Episode 198: How The Atlantic Magazine Helps Sell Austerity and War to Middlebrow Liberals

Citations Needed | March 13, 2024 | Transcript

Citations Needed
43 min readMar 13, 2024
Hillary Clinton and Editor-in-Chief of The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg during The Atlantic Festival in 2018. (AP / Alex Brandon)


Intro: This is Citations Needed with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to Citations Needed, a podcast on the media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

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Nima: “Teachers Unions: Still a Huge Obstacle to Reform.” “Countering Iran’s Menacing Persian Gulf Navy.” “Open Everything: The time to end pandemic restrictions is now.” “The Good Republicans’ Last Stand.”

Adam: Each of these headlines comes from the same magazine: The Atlantic. For 167 years, the publication has enjoyed elite stature in the American literary and journalistic worlds, publishing such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Barack Obama and serving as a coveted professional destination for writers throughout the country. Founded in part by a number of esteemed 19th-century authors, the magazine has long prided itself on its cultural and political depth.

Nima: But beneath all of its high-minded rhetoric about democracy, free expression, fearlessness, and American ideals is a vehicle of center-right pablum, designed to launder reactionary opinions for a liberal-leaning audience. As the employer of warmongers like Jeffrey Goldberg, Anne Applebaum, and David Frum, under the ownership of a Silicon Valley-tied investment firm hellbent on destroying teachers’ unions, The Atlantic magazine, time and time again, proves a far cry from the truth-pursuing, consensus-disrupting outlet that it so often claims to be.

Adam: Today’s episode will provide a deep dive into the history and general ideology of The Atlantic magazine, examining its currents of middlebrow conservatism, left-punching, and deference to boring business owners that have run through the magazine throughout its nearly 17 decades in operation.

Nima: Later on in the episode, we’ll be joined by friend of the show, writer Jon Schwarz.

[Begin clip]

Jon Schwarz: David Frum, Jeffrey Goldberg, a lot of these other people make you understand what their job actually is. So the naive might believe that the job of journalists is to try to find out the truth and tell other people about the truth. And if that were the case, obviously, their careers would have been ended by their catastrophically wrong statements and claims before the war. So, that would be if that were their job to find out the truth. If their job was to start wars, then obviously, they would be promoted. And we know what happened. And so, that tells us a lot about what their jobs actually are.

[End clip]

Adam: This is a spiritual successor™ to a couple episodes, specifically, our episode on The Economist magazine, The Refined Sociopathy of The Economist from Episode 98 from 2020. Any time you do an episode on a single publication, it can be difficult for fairly obvious reasons, which is that publications oftentimes do have ideological diversity. So much of what we’re discussing today, is really the kind of broad outlines or the overwhelming ideological tilt, we should say. There are, of course, going to be exceptions to this, of course. I believe we’ve had Atlantic writers even on the show because some of them don’t suck. And so, there will be some generalizations. With that caveat, I think it’s fair to say that these are quantifiable and objective determinations as to the ideological proclivities of this publication because all publications have some ideological leanings. And this is also in some ways a spiritual successor to a fairly recent episode, Episode 195: David Leonhardt and the Elite Consensus Manufacturing Machine where we talked about the fundamentally conservative ideology of the New York Times specifically.

Nima: So, this is not to say that there haven’t been wonderful things published in The New York Times so that everyone who works or writes for The New York Times shares one single political bent or one kind of ideology. No, but as we have often discussed on this show, The New York Times itself is ideologically committed to certain things as voiced time and again by its publishers and by its senior editors. It is committed to a worldview that promotes say capitalism on purpose. And maybe that’s not weird in the American media industry, of course, but it definitely establishes a tone, a voice, a perspective institutionally. And that is the same as we’ve discussed as The Economist, at other publications as well, and certainly for The Atlantic magazine. So, let’s start with a bit of history about The Atlantic magazine. The Atlantic was founded in 1857 in Boston, Massachusetts as The Atlantic Monthly by publisher Moses Dresser Phillips, in association with prominent writers of the time like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Its first issue published in November 1857 included a mission statement explaining the magazine’s goals in the area of literature, arts, and politics. While the first two are fairly anodyne, the third is worth reading in full as it reveals that its kind of “reaching across the aisle” style of centrism and unflinching US patriotism have been at the magazine’s core since its inception. The excerpt reads as follows:

In Politics, 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. It will deal frankly with persons and with parties, endeavoring always to keep in view that moral element which transcends all persons and parties, and which alone makes the basis of a true and lasting national prosperity. It will not rank itself with any sect of anties, but with that body of men which is in favor of Freedom, National Progress, and Honor, whether public or private.

Adam: In its often romantic and wistful reflections on its own history, the magazine credits itself for being founded by abolitionists, which is partly true, or at least abolitionist sympathizers. Yet, it kind of routinely undermines this by also affirming its commitment to the “American idea,” whatever that means. I guess slavery wasn’t an American ideal.

For example, a 1994 presentation by Cullen Murphy, the magazine’s managing editor at the time, echoed its kind of vaguely anti-political mission statement of 1857, writing, “Among educated people throughout the United States the issue of slavery was obviously one of great moment. But so, too, was another matter, and in the baldest terms it might be said to have involved an attempt to define and create a distinctly American voice: to project an American stance, to promote something that might be called the American Idea.” He would go on to state, “Few places remain where scientists, politicians, businesspeople, and writers, where members of the military, the clergy, and academe, where Republicans and Democrats, blacks and whites, the believer and the unbeliever can regularly hear one another speak. The Atlantic Monthly is one of those places.” So, the general idea is the Atlantic Monthly is the sort of definition of the center. It is a place where the right and the left get together, Republican and Democrat, and there’s this kind of romantic shared patriotic ideal of free exchanges of ideas. This is kind of central to their kind of fart-sniffing worldview.

Nima: The marketplace of ideas, Adam.

Adam: Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the magazine would publish pieces asking thought-provoking questions such as “What will happen if America fails to become a maritime power?” and “What unanticipated effects will this expanding thing called leisure time have on the American psyche?”

