for example, finds that only 1.46 percent call themselves conservative. But that’s probably higher than the proportion of journalists who call themselves conservative at the New York Times or CNN or New York Magazine. And maybe it’s worth pointing out that “conservative” in my case means that I have passionately opposed Donald J. Trump and pioneered marriage equality, that I support legalized drugs, criminal-justice reform, more redistribution of wealth, aggressive action against climate change, police reform, a realist foreign policy, and laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. I was one of the first journalists in established media to come out. I was a major and early supporter of Barack Obama. I intend to vote for Biden in November.

It seems to me that if this conservatism is so foul that many of my peers are embarrassed to be working at the same magazine, then I have no idea what version of conservatism could ever be tolerated.

I’ve long called out all three major publications with “New York” in the title”—the New York Times, the New Yorker, and New York Magazine—for their fulminating and irritating wokeness. Clearly Sullivan is a victim of this, as was Bari Weiss. Their brand of politics, refusing to truckle to “progressive” Leftism or to toe the Line of Wokeness, is not welcomed. And all these publications will be the poorer for losing these writers. Truth be told, how many of us want to read the same, predictable take on issues over and over again? Yes, many American do, but many Americans don’t want to exercise their neurons.

Sullivan, I’m sure, had already formulated his exist strategy at least a few weeks ago when his column was censored, and he makes it clear in this last piece: he’s reviving his blog The Dish, which will be subscription-only but will be free for a few weeks. I never read The Dish before (now to be called The Weekly Dish), but I’ve signed up for the free sample, and, if I like what I read, I’ll pay to subscribe. Here’s what excited Sullivan about returning to his own site:

I miss a readership that truly was eclectic — left, liberal, centrist, right, reactionary — and that loved to be challenged by me and by each other. I miss just the sheer fun that used to be a part of being a hack before all these dreadfully earnest, humor-free puritans took over the press: jokes, window views, silly videos, contests, puns, rickrolls, and so on. The most popular feature we ever ran was completely apolitical — The View From Your Window contest. It was as simple and humanizing as the current web is so fraught and dehumanizing. And in this era of COVID-19 isolation and despair, the need for a humane, tolerant, yet provocative and interesting, community is more urgent than ever.

And here’s what he envisions:

The initial basic formula — which, as with all things Dish, will no doubt evolve — is the following: this three-part column, with perhaps a couple of added short posts or features (I probably won’t be able to resist); a serious dissent section, where I can air real disagreement with my column, and engage with it constructively and civilly; a podcast, which I’ve long wanted to do, but never found a way to fit in; and yes, reader window views again, and the return of The View From Your Window contest. I’m able to do all this because Chris Bodenner, the guru of the Dish in-box and master of the Window View contest, is coming back to join me. He’ll select the dissents, as he long did, in ways that will put me on the spot.

Before leaving, and telling us how to subscribe, Sullivan gets in a final swipe at the illiberal liberal media:

If the mainstream media will not host a diversity of opinion, or puts the “moral clarity” of some self-appointed saints before the goal of objectivity in reporting, if it treats writers as mere avatars for their race and gender or gender identity, rather than as unique individuals whose identity is largely irrelevant, then the nonmainstream needs to pick up the slack. What I hope to do at the Weekly Dish is to champion those younger writers who are increasingly shut out of the Establishment, to promote their blogs, articles, and podcasts, to link to them, and encourage them. I want to show them that they have a future in the American discourse. Instead of merely diagnosing the problem of illiberalism, I want to try to be part of the solution.

You can get on the mailing list, and see the first couple of issues for free, by going to the site below (click on screenshot first, and then click on “none” if you just want a sample, or on the other alternatives if you’re ready to pay):

I didn’t realize that this site was so lucrative in its earlier incarnation, pulling in about a million bucks a year before expenses (there were several salaries to pay), with 30,000 subscribers. Crikey, that’s a lot of dosh! But if readers are willing to pay for what you write, then I can’t begrudge him the money.

Good luck, Andrew! New York Magazine‘s loss is your gain—and ours.


h/t: Simon

57 thoughts on “Andrew Sullivan says goodbye to New York Magazine

  1. I’m (very) excited about the return of The Dish, and have subscribed blind.

    It was what I always thought the internet would be – the most interesting opinion and argument on everything there was, from every side. That and Slatestarcodex were my favourite sites I’ve found in my 20 years online.

