“When you have a good idea, start a magazine.” This, according to our board member Gertrude Himmelfarb, is the motto of her husband Irving Kristol. In a long and fruitful life, he has started three. (Their son Bill has started one, too.) The first was Encounter, which Kristol co-founded with the late Stephen Spender in 1953. It was a transatlantic monthly in which the intellectuals of the free world could debate with one another and their communist counterparts. To write for Encounter was a privilege.
Ever since it folded at the end of the Cold War, many people in Europe and America have lamented the old Encounter. But it was only when a new kind of assault came from a very different quarter on 11 September 2001 that a new Encounter again became an urgent necessity. The aftermath revealed such moral cowardice and intellectual confusion on both sides of the Atlantic that the battle of ideas has sometimes seemed in danger of being lost by default. To defend and celebrate Western civilisation is not merely desirable; it is imperative.
This is the mission of Standpoint — “quite a tall order for anyone, let alone a small-circulation magazine,” as one competitor noted. With the climate of political opinion in Britain changing fast, it is high time to launch a new magazine — the first of its kind for over a decade. The word “magazine” (from the French magasin, which was borrowed from the Arabic) implies both a marketplace of ideas and a storehouse of intellectual ammunition. Standpoint aims to provide both.