Jumping ahead, we’re going to talk about the 80s and 90s a little bit because this is really where they kind of enter their peak centrist ideological orientation, which is since 1938, The Atlantic had been majority-owned by a ranching family. But in 1980, real estate developer Mortimer Zuckerman, who also for a very long time, owned the fourth largest newspaper in America, The New York Daily News, was known to hobnob with presidents Reagan and Clinton. He funded both Democrats and Republicans. And he fancied himself a journalist and an editor. He didn’t just become the new owner, he was also the chairman and was on the editorial board, thus explicitly exercising creative control and editorial control over the publication itself. And this is someone who made his money in real estate. The Boston Globe reported that same year in 1980, that Zuckerman planned to hire Richard Nixon as a contributor.

Zuckerman’s portfolio would include the following where he wrote an article about the scandal of part-time America, this from July 2014 for the Wall Street Journal where he complains that Americans aren’t working long enough in “The Full-Time Scandal of Part-Time America” in which he says, “Fewer than half of U.S. adults are working full time. Why? Slow growth and the perverse incentives of ObamaCare” where he blames the ACA for making America lazy. Now, one thing that Zuckerman did that’s relevant to the interest of this podcast, which is a magazine cover we’ve actually discussed several years ago, which is The Atlantic magazine was a huge, huge promoter and was actually the first promoter of the broken windows theory. Now, you gotta keep in mind Zuckerman made all of his money off real estate, and broken windows is a policy largely born out of real estate interests, which is to say, you overpolice and hypercriminalize petty and small-time behavior ostensibly to stop bigger crime. But really, it’s because you don’t want graffiti and broken windows because this is a man who quite literally owns tens of thousands of windows.

Nima: Yeah, so The Atlantic really is where the broken windows policy was first promoted to liberal elites, right? The intellectual class of American society. This was the March 1982 issue the article by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling headlined “The Police and Neighborhood Safety.” And this article, the broken windows article is now kind of legendary, right? Infamous, I would argue, at least if you’re listening to Citations Needed, certainly infamous as it really did promote this idea to liberal elite intellectual circles in this country of it being really important to crack down on the petty crimes, to keep our society together, right? To deter worse crimes, right? Keep your neighborhoods nice and tidy, make the cities look like the suburbs. This kind of idea and the violence and over policing and then mass incarceration that it wrought cannot be overstated. We have done many, many episodes referencing these policies. And they were really born out of this initial salvo issued through The Atlantic magazine in 1982.

Adam: Because and in case it’s not clear, the thing The Atlantic magazine does and the function it serves, and we’ll get into this more later, is it launders right-wing ideas to liberals, which is an important fulcrum for pushing right-wing ideas as being something that’s science-driven, normal, good for squishy liberals. Again, if I’m someone who wants to push right-wing ideas, you know, you can preach to the choir on AM radio and Fox News all day, and that has value for you know, the Ben Shapiros of the world, but selling right-wing ideas that are not necessarily right-wing on their face to liberals, this also helps create dispositive changes in policy, sort of like how you had to sell the Iraq War to the New York Times and The New Yorker magazine, right? Because you have to have some liberal buy-in.

Nima: If it was only promoted by obvious warmongers, it wouldn’t then be called bipartisan, it wouldn’t then be called moral, would not have been laundered through those channels. It just would have been kind of imperialism, but this way, it sounds like intellectual freedom bringing.

Adam: Pushing broken windows in the National Review is not going to get you very far. Pushing broken windows in The New Republic, in the Atlantic gets you very far. Obviously, this is a function largely of The New Republic, especially in the 90s. And so Zuckerman sold The Atlantic magazine in 1999 to David Bradley, founder of the Corporate Executive Board Company, a consultancy firm, a great generic corporate name. According to The Washington Post, Bradley made $142 million when the company went public and used some of that money to buy the Atlantic. One of Bradley’s first moves was to hire journalist and centrist hawk Michael Kelly as an editor. In 1995, Kelly coined the term “fusion paranoia” to refer to supposed convergence of the conspiracy-minded members of the political right and left.

And in 2002, he wrote a piece for the Jewish World Review headlined “Anti-war effort perverts liberal values,” regarding opposition to the war in Iraq in which he posed the question, “Wouldn’t the freeing of the Iraqi people, like the freeing of the Afghan people, be a great moral victory?” And it’s worth mentioning that much like the New York Times and The New Republic that The Atlantic magazine was central to selling the Iraq war to skeptical liberals and centrists. They had pro-Iraq War voices writing for them. Michael Kelly, Robert Kaplan, AEI fellow William Schneider and Brookings rent-a-hacks like Stuart Taylor Jr. and Jonathan Rauch. These guys wrote a number of articles pushing the Iraq war in The Atlantic magazine in 2002 and 2003. And so, they again were part of that effort along with The New York Times, TNR, and others, The Economist magazine to kind of sell the Iraq War. It’s not a right-wing thing, but a kind of respectable bipartisan centrist policy.

Nima: So under David Bradley’s ownership, by 2005, The Atlantic magazine launched the Davos-inspired thought leader-laden Aspen Ideas Festival. The festival was named after its partner in the effort, the Aspen Institute, a Gates, Ford and Carnegie and other foundation funded Think Tank. Speakers at the festival have included folks like Sam Harris, Mark Zuckerberg, Barry Weiss, JD Vance, Jordan Peterson, the Walton Family, and many, many others. Some definitely not as ghoulish. We picked some bad ones, but it is that kind of Davos-esque elite gathering. Ooccasionally, some token labor leaders, of course, and poets might be thrown in. But when a ticket to the entire festival has a five-digit price tag, it’s fairly obvious who the audience really is.

Now, back to The Atlantic itself, one of David Bradley’s highest-profile moves would be to hire Jeffrey Goldberg, currently the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Now, Goldberg, a native of New Jersey who decided to join the Israeli military and voluntarily became a prison guard in occupied Palestine, was recruited from The New Yorker magazine, another elite American institution where he peddled one of the most consequential and destructive conspiracy theories of the last generation: that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks and had in Goldberg’s writing, “possible ties to Al Qaeda.” But to the Bradley-helmed Atlantic magazine, Goldberg was a hot commodity. The magazine just had to have him, readily hired Goldberg in 2007 after more than two years of bribing him to join the staff with things like hefty signing bonuses and ponies for his kids, literally.

