On Thursday afternoon I was fired from my position as literary blogger and book critic for Commentary magazine. The facts are these. At about 4:20 p.m. I posted the piece directly below, entitled “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.” The original post contained two sentences at the end of the first paragraph that I deleted, for obvious reasons, when publishing it here instead:
Whether I was fired for the substance of what I wrote or for violating the magazine’s procedures is unclear even to me, especially since my followup emails have gone unanswered. Since I do not have the right to quote the message in which Mr Podhoretz terminated me—he never called—I can only summarize his objections. If I understand him correctly, he considered my defense of gay marriage to be political, and thus inappropriate for a literary blog, and he could not understand why I did not seek prior approval for it.
Now, I did not conceive of my post as political; it was, to my mind, a literary and philosophical defense of gay marriage, derived from my reading, utterly silent on questions of public policy. Moreover, I had written explicitly political posts in the past, most notably my attack on OccupyWriters.com, without objection—except from the likes of Salman Rushdie, who tweeted his disgust. And in the sixteen months I wrote Commentary’s literary blog, I was never once required or reminded to get prior approval before posting. I was given, and I assumed that I had, complete editorial independence.
All of this was naïve of me—gobsmackingly, blindingly naïve. My wife says that I have “never learned how to play the game.” The argument is the only thing that matters to me—and too often I have pursued it in heedless disregard of any other consideration. What’s more, as an academic for more than twenty years, I have become too comfortable with intellectual autonomy; I clearly and admittedly did not show the proper deference to Mr Podhoretz’s authority. On the other hand, he had approved a post by me the day before—Wednesday, the day after the election—calling upon Republicans to “drop their opposition to gay marriage.” It never dawned on me that a followup to that earlier post, developing one of its premises, would be wrong.
Was I fired for writing in defense of gay marriage? Well, I think it’s equally naïve to think that I would have been sacked if I had used any other political topic as an occasion for literary and philosophical reflections—the topic of illegal immigration, for example. I’m the last one who could say for sure.
Addendum: I remain grateful to John Podhoretz for giving me the opportunity to write Commentary’s literary blog and fiction chronicle, and I wish him and the magazine nothing but the best.
Update: John Podhoretz gives his side of the story here. Over at the New York Daily News blog Page Views, Alexander Nazaryan offers a balanced account of the mess. I consider the matter closed and shall have nothing further to say about it publicly.