Not yet half over, the year 2016 already bids fair to mark a turning point in the history of the West. Does the end of the Chinese boom portend a global bust? As the Muslim world exports yet more of its seemingly insoluble problems to its neighbours, will Europe’s inability to solve the migration crisis destroy what is left of its political stability? Can America survive its game of Russian roulette with the presidency? We do not know what will happen next but we sense the ground shifting beneath our feet.
For eight years, Standpoint has tried to offer terra firma from which to observe our unfolding planetary drama. Throughout these years we have offered a defence of Western civilisation against its enemies within as well as without. Only a few months ago, the IS assault on the ancient city of Palmyra briefly caught the media’s imagination. But when Russian aircraft carpet-bombed Palmyra last month, the world had moved on. Unlike much of the media, whose attention span is vanishingly short, we have tried to maintain a steady focus on the issues that matter.
Standpoint offers cultural and political criticism that, for breadth and depth, is unique in Britain and which stands comparison with the best periodicals in America.
When we launched, few gave much for our chances of survival. Many advised us to publish online only; others mocked our mission. The UK print magazine market is indeed a Darwinian struggle for survival: last year some 400 were launched, but few are ever heard of again. Standpoint, however, has flourished. Our circulation, both print and online, has risen year by year without resorting to giveaways. On the newsstand, we regularly outsell all our competitors except the 200-year-old Spectator. Our subscribers, too, have increased spectacularly. The graph above tells the story of the last four years: whereas Prospect, the New Statesman and the Spectator have made little progress, despite lavish promotions, our subscription sales have risen by more than 60 per cent.
There is, evidently, a large and growing market for a magazine that ensures that the defence of the West does not go by default. Our public discourse unconsciously echoes the French physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace, who replied to Napoleon’s query as to why he had not mentioned God in his book: “Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis.” Standpoint argues that we do need to talk about God, whether or not we believe in Him, just as we need to resist lazy moral and cultural relativism. A distinguished contributor, the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks — whom we congratulate for his well-deserved Templeton Prize — has described Standpoint as “a moral voice at a time when one is most needed”. But when we began, it seemed impossible to make moral and religious issues that were self-censored even in private into commonplaces of the public square.
In a recent issue, Douglas Murray — a Standpoint columnist ab initio, now longlisted for the Orwell Prize — pointed out how ten years ago “nobody, but nobody, wanted to say anything about Islam other than that it was an obviously and demonstrably peaceful religion”. In 2008, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, saw the adoption of sharia into British law as “inevitable”. Last month his successor, Justin Welby, felt able to dismiss as “outrageous” the notion that to feel anxiety about mass immigration is racist. Maybe the Archbishop will next admit that Islam is not a religion of peace — not yet, at least. As Murray writes this month, some of those who were on opposing sides of this debate a few years ago — such as Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali — now find themselves allies against the fanatics. Over the past decade, Standpoint has done much to open up debate. The leading American writer Cynthia Ozick calls it “the Great Dissenter among contemporary cultural journals”.
In order to be true to itself, however, a highbrow magazine requires revenues. Despite its fast-growing print circulation, Standpoint does not yet break even. The economics of magazine publishing mean that this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Because we are published by an educational charity, however, readers have the opportunity to help keep us in being by making donations, large or small. Without such donations, we could not have survived for eight years; with them, we hope to survive for many more. We are deeply grateful to all our donors. Your generosity makes all the difference to our ability to make a difference.