According to an August 2007 Washington Post story, Goldberg would spend his early years at the magazine primarily cheering on US militarism, defending his beloved state of Israel, and fear-mongering about Big Bad Iran, penning such pieces as the attention-grabbing September 2010 cover story, “The Point of No Return.” Effectively a report straight from the mouths of the Israeli military and intelligence establishment in an effort to force the Obama administration to launch a military attack on Iran, Goldberg wrote that, according to Israeli intelligence estimates, “Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability (often understood to be the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device within about three months of deciding to do so).” This was horseshit and remains so. Goldberg also quoted an “Israeli policy maker” as claiming Iran would have a nuclear weapon “nine months from June — in other words, March of 2011.” Now, it should be noted that the following year in June of 2011, Goldberg wrote a piece in Bloomberg, entitled, “Iran Wants the Bomb, and It’s Well on Its Way,” that “[i]t would take Iran anywhere from six months to a year after expelling the inspectors to enrich uranium to bomb strength, and in this period it’s almost guaranteed that Israel or the U.S. would bomb its nuclear facilities.” He added, “Various Western intelligence agencies and independent analysts think that the Iranians already possess enough low-enriched uranium to produce two or three bombs.” He was insistent that his nuclear alarmism — again, total horseshit — was, “reality-based worry” based on his characterization of Iranian leaders as “bloody-minded mullahs bent on dominating the Middle East.”

Adam: So yeah, Goldberg would spend the better part of 2011 and 2012 running pro-bombing of Iran flags up the pole to see if anyone would salute it, laundering fear-mongering by the Israeli government and Israeli military, which of course, they ended up not bombing Iran because it was a trial balloon. This is consistent with his Hezbollah sleeper cells in America story from 2002. And of course, Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda working together from 2002 and 2003. It’s a lot of pro-war, fear-mongering. Part of putting into this kind of prestige-y format, next to a bunch of poems, and well-written movie reviews kind of gives it some gravitas. You can’t just dismiss it as right-wing fear-mongering. That’s ultimately why this stuff’s important and impactful.

In 2014, the magazine would hire David Frum as its senior editor, best known as George W. Bush’s speech writer who coined the term “axis of evil.” In 2014, he had to write an apology in The Atlantic magazine incidentally that same year for claiming that Palestinians were using crisis actors in their pictures when Israel bombed Gaza in 2014. He accused the AP, The New York Times of using fake photos, Palestinian actors with fake blood. That ended up not being true.

Similarly, the Atlantic has become a kind of retirement community for washed-up neocons, Anne Applebaum, Eliot Cohen, David Frum, pretty much anyone who supported the Iraq War who was not discredited. They were much like Jeffrey Goldberg, given promotions to high-status, high-paid, well-paid elite positions in The Atlantic to pontificate on other threats that may or may not be emerging, and most recently, of course, to smear Palestinians as people who lie about being bombed.

Cut to 2017, David Bradley sells his majority stake in the magazine to the Emerson Collective, the Palo Alto-based “philanthropic” LLC founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’s widow. The company is named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, again, one of The Atlantic’s founders. Because it’s an LLC, Emerson Collective is legally permitted to invest in for-profit companies, lobby, and make political donations. So, the investment firm takes full advantage of its ability to do so, donated to former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Governor Terry McAuliffe, to centrist Clintonites, and invested in multiple ed-tech companies. Powell Jobs herself has given money to pro-charter school politicians as every billionaire does. They all donate to pro-charter schools, which if you’ve listened to the show, throwback to Episode 1. This is kind of their MO.

In a 2016 New York Magazine glowing profile of Powell Jobs, they wrote, “She joined the boards of Teach for All, the umbrella organization of Teach for America and the NewSchools Venture Fund, which sought, in different ways, to “disrupt” school districts and loosen the hold of teachers unions on public schools.” Again, if you listen to Episode 1, you know Teach for America is a scab organization funded by the Walton family. The Emerson Collective doesn’t disclose all of its investments although in a 2017 interview with EducationWeek, Russlyn Ali, one of Emerson’s executives and a former Obama administration assistant secretary, said she was “not prepared to answer” the question of whether Emerson would commit to publicly disclosing its political contributions and investments in education-related candidates, causes, and companies. But the Emerson Collective and Laurene Powell Jobs didn’t have to do much to exert influence over the publication, which of course, was already ideologically fairly center and right-wing, but they have, of course, doubled down on their anti-teachers’ unions content, their pro-charter school content.

In 2018, they launched the Speech Wars vertical, which was funded in part by the Koch Institute that was supposedly consistent with their pedigree of being pro-free speech. This has since shut down. It’s not exactly clear when, but they received a few million dollars to fund journalism and commentary about the threats of free speech, a task taken on most notably by Conor Friedersdorf who’s kind of the resident guy who complains about Oberlin undergrads. This was supercharged during this Koch-funded initiative to gripe about free speech on campus. They repeatedly wrote about cancel culture and sort of that type of thing, part of that elite meltdown, which is both ideological and due to their Koch industry funding because that is a huge hobby horse of the Koch Institute.

And then they sort of pivoted around 2017 as well into this arbiter of what is and what wasn’t a conspiracy theory. In 2017, editor Kurt Andersen wrote a pretty thin, largely speculative and anecdotal 12,000-word cover story about “How America Lost Its Mind.” In the article, he laments the rise of conspiracy theories. Now, much of which is again, perfectly fine and not true, you know, things like reptile people, things of that nature. But within this, he lumped other conspiracies. A few years later in 2020, they ran a publication called “I WAS A TEENAGE CONSPIRACY THEORIST” which we discussed in Episode 180: Havana Syndrome and the Power of Mainstream, Acceptable Conspiracy Theories, which we noted that this was written by Atlantic editor Ellen Cushing who lumped all “conspiracism” together. So, she concluded Illuminati, Pizzagate, and MK Ultra even though MK Ultra is real and well-documented. It also pathologized conspiracism and flattened it as primarily a psychological phenomenon, rather than one promoted by moneyed interest. Later, The Atlantic would go on to produce Shadowland, a documentary for NBC and Peacock that was produced by Jeffrey Goldberg that dealt with the rise of conspiracy theories. And of course, nowhere in any of this do they mention that the biggest one of the biggest, maybe even the most consequential conspiracy theory of the last 20 years, which is to say Saddam Hussein was working with Al-Qaeda that Jeffrey Goldberg promoted, was mysteriously left off.

Nima: That’s right. The producer of the conspiracy doc.

