- Publisher of Harper's Magazine and Board Chairman of the tax-exempt foundation that owns it
- Grandson of the late billionaire John D. MacArthur, whose family foundation rescued Harper's Magazine from extinction and made him its publisher
- Objected to claims that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was as evil as Adolph Hitler
John R. “Rick” MacArthur is the publisher of Harper's Magazine and the board chairman of the Harper's Magazine Foundation, which owns the periodical as well as the Harpers.org website and the closely-linked book publisher, Franklin Square Press. MacArthur also writes a monthly column for the Providence Journal and, in French, for Le Devoir, on topics ranging from politics to culture.
Born in New York City on June 4, 1956, MacArthur grew up in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois. His great-uncle Charles MacArthur co-wrote with Ben Hecht the famous Broadway comedy about tabloid newspaper reporters, The Front Page. Rick's father, Roderick MacArthur, became a millionaire through ownership of the Bradford Exchange and Hammacher Schlemmer stores. Politically, Roderick was far to the left of his own father (Rick's grandfather), the billionaire real-estate and insurance tycoon John D. MacArthur, and was disinherited. “We were a liberal, pro-civil rights, anti-Vietnam War family,” Rick told one interviewer. “My mother's foreign [French], my father's left-wing. We didn't involve ourselves in the same activities as the WASP Republicans.”
At age 12, Rick MacArthur worked zealously for the 1968 presidential campaign of Democrat Eugene McCarthy. In his teens, he worked for the campaigns of presidential hopeful George McGovern and congressman Abner Mikva. And in 1978 MacArthur graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in history.
After completing his education, MacArthur worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal (1977), the Washington Star (1978), The Bergen Record (1978-79), and the Chicago Sun-Times (1979-82). He was also an assistant foreign editor at United Press International in 1982.
In 1980, Rick MacArthur and his father persuaded the boards of the MacArthur Foundation and the Atlantic Richfield Company to create and fund a Harper's Magazine Foundation, which purchased the periodical for $250,000. With his father's help, Rick maneuvered to take control of this new foundation. As Harper's publisher he reinstalled its previously-fired editor, Lewis H. Lapham, and together they reshaped the magazine in 1985 into what some have called a “Reader's Digest for intellectuals,” with shorter articles and quotable features such as the “Harper's Index” of odd facts.
MacArthur has made no secret of what he describes as his “naive liberal” views regarding politics. An ardent foe of the death penalty and a booster of leftist causes, he is the author of three books: Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War (1993, 2004); The Selling of "Free Trade": NAFTA, Washington and the Subversion of American Democracy (2000); and You Can’t Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America (2008, 2012).
As a reporter during the First Gulf War in 1991, MacArthur broke the story that the young woman who had famously accused Saddam Hussein's troops of stealing Kuwaiti hospital incubators (and discarding the babies kept alive in them) was the daughter of a Kuwaiti diplomat making anti-Iraq propaganda.
MacArthur founded and currently serves as a board member of: (a) the Death Penalty Information Center, which uses research reports and statistics to discredit the use of capital punishment, and (b) the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, which contends that the American criminal-justice is awash in inequities targeting nonwhites and poor people. Along with members of his family, MacArthur established Article 19, an organization that seeks to promote people's “right to freedom of expression and their right to information.” He is also a board-of-directors member of the Author’s Guild.
Since 2004, MacArthur has written numerous articles for the leftist website site Common Dreams. He has also written some pieces for such publications as the Huffington Post, In These Times, and The Nation.
For many years, MacArthur was a board-of-trustees member of the Columbia University student newspaper, The Spectator. But in April 2014, he resigned from the board to protest its decision adopt a “web-first” (as opposed to a print-edition-first) format.
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 MacArthur has long despised the Internet and its influence on the publishing industry. In March 2012, for instance, he asserted that the Internet “wasn’t much more than a gigantic Xerox machine (albeit with inhuman 'memory'), and thus posed the same old threat to copyright and to the livelihoods of writers and publishers alike.” Two months later, he added: “The recent Internet-and-conglomerate-driven decline of publishing has reduced book advances and promotions, especially for mid-list authors. If you want to get your book on prime-time TV or radio, you had better be ready to dumb down your message and round off your edges.”