Ten years ago this weekend, I wrote:
Ten years ago this weekend, the little world of Forbes magazine was in turmoil. In the middle of going to press—which, with typical eccentricity, was a four-workday process beginning Thursday and ending Tuesday—the editor and creator of the modern publication,James W. Michaels, then 73 and well into the fourth decade of his brilliant tenure, had abruptly vanished.
The impact of this was all the more extraordinary because of the peculiar political structure of Forbes. Essentially, it was ante-bellum Southern plantation. There was an absentee owner, first Malcolm Forbes and then his son Steve. We never saw them on the editorial floor but periodically heard that they were cavorting in the fleshpots of Charleston (or, in the case of Steve, the flapdoodle pots of Washington). There was the plantation manager, Jim Michaels. And then there were slaves. Some were gangmasters (“Assistant Managing Editors”, in Forbes-speak) and some were field hands. But all without exception were subject to Michaels' merciless lash, hanging, branding, evisceration etc. at any moment.
I don't think Michaels had been absent for a magazine closing in living memory. He would regularly arrive back from vacation in the middle of the process to scrap the cover, kill stories, tear apart the layout and generally crush the egos and otherwise entertain the editors who had been left nominally in charge.
His presence was definitely missed.
I was a house slave at Forbes. I had cunningly confined my role to producing a certain type of attention-getting feature story—for example, an exposé of Ralph Nader, written with my beautiful and brilliant co-author Leslie Spencer. But now I had precipitated a crisis by inadvertently pouring hot tea on my owner's ambitions.
For more than a year, I had been preparing for a cover story on The Bell Curve—the epochal book on the role of IQ in society. This was no easy task, because the publisher had embargoed the galleys and was intensely security-conscious. Months earlier, Charles Murray and his co-author, Harvard psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein had met with Michaels and myself in New York.
This was to be a great coup for Forbes. The magazine was immensely profitable—then— but its readership seemed to be 750,000 retired dentists. It never registered on the public policy radar screen. It simply had no place in the elite media food chain. The only reason our Nader story had got any reaction at all was that Nader had foolishly used his contacts to vent his rage and pain in Howard Kurtz'sWashington Post media column.
Our cover story would have reached subscribers simultaneously with Jason DeParle's hatchet job cover story in the New York Times magazine—the first stone in what no-one realized would be an unprecedented avalanche of publicity.
But Steve Forbes, breaking the family's long-established concordat with Michaels, had intervened to kill our story.
Read the rest here.
Twenty years later, Michaels is dead and Steve Forbes, as far as I can make out, has been reduced by the financial collapse of the business media to a mere figurehead for new owners. But I suspect as a board member of the Heritage Foundation he had a role in the more recent disgraceful betrayal of Jason Richwine, allegedly "discovered" to have applied the Bell Curve's IQ analysis to immigration in his Harvard PhD. thesis.
American public debate has progressed no further—hence the Ferguson farce. In that respect, my Forbes experience was a harbinger.
For VDARE.com's continuing coverage of The Bell Curve, see here. For my interview with Bell Curve co-author Richard Herrnstein, I believe the only MSM recognition this great man received because of his untimely death, see here.