Adam: Right, and also, again, had articles about how Iran was a year away from having a nuclear weapon and how Israel was about to bomb Iran and how there are Hezbollah sleeper cells, waiting to pounce in 2002, some of which could be construed as a conspiracy. I think it’s fair to say. I think it’s conspiracy theory, not by definition. And then, of course, the conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories, which is Saddam Hussein both is pursuing or has nukes but also is working with Al-Qaeda ended up not being true at all. And that’s something Jeffrey Goldberg has never really addressed. He’s kind of cheekily referenced it here and there.

Nima: Well, his career has not suffered for it so…

Adam: No, Jeffrey Goldberg is one of the biggest promoters of conspiracy theories in media, certainly the most profound conspiracy theory in terms of impacting, you know, he was on NPR in February of 2003, a month before the war, talking about how Saddam Hussein had “possible links” to Al-Qaeda. He is now the arbiter of what is and what isn’t a conspiracy theory, and this is kind of the ideological function of places like The Atlantic. They determine what is and what isn’t true. And if you have conspiracies that confirm to those in power, and in his case, the George W. Bush administration, then that’s not a conspiracy. Well, I mean it is definitionally. But it’s not one that sort of icky and dirty like those far-left-wing conspiracies, it’s completely okay because it’s about an official state enemy. So, you can kind of make up whatever you want, despite how thinly sourced and how evidence-free the whole thing was. And this is kind of the function of why running these magazines is useful because it has the official stamp of approval. And it doesn’t sort of matter how dubious it is.

Nima: To discuss this more, we’re now going to be joined by friend of the show, writer and analyst, Jon Schwarz. Jon will join us in just a moment. Stay with us.


Nima: We are joined now by Jon Schwarz, friend of the pod. He was a long-time senior editor at The Intercept and has been described before on this show as Citations Needed’s chief David Frum correspondent, which I believe remains an important title, considering the topic of this episode. Jon, welcome back to Citations Needed. It’s great to have you here.

Jon Schwarz: Oh, it’s great to be talking to you guys.

Adam: Yeah, so this is a fairly big topic but one I know you’ve been thinking and writing about for some time because it falls squarely within your charge and our charge, which is that of The Atlantic magazine and its ideological function within the broader US media sphere. Now, it’s changed owners throughout the years as we discussed at the top of the show, but it has largely stayed consistent in its general tone and ideological disposition. Like other outlets that we’ve done episodes on — The New York Times, The Economist The Atlantic prides itself on its kind of upwardly mobile, wealthy insider-y commentary and reporting. It’s sort of seen as a magazine by the elites for the elites. And we argue that this serves a key function as a lot of these kinds of fulcrum publications do or maybe we can call them even pivot publications of selling right-wing ideas to liberals. This is kind of their main function rather than the other way around, right? Rather than sort of selling liberalism to right-wingers because right-wingers don’t give a shit what The Atlantic has to say. And I wanted to talk about this general ethos whether it be austerity war, which we’ll talk about more later, promoting charter schools, promoting privatization of Social Security, promoting broken windows, where the Atlantic kind of falls within that broader milieu of making liberals, you know, nod their head and go, yeah, maybe that idea from the American Enterprise Institute isn’t so bad.

Jon Schwarz: Yeah, well, I think that’s something that is now sort of part of a lost world of past American culture. And people listening now may not really realize this. But it was a big deal when I was a youthful writer, that there was a kind of hierarchy of prestige at the top of the publishing world in America. And at the tippy, tippy top, was and is The New Yorker, fanciest magazine in America. But there were two others that were close behind The New Yorker, and number two was The Atlantic. And number three was Harper’s. And, again, hard to remember, even if you lived through it, pretty much vanished from the consciousness of anybody under 40 at this point. But all of that mattered a lot in America’s intellectual life. And The Atlantic remains one of the most prestigious publications in America today. And absolutely is a conveyor belt for awful right-wing ideas to nice, polite, well-educated, well-meaning, wealthy liberals. And this has been true for a long, long time. The Atlantic started out as somewhat different from what it is now, like it was a super duper, New England-y, wasp-y, abolitionist publication when it started. And that brand of liberalism in the United States, if you think of John Quincy Adams, I don’t know how much people listening to this program pay attention to —

Nima: Who doesn’t?

Jon Schwarz: Yeah, who doesn’t? John Quincy Adams, one-term president who then returned to the House of Representatives after he was kicked out of office. That was a particular brand, a particular flavor of liberalism that has vanished from the US landscape now. I would say preferable to the liberalism we have now. But in any case, it then morphed later on into what it is today. And there’s a super interesting example of that that they published in 1949 that you can find on The Atlantic website today. The headline is “Israel: Young Blood and Old” and it’s by someone named George Biddle. And that’s significant because Biddle was from this famous waspy New England family, the Biddles. He was friends with FDR, and he traveled to Israel right after the 1948 war to report for The Atlantic. And you can actually in this article, in real time, see Jewish Israelis being promoted in the minds of wasps to being white people. So, this is from “Israel: Young Blood and Old” in The Atlantic. And he describes the citizens of this new state of Israel and describes them as possessing “youth, a high proportion of physical beauty, health, vitality, politeness, good nature.” And then he says, one sees “comparatively few markerd Semitic types: and fewer still of the East Side, bearded, skullcapped. moth-eaten, grease-spotted, parchment-dry rabbis.”

Nima: Wow.

Adam: Wow. He’s promoting them to white. Just to be clear, they’re not Arabs, right? They’re white-adjacent.

Jon Schwarz: Yeah, they are now white-adjacent. So, the Jewish Israelis have been promoted to white. The Arabs have now been demoted. And it’s clear that all of this is in the service of the fact that he says this country is going to be able to serve US interests. That’s why one group is being promoted and one group has been demoted. The Arabs he describes as “foul, diseased, smelling, rotting, and pullulating with vermin and corruption, slinking about the streets, flatfooted, with loose, dribbling lower lip; carrying with them their sacks of refuse.

Adam: Wow. Jesus. That’s pretty racist even for 1949.

Jon Schwarz: Yeah, it’s extraordinary. And as I say, this was the mass wasp overmind of 1949, being like, this new country, they’re gonna be able to do stuff in the Middle East that we want done. And now, they’re beautiful. Look at them.

Jon Schwarz

Nima: Exactly. The bulwark against barbarism.

Jon Schwarz: Precisely.

Nima: That was, you know, promoted by Herzl.

Adam: That they still write today, which we’ll get into.

