High Five

Against all the odds Standpoint has survived and flourished. This month, thanks to our readers, writers and supporters, we celebrate our fifth birthday

Half a decade is a mere instant in the history of Western civilisation, but an eternity for a magazine dedicated to its defence. Against all the odds, having been launched in the summer of 2008 just as the global financial crisis broke out, Standpoint has survived and flourished. This month, thanks to our readers, writers and supporters, we celebrate our fifth birthday. Our circulation, both in print and online, has risen steadily over the years in the teeth not only of recession but of resistance from the British establishment. The BBC in particular has done its best to ignore Standpoint — a predictable reaction, given the symbiotic relationship which the BBC enjoys with the Guardian, but an indefensible one nevertheless. The Germans have a word for it: totschweigen, to “kill with silence”. In private conversation, one soon finds that some of the BBC’s best-known broadcasters are enthusiastic readers of Standpoint. You would never deduce it, though, from the intellectual monoculture of a public corporation that extorts a poll tax from the poorest households in the land, while feting the executives responsible for its present ignominy.

Yet while the BBC’s reputation has never been lower, Standpoint‘s critique of culture and politics has been largely vindicated. Many of the causes we have championed have been taken up by others; we have helped to extend the boundaries of what can be said in public and who is allowed to say it. We have consistently drawn our contributors from both sides of the Atlantic and the Channel, and from right across the political, religious and cultural spectrum, as this month’s issue indicates. Where else would you expect to find Jews and Christians, neocons and feminists, atheists and divines, poets and philosophers, fact and fiction, theory and practice, Gospel and gossip, prophets and profits, all in one magazine? Where else would you find writers who elevate wine and chess into literary subjects, or who save ethics, metaphysics and mathematics from lapsing into word games and jargon? Where else would you find novelists like Howard Jacobson and Lionel Shriver rubbing shoulders with spiritual leaders like Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali? Or Elliott Abrams, who worked closely with Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, alongside Robin Harris, Mrs Thatcher’s adviser and biographer — a microcosm of the Atlantic alliance? Here poets of the calibre of Geoffrey Hill and Robert Conquest, who were already famous more than half a century ago, may be read in the company of rising stars of the literary firmament, such as Francesca Segal, whose first novel The Innocents has just won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. This month we have new poems by Anthony Thwaite, whose first volume of poetry appeared in 1957 and who co-edited Encounter, one of the magazines which inspired Standpoint, from 1973 to 1985. What these and many other equally distinguished contributors share and exemplify are the principles, virtues and values embodied in Western civilisation.

So far, so good. Where next? This month sees the first of a new series of Standpoint Salons, to refresh the palate and the spirit in a conversation about “Conservatism from Burke to Boris”. Our guests will include Jesse Norman MP, whose new book on Burke will be reviewed here next month; Douglas Murray, whose important article on the myth of Islamophobia we publish this month; Andrew Gimson, biographer of Boris Johnson, and his wife Sally, Labour councillor, whose contrasting views of David Cameron we published in April. We plan also to hold more private events for those who wish to become Friends of Standpoint

Jewish and Christian Scriptures agree that man cannot live by bread alone, but he does need his daily bread before he can enjoy more cerebral nourishment. So it is with magazines. Unless our finances are secure, we cannot focus on making Standpoint the best magazine of its kind in the world. Intellectual magazines have rarely, if ever, made money; most lose quite a lot, usually someone else’s. This is not entirely the fault of intellectuals, who are indeed inclined to suppose that the world owes them a living, but also of those magnates who expect their freedoms to be defended without having to pay for it. Nor do those who deal in ordinary shares rather than extraordinary ideas always appreciate that journalistic decisions, like those in business, are rewarded or punished according to the judgment of the editor. Credit and credibility are closely related concepts.

A magazine is often remembered, if at all, only for its editor’s blunders. In 1814 Francis Jeffrey denounced Wordsworth’s The Excursion in the illustrious quarterly he edited for 27 years, the Edinburgh Review, with the words: “This will never do!” Today, the notoriety of Jeffrey’s misjudgment eclipses the memory of his magazine. And in politics, even more than poetry, it is very easy to get it wrong. 

If Standpoint is to survive another five years, it will need new backers as staunch and as disinterested as those who have supported us hitherto. Our charitable status protects us from any temptation to become party political. Like us, philanthropists must respect the law and the rules of the Charity Commission under which we operate. With that proviso, we invite those who share our outlook to join us in the defence of Western civilisation.

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