The Atlantic Screws Up

We subscribe to several periodicals: FP, Esquire 1, Space Weekly and The Atlantic head the list.

It is often difficult to select which of these publications struts the most gravitas. 2 Thus it was a hell of a shock yesterday to browse The Atlantic’s site and see an “item” on Scientology – by a Scientologist – masquerading as a serious article therein. Yes, the ad was clearly marked “sponsored” content. But it gave me pause; had The Atlantic devolved into the very worst example of a desperate blog or, worse, the Star?

We had thought to pen something on the topic last evening but more urgent matters pressed. 3 By the time we got back to the site the ‘article’ had been replaced with the following:

Regarding an advertisement from the Church of Scientology that appeared on on January 14:

We screwed up. It shouldn’t have taken a wave of constructive criticism  -but it has- to alert us that we’ve made a mistake, possibly several mistakes. We now realize that as we explored new forms of digital advertising, we failed to update the policies that must govern the decisions we make along the way. It’s safe to say that we are thinking a lot more about these policies after running this ad than we did beforehand. In the meantime, we have decided to withdraw the ad until we figure all of this out. We remain committed to and enthusiastic about innovation in digital advertising, but acknowledge -sheepishly-that we got ahead of ourselves. We are sorry, and we’re working very hard to put things right.

Today even that was replaced by the more streamlined:

We have temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads.

Which seems more in tune with the tenor of the publication; one finds it impossible to envision either Emerson or Longfellow “enthusiastic” about any advertising; Boston was always a sober town. 4

Worse yet, The Atlantic moderated comments to the ‘article’; something it has never done in the past. In other words, no one was allowed to call a spade a spade. In fact, the only early comments that made it pass the censor moderator seemed to be inordinately happy, as though the writers were all high on the same specious nonsense drug. In fact, The Atlanticmoderators” were following the comments and realized something was…er, amiss.

But worse than that The Atlantic tried to make the ‘article’ conform to their normal outlay; it was, in all appearances, supposed to look like the staff at The Atlantic had written said pap in the hopes -one assumes- that the publication would suck in an unsuspecting reader and believe The Atlantic was endorsing Scientology.

Why anyone at The Atlantic would believe their normal reader would fall for that nonsense is beyond us; The Atlantic is not aimed at the 100 IQ set. No one who reads the magazine would be fooled by the phrase “Sponsored Content.” The fact that the magazine labeled it such, rather than by the true appellation “Advertisement” makes a lie and utter mockery of today’s apology. Which the editors of The Atlantic also surely know.

If not? Well, The Onion drove the point home today. 5

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Show 5 footnotes

  1. Yeah yeah yeah; I don’t want to hear it. They occasionally have a decent article or two and sometimes truly outstanding writing. Not often, mind, but enough. Besides, it’s the only way I can afford to wear cologne I like…
  2. So, uh…yeah; not so much with Esquire.
  3. Specifically losing two games of Sorry! and one of Clue! to a pair of 9 and 7 year olds. Go figure.
  4. If you have not had the pleasure –for it is a distinct pleasure– of visiting Boston, listen: one of the things the city is known for is Boston Baked Beans. No – not the candy, which is quite good. The actual legumes, the famous side dish. As to taste? Well, imagine you had heard all your life about that famous Kansas City barbecue. Everyone you had met who had traveled to the Rib Mecca returned with mouthwatering tales of orgiastic feasts of perfectly smoked meats and sauces literally to die for. You swore should the opportunity ever arise you would make the most of it. Years pass; your life continues, is fine, good in fact, but always at the back of your mind is the thought of KC barbecue. Then it happens – out of the blue you find yourself in KC over a long 3 day weekend. Crom! Where to start, where to start? You scan through your memory for everything about KC ‘q that you’ve ever heard about or read: choice choices choices! And then you remember – two Presidents have eaten at this spot! In fact, it’s their first stop when in town. So you get directions, get lost anyway, but then eventually end up at 17th and Brooklyn. You pay no attention to the skunky neighborhood or the rundown building, its nasty screen door replete with a buzzing business of flies: the smell of smoked meat has you salivating even before you exit your rental. Inside…well, inside it’s a toss-up for pure funkiness: Bryant’s or LC’s (LC’s by a health code violation). Still undeterred you order; some of this, some of that, definitely the ribs. With your treasured ‘q on your plate, more white bread than you’ve seen since you were 6, and for some odd reason an orange Fanta, you finally sit down and prepare to dig in. But…wait! What about the sauce? You spot them: plastic squeeze bottles labeled Original, Spicy, Sweet and…ketchup? You’re an OG ‘q eater; you squirt Original all over those ribs, tear one off and start sucking the meat from the bone…and then it happens. You really taste the sauce. What the fuck? That’s nasty! Surely there must be some mistake, right? Sadly, no. That’s Bryant’s famous sauce. Your dreams are shattered. And you’ve still got a pound of meat on your tray to get through… Well, it’s the exact same thing with Boston Baked Beans.

    Nasty, hard little things in a thin gruel, served in every restaurant with every meal, to include breakfast. If you had to eat those dour little pellets every day, you’d be sober, nay…downright solemn, too. Hell, you might unconsciously squeeze your lips so thin there is no chance a bean could ever get through, keep that kisser sealed shut in public, your lips pursed out, and certainly not respond to polite queries from goddamned tourists! Imagine a whole city of people walking around that way. That’s Boston.

    Other than the beans, the place is a treat.

  5. Of course the KC Star didn’t even mention the foofaraw; one has to care about journalism to follow such things.

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