Nima: Well, indeed. Well, this actually gets to our next question, Jon, this idea of how The Atlantic serves American imperialism, kind of neo-colonialism, foreign interests, right, like the way that we understand foreign affairs in this country and how our government pursues it, who is on the inside, who is obviously on the outside, and what that means to be on the outside at the other end of whether it’s a bayonet or an M16 or a gigantic missile. And so, as we’ve discussed with you before, The Atlantic remains kind of a retirement home for discredited Iraq War-boosting neocons. I mean, from Anne Applebaum to David Frum, Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief now, and former IDF prison guard Eliot Cohen as well. And The Atlantic itself was, as we’ve also discussed with you, central to selling the invasion of Iraq in 2000, 2003, publishing article after article, promoting the invasion, namely by such luminary experts as Michael Kelly, Robert Kaplan, American Enterprise Institute fellow William Schneider and Brookings rent-a-hacks like Stuart Taylor Jr. and Jonathan Rauch. So, this kind of parking lot of washed-up neocons still remains very much part of the bread and butter of the pages of The Atlantic today, pushing Biden, you know, recently to bomb Iran or as we keep reading, to inflict even greater slaughter upon Gaza. Jon, can you talk if you will, about the genre of highbrow, warmonger imperialist and how The Atlantic has long defined this particular genre of socially acceptable sociopathy?

Jon Schwarz: Yeah, the thing that is so fascinating to me about this, and the thing that is so difficult for me to come to terms with about this is that I grew up essentially in The Atlantic’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, which is just outside of Washington, DC. And Atlantic writers were thick on the ground, Atlantic writers or well-respected among the people that I knew growing up.

Nima: Pick an Applebaum from the tree.

Jon Schwarz: Exactly. Go out into the yard, feel the sun on your skin, and pick an Applebaum, as many as you wished. And once I broke out of that mindset, in retrospect, it is absolutely horrifying. And when you look at their career trajectories, you see what this job actually is. So, one of them as you mentioned now, is David Frum. David Frum, listeners of the show probably know, was a speechwriter for the George W. Bush administration. He is the person who coined the famous “axis of evil” phrase that was used in the State of the Union address, I believe in 2002, that sort of set the stage for the coming invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then Jeffrey Goldberg, of course, was one of the leading propagandists. John McCain entered his articles into the Congressional Record, saying like, here’s why we must fight Saddam.

And there’s a wonderful example of this. Jeffrey Goldberg in, I think, October of 2002 when Slate was debating the war-to-be and one of Jeffrey Goldberg’s contributions to this debate was he said, you know, there’s not sufficient space for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against the war. There’s just not enough room on the internet. Like God dammit, if there were enough room, then you better believe that I would crush these people in intellectual debate. But unfortunately, there’s just not. But he goes on to say that the administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.

Nima: Mm-hm!

Jon Schwarz: So, October 3rd 2002, I read that as like, I’m setting my clock by this. Let’s look back at this October 3rd, 2007 and find out about this profound act of morality. Anyway, the point is David Frum, Jeffrey Goldberg, a lot of these other people make you understand what their job actually is. So, the naive might believe that the job of journalists is to try to find out the truth and tell other people about the truth. And if that were the case, obviously, their careers would have been ended by their catastrophically wrong statements and claims before the war. So, that would be if that were their job, to find out the truth. If their job was to start wars, then obviously, they would be promoted. And we know what happened. And so, that tells us a lot about what their jobs actually are. And David Frum is still there, Jeffrey Goldberg was rewarded for his catastrophic propaganda. And that’s the story. That’s where we are today. And they will never stop, they will never give it up on Iraq specifically.

I wrote an article for the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War last year because David Frum had written an article in The Atlantic where he referred to the US finding an arsenal of chemical warfare shells and warheads in Iraq. Now, again, that was a long time ago now. That was 20 years ago, but I hope people remember that that never happened, that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. And you don’t need to know anything about this issue to understand that. Like, on its face, it’s preposterous because you may remember the whole purported reason for the war was Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. David Frum is saying that they were found. But have you ever heard George Bush or Dick Cheney say anything about this arsenal?

Adam: No.

Jon Schwarz: Like, you might think that they were totally vindicated by the location of this arsenal in Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s nefarious plans, that they would have mentioned it, but they did not because that didn’t happen, and the arsenal did not exist. And I wrote to the PR Vice President of the Atlantic, and I was like, hey, by the way, what is the evidence for this and also, I just talked to Charles Duelfer, who ran the CIA’s program to try to find out what the story was with Saddam’s WMD programs, did this in 2003, 2004. And he says, you’re wrong. And nonetheless, The Atlantic 100% stood behind it and refused to correct anything about it. So, they were right. The CIA was wrong. Dick Cheney, George W. Bush were wrong. The Atlantic knows what they’re talking about. Case closed.

Adam: Yeah, so speaking of that because, you know, that’s a good segue into our next question, which is about their newfound position, self-appointed position as arbiter of conspiracy theories. So, they kind of jumped on the post-2016, anti-fake news, anti-conspiracy bandwagon that Jeffrey Goldberg had a front-page article about the rise of conspiracy and conspiracy America, which we discussed at the top of the show. They had a series on Peacock about conspiracism. Now, you know, some of them were kind of just QAnon and the like, but the irony of Jeffrey Goldberg, as we discussed, determining what is and what isn’t a conspiracy is pretty extraordinary.

For anyone, like you said, who pays attention to his central role in selling what was probably the single most consequential conspiracy theory of at least my generation, which was the idea that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, that he had significant ties to Al-Qaeda. When he was writing for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Goldberg painted a fairly elaborate conspiracy about shady Al-Qaeda members being housed in Iraq, meeting with Saddam Hussein, you know, in the northern deserts in these kinds of clandestine operations. He painted a fairly elaborate picture, none of which has ever been verified by any other reporter. Never been followed up on. No one’s backed up any of those claims. They kind of just drifted away, and they got memory-holed. Again, this was mainstream reporting. He went on NPR, as we’ve discussed on the show before and discussed his alleged findings, his alleged reporting showing these not just tenuous links, but direct links, direct contacts between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. This was, of course, the way you linked the trauma of 9/11 to the Iraqi government to justify the war in Iraq. Now, he’s saying I’m going to determine what is and what isn’t a conspiracy. And not only am I gonna do that, I’m gonna have a show on Peacock network where we talk about that. So, talk about this kind of role as a gatekeeper of kind of acceptable opinion, why there’s some conspiracies that are considered vulgar and inappropriate and some conspiracies that you can promote and just kind of move on with your life, and no one ever talks about it ever again.

