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If Murdoch Sells ‘Standard’

Will it lose its balanced Israel stance?

Michael Weiss
June 10, 2009

Rupert Murdoch is near a deal to sell The Weekly Standard to Philip Anschutz, a conservative evangelical Christian, according to the Los Angeles Times. With a net worth estimated at $8 billion, Anschutz has devoted a chunk of his fortune to building sports arenas and dabbling in political ones. He founded the Discovery Institute, which under the pseudo-scientific banner of “intelligent design,” tries to poke holes in the theory of evolution. In 1992, Anschutz funded Colorado’s Amendment 2, which would have quashed state and local legislation outlawing bigotry against gays. He’s also a film mogul whose Bristol Bay Productions brought us 2004’s Ray , which whitewashed Ray Charles’s family-unfriendly history of womanizing and drug abuse.

So he’s a bona fide conservative, sure, and would seem at first blush to make a good owner for the magazine. Except on this point: while the Standard is a partisan neoconservative journal, it has been remarkably nuanced on the Arab-Israeli conflict. (Disclosure: I’ve written for it, though on other topics.) People like to snarl about “neocons,” but there’s been precious little to find in the Standard pertaining to Palestinian statehood that couldn’t be described as politically and morally sophisticated. Peter Berkowitz is usually the byline on the subject, and his writing is worth revisiting. Most impressively, the Standard ran a lengthy cover story a few months ago by Gershom Gorenberg—the Israel correspondent for the liberal American Prospect; how’s that for ideological convergence?—lamenting that no great civil rights leader had emerged in Gaza or the West Bank in 40 years of occupation. Evangelicals are a famously hardline pro-Israel group, usually for messianic reasons. Under Anschutz, could the Standard forfeit credibility on the one foreign-policy issue it has never received enough credit for?