Founded in 1865 by politically radical abolitionists, The Nation is the oldest weekly magazine in the United States and the farthest Left of all popular American magazines.
This periodical today is overseen by Victor Navasky, a former Columbia University journalism professor and editor at the New York Times Magazine who assembled a handful of investors in 1995 to buy the magazine from investment banker Arthur Carter.
At the time, The Nation was losing $500,000 per year. Experts advised Navasky to close the magazine and sell its mailing list of 100,000 readers, which alone was worth an estimated $2 million to direct marketers. Unless it changed its far-Left views, business advisors agreed, the magazine was unlikely to become profitable. In fact it had lost money every year for more than 125 years.
Navasky decided instead to seek investors willing to subsidize its leftist views. The investors he gathered included, among others, novelist E.L. Doctorow; the present Editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, multi-millionaire granddaughter of Jules Stein; actor Paul Newman; Peter Norton, computer software creator of Norton Utilities; and former Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Alan Sagner.
The magazine’s first major backer, who helped it launch in 1865 with $100,000, was the Boston lead pipe manufacturer who had supplied John Brown with munitions for his raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859. Its first literary editor was the son of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.
By 1881 The Nation had shrunk to little more than a book review insert in Henry Villard’s New York Evening Post newspaper, as it wallowed through a succession of editors. In 1918 Henry’s son Oscar Garrison Villard (who helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) took over The Nation and shifted it politically far to the Left, where it remains today. The Russian Revolution was underway, and the magazine was the first in America to publish the Soviet Constitution.
Villard retired in 1932. He was succeeded by Freda Kirchwey, a Stalinist who moved the magazine to the far left on issues of birth control and sexual freedom, and supported the Communists in the Spanish Civil War. She became a target of radical wrath, however, when she refused to endorse the pro-Soviet Progressive Party campaign of Henry Wallace in 1948, which was launched to oppose the Cold War.
Carey McWilliams replaced Kirchwey as The Nation‘s Editor in 1955. The magazine took the Soviet side in challenging America’s Cold War policies, attacking the U.S. defense program and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It also provided a platform for pro-Soviet Marxists like Gabriel Kolko and Howard Zinn, and for a young consumer advocate named Ralph Nader. (In 2004, however, the Editors of The Nation would ridicule Nader and his presidential campaign, favoring instead Democratic candidate John Kerry.)
In 1977 The Nation was purchased by a group of investors brought together by Hamilton Fish V. Fish and his investors sold The Nation in 1995 to former Wall Street investment banker Arthur Carter, who in turn sold it to Navasky, vanden Heuvel and their group.
Arthur Carter is now a member of the Board of Trustees of The Nation Institute, a tax-exempt non-profit entity closely linked to The Nation magazine and designed to increase the profits of the periodical. The Institute’s book-publishing affiliate features titles like The Bush-Hater’s Handbook: A Guide to the Most Appalling Presidency of the Past 100 Years; the I Hate George W. Bush Reader; and the I Hate Republicans Reader.Fish is President of its Board of Trustees.
According to David Horowitz, The Nation “supported every Communist dictator in their heyday — Stalin, Mao, Fidel, Ho, even Pol Pot – and on every issue involving conflict between the United States and any of its sworn enemies during the Cold War, invariably tilted towards (and often actively sided with) the enemy side.”