* Former Publisher Emeritus and former Publisher, Editorial Director & co-owner of “The Nation”
* Former Director of the George Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism at Columbia University
* Author of the award-winning book “Naming Names,” a leftwing view of the anti-Communist blacklist era
* Former chief after-the-fact defender of Alger Hiss and the Rosenberg spies
* Died on January 23, 2023
Victor Saul Navasky was born in New York City on July 5, 1932. He graduated from Swarthmore College in 1954 with a degree in social science, and earned a JD from Yale Law School in 1959. While at Yale, Navasky co-founded and edited the biannual political satire magazine Monocle.
In the 1970s Navasky worked as an editor at The New York Times Magazine; he also wrote a monthly column about the publishing business for the Times Book Review. In 1978 he was named editor of The Nation magazine, a post he would hold for the next 17 years. In 1994, while on a one-year leave-of-absence from The Nation, Navasky served as a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics (Harvard University), and as a senior fellow at Columbia University‘s Freedom Forum Media Studies Center.
When he returned to The Nation in 1995, Navasky organized a for-profit partnership of several investors wishing to buy the magazine—which was losing some $500,000 per year at that time—from investment banker Arthur Carter. Among Navasky’s fellow investors were the publication’s then-editor-at-large Katrina vanden Heuvel, novelist E.L. Doctorow, actor Paul Newman, computer software mogul Peter Norton, and former Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman Alan Sagner. Navasky subsequently served as The Nation‘s publisher and editorial director for the next decade. When Katrina vanden Heuvel succeeded Navasky as publisher of The Nation in 2005, Navasky became the publisher emeritus. That same year, he was named chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review.
Averse to the trend of corporate ownership of media outlets, Navasky, in an obvious reference to conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, had inveighed against the “Murdochization” of the media. Navasky’s political allegiances were also evident in his pronouncements regarding journalism bias. For example, he described conservative magazines like National Review as the products of “jingoistic, super-nationalistic values,” while maintaining that his own Nation magazine drew its strength from “human rights values and humanist values.”
Navasky may have been best known for his unwavering, after-the-fact defenses of Alger Hiss and the Rosenberg spies, and for his misplaced skepticism about the veracity of the thousands of now-famous decrypts which resulted from the Venona Project, a top-secret U.S. Signals Intelligence program that monitored the Soviet Union’s communications with its spies abroad from 1943-1980. Of particular importance were contacts between Soviet intelligence controllers and American agents (like Hiss and the Rosenbergs), many of whom were members of the American Communist Party. In 2007, long after the publication of Allen Weinstein’s Perjury, generally regarded as definitively proving Hiss’ guilt, Navasky gave the keynote speech at a New York University conference devoted to defending Hiss.
By Navasky’s telling, the anti-Communists of the Cold War era were little more than malicious, unquestioning followers of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, clinging desperately to the supposedly unsupportable belief “that, in effect, McCarthy and Co. were right all along” about the widespread infiltration of Communists within the U.S. government. The real agenda of anti-Communists, said Navasky, was never to actually oppose Communism—which in his mind was never a threat—but rather “to discredit the left-liberal project” in America. Contending that Venona was simply an attempt “to enlarge post-Cold War intelligence-gathering capability at the expense of civil liberty,” Navasky maintained that if any spying had ever actually taken place, it was just “a lot of exchanges of information among people of good will, many of whom were Marxists, some of whom were Communists … and most of whom were patriots.”
In addition to his work as a writer, editor, and publisher, Navasky also served as: a professor at a number of colleges and universities; a Guggenheim Fellow; a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation; a regular commentator on the National Public Radio program Marketplace; director of the George Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism at Columbia University; and a board member of Independent Diplomat, the Authors Guild, PEN International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Defending Dissent Foundation. Moreover, he was a longtime member of The Nation Institute‘s board of trustees.
Navasky’s books—particularly Naming Names, his 1981 polemic against the Hollywood blacklist—have been regularly assigned by left-wing university professors. To view a complete list of Navasky’s books, click here.
For additional information on Victor Navasky, click here.
Navasky died on January 23, 2023 in Manhattan, New York.