Nima: And endorse at the highest level of American intellectual thought and publication.

Adam: And I should note, he also published quite a big bit of conspiracies about Iran and their nuclear program in Iran wanting to attack Israel in 2009, 2010 as well. So, this is sort of not a one-off thing. He did this for quite a while when he was ostensibly a reporter.

Jon Schwarz: That’s right. And that is a key thing to understand about the liberal milieu, like the liberal intellectual world. This is a key difference between the liberal intellectual world and the conservative intellectual world, both of which are teeming with conspiracy theories, just extraordinary, incredibly colorful, and delightful to investigate if you’re into the weird ways that the human brain operates. What usually happens is that the conspiracy theories in the liberal world can be differentiated from the conservative ones in the sense liberal ones are generally things that are not true but could possibly be true in this universe. So Saddam Hussein collaborating with Osama bin Laden, like on its face, a bizarre idea that almost certainly would not happen, but it’s not physically impossible.

Adam: Right.

Jon Schwarz: Like human beings could actually execute this conspiracy. Whereas the right-wing conspiracies now are, you know, there’s an old lady who lives in a hut in the woods, and she is stealing our children and vivisecting them to drink their adrenochrome.

Adam: Right, not likely.

Jon Schwarz: Yeah, which is actually, you know, impossible and has never happened.

Nima: Slightly less possible.

Jon Schwarz: Yeah, and so that is what makes Jeffrey Goldberg so skilled as a propagandist is that he would never come within a million miles and as you say, actually attacks the conservative bizarro world conspiracy theories, all in the service of selling his own, more plausible, but still completely wrong conspiracy theories. And it is galling for people like ourselves with our feet firmly planted in reality as they are, and we never make any mistakes on this subject. But it’s absolutely incredible to see, and I agree with you like, here’s the conspiracy theorists telling us about conspiracy theories.

Nima: Well, yeah, well, I mean, I think it really has to do with, as we’ve been saying on the show, and also you’ve been pointing out, Jon, this idea of what is allowed and what is not only allowed but what is authorized as being kind of the highest level of intellectual thought, using that and then laundering it through the reputation, the kind of highfalutin reputation of a magazine like The Atlantic. You know, it’s almost like the magazine equivalent of the argument like, well, Abe Lincoln was a Republican and so, Republicans are clearly for freedom, right? Like The Atlantic started as an abolitionist magazine. So, therefore, The Atlantic has an intellectual acumen in history that is unimpeachable. And so, therefore, time does not evolve, right? Time doesn’t move on, things don’t change. You got to have one kind of identity, one criteria, and then you get to maintain that kind of status in the way that you propagandize yourself.

And I think that one way that this has also happened is The Atlantic’s obsession with so-called cancel culture and namely, the unruliness of college kids, right? Like, campuses are getting out of hand. It is really a kind of consistent and intense focus of theirs. In 2018, The Atlantic partnered with none other than the Charles Koch foundation to launch its Speech Wars project that, in its own words, was “born out of The Atlantic’s legacy of covering threats to free expression, freedom, and justice — beginning with the magazine’s founding in 1857 as a nonpartisan journal that argued for the cause of abolition — and more urgently by the public’s increasing sectarianism and declining tolerance for challenging points of view.” Now, the most prominent pontificator of these allegedly sectarian scolds is Conor Friedersdorf. Now, let’s talk if you would about this kind of ruling class’s obsession with this cancel culture topic. The idea of oh, we have to hear views that challenge our sensibilities, which I mean, of course, on its own is not a terrible idea. That’s actually great. That actually happens a lot, especially on college campuses. But what about this version of cancel culture, pearl-clutching do you think is so central to The Atlantic’s overall editorial mission?

Jon Schwarz: This entire thing, this entire focus on college campuses and their hatred of free speech and so forth is a focus that was encouraged and described as a project for the future in the famous Lewis Powell memo of 1971. And like, people listening to the show are exactly the kind of weirdos and oddballs who will know what I’m talking about. Just before Lewis Powell was put on the Supreme Court by Nixon, he was a tobacco lawyer for the most part, like the absolute worst kind of corporate lawyer you can imagine. And he wrote this memo for the Chamber of Commerce about how, you know, the right is being decimated. And here’s how we have to fight back. And this strategy was put into action over the last 50 years, and they really have won, like they really succeeded. They put in the time and effort, and they did it. And one of the things that he was talking about was free speech is being crushed on college campuses. So, it’s a real obsession of theirs. And I think that the explanation for it is pretty straightforward. I’m sure you’ve seen about both the billionaire hedge fund guy, private equity, I don’t know, Bill Ackman and how he was converted to the cause of anti-wokeness because his daughter went to Harvard and became a Marxist. And Elon Musk, you know, also has been outraged by the fancy private school education one of his kids got in Los Angeles and turned his child against him.

Nima: Those aren’t the challenging ideas that they want to see, right?

Jon Schwarz: That we need to expose people to, absolutely not.

Adam: Right.

Jon Schwarz: They bewitch our youth. And so, we’ve got to stop that from happening.

Nima: The most challenging idea we can hear is just more anti-communism.

Jon Schwarz: Exactly. What I’m thinking of here that we need more of on college campus is like the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal and possibly the op-ed page of like Investor’s Business Daily, which people may know is like the Wall Street Journal except absolutely —

Nima: Mad money.

Jon Schwarz: Yes, out of their minds. And so, this is a subject that strikes right at the heart of America’s ruling class. Their children are being indoctrinated with the wrong ideas. And so, they want to go ahead and prevent that from ever happening so their children don’t come home at Christmas and start lecturing them about the proletariat. But the fact is in America, 95% of cancel culture, political correctness, whatever you want to say about this is from the right. And it is so powerful and so omnipresent that people don’t even think of it using those words. There is a real problem with the squelching of free speech in the United States. It’s just that most of it comes from the right. And it makes sense that for a magazine like The Atlantic that they would endlessly dither about the much smaller, much less consequential kind of political correctness that you see from the purported left.

