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Longing for the Days of Megan McArdle

[ 157 ] January 14, 2013 |

You thought McArdle was as low as The Atlantic could go? Oh no. Not even close. How about allowing Scientology to write a “Sponsor Content” that looks just like a news article but is in fact a self-written story about the awesomeness of Scientology leader David Miscavige?

Wow. If this isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what is.

Also, make sure you read the comment section. I’m sure it’ll soon be inundated with people ripping the magazine. But right now, it’s clearly a coordinated campaign by Scientology to flood the comment section with laudatory comments. It’s all very special.


Comments (157)

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  1. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Ralph Waldo Emerson would be so proud!

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      I meant to add: the comments on this “Sponsor Content” are particularly hilarious: one “Really, Atlantic?” comment and then a dozen or so expressions of how exciting Scientology and Miscavage are.

      • anonymous in WV says:

        Well, this Wednesday morning all that’s left is the remark that “We have temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads.”

        I’m so sad I didn’t get to see the “like” counter spinning, and read all the Scientology nuts’ comments.

        Years ago I worked with a guy whose brother-in-law ruined his family paying for clearing sessions until he ran out of money and credit, at which time the “church” dropped him like a rotten hot potato. No house, no job (spent too much time at “church” to get the job done!) and no wife or kids, because she was smart enough to get the heck out of Columbus.

        There’s a religion for you – taking all your money, ruining your life, then kicking you out since you can’t afford the dues any more!

        When their founding clown first imagined the scam, it was while drinking and playing cards with his fellow SciFi authors at a Con. None of the other guys ever thought for a minute that it was
        a good idea to actually found the imaginary church, which included every trite SciFi idea they could come up with while drinking and playing cards, except L. Ron. What a buncha maroons!

        I use a pseudonym [sic] to prevent gratuitous violence by the maroons against my family!

    • Brenda Johnson says:

      Hilariously, the counter on “like” for the first comment is rolling like the odometer on a speedster . . .

    • blowback says:

      You thought it couldn’t get any worse – it can!

      The Atlantic is now carrying an on-the-spot report of an interrogation under torture by the FSA in Syria. In fact, it almost seems as if the “reporter” (Barak Barfi, a research fellow at the New America Foundation) is the interrogator with the torture being applied by an FSA goon.

  2. Tod Westlake says:

    Have you read the comments? Holy shit!

  3. Robert Farley says:

    Damn. I get about ten “We will pay to post content” e-mails/week. Looks like the Atlantic has set a precedent that I can dig…

  4. Leeds man says:

    I was gonna say “it’s just an ad”, but most ads don’t have comment sections. Actually, not a bad idea.

  5. tonycpsu says:

    Wow, the Scientology Freeper Brigade is something to behold. CoS must have sent out the bat signal as soon as they realized the first few comments were derogatory.

  6. Scanner says:

    Hobby for those with free time/no life: the “up/down” tallies on the comment section update in real time. I’ve seen one negative comment go from 580 to 640 “upvotes” just while typing this.

  7. Random Atlantic commenter says:

    I’m not brainwashed by the church in anyway involved with Scientology Erik but as someone who has also been persecuted you shouldn’t be so fast to cast stones with the mob against Scientology! The Germans haven’t always been right you know!

  8. Paul Campos says:

    On a totally and completely unrelated note I just saw American Psycho for the first time (13-year-spoiler alert)


    Is the answer to the question of whether or not all the carnage was in Bateman’s head supposed to be ambiguous? What’s with his encounter with the lawyer near the end who mistakes him for “Davis?” That made no sense. Is the book worth reading?

    I did appreciate the encomia to such seriously underrated artists as Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, and Whitney Houston (RIP).

    Sorry for the threadjack and I swear this has nothing to do with Tom Cruise.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Which Beck album are you listening to right now?

    • Vance Maverick says:

      The book is absolutely worth reading. Which is not to say that certain sections of it aren’t absolutely unreadable.

      • Disagree. You can figure out what’s going on early enough that slogging through the rest of the thing is pointless. The movie is far better.

        • Vance Maverick says:

          As I wrote below, or possibly above, I didn’t find “figuring out what was going on” to be the source of interest. The static and repetitive quality — enough so that the eerie banality of the music reviews leaps out as a diversion — became fascinating to me. The butchery, not quite so much.