    Sullivan and/or staff also clearly read WEIT, and commented on it quite frequently.

    For context, Tyler Cowen thinks Sullivan is the most successful intellectual of the last 20 years (he did a lot to push gay marriage, and cannabis legalisation), and he mentioned that he thought Obama read the blog too…

    1. Re Bari Weiss:
      “The rest is devoted to the paper’s intolerance of even a centrist political attitude among op-ed writers.”
      David Brooks??
      Bret Stevens???

    2. Sorry, above was meant for general, not here

      “..Sullivan is the most successful intellectual..”
      I like Sullivan and agree with most from him, but did Cowen say the above without the dilution ‘public’ as penultimate word?
      Either way:
      Steven Pinker?

        1. That’s more interesting from the idea of ‘how I want the world to be’, and raises ctrl-left points of ideas vs power. What counts as most successful?

          Hawking did change the world, and he was certainly famous. But was learning that black holes actually radiate energy equivalent to gay marriage and legalising cannabis?

          1. Depends on to whom: the longterm fate of the visible universe is to me more interesting than the legal contortions of a banana republic full of evangelical supporters of a mass murderer, a country where I don’t live and am glad of that fact.

      1. I like the definition of intelligence that says “the world is A, I want it to be B, let’s change it”.

        By that definition, Sullivan is more successful than Pinker, regardless of who I agree the most with.

        1. And Hitler is perhaps the epitome of your notion of intelligence; and Marx of course.

          But definitely not Newton nor Einstein.

          Did you invent that definition of intelligence?

          1. Yes, they pretty much are. So? Must intelligence be a good thing?

            And why not Newton or Einstein? Do you think they wanted to eliminate the jews too, but failed?

            I read that definition of intelligence in Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence. He’s a lot of people’s choice for cleverest person alive. It’s pretty widely used in the world of AI alignment.

            Got anything else rude to say?

            1. Perfect example of that wonderful new attitude:

              ‘Disagreement with my utterance’ = ‘rudeness to me’.

              This now often goes further to ‘hatefulness to me’. But I’ll trust you are not the re-inventor in US of the definition of ‘hate’, along with your efforts concerning the word ‘intelligence’.

  2. Well I am glad he is landing on his feet. But I do hope he can get a column going somewhere so that a range of people can be involuntarily exposed to his thoughts. The Ctrl-Left especially needs to regularly poked with a stick.

    1. I agree, but what’s one person meant to do? First step, pay the mortgage. Then, start competing.

  3. If people were willing to pay for good, objective journalistic news we might still have good newspapers around the country. But sadly, that is not the case.

  4. Just FYI, I clicked “none”, thinking it meant “free”, on The Weekly Dish sign-up page to subscribe and the result made me wonder if it had actually subscribed me. However, I shortly got a “Thanks for subscribing” email so I guess it worked ok.

  5. Though Sullivan left because he thinks New York Magazine no longer wants him, the periodical still publishes Jonathan Chait, a center-left pundit who also writes frequently and critically on the excesses of the left. Chait was early in warning about what was going on in college campuses—he published a major article on this in 2015 and was pilloried by many leftists. So far New York Magazine has been less guilty of woke excess than the other “new York” publications, but I would be really worried if Chait left.

  6. ” . . . some have accused Weiss of whining about her situation . . . .”

    How fragrantly and flagrantly hypocritical of her accusers.

    1. Well, that resignation letter of hers was a whiny rant of someone who likes to dish it out but can’t take it when she is criticized. And was she ever stopped from writing anything? (Spoiler…no.} It’s not like the Times doesn’t have plenty of right-wing opinion writers, Ross Douthat, Bret Stevens, David Brooks, are a few that are in just about every day. But Weiss knows she doesn’t have to worry about walking away from one of the more prestigious jobs in journalism, the right-wing media welfare state will take good care of her.

        1. I said nothing personal about anyone here, I was commenting on the Weiss subject. An opinion, nothing more.

              1. The application of your comment beyond Bari Weiss is not something that takes a genius to recognize. If she is a right-wing opinion writer, those of us who think she makes pretty accurate observations clearly belong in the same boat. Which pretty much dilutes the value of that classification.