Adam: It’s definitely a sort of ruling-class neurosis. You see this with people like Conor Friedersdorf whose entire beat, for the most part, is to whine about college campus free speech insofar that he actually becomes kind of very defensive about it. And has an article from 2019 saying, “Why I Cover Campus Speech Controversies.” So, the journalists care about free speech wars in the era of Donald Trump, but it’s like, there’s a whole vertical dedicated to that at The Atlantic. It’s central to the Atlantic. I did a report for my substack about a heatwave in Texas that killed several people who were stuck in prisons without air conditioning. And basically, nobody covered it. And so I was like, you know what, I’m going to take the same timeframe, which was a month, and I’m gonna see how many people covered college campus controversies, which killed zero people. The Atlantic had eight different stories about cancel culture in that timeframe. The Washington Post, New York Times, I think, twelve and seven, respectively. And so, it’s like, if I was an alien intercepting reading publications or intercepting our news coverage from cable from, you know, Andromeda or whatever, I would think that this was one of the most urgent things going on in this world.

And of course, we see in many ways why that is with the destruction of Gaza where what is seen as kind of ground zero is any kind of opposition to these types of things is from colleges. So, it is a disproportionate neurosis from the ruling class. But also, there’s a logic to it. Because if you’re worried about what people think five, ten, 20 years from now, you want the kind of Koch brothers’ vision of colleges, which is basically just they’re fucking vocational schools. They’re training schools for people to learn how to make widgets but not to think about anything. Well, the rich can think about things. But the poor aren’t supposed to think about things, right? The rich can major in philosophy and Latin and study those types of things. But the poor really just should be widget makers or pushers of widgets.

Nima: Peddlers.

Adam: Peddlers of widgets. And this obsession with this idea of like uppity college kids is all over The Atlantic because again, I think it reflects the elite consensus and also the kind of ideological disposition of those in charge and those who fund it. And it definitely seems to be out of proportion with what the actual things that are actually important. And I think it’s like you really can’t run an elite publication like The New York Times or The Atlantic without having 75 different stories about college campus neurosis. It is like, the thing they get mad at. And now again, I think that you’re right, to some extent it becomes personal because their own kids are now coming back with nose rings and Marxism and lesbianism and all these scary things.

Jon Schwarz: Yeah, you know, for one summer before they go intern for Goldman Sachs?

Adam: Yeah, exactly.

Nima: [Laughs] Well, Jon, so as someone who worked for ten years at an outlet that was kind of outside of this New Yorker, New Republic, Atlantic, Harper’s, that kind of level of what they would self-describe as like, the most prestigious publications as you’ve been saying, how much of this do you see as also being terrified to lose that higher ground or terrified to lose that kind of arbitration of intellect of truth in this space. I mean, you know, this is gonna sound kind of hokey and old-mannish, that’s fine, I’m a hokey old man. But like, the idea that, oh, well, you know, the kids are getting their news from TikTok, and so no one’s reading The Atlantic anymore. And so we have to, you know, be anti-woke, and we have to be pro-colonial, and we have to talk about, you know, things this way, because that is still where our leaders are gonna get their information. And we have to somehow discredit these other sources. What do you kind of see as, that kind of motivation in the pages of these types of magazines?

Jon Schwarz: I think that is absolutely one of, if not the biggest motivation on their part. Because the thing about the US Empire at this point is that its claims are so preposterous, are so contrary to what people can see with their own eyes. And absolutely, Gaza is a prime example of this. But then, you have the invasion of Iraq, which is a cornerstone of my worldview, which was this towering edifice of lies. And as soon as it meets reality, it just collapses into dust. And what you are left with at that point, when you know, everything that you are advocating is obvious lies for anyone with eyes to see is just screaming at people and trying to intimidate them intellectually because a lot of people don’t spend their lives studying these issues. Like, I was very lucky to have a job where I could do that. And so, you know, I was confident enough to know that what the people were saying was preposterous and was nonsense. Regular human beings don’t want to be yelled at when they haven’t spent a lot of time studying these issues. And they don’t like being told, you know, that they’re idiots and simps for Vladimir Putin. And so, that’s all they have left is these shrill, bizarre attacks on anyone who has a different worldview. And the thing that’s funny to me about, you know, The Intercept, we are seen as these horrendous barbarians, you know, among these other publications, that we ourselves are out of their minds when in fact, I personally, I was a very nice, well-behaved man. Like I’ve always followed the rules, I send thank-you notes.

Adam: Oh. I gotta do that more often.

Jon Schwarz: It’s magical what it will do for your life. People really love thank-you notes. And you know, I ask about how people’s moms are doing. And so, my political perspective is not very complicated. It’s just like, number one, I think it’s a bad thing for the US government to constantly lie about everything. And number two, I think it’s bad for the US government to just murder people all the time.

Nima: It seems like a fairly civilized take but not civilized in the mind of The Atlantic.

Adam: Right, well, if America doesn’t kill people, China and Russia will. So, someone has to do the killing, and it may as well be us.

Jon Schwarz: Exactly. Exactly. Like we have so much practice. Do you want to be killed by America or like, by these amateurs in China and Russia?

Adam: These real unruly upstarts.

Nima: Well, yeah, Jon, I mean, I think this idea of who gets to speak for civilization, right? To kind of present it back to the readers, to endorse it, to analyze it, specifically in the way that is deemed, I guess, most in favor of maintaining a current power structure. I mean, I know that kind of seems sort of obvious, but like, this idea that the same publication can endorse broken windows policing and turn around and then endorse the invasion of Iraq, and then, you know, continue to endorse school privatization, like, there’s a clear agenda here. And it doesn’t seem to be the pursuit of challenging viewpoints or truth, as we keep saying but actually, this kind of maintenance of the social and political superstructure, and just sort of getting that imprint of authority and of importance. I think, you know, something Adam and I talked about a lot is this idea of seriousness. So, before we let you go, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the kind of seriousness vibe of The Atlantic, why it takes itself so seriously, why it needs everyone else to consider it so seriously in this space.

Jon Schwarz: Yes, well, this is a core part of the self-conception of anybody with power, which is that they are the serious rational ones. And then, the rest of us are these, you know, irrational children who are out of our minds, running around far below them on the planet, the surface of planet Earth. And they have this Olympian view from 40,000 feet. And in fact, John Adams, the father of John Quincy Adams, said something famously along these lines to Thomas Jefferson. He talks about how you know, power can see far into the future and can see everything that’s happening when in fact, it is only serving its own ends. It’s really worth looking up and reading that because he was right then. And he could perceive that then because the United States was not the most powerful country on Earth yet. And so, we were less powerful. And so, he could see things from the perspective of people without power.

