collage of celebrities reading magazines

THE BEST MAG FOR THE WORST TIMES

In the past week, one magazine has…

praised Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy,
detailed how “antifa” violence has paralyzed a major U.S. city,
explained why single payer – aka “Medicare for all” – will piss off more Americans than Obamacare ever did.

In the same week, that magazine also…

• Declared Trump is “unfit to lead” a troop surge in Afghanistan.
• Argued Antifa’s violence pales next to that of white supremacists,
• Called Trump’s recent speech in Phoenix “a series of out-and-out lies.”

Any media idiot can call himself “fair and balanced” if he reflexively alternates conservative and liberal talking points. That’s called score-keeping, and it’s not what these stories are about.

It’s not what The Atlantic is about.

Here’s the magazine’s mission statement from founding editor James Russell Lowell…

The Atlantic will be the organ of no party or clique, but will honestly endeavor to be the exponent of what its conductors believe to be the American idea.

…which he wrote in 1857. (Superficial tangent: Lowell’s style two centuries ago kinda looks like hipsters today.)

So The Atlantic is a very old magazine with a very timely outlook on journalism. It’s maybe the only magazine I trust these days to deconstruct heated political issues.

That doesn’t mean I believe everything I read in The Atlantic. You actually can’t, given the opposing views it publishes. For instance, on the same day this week, The Atlantic ran two thoughtful analyses of Trump’s latest policy announcement.

Afghanistan

One called his Afghanistan policy “a big improvement over President George W. Bush’s ill-defined and under-resourced effort, and President Barack Obama’s strategically contradictory and under-resourced approach…”


The other listed evidence – much of it from Trump’s own mouth – that “no American can be confident that Trump will provide steady leadership on matters of war…”

…but neither piece sounds like the self-righteous crap on partisan “news” sties. Whether I read The Federalist or Salon, Jacobite or Breitbart, I feel like I’m listening to a pop song by Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber – it’s oh-so-easy to predict the next lyric and the next beat.

Antifa

Not only does The Altantic hire writers who are more thoughtful than breathless, sometimes it’s the same person. I don’t know who Peter Beinart is, but I nodded along as I read both this…

And this…

Ever hear of a backronym? That’s an acronym where “the words were chosen to fit the letters.” The government loves to be clever like that, frinstance naming a 2009 credit card law the CARD Act (short for “Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure,” which is actually CCARD. But hey, it’s the government.)

When I read a lot of political reporting these days, I feel like I’m reading backronyms. Journalists aren’t reporting a story to find out the truth, they’re writing a story to fit what they already believe to be true.

Maybe The Atlantic does that, too. But damn, they hide it well. Read Are You Sure You Want Single Payer? and tell me if you don’t think it’s a nuanced analysis of where the left wants healthcare to go, and where the right fears it’ll end up.

Free speech

Even when The Atlantic pisses me off, I know if I take a deep breath, it’ll be OK. So last week, I read this and hated it…

…because if I’m an absolutist about anything, it’s the First Amendment (and maybe the Green Bay Packers). So this “European proposal” scared the crap out of me. But yesterday, another Atlantic writer took down that first Atlantic writer…

Awesome.

In a journalism era where the right cries FAKE NEWS! and the left cries FALSE EQUIVALENCY!, The Atlantic is where I click to learn in peace. I like it so much, I subscribed this morning. And I don’t like subscribing to anything.