December 17, 2005

The magazine I subscribe to but never seem to open.

Just now, I linked to a piece in The New Yorker. I found it because it was cited by a commenter in the earlier post about the Pamuk trial. But the current issue of The New Yorker has been sitting on the table in front of me for days. I subscribe to The New Yorker, but lately I haven't even been opening it. I have a stack of unread issues here. You'd think, with all the cartoons, I'd at least flip through. Why did I care enough to subscribe, only to shun it so now.

One problem is the covers. What? Aren't the covers beautifully done? They are nicely drawn, but lately, nearly every one is anti-Bush commentary. This week's cover especially annoys me. We see an American solder, sitting on a cot, next to a concrete wall. He's got an exaggeratedly sad look on his face as he reads a card. The card has a picture of a Christmas tree. On the soldier's wall is the shape of a Christmas tree composed of hundreds of hatch marks made with a green Crayola crayon. That is, this soldier, a man who volunteered and is fighting for what he has every reason to believe is a noble cause, sits around looking monumentally depressed because he is not home for Christmas and has time to be sentimental enough about Christmas that he has been spending the whole year making the image of a Christmas tree on the wall. In the world of The New Yorker, the war is just a big, sorry mistake, and our soldiers have nothing but regret.

Let's see, do I feel like reading what the folks who chose that cover decided to put inside?


AJD said...

"for what he has every reason to believe is a noble cause"

Every reason? Talk about propoganda. Get a grip! There are plenty of reasons to think that those "volunteers" are miserable and that they are sick and tired of being the target of the people who were supposed to welcome them as heroes.

I'd love to see your picture of what it's like over there, Ann. The happy and the proud, I suppose.

No wonder you aren't inclined to read The New Yorker.

Ann Althouse said...

So you see them as a bunch of sad sack losers who didn't know what the hell they were signing up for? These are real men and women who deserve honor and respect for what they are doing!

Kurt said...

And of course, anti-sheck, their misery explains why they keep re-enlisting--that's right, I said re-enlisting--at record numbers, right? They can't possibly believe in what they're doing or think there is anything worthwhile about it, now can they?

Ann Althouse said...

By the way, I've been told to "get a grip" by more second-rate commenters and bloggers than I care to remember. Argue substance if you want any weight with me. And no, I don't think everything is pretty. Not at all. Never said it was. But I don't think soldiers sit around moping and making hatch mark Christmas trees. I referred to the "cause" not the conditions or the things they need to do. I didn't say things were "happy." Try reading the actual words written before you attack.

Dave said...

Being the commenter who linked to Pamuk's article in the New Yorker, I read it regularly. I skip some of the more politicized articles (such as those written by its editorial board) as they are rather dull. But I do the same thing with most political blogs, whether right or left.

Dave said...

Also, re the covers: I hardly ever notice them because most of them are inscrutable to me or otherwise not interesting.

I'm not much into the visuals; if I wanted visuals I could turn on the TV or go to a museum I suppose.

Yes, I know people revere the New Yorker's covers but they never held much interest for me, in the same way that comic books (or, indeed, the New Yorker's cartoons) have never interested me.

DEC said...

It's lonely in an army barracks in the United States on Christmas Day, too. Not everyone gets to go home.

JohnF said...

The cover, as you describe it (I haven't seen it) probably would have worked during WW II as well, though. I'd be a little lonely without being home at Christmas.

The trick with the New Yorker is to tear off the cover and all the pages until you get past Talk of The Town (and, if there is one, the anit-Bush article that follows Talk of The Town). Then you have a pretty good read.

It's like the NY Times--just throw away the first section and you have a pretty good paper.

Mark Daniels said...

Magazines to which I've subscribed in the past have suffered similar inattention from me.

Recently though, I began subscribing to 'The Week' and amazingly, I read almost every article in it!

I think that it's because 'The Week' rapidly and painlessly relieves some of my guilt about not being aware of whatever is in the news at the moment. The magazine's short articles give an overview of each story plus a sampling of what domestic and foreign pundits and editorialists of various stripes are saying about it.

