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The In-House Critics: Keeping TNR Honest

One of the pleasures of TNR is disagreement, the regular encountering of arguments that one instinctually dislikes. These essays might not always convert, and may occasionally provoke the hurling of the magazine at the wall, but at their best, they prod you to sharpen your thesis and wield more persuasive evidence. Of course, disagreement already exists in spades on our website. But as an experiment, we’ve decided to formalize it. We’ve asked Jim Manzi (several clicks to our right) and Michael Kazin (several to our left) to regularly disagree with us—to write short pieces that call us out when they see us making dubious intellectual leaps, and to serve as collegial irritants to our assumptions. They will dispute us in their columns, as they see fit. (And when TNR writers see fit, as Leon Wieseltier does here, they will respond.)

Manzi and Kazin were my first picks for in-house adversaries. They have ideological commitments, but they write to persuade those with different ones entirely. Even if they don’t share our politics, they share our sensibility about argument. And they are both wicked smart. Jim runs an applied artificial intelligence software company (as if I understand what that means). He is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at National Review, a libertarian who wrestles with morality and social science. Mike is, of course, the co-editor of Dissent and a great historian of American politics. His Populist Persuasion is a favorite of mine.

As you will see, they have somewhat different approaches to the enterprise. Will those approaches evolve? I have no idea. But I do know that it is an honor to be the subject of their criticism.