                I’ll say no more out of respect for da roolz.

              2. “If she is a right-wing opinion writer, those of us who think she makes pretty accurate observations clearly belong in the same boat.”

                A generalization that does not follow. Your original comment about what I “must think” is random speculation.

      1. How do you know if Weiss was prevented from writing anything? I’m guessing decisions made by NYT editorial department wouldn’t be made public by them or Weiss.

          1. “Why wouldn’t Weiss?”

            Professionalism. Surely discussions of articles and editorial policy are private to the newspaper. They can decide to take them public, of course, but it would not be professional of Weiss to reveal what they had accepted and rejected. It might even violate an NDA she signed.

      2. I don’t think Weiss qualifies for “the right-wing media welfare state” — the way a Dinesh D’Souza or a dinged Republican cabinet or judicial nominee would.

        And I don’t think there’s a media welfare state for disaffected centrists, though I’m reasonably sure Weiss will land on her feet.

  7. While I was sitting up bleary eyed last night (my son is apparently never going to sleep more than a three hour stretch, like ever,) and clicking around looking for something to watch, I happened upon a recent interview with Joseph Goldstein (the meditation teacher.) At the end of the interview, someone asked something to the effect of “How am I supposed to be mindful around people who p*ss me off and generally suck?” I mean, phrased in mindful-speak about ‘reactivity’ and ‘lost in suffering’ and so on, but that was the gist. And his response, while not anything philosophically new or novel (must timeless wisdom isn’t,) really struck a chord with me nonetheless, as perhaps a strategy that has fallen by the wayside in recent times, forgotten and in need of rediscovering. He said:

    …can we be with people… from our own place of greater peace and ease? Because often, that is the message that’s most effectively communicated, when people see and experience how we are, rather than what we say… and that sometimes can be, over time, sometimes, an opening for them – “Oh, you know, there may be another way…”

    The irony is that I suspect Goldstein and I would actually apply this in mirror image (although perhaps I’m underestimating his equanimity – but I’ve found that meditators are first and foremost people, and he seems pretty typically liberal-bordering-on-but-not-quite-far-Left to me). But this is advice that is actually better if all ‘sides’ adopt it, unlike the downward spiral of ever escalating fighting. Let everyone aspire to be the good example who will prove doubters wrong once they really get to know them and see what they’re all about – liberals, conservatives, moderates, atheists, Christians, Buddhists, etc., etc. – everyone! Let everyone aspire to say “You know, even if the other person was hostile in this moment, I honestly believe I comported myself in such a way that maybe – just maybe – it opened a bit of a door in their mind.” (The trick, of course, is doing that without kidding yourself, which is easy to do – but if you can honestly say that, it can be powerful over time.)

    Anyways, I think Sullivan does a good job of taking the high ground and doing this here. He doesn’t smear his current colleagues or publication, he doesn’t bemoan his treatment, he doesn’t point fingers. Instead, he does his best to present a compassionate alternative, and maybe crack the door to a few minds along the way. Well done.

    1. ‘Let everyone aspire to say “You know, even if the other person was hostile in this moment, I honestly believe I comported myself in such a way that maybe – just maybe – it opened a bit of a door in their mind.” (The trick, of course, is doing that without kidding yourself, which is easy to do – but if you can honestly say that, it can be powerful over time.)’

      I appreciate your viewpoint, and generally subscribe to it. But, vis-a-vis “without kidding yourself,” how many seas must the white dove sail? Some obstreperous human primates cannot take a hint and, among those who can perceive a hint, all too easily opt not to take it. Not a few humans have relatives with whom, were it their druthers, they would never associate if they didn’t have to, for the sake of “keeping the peace.”

      1. I’m not totally sure I understand your comment correctly, but I think you are envisioning an “in your face, look how virtuous I am” situation, which yeah, is obnoxious. I am picturing more “living by example”. So if, for example, a person can’t stand their relative, but sees that their relative is generally kind, happy, living a good life, benefits the lives of others, etc., etc., it may give them pause as they think “Well hey, what exactly is it that I see as so ‘bad’ about this person? Maybe they have different political views, but has it caused their world to go to heck in a hand basket, or is it actually working out pretty well for them, socially, emotionally, morally, etc.?”.

