“Spewing racism in public since 1974,” reads the bio for a new Twitter account based on New Republic editor Marty Peretz. The account is carefully marked “parody,” doubtlessly in an attempt not to be deleted, and started about three hours ago with this inaugural message: “My twitter was born today, but my racism was born decades ago.” In the hours since, the Peretz parody has picked up a few followers, most notably MJ Rosenberg of Media Matters, and taken a first-person whirlwind tour through Peretz’s fraught history with people of color, especially Muslims. The thing is, so far it’s almost all verifiable quotes (some sourced!), which makes it more aggregation than parody. Could this latest push against Peretz be one that finally sticks?
Peretz’s latest anti-Muslim soundbite was broadcast wider than his usual bile by New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who in a piece last weekend picked two contentious quotes from a blog post. They’re classic Peretz: “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims,” and “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.”
Peretz apologized, but not really, writing that one of the quotes, about the First Amendment, “genuinely embarrasses me, and I deeply regret it.” The other, though, is fact, he said. Enter the parody Twitter: “Btw when I say Muslim life is cheap, I meant that as a fact, not an opinion. But I only said it b/c my emotions got ahead of me.” That is basically what he said, but in Web slang.
The first to follow the Peretz parody, and latest to be followed, was Mondoweiss, a foreign policy blog with a focus on Israel/Palestine. If the Peretz parody isn’t being run by them, maybe they’re at least acquainted. We’re looking into it. (UPDATE: Adam Horowitz of Mondoweiss responded via email saying, “Nope not us,” and indicating that he does not know who it is. If you do, let us know!)
In another tweet, the fake Peretz writes, “I atone for the racist things I said re Muslims last week. There was no need to add to the other racist things I’ve been saying since 1974.” This echoes the sentiments of Slate’s Jack Shafer, who wrote on Monday, “Don’t let Marty Peretz off the hook. He’s hated Arabs for 20+ years, as my piece from ’91 shows.”
As the quotes show, insensitivity is not new to Peretz. What is new is the sustained outrage — now going into its second week — which indicates maybe this time there will be consequences. They may be short of resignation (even Shafer sort of praises Peretz as a boss and editor), but there is pressure on Harvard to cancel their upcoming honoring of Peretz. And as inconsequential as a barely followed Twitter parody account seems, when rallying against hate speech, it’s nice to think every little bit counts.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 18, 2010