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I Miss Good Magazine Writing
We learn the most from well-written articles about things we didn't know we cared about
Tonight on Twitter, I saw a video tweet. The subject matter was familiar: furious parents shut down a school board meeting over their children being force-fed pornography.
What made this tweet different was the location and the parents. This wasn’t upper-middle class Wildwood, Missouri; it was blue-collar Dearborn, Michigan. And the parents weren’t upper-middle class whites, but sandpaper-fingered Muslims.
What struck me about the tweet was that a school board had the temerity to upset Muslims.
From 9/11/2001 until . . . I’m not sure when, Muslims were the privileged minority in America, especially among the school-board class. A school district in St. Louis County, for example, eliminated all references and holidays associated with Christian or Jewish holidays. No more Halloween or Thanksgiving. Spring break was moved away (far away) from Easter/Passover. Fall break, traditionally the week of Halloween, was moved to early October, seemingly just after the school year began. The point was to eliminate Muslim concerns that their children might be exposed to a cross or a dreidel.
That change in the school calendar was complete in just 2020, but already school boards fearlessly feed gay porn to five-year-old Muslim kids. What happened?
The piece talks about Minority Moments in American history, focusing on three:
The Irish Moment, which ended, as so many things did, with the assassination of John F. Kennedy
The Jewish Moment, which ended about 1990.
The Gay Moment, which was in full bloom at the time of Brookhiser’s writing.
Remembering Brookhiser’s article, it dawned on me that the gay moment has, indeed, ended. It was replaced on 9/11/2001 by the Muslim moment. And, now that school boards show open contempt for Muslims sentiments and morals, we know the Muslim, too, has passed.
But that’s not what I wanted to write about.
I then tried to think of other articles that so burned into my mind that I could recall their details years later. I noticed that most such articles or columns were written at least 20 years ago—before the internet dissolved magazines. Since the internet swallowed publishing, the articles are short, clickable, and, mostly, vacuous. They are meant to attract eyeballs rather than inform and entertain. And they don’t stick.
An even older piece that I recycle continuously, Wile E. Coyote v. Acme Co., I first read in a 1990 print edition of The New Yorker. From about 1980 to 2002, I subscribed to at least four or five print journals. Today, I subscribe to none.
In 1990, I read The New Yorker and The New Republic—liberal journals with excellent writing. Morton Kondracke sharpened my mind, made me think, introduced entire fields of information that I never even imagined. I could read these journals without feeling the authors and editors wanted me dead.
That, too, has changed.
The left became intellectually useless when it stopped being liberal. The old liberal journals had, by about 2008, given way to screeds and arguments for outlawing free speech and punishing those with opposing views. It was in 2005 that I first read of a rather large coalition of professors seeking to abolish “unapproved” opinions on college campuses, including banning conservative students from universities altogether. The were working with the various accreditation boards to implement a ban on free speech 17 years ago.
About the same time, the journals of the right became zealous warmongers and haters of everyman. National Review, which had long celebrated the working class, came to despise anyone who works with, God forbid, his hands, unless it is to type an anti-commoner screed. It’s telling, I think, that William F. Buckley was more or less pushed out of NR after he turned against the Iraq War. He died a year later.
I don’t look at National Review these days. It has nothing to teach. Beginning about the time Buckley turned against the neocons, National Review’s writers began writing, not for an audience or for the world, but for their colleagues. They lifted the veil from their sneering contempt for their readers seeking only the approval of fellow NRs. Buckley’s monument to conservative thought is little more than Facebook for Deep State jerks.
Thus, magazines (or their internet equivalent) have become banal echo chambers through which people of inflamed passions and little experience or knowledge mock those who have not been initiated into their pretentious clubs. Their writing will not be remembered 25 years from now. No one will bother go find that thing Rich Lowry wrote about Ukraine. Ever.
The shelf life of articles written today is about seventeen minutes. There is no publishing calendar or cycle. Independent journalists simply post whatever they want, whenever they want, without editorial oversight or constraint.
In other words, all of journalism is now blogging, and nothing more. As a blogger since 2000, I miss those excellent articles by great journalists, though. Richard Brookhiser’s 1997 piece nourished my imagination and mind. It allowed me to see things differently and to obtain a new, higher perspective on the America experience. It taught me patience toward some cultural phenomena (but this too shall pass). And I still return 25 years later.