        If you stand back, however, and say “Nope, I totally see the problem here. I can see how they are unkind / greedy / hurt others / etc. Not worry that it will happen, but actually see solid evidence of it happening”, then that is of course not living by example.

        1. … just occurred to me, you might have meant “One can only set a good example for so long before it gets really really old.” I agree, and sometimes am disheartened when I think of extreme examples of this, such as the Dalai Lama talking about how Buddhists monks being tortured have tried to be a model of compassion for years and years and yet nothing has really changed. This gets into a long philosophical question about whether the odds are ultimately stacked for goodness to prevail. I believe they are, but that is a metaphysical, ‘spiritual’ belief on my part, so I’m not sure what the secular answer would be, from the perspective of someone practicing mindfulness. From a secular perspective, I guess I try to remember that all of us are an inspiration to some people and super annoying to others, so try to do unto others and all that.

  8. What is alarming to me about this, beyond the treatment of Bari and Andrew, is the future of journalism. Those two will be just fine. But younger journalists are entering the business at a time when even reporting on other points of view could cost them their careers. So they won’t. Twenty years from now, the uniformity of message and of interpretation of stories and events will have a terrible impact on society. Where do we turn for information if everything is propaganda? How does the average person vet alternative media to separate the Andrew Sullivans from the Alex Joneses? There used to be an integrity associated with papers like the NYT. Now the waters are muddy.

    1. I read an article about how COVID was going to affect local news outlets surviving and without such news outlets, public figures are not held accountable so I can see the death of the fifth estate having the effect that really harms democracy.

    2. Perhaps the young journalists are all on board with the Woke agenda. Any that aren’t would have bailed already or simply not hired. After all, they really seek purity. In their minds, if a journalist isn’t 100% aligned with their agenda, they are racist and they don’t hire racists.

  9. Oy ! Professor CC. YOU should be making that kind of money.
    I’d buy.
    Every morning for 3-ish years at 3am I fire up WEIT: Coffee, smoke, dog, WEIT.

    (then, after an hour, now I go to new thefarside and mainichi).

    I don’t know what my editors at and make (they have clickbait) but sometimes – as possibly their best writer – I think I should be paid myself.

    But I didn’t get into this biz for that. I have a past on Wall St and law. I started writing for the same reason you probably started WEIT – for the kicks, to spread the word, for my own ego. To inform and entertain and it is very enjoyable even though I don’t run a whole show like you, I just have a weekly column (for I am a lazy man).

    Actually it was also when Trump descended the golden escalator and I thought; “I’m a writer and this is going to take up a lot of my time.”

  10. I just subscribed. I agree with Andrew the vast majority of the time. But, mainly, I like his commitment to open debate and answering his critics openly.

    Like Sam Harris, I find him a very clear thinker and and excellent writer/communicator.

    1. I like Sam too. Just listening to his latest podcast and it reveals his main weakness. Before letting the guest talk, he goes on for 6 or 7 minutes about some of his views and issue, which are about attacks on him from the regressive left. Good, but not very polite to his guest. Still, he’s always worth a listen.

      1. Yeah I think that isn’t a regular thing. He was explaining to his guest who seemed totally oblivious to the controversy.

          1. He got really stung when he talked to Murray and this guest said how much he enjoyed the interview so he was completely unaware that it was a hot topic and that what they talk about in this interview would also be a controversial subject.

            I have listened to just half of it and it’s quite a good one too.

            1. Yes. The Murray chat was good. Sam’s still one of my favorites. After all, he’s one of the 4 horse-persons (Ayaan Hirsi Ali was also supposed to come).

              1. I always think of centaurs when I hear horsemen. So then I think of the four centaurs of the apocalypse and it can be either really funny or really terrifying depending on how you imagine it. And it’s extra funny thinking of the four centaurs being Sam, Richard, Hitch, and Dan.

            2. “He [Harris] got really stung when he talked to Murray and this guest said how much he enjoyed the interview so he was completely unaware that it was a hot topic . . . .”

              Possibly Murray’s enjoyment is partially attributable to Harris’s general civility (as compared to Murray’s – and his physically-injured host’s – Middlebury College experience).

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