Wednesday, May 16, 2012

good things about the Atlantic

1. Derek Thompson really is an admirable writer and researcher. He makes evidence-based arguments that are consistently sober and appropriately limited. In a sea of young journalists who are trying to make a name for themselves, he's avoided the temptation to make a name for himself with overreach and bombast. Instead, he's done so with empirical rigor, with restraint, and with what might be the most important trait for an opinion writer, a sympathetic intelligence.

2. This piece by Andrew Cohen is really remarkable. Obviously, much of the credit belongs to the team at The Columbia Human Rights Review for their extraordinary efforts. But I think Cohen shows how an informed commentator can write effectively about other people's work, develop and extend it, and shed new light on key facets. For an issue this close to my heart, that's a real blessing. The Atlantic has quite a stable of informed writers.

3. I have some misgivings about Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog as a phenomenon-- I think some of his readers come to it looking for some kind of absolution, which is quite troubling-- but you have to give it up. He's got one of the best prose styles out there, and he enhances that strength by restricting himself to a certain range of topics which best fit that style. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but it isn't, at all; in fact I wish most bloggers had a better sense of where their relative strengths lie and were less likely to weigh in on whatever pops into their head. (I include myself in that criticism.) But even beyond sticking to a particular range of topics (which many bloggers do), I think Coates has shown a new evolution of blogging, which is to look at the blog truly as a unified project beyond the sum of individual posts.

4. Conor Friedersdorf's posts on foreign policy and domestic surveillance are crucial, to my mind. He's got a certain credibility on those issues that is not easy to forge, given how bipartisan support for endless war and surveillance has become. Most criticisms of Obama on foreign policy that come from conservative sources simply are not credible, considering that they are just part of a universally-negative litany. Friedersdorf, though, isn't unwilling to praise Obama, and more importantly, he doesn't pretend that Republican bellicosity is matched by that of the Democrats. Of course, for his troubles, he is reviled by most mainstream conservative bloggers, but then they are wretches so what do you expect.

5. Alexis Madrigal's hair is a delight.

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