    • Leeds man says:

      “Is the answer to the question of whether or not all the carnage was in Bateman’s head supposed to be ambiguous?”

      I didn’t think it was ambiguous (in book or film), but I’m only semi-literate.

      What Vance said. There are some good grooming and fitness tips too.

    • Lev says:

      It’s supposed to be ambiguous, at least in the movie. Haven’t read the book, but there are a lot of deliberate touches in the movie (like when he’s dragging a corpse in a bag leaving a trail of blood, but then there’s a cut to another camera and it’s gone) that suggest this.

      It’s a pretty good movie with exceptionally good direction. And it was roughly ten years ahead of its time.

      • Vance Maverick says:

        I didn’t notice the book dropping breadcrumbs like that (unless you count Bateman’s mysterious impunity), but I’m not the sort of reader or viewer who greatly cares. (It didn’t occur to me to wonder these sorts of things about Fight Club, for example, nor did I reevaluate the movie on being told.)

        • Lev says:

          Interesting you bring that up, as Fight Club has a very similar editing clue (hint: Norton gets out of the “wrong” car door after the crash).

        • Bruce Baugh says:

          In the book, there’s that stunning chapter with the teller machine conversation and all, where we see some pretty genuine expressions of emotion of Bateman, that ends mid-sentence. The next chapter begins with no sign that Bateman has any recollection of what happened to him the night before. It’s the biggest sign that Bateman is trapped without the ability to distinguish, but not the only one.

    • rbcoover says:

      I think it was clearer in the book that all the Wall Street guys are completely indistinguishable from each other, both from outsiders and each other, that literally no one would notice if one of them disappeared and if one was a psycho killer nobody would ever be able to tell which one it was. It’s been some years on both, but I remember the movie giving me more of an impression that “quite possibly this was all in his head” and the book giving me the impression “these people are all monstrously evil and exactly the same.”

      • TribalistMeathead says:

        The movie does give the impression that it was all in his head (and I haven’t read the book), but it could also give the impression that the rich can literally get away with murder, because all involved parties will just fall in line to back up your alibi (the scene at the end where the apartment is being re-painted and the real estate agent tells Bateman to leave, Bateman’s lawyer telling Bateman he just saw Paul Allen in London a few days ago, etc.).

    • SEK says:

      No, Patrick Batman really did kill all those people. Wait, what?

  9. Pinko Punko says:

    There flower and garland drapery in all those images was really creepy- something looked slightly photoshopped about all of those worldwide celebrations. I would still put McCardle lower, considering Atlantic was paying her for that rather than getting paid.

  10. Ken says:

    Old joke: A says to B, “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?” B says, “Yes.” A says, “How about ten dollars?” B says, “What do you think I am?” A says, “We’ve established what you are, now we’re negotiating price.”

    The Atlantic established what it was when it first allowed ads (long, well-written ads, but ads nonetheless) to be called “content”. The Scientology ads establishes a price point.

  11. Rob says:

    Can’t wait for the big Scientology pavilion at the Aspen ideas festival. Then again, when you think about it, that was always pretty much a cult.

  12. djw says:

    Best comment so far:

    Such beautiful buildings! It’s a shame that Shelley Miscavige couldn’t join her husband at the gala openings!

  13. Jim Lynch says:

    Scientologists are interesting specimens. What makes them tick, to have swallowed such baloney hook, line, and sinker? I know the same might be asked of Christians and immaculate conception, but for Christ’s sake, aliens having seeded volcanoes? What’s wrong with those people?

  14. Ethan says:

    Jeff Goldberg seems to have decided to make lemons into lemonade by using it as an opportunity to promote Lawrence Wright’s Scientology expose.

  15. Decrease Mather says:

    Who knew?

    Washington, D.C.: September 12, 2012
    The Church of Scientology opened its new National Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., in a ceremony led by David Miscavige. Joining him in this dedication were Members of U.S. Congress Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Danny Davis (D-IL); as well as Liz Gibson, Senior Program Manager, Federal Emergency Management Agency.

  16. Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    Considering the amount of $ Scientology has at it’s disposal, and the desperation of print media, I’m actually surprised we don’t see this sort of thing more often.

  17. tt says:

    I understand why the The Atlantic is doing this I don’t get what’s in it for Scientology. They have a solid means of making massive amounts of money. Do they actually believe that getting this kind of attention on the internet (which hates them) will help them in any way?

