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Dear Reader, One of the most melancholy facts about the career of civilization is that its victories are always provisional. Freedoms won yesterday are newly besieged today. Consider the fate of free speech. How much blood and treasure were expended over how many centuries to carve out that freedom from the adamantine forces of conformity and absolutism? When the Framers of the U.S. Constitution enshrined freedom of speech in the First Amendment, one might have been tempted to believe that here at last freedom had won a permanent victory. But a look around our culture today shows that free speech is everywhere under threat. Free speech, it turns out, is like other freedoms: its victory is never permanent. The right of free speech, like other civilizational achievements, must constantly be renewed to survive.
This fact was one of Edmund Burke’s central insights, but it is one that is regularly forgotten—until reality intrudes upon our reverie to remind us. Every generation finds that it must work anew to win or at least to maintain the freedoms bequeathed to it by earlier generations. What was argued for and won yesterday is today once again up for grabs. You already made the argument. But it always turns out that you must make it again.
In recent months we have been reminded of both the importance and the fragility of this central freedom of expression more frequently than we’d like. The unspeakable violence witnessed in Paris this past January was only the most graphic of countless examples. Time and again we hear the shrill voices of the media elite rushing to the defense of Islamic fundamentalism or justifying the intellectual rot that pervades even the most celebrated of our universities, while any opinion that dares to challenge the “progressive mainstream” is silenced—by force, if necessary.
As we said in our March “Notes & Comments,” “We have often observed in this space the irony that what began as a demand for absolute freedom of speech in the 1960s has mutated—or perhaps we should say ‘matured’—into a totalitarian demand for conformity. The resulting disability affects our language, our perception of the world, our ability to delineate the truth that is before our eyes.”
The culture of political correctness is as strong as ever, and it makes the perspective and candor of The New Criterion indispensable. In a world tending toward intellectual conformity, The New Criterion stands as a beacon of forthrightness and intelligent dissent. The challenge of defending core freedoms is one that we eagerly undertake, but we cannot do so without the help of our loyal readers. For a small nonprofit magazine like ours, a contribution of any amount makes a difference.
Since its founding in 1982, The New Criterion has striven to defend the rich heritage of our culture and expose those who would seek to destroy it. Thanks to the generous support of readers like you, we are still here after so many years, carrying the standard of free thought and powerful, candid speech. We hope that we can continue to rely on your support as we move forward.
This season has featured a number of superb articles by our ever-growing circle of talented writers and critics. Our December issue featured an essay by Bruce Cole, the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, on the disaster of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission on which he serves. That fight, we suspect, is not over, and we are proud to be in the vanguard. Peter Pennoyer’s “Piano plays Harvard” in our March issue is a brilliant critique of the newly conglomerated Harvard Art Museums, now housed in a new building perpetrated by “starchitect” Renzo Piano (stay tuned for James Panero’s thoughts on Piano’s new Whitney Museum, which opened on May 1). We were thrilled to introduce to our pages Alexander Suebsaeng, who penned a poetic essay on “Homer in the Tropics,” and our April poetry issue was led by William Logan’s illuminating exploration of Ezra Pound’s masterful poem “In a Station of the Metro.” It is your support that allows us to continue publishing such outstanding works, month after month, year after year.
Our Friends events this season have given us exciting opportunities to connect with our staunchest supporters. We led off the season with a cocktail party co-hosted with our colleagues at Encounter Books, and the pace of activity since then has been thrilling. We celebrated in friendly company on election night, explored the Bushwick art scene on Beat Nite, and hosted National Review’s executive editor Reihan Salam at our Young Friends Advisory Board dinner. Our book party for Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon filled the library of the Knickerbocker Club to capacity. And in April we celebrated the work of Charles Murray at our third Edmund Burke Award gala, which was a roaring success. Charles joins the company of Henry Kissinger and Donald Kagan, our previous Burke Award honorees. We look forward to continuing this award in years to come, celebrating writers and thinkers who have labored tirelessly in defense of our liberties.
These are just a sample of the sorts of events we offer to the Friends of The New Criterion; our circle of stalwarts has swelled to over two hundred since we began the program over a decade ago, and I hope you will consider joining their ranks with a donation of $2,000 or more.
In the fall, we welcomed Rebecca Hecht into our office as an Assistant Editor, and she has been a vital force in the monthly production of the magazine. The Hilton Kramer Fellowship is now in its third year, and has helped to introduce bright, young writers and editors to our pages. Christine Emba has energized The New Criterion’s social media presence and is a regular guest on the radio program “In the Arena.” We are delighted to announce that in just a few weeks we will be joined by our third Hilton Kramer Fellow, Benjamin Riley, a former president of The Dartmouth Review. The fellowship ensures that young critics can make their perspectives heard—and like all of our efforts, it is supported by your contributions.
Way back in our inaugural issue of 1982, we spoke of judging our nation’s cultural life by “a criterion of truth.” That remains our constant mission, and as the growing fear of free speech in the media and the academy shows, it is as vital as it has ever been. We will continue to do our part in reversing the tide; I hope that you will choose to lend us a helping hand.
P.S. Contributions of any size help us keep the doors open, the lights on, and the presses running. We hope to raise $343,000 by June 30, the end of our fiscal year. I hope you will find your spot on the following table:
4 people to give $25,000 ....................................... $100,000
The New Criterion is published by The Foundation for Cultural Review, 900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003, a nonprofit public foundation as described in Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, which solicits and accepts contributions from a wide range of sources, including public and private foundations, corporations, and the general public. Contributions to The New Criterion are tax deductible according to the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. All gifts in excess of $75 will be acknowledged with a written disclosure statement describing the “quid pro quo” deductibility under section 6115 of the Internal Revenue Code.