The Letter She Wouldn't Print

The Editor, THE NEW YORKER. Madam, The issue of the New Yorker dated 12th October contains one of the ugliest pieces of partisan journalism that I have witnessed in a long life of writing. That the article is inaccurate is incidental to the larger point: namely that, in one of your first assays to live up to the noble standards of your new magazine, you have used your columns to strike a blow in defence of your own husband, without revealing to your readers that the Editor-in-Chief at Random House, Mr. Harold Evans, is your husband, that he was formerly editor of the British Sunday Times and fell foul of Rupert Murdoch in circumstances that are still disputed, and that, although your husband's name is disingenuously withheld from the article in question (entitled 'Seduction' and written by yet another Englishman named Francis Wheen), he is at the very focus of it, and has recently been in furious correspondence--to the tune of 27 pages of telefax--with the author whom the article just happens to disparage.

Let me declare my interest--a thing you somehow omitted to do. I am a friend of William Shawcross. I have known him for many years, and throughout the four years during which, with great bravery, he struggled to present an objective portrait of Rupert Murdoch that would be untainted by the easy anti-Murdoch hysteria that the dreadful British press wheels out whenever it wants to show that it has an ethical conscience. The convenient suggestion, peddled in your article, that in Shawcross Murdoch has found his Boswell, that Shawcross became his hagiographer, was beguiled by him, was wooed and flattered and given every kind of assistance and that in return [sic] Shawcross wrote a remarkably sympathetic study of his subject, whom Wheen calls the enemy-all this, for anyone who knows the score as well as you do, has just one shabby purpose: to rubbish the author and his judgments in advance of the book's publication in America, to prejudice its chances of an objective reception, and to assure your readers that the unflattering portrait of Harold Evans provided in the book is mere Murdoch propaganda, fed into Shawcross's servile ear.

To reinforce this shameful picture of a brilliant journalist who has sold himself to the devil, your Mr. Wheen-who as you must know has already paraded the same distorted views in the London literary press-has the vulgarity to drag in both Mr. Shawcross's parentage and his lovelife, suggesting that his turnabout is genetically programmed by his father's actions in the fifties, and by the influence of an heiress who sits on the Westminster City Council as a Conservative and is a friend of Mrs. Thatcher, namely Mrs. Olga Polizzi.

Perhaps, when you pen the apology that Mr. Shawcross so richly deserves, you will let us know whether the influence of your own father has recently affected your judgment, or whether-as your readers are now entitled to enquire-it is your lovelife that is really to blame.

God protect the New Yorker from the English. It is not the press barons who are responsible for the decline of our journalistic standards but the press itself. Yours faithfully, John le Carre. P.S. All the underlined [italicized] passages are direct quotes from Mr. Wheen's article as it appeared in the New Yorker.

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