A long, long time ago, when I was only 44, I spent a week in New York hawking around a dummy for a new daily newspaper to take on the New York Times. It's a good thing you are only young once.
I had the support of one or two hopeless romantics, perhaps none more hopelessly romantic than my friend Andrei Navrozov, a Russian who had recently arrived in London as a "cultural refugee" from the United States, where his family had fled in 1972 as political refugees.
Andrei, who now lives in Palermo as a "gastronomic refugee," had a fastidious dislike of the NYT, inherited, like much of his baggage, from his father Lev. Those of you who were as crazy as I was 20 years ago will have fond memories of Lev, who wrote a column for the now defunct Moonie paper the New York City Tribune. His message was that the West was being undermined by the congenital stupidity of her liberal elites (i.e., the New York Times) and in consequence was losing the arms race and would inevitably lose the Cold War.
Maybe Lev was right, but he never quite got the hang of America. He used to wear an especially absurd hat in winter and insist that it was the envy of ordinary Americans. How so? According to Lev, a truck driver had once called out to him: "Hey, buddy: nice hat."
Andrei was much more hip to the ways of Gotham and warned me that the title I had chosen for the new paper--the New York American--might be misunderstood. "I mean," he said, "Why not just call it the New York Anti-Semite?"
I decided to stick with the title, but as history records, I did not make it in New York. Peter Brimelow listened to me politely, and so did Wick Allison, then publisher of National Review, now a "Conservative for Obama." I had approached John O'Sullivan, too, but did not see him on that trip. Did I write to Midge Decter? Do you know, I think I did.
Many years later, Conrad Black had roughly the same idea, plus some spare change, and started the short-lived New York Sun. Much as I like Lord Black, I have never greatly cared for his politics, and the Sun was a bit shrill for my tastes. Besides--and sometimes I can scarcely believe this--I now actually like the New York Times. The headlines that once made me sneer--"In Swiss elections, little excitement"--now make me cheer. Any newspaper that …