One reason that Stephen Glass was able to get away with it for so long was that his fabricated stories generally flattered the preconceptions of a perceived audience. Some of these were appeals to liberal audiences — marauding Young Republican fratboys, the “Church of George Herbert Walker Christ,” etc. The story that finally got him busted — which is remarkably implausible in several respects on its face — presumably took advantage of preconceptions about Scary Teenage Hackers. And then there’s this, which tells us something about what Glass thought his editors would like:
Proceeding from there, the article goes on to contrast the flagging work ethic of African-Americans, with hard-working immigrant taxi-drivers–many of them Muslim. The article ends with a flurry of spectacular reportage, in which the journalist witnesses the robbery of one of his cab-driving subjects by a black man, and then tracks down a folk-hero of the local cab-driving community–Kae Bang “a Korean cabdriver-turned-vigilante who is to the D.C. cab community what Stagger Lee was to the Mississippi Delta.” Bang, an expert martial artist, attracted his flock after he beat down “three brick wielding black teenagers” who’d assaulted him.*
The story was a whirlwind of spectacular “gets” which could only have been executed by a crack reporter on his best day, or an outright liar willing to invoke every odious stereotype from Steppin Fetchit to Bruce Lee to Willie Horton. Martin Peretz put “Taxis and the Meaning Of Work” on the cover of The New Republic, a first for the article’s author, Stephen Glass. Glass’s name comes up whenever the latest instance of gumshoe malfeasance arises. What should not be forgotten is that one of the greatest fraud sprees in modern journalistic history, was aided and abetted by The New Republic‘s belief in shiftless, dangerous blacks and the immigrant avenger Kae Bang.
Washington Post editor Len Downie, Washington Post Company CEO Donald Graham stung by Shalit’s piece, once suggested “Looking for a qualified black since 1914” as a motto for The New Republic. I don’t know the magazine’s employment record in regards to people who are not white, but I do know that the magazine field–political and otherwise–is probably the whitest field in all of journalism. And not simply American white–but privileged, coastal, Ivy League white. (I include my present employer in that assessment.)Peretz is oft-saluted for bringing different perspectives under the same roof. In all my time of reading The New Republic, it’s been clear that very few of those perspectives originate in communities of color.
And when you add the platform he gave to Charles Murray…