    • Jon H says:

      I assume they’re trying to get out ahead of the imminent Lawrence Wright exposé book, and the media coverage it’ll get. He’s already going to be on a NBC’s Rock Center.

      Also, they may have confused Lawrence Wright for Robert Wright, who until recently blogged at the Atlantic.

    • David E. Grey says:

      I don’t at all understand why The Atlantic is doing this.

      They want to attract a diverse group of readers, especially among those who are aware of topical social currents, and are reasonably intelligent.

      And they’ve been doing a fairly good job in making a presence for themselves on the Web, unlike other magazines often thought of in the same circles (such as Harpers.)

      But they undercut much of that effort with cheap money-making stunts like this one, and they clearly set out to alienate the very readership that they’re hoping to attract in greater numbers.

      It’s a long-term losing proposition, even if it’s profitable in the very short-term.

  18. Mitch says:

    Worth noting comments are moderated on the Atlantic’s sponsored posts, while not on real posts. I’d be curious if the sponsors get the keys to do that. How. Extra special would that be?

    • David E. Grey says:

      Their content management system allows the article or blog poster to control the comments in the associated Disqus thread. So yes, the CoS is able to directly moderate that comment thread. (As are other site admins at The Atlantic.)

  19. […] * But it was too late for the Atlantic, powerless before Tom Cruise’s superpowers. […]

  20. Matt McIrvin says:


  21. YooHooligan says:

    Aaaand, a mere 25 comments later, the comments are closed.

  22. DocAmazing says:

    We’ve gotten this far, and no one has written “Miscavidge of justice”?

  23. GregB says:

    This is a Miscavaige of justice.

  24. Paulk says:

    Whole thing is gone now, content and comments.

  25. Apparently there is some shame left in them:

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

    • NorthLeft12 says:

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

      I believe this can be roughly translated to mean the following:

      “The Atlantic is currently involved in an internal struggle between our conscience and greed. At this point in time our better nature has prevailed, but we have included the word “temporarily” to indicate our willingness to be further enriched at the expense of whatever of our good name is left.”

      • Cody says:

        I think it went more like “Dear CoS, this sponsored ad has gotten a lot of traffic. It will be an additional $500,000 to continue to display it on our website”

  26. Paulk says:

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

    Well duh.

  27. Moxiequz says:

    Now the whole post is gone.

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

    Gosh, who could have seen this coming?

  28. BlogWood says:

    Great timing – the St Pete Times is currently running an expose. I’m sure that the subject of the expose knew it was coming.

    Divide and conquer works against the mainstream media just like it works against workers.

    St. Petersburg Times: FBI’s Scientology investigation: Balancing the First Amendment with charges of abuse and forced labor

  29. Tod Westlake says:

    So disappointed that the campaign has been suspended. I was really hoping that my sincere comment that David Miscavige is the “kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life” would make the cut.

  30. Lacking Moral Fiber aka Useless Muthfucka frmly Nemesis says:

    The paulites got nuttin on the clamheads.

  31. Halloween Jack says:

    Frankly, I’m less offended by this, because it’s at least clearly labeled.

    • bradP says:

      While the “Sponsored Content” was pretty clear at the top, the format is obviously intended to mimic their news and opinion content. In fact, I would wager that the value of the ad itself comes from the imitation.

  32. Anna in PDX says:

    Wow, I was one of those last night who didn’t get to see the article before they took it down – absolutely disgusting. Awful. There are no words, really.

  33. Vance Maverick says:

    The Atlantic has apologized. (Via Fallows and Coates, i.e. the parts worth reading.)

  34. Howard Appel says:

    Does anyone have a screen capture or a link to the wayback machine grab of it, they have already “orwelled” it.

  35. anonymous in WV says:

    Thanks to Flickr and the innertubes saving everything in archives, I have been able to read the sponsored content in full.

    Whoooo-howdy, what a pointless load of tripe!

    When I spent time on the streets of Chicago, I learned of several wealthy yet odd religious institutions, many with large stone buildings taking up large portions of downtown city blocks, right in the loop.

    I would bet all the money in my pocket that none of them are as weird as what L. Ron and his SciFi writing buddies dreamed up that late night! And I’m not wearing pants with pockets posting here at home…

  36. Robert M. says:

    I’m so late to the party that I’m actually early for the next one, but the Onion has a companion piece here.

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