The Weekly Standard a casualty of Trump Derangement Syndrome
What was once an outstanding source of great conservative writing is no more. The Weekly Standard officially folded yesterday, making it the first actual fatality attributable to Trump Derangement Syndrome. That cause of death seems indisputable to me, even though John Podhoretz, who was involved in the creation of TWS and now publishes Commentary, vehemently disagrees, charging that TWS was "murdered":
There is no real reason we are witnessing the magazine's demise other than deep pettiness and a personal desire for bureaucratic revenge on the part of a penny-ante Machiavellian who works for its parent company.
There would at least be a larger meaning to the Standard's end if it were being killed because it was hostile to Donald Trump. But I do not believe that is the case. Rather, I believe the fissures in the conservative movement and the Republican party that have opened up since Trump's rise provided the company man with a convenient argument to make to the corporation's owner, Philip Anschutz, that the company could perhaps harvest the Standard's subscriber-base riches and then be done with it.
That this is an entirely hostile act is proved by the fact that he and Anschutz have refused to sell the Standard because they want to claim its circulation for another property of theirs. This is without precedent in my experience in publishing, and I've been a family observer of and active participant in the magazine business for half a century.
Though I am not familiar with its books, my understanding is that from the beginning, TWS was on financial life support, requiring million-dollar-plus subsidies to stay alive, first from News Corporation and subsequently from Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who also publishes the Examiner and other media properties. Conservatives may fiercely debate whether or not removing life support from a human in a coma is murder, but the Constitution offers no guarantee of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to publications, only to humans. So removing the financial life support cannot be considered murder, much though those involved with publications consider them living organisms.
Daniel McCarthy, who founded The American Conservative, sagely comments on why money-losing magazines about politics sometimes enjoy life support from billionaires:
The Weekly Standard's value lay in the fact that it was an insider magazine. It was a top-down product – there was never an independent mass audience clamoring for a second National Review or for a specifically neoconservative publication. (Commentary, as a monthly, already served that market as far as demand could justify.) What was important was that the magazine be read not by a mass market but by Republican officials and their staff and various other influential persons, primarily in Washington, D.C. If officialdom read the Weekly Standard, then it was worth continuing to spend millions on it. ...
The person most identified with the brand is Kristol, by far. He stepped down as editor at the end of 2016, but his public persona still defines the magazine: his bitter, flippant, or sarcastic tweets about Trump and Trump supporters are the Weekly Standard's brand in the public's eye. Few people look at the masthead of a magazine closely enough to realize when a prominent editor such as Kristol has been replaced by a less prominent once [sic] such as Steve Hayes – and because Kristol remains on the masthead as editor-at-large, ordinary readers have even more cause for confusion. ('Editor-at-large' sounds a lot like 'editor' to most people, but in fact usually means 'ex-editor.')
Fairly or not, Bill Kristol is the brand.
With Trump administration officials ignoring TWS, and Dems not interested in a conservative publication that is most closely identified with enthusiastic support for the Iraq War and occupation, what real benefit would any prospective owner of TWS be getting?
From the standpoint of a wealthy subsidizer of conservative journalism, the subscriber database of TWS is far more valuable as a way of launching a new, not anti-Trump weekly magazine. That would help the new magazine reach the target audience that is worth spending money to reach.
Selling the magazine or its subscriber database to others, would actually frustrate that initiative, as there would be competition for those subscribers and less reach for the new magazine.
When I founded American Thinker, I resolved to not be dependent on a wealthy patron for our survival. The dangers involved in that sort of relationship are now apparent with the death of TWS. For better or worse, we depend on advertising revenue and the kind donations of individual readers.