By now, if you are the kind of person that I hope you are, you are aware that a great beacon of reason,the modern era’s answer to the Smart Set or American Mercury, The Baffler has been rekindled with a 2/3 of its editorial troika intact. Veteran Baffleroids,Thomas Frank (Pity the Poor Billionaire) and Chris Lehman(Rich People’s Things) join editor-in-chief,historian John Summers (Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, editor ) ,in the resurrection of this much lauded and much needed critical voice.
Of course the above mentioned make their presence felt with signature long form essays along with familiar muck rakers such as Barbara Ehrenreich, Rick Perlstein, Dubravka Ugrešić and the wretched of the earth’s newest hero, David Graeber. Additionally, there are a number of enjoyable discoveries, not the least of which is “Omniscient Gentlemen of The Atlantic” by Maureen Tkacik— an enthusiastically iconoclastic expose of the once highly esteemed Atlantic and (David Bradley), its current 1 %er ownership.
Ms Tkacik opens her vivisection by describing her attendance at one of the Atlantic’s Idea Forum (which she points out is one of the, uh, whatchamacallits that are taking the new Atlantic to an unsightly, newly found profitability):
The din of younger colleagues tapping keyboards is never soothing, but sitting in the press room of the Ideas Forum felt like a human rights violation. What could anyone write about something so tyrannically dull— other than an angry elegy for the massacre of meaning? The average C-SPAN 3 segment is a crowd-pleasing cliffhanger by com- parison. Mind flickering between rage and somnolence, I tried my best to keep awake by writing notes.
In the peroration of her piece the well-travelled Ms Tkacik cites a tragically-ignored article by Andy Grove (formerly of Intel) as what I identify asher coup de grace:
The Bradley-subsidized chattering class in- stinctively knows to tune out altogether more articulate assessments of our plight, such as former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s withering indictment of free-market dogma in a sum- mer 2010 Bloomberg Businessweek cover story. Grove blamed the economic malaise on a sick cultural deification of “the guys in the garage inventing something that changes the world” at the expense of anyone involved in what happened afterward. His lament was the most eloquent tribute to the symbiosis of design and production and imagination and reality I’d read since Mao’s 1937 essay “On Practice,” which declared “man’s knowledge depends mainly on his activity in material production.” The Thought Leaders of our own political leadership class would never know about Grove’s broadside, though—it was greeted by a Washington-wide wall of silence. (Indeed, the one wayward D.C. player who did take it to heart—former SEIU chieftain Andy Stern— was reduced to imploring unsympathetic readers of the Wall Street Journal op-ed sec- tion to search online for Grove’s essay some sixteen months after it appeared.)
What mystified Grove was the assertion, voiced by the economist Alan Blinder and others, “that as long as ‘knowledge work’ stays in the U.S., it doesn’t matter what happens to factory jobs.” This was not only inhumane, Grove declared; it was idiotic.
But it is why the ideas, so-called, that inspire the omniscient gentlemen of The Atlantic are flat: their world is, literally, flat. Habitual “bipartisanship” has given way to a tendency to level the playing field between reality and fiction…
And in case you have any questions (you don’t do you?) about what value Ms Tkacik places on the Bradley owned enterprise, she is not hesitant to expostulate:
Comrades: I hope that you want to throw up now, because I have run clean out of bile to waste on the mental morlocks who think up this sort of shit.
Yes, indeed. Which I can assure you is not the stuff of which the Baffler is constituted.
Currently reading Mission to Paris by Alan Furst (Random House)