D.C. media is all aflutter (atwitter?) right now with the big news that Frank Foer and Leon Wieseltier are out at the New Republic. Contributing editors and actual paid staff members are threatening mass resignations and the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza has already announced he wants off the masthead. At issue is not just the removal of Foer and Wieseltier—the latter of whom has been at the mag for some 30 years—but also the direction it's headed in. If you want to get a sense of why people affiliated with the pub are upset, just look at this bit of corporate word salad announcing the moves.
On Twitter, I offered a suggestion for someone who could provide a brave new vision for the mag and wondered why Hughes would spend all that poke button money on the New Republic—the so-called in-flight magazine of Air Force One that just celebrated its 100th anniversary—if he's going to aggressively turn it into a giant laughingstock. Sean Davis offered this answer to my query, and it seems about right:
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) December 4, 2014
That's when it struck me: Chris Hughes is basically just Steve Carell's character in Foxcatcher. That movie chronicles the weird, creepy relationship between billionaire John du Pont (Carell) and Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum).
There's a deep sadness in Carell's du Pont, one that reveals itself in a conversation with Mark, who he is paying to train full time at his family's estate. Mark is talking about how he didn't really have anyone growing up, just his older brother. Carell responds by telling him that the only friend he ever had was the son of his chauffeur—a friendship that he later discovered was purchased for him by his mother, a woman whose respect he desperately craves. Carell wants Mark (and his more talented brother, Dave, played by Mark Ruffalo) to be his friend. But, more importantly, he wants someone to respect him, to look on him as a mentor. If he has to buy that respect, well, so be it.
It's a pathetic, cringe-inducing sight, one that leaves you feeling pity for du Pont and embarrassment for those he tries to force to love him. It's not one I expected to think about again so soon.