As we were going to press with this issue, we received the sad news that two important cultural figures and friends of the editors had died.
The first was Midge Decter, who died May 9 at ninety-four. Midge was a powerful voice in the cultural battles of our time. Together with Norman Podhoretz, her second husband and intellectual comrade-in-arms, Midge emerged from the miasma of New Deal liberalism to become one of the most forceful critics of the rancid countercultural sensibility of the 1960s. Through her writings in Commentary and elsewhere, she helped shape a tough and clear-eyed response to the inanities of that long, long decade that sought to make a virtue out of self-indulgence and systematic moral irresponsibility. Like others in the Commentary circle, she was an unapologetic American patriot and staunch ally of the burgeoning Reagan–Thatcher revolution of the early 1980s. In 1981, she helped to found the Committee for the Free World, a think tank dedicated to exposing the political enormities of Communist regimes like the Soviet Union and the squalid kleptocracies in Cuba, Nicaragua, and elsewhere in Latin America. Midge was also the author of several important books. But for those of us who were privileged to know her, she was above all a sort of spiritual godmother, warm and encouraging to the young, unsparing to the pompous and wrongheaded, gifted with a laser-like ability to distinguish between what was genuine and what was fraudulent. We celebrate her many contributions to our culture and send our condolences to her family.
Last month also brought the news that the prolific columnist John Leo had died, aged eighty-six. Well known through his columns at Time, U.S. News & World Report, and elsewhere, John was one of the earliest, and one of the most insightful, critics of political correctness and kindred assaults on intellectual maturity in academia. By the same token, John was also a vigorous champion of free speech, the most reliable bane of and antidote to political correctness. After quitting his duties as a syndicated columnist, he continued his work on behalf of intellectual openness as a fellow of the Manhattan Institute, where he oversaw Minding the Campus, an important source of critical commentary on the university. John was a good friend to The New Criterion from its earliest years, and we will miss him and his witty, intelligent, and humane reflections on our culture.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 40 Number 10, on page 2
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