Anyway, it is funny, it’s just uniform. It’s a uniform perspective of people with power. And there’s nothing they hate more in my experience than making jokes about them. Because they have the money, they have the guns, but they do not have any jokes. And it drives them crazy. Like, they themselves are not funny people. They have no defense when you make a joke about them. In the commentary track to the movie Life of Brian, Michael Palin talks about this. And he says, you know, I’ve always thought revolutionaries should use jokes more because it is a very potent weapon that the people in charge cannot fight back against. And so, that is The Atlantic. Personally, what drives me crazy is they don’t publish humor pieces anymore. Like, I wrote a humor piece for them many, many years ago. And that is never going to happen again because they have laid down the law. No more jokes.

Nima: That’s right. They’re not The New Yorker. They’re even more serious than The New Yorker.

Jon Schwarz: Exactly, exactly. Look at how much more serious we are. We don’t even have one page of jokes every week. Not The Atlantic, my friend.

Nima: Clearly, Jon, the reason we had you as a guest today is because of the continuing grievance that you don’t get your own Talk of the Town section in The Atlantic. But that will do it for this interview. It has been so awesome to talk to you, Jon. John Schwarz, friend of Citations Needed, was a longtime senior writer at The Intercept. And as we have said time and time again, our leading David Frum, Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic correspondent. Jon, always a pleasure to have you on Citations Needed.

Jon Schwarz: Oh yeah, always great to be here. Thank you.

Adam: Yeah, you know, we didn’t mention this at the top of the show, but I wrote an article two weeks into the Israeli bombing of Gaza for The Real News that talked about how The Atlantic wrote all these articles about the bombing of Gaza without really having any Palestinian voices at all. In fact, for the first two weeks, they had 38 articles on the topic and only one token Palestinian who was a former Palestinian Authority official who wrote this kind of dry analysis of the PA in the context of the war. So, pretty much no real Palestinian voices. Meanwhile, of course, several Israelis, obviously nonstop Americans, most overwhelmingly pro-Israel. They have since, I think, had maybe a couple different token Palestinians but more or less, it’s 90, 95%. People who are not Palestinian talking about Palestine. Because Jeffrey Goldberg, again, the guy was a prison guard for the IDF. I mean, he admits to covering up the torture of a prisoner in his 2006 memoir. He’s pretty open about it. I guess if you sort of put a lampshade on it, it’s okay. But this is, you know, someone who’s going to have to sell the kind of centrist war consensus, very pro-Obama, very pro-Biden, very pro-centrist liberal reportage generally speaking. Again, there are exceptions here and there. They’ll have a sort of token dissenting voice to mix it up. It’s not a one-party publication, it’s not the Gazette, but it is largely and overwhelmingly conservative and centrist in its outlook. Much like the New York Times and MSNBC, it’s why all these washed-up neoconservatives end up there because they don’t have any organic constituency among the right anymore. They’ll be at think tanks and even populate the Trump administration, but conservatives aren’t clamoring anymore to read David Frum, right? It’s MSNBC, more wealthy, democratic viewers. And that’s really their kind of market. It’s this overlap of effectively conservative Democratic voters.

Nima: Well, yeah, who also fancy themselves as kind of intellectuals getting the best, well-read, documented, sometimes data-driven, right, but really, like intellectual fare, and I don’t want to be dismissive of that. I like things that are smart. I think smart people should write things and other people should read them. Sure, whatever. Cool. But that’s like the whole vibe. It’s more about the vibe of academia, of scholarship, of intellect that then launders right-wing ideology through this kind of elite institution, right? The elite writing of well-heeled smarties. And so therefore, the shitty ideas get peddled to liberals, and then, right-wing ideas become liberal ideas. And then, there’s only like, one broad, intellectual consensus that just happens to be right-wing.

Adam: Well, and then, he published straight-up nasty, racist screed. So, Eliot Cohen who is the former Bush official and signatory to the Project for the New American Century, which is the think tank that basically was the architect of the Iraq War, the spin-off at the American Enterprise Institute. A few days after the October 7 attack, he wrote in his article against barbarism, the Americans have spent the last two decades fighting “barbarians in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.” And that our faculty said that Israel’s fight against Palestinians was “a fight against barbarism. He would go on to say, “Barbarians fight because they enjoy violence. They do not only kill and maim — the armies of civilized states do that all the time — but go out of their way to inflict pain, to torture, to rape, and above all, to humiliate. They exult in their enemies’ suffering. That is why they like taking pictures of their weeping, terrified victims; why they make videos of slow beheadings; and why they dance around mutilated corpses.” And so, you have this word, very explicitly orientalist racist framing that the enemy is barbarians, and we are out to fight barbarians. And so, this is a sort of highbrow publication that stuff is published in.

Nima: Right, that’s not like Fox News. That’s not like some dark screed on 4chan, like, that’s in The Atlantic.

Adam: Right, and that gives it a veneer of credibility and official sort of sanction. And so, yeah, that’s the kind of stuff you’re dealing with here.

Nima: Yeah, I think actually, writer David Klion summed it up really well when he wrote for The New Republic in October 2020 about a compendium of articles that was published by The Atlantic as a book, articles spanning a number of years of its coverage of American democracy. The publication is called The American Crisis: What Went Wrong. How We Recover. It’s 500 pages, has like 40 articles written and published between 2016 and mid-2020. And in reviewing this, writer David Kleon wrote this about the magazine: “The Atlantic is a magazine not precisely of the center but rather of a set of liberal civic ideals; more than any other publication, its purpose seems to be the continual renewal of educated Americans’ commitment to high-mindedness.” And so, that kind of commitment to not only high-mindedness but also to very conservative American ideals, right? Some of the most conservative whether it’s broken windows policing, whether it is the invasion and occupation of other countries, whether it is the scourge of wokeism on college campuses, all of these when put through The Atlantic machine, come out as liberal ideas, liberal elite high-mindedness, and influence our politics in incredibly destructive ways.

But that will do it for this episode of Citations Needed. Thank you, everyone, for listening, and for supporting the show. Of course, you can follow the show on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook at Citations Needed and become a supporter of the show through Patreon.com/citationsneededpodcast. All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated as we are 100% listener-funded. And as always, a very special shout-out goes to our critical-level supporters on Patreon.

I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Our senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again, everyone. We’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed episode was released on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

Transcription by Mahnoor Imran.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.