Last modified on January 28, 2020, at 20:23

Nation (magazine)

The Nation is a weekly magazine of opinion and reviews, first published in 1865. It was founded by E. L. Godkin, the editor from 1865 to 1899. It has gone through several distinct changes. It was founded by abolitionists and in the 1865-1875 period supported Republican programs of Reconstruction in the South. In the Godkin years it was Libertarian, and supported conservative Bourbon Democrats such as Grover Cleveland. At that time The Nation was the most sophisticated intellectual magazine in the U.S., and published many serious articles in politics.

It faded in importance after 1900 but was strongly revived under Oswald Garrison Villard, who assumed the editorship in 1918. Since then it has represented the left in American politics.

The current Editor and Publisher is Katrina vanden Heuvel, succeeding the now "Publisher Emeritus" Victor Navasky.

The Nation publishes 48 weeks a year, printing letters to the editor (including responses by article writers), editorial positions, columns by regular commentators, book reviews, and the Nation cryptic crossword, which has been set by cryptographer Frank W. Lewis since just after the Second World War.

The Nation, owing to it currently represent the left in American politics, also advocated for books that pushed a far-left interpretation of American history. An infamous example was Howard Zinn's anti-American textbook A People's Guide to American History, with the magazine and its subscribers being the only ones who were even aware of the book's existence, let alone purchasing it, until the 1997 film Good Will Hunting gave it public exposure via a hat tip by the titular character.[1]


The Nation has had writers identified as Soviet spies in the Venona project.

Victor Navasky, editor and publisher of The Nation, has criticised the Venona analysis, claiming the material is being used to "distort our understanding of the cold war". He has also referred to the files as potential "time bombs of misinformation."[2]

The Nation infamously supported Pol Pot, Vladimir Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, and Josef Stalin:

Denying Cambodian genocide

"…The evidence is that in Cambodia the much-heralded blood bath that was supposed to follow the fall of Phnom Penh has not taken place. As for Vietnam, reports from Saigon indicate exemplary behavior, considering the situation. ‘There has been no evidence of a blood bath…as [was] so freely predicted abroad,’ writes George Esper of the A.P." – The Nation, "Blood-bath Talk", June 14, 1975[3]

"If, indeed, postwar Cambodia is, as he believes, similar to Nazi Germany, then his comment is perhaps just, though we may add that he has produced no evidence to support this judgement. But if postwar Cambodia is more similar to France after liberation, where many thousands of people were massacred within a few months under far less rigorous conditions than those left by the American war, then perhaps a rather different judgement is in order. That the latter conclusion may be more nearly correct is suggested by the analyses mentioned earlier." - Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, "Distortions at Fourth Hand," The Nation, June 6, 1977[4]

Denying Soviet genocide

"In a 1946 article…Walter Duranty explained to The Nation’s progressive readers that ‘purge’ meant ‘to cleanse’ in Russian, and that a house cleaning was all Stalin intended. In Duranty's memorable words, Stalin had launched ‘a general cleaning out of the cobwebs and mess which accumulate in any house when its occupants are so deeply preoccupied with something else that they have no time to keep it in order.’... At the height of this house cleaning, Stalin was killing 20,000 Russian citizens a month. But according to The Nation (in 1946 as today) the main danger facing humanity was the incipient fascism of the West.”[5]

"Stalin did not plan or seek to accomplish genocide. Professor Charles Tilly of The New School in New York counts total deaths in the Revolution, including the Teror, famine and war, at no more than 100,000." - The Nation, March 6, 1989[6]

"To me Lenin is the hero of a legend, a man who had torn the burning heart out of his breast in order to light up for mankind the path which shall lead it out of the shameful chaos of the present, out of the rotting bog of stupid current politics....His hero-character has almost no outward adornment. His heroism is of a type not rare in Russia--the modest, ascetic martyrdom of an honorable, intellectual revolutionary who honestly believes in the possibility of justice on earth; the heroism of a man who has renounced all the pleasures of life to do hard work for the happiness of mankind." - The Nation's Obiturary for Lenin[7]

Further denials

The Nation has also advertised for Holocaust denial,[8] expressed skepticism that Saddam Hussein killed even 300,000 people,[9] published writings by Fidel Castro[10] and expressed admiration for Hugo Chávez.[11] It has been accused of genocide denial and anti-semitism.[12]

The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) wrote in its Report on the Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States,

The Nation and the New Republic have long records as liberal publications. They cannot be described as Communist, but they are so infiltrated with the Communist Party policy that they serve the interests of the Communists and confuse liberals on many issues, much more so than some of the Communist publications.[13]

Obscenity and perversion

In 1989 The Nation published a lighthearted and positive portrayal of child sex slavery in Haiti. The author "was friendly with a charming and cultivated American priest who educated lads for export. The image of Father Martin in his robes--with his company of smiling acolytes, in uniform white cotton shorts, serving in the garden--stayed in my mind." The author reports that one pedophile "was beaming at the fun that was preceding the orgy ... maybe foreplay wasn't so bad when it just happened naturally." However, the author felt "embarrassed" and claims that he himself did not partake in any pederasty.[14]

Further reading

See also