Of course, you won't find the great writing or all the funny cartoons you find in 'The New Yorker' in 'The Week.' But as time passes, I feel increasingly like Billy Joel in his song, 'Just the Way You Are':

I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are.

Maybe you've graduated from "clever conversation" in what you deem the pretentious, aren't I clever way of sophisticates and wannabes.

Some can read 'The New Yorker' and retain their humanity---my son, for example.

Others read it and become snobs.

Still others look at the cover and ask, "Where'd I leave my copy of 'The Week'?"

Have a good weekend.

PS: I'm not on the payroll of 'The Week.'

Remarque said...

I think part of the reason that cover rings so false is that, aside from making soldiers seem like moping victims, it also implies that the New Yorker staff is deeply concerned with the happiness of American soldiers to begin with. When was the last time they touted any of the great programs that anyone can use to improve the life of a soldier stationed overseas?

Spirit of America, Books for Soldiers, Operation Phonecard, AnySoldier--there are dozens of these organizations supported by an army of generous home-front volunteers. Do the New Yorker editors know they exist? Do most of their readers? It's far more honest of them to oppose the war because they hate George Bush, but please: it's rather cheap of them to claim to be opposing the war because it makes soldiers cry.

EddieP said...

Ann, you'd be better off cancelling the New Yorker and subscribing to Popular Mechanics. At least you'd get some useful information.

I think I've read that you take the NYT (New York Tabloid). Why would you want more leftist trash than you already get.

If you want to keep your subscription, then at least continue to let accumulate for recycling purposes.

Get a grip? Anti-sheck is the one without moorings.

Motor 1560 said...

I only read the New Yorker in the doctor's office or when I run across a stack somewhere I've got time on my hands and there's no wireless access.

Since McPhee doesn't write for them anymore, there's no good reason to subject myself to their or so arch commentary.

I also have reason to know, firsthand, what the guys are doing off duty in The Sand. It isn't sitting morosely on a cot. It's mostly hanging with their brothers and sisters in travail and studying for promotion. And, if you're lucky finding an air hockey table somewhere. Or, true joy, a wireless hookup.

They are head and shoulders better than the military of my day. They stand tall, walk tall; continue the mission. And, if someone is sitting on his rack in the squad bay looking troubled, somebody is going to notice, his buddies first, then his NCO and, just as probably, a chaplain; the military's therapy corps.

Leadership, commissioned and non, is evaluated on handling this kind of thing in today's military. If somebody falls through a crack in the "we take care of our brothers and sisters system" the leadership is down rated; a powerful incentive to institutionalize "caring".

anti-sheck, one of the most common statements you will hear in today's military is, "Do the right thing." If somebody is unclear on just what the right thing is, nobody is going to give them a hard time for asking.

Happy? Not all the time, it's life after all. Proud? Damn 'betcha.

John(classic) said...

I find I read the New Yorker less too.

You see my dentist hired another assistant, and now you get right in the chair...where you wait, sans New Yorker, for the dentist with a bib around your neck and a view of what must be very expensive lighting that has a little chip out of the reflector on the lower left hand corner...

AJD said...

Ken Body on the truth on troop morale:

Wingo's report concluded that the protests in the U.S. were not demoralizing troops. What was affecting morale, he found, was uncertainty about what the U.S. had accomplished with its investment of 39,000 lives. "I don't even know what I'm fighting for," said Marine Pfc. Sam Benson.

All of the Pfc. Bensons are why the New Yorker would run the cover that Ann dislikes so much that she cannot open the magazine. I guess he's misinformed, huh? Or do you honor his dignity?

Wolfen said...

It used to be enough to flip past the opening editorial screed by Hertzberg or one of his surrogates. But lately the anti-Bush crap is showing up in movie reviews, reviews of plays, even ordinary articles. It's beginning to resemble the NYT under Raines.

Charlie Eklund said...

Last year, I let my long-term subscription to the New Yorker lapse. For final six months of my subscription all I read were the cartoons, in fact. Sad.

I renewed Vanity Fair, but it's on probation. Double secret probation.

erp said...

I first subscribed to the New Yorker in high school (1948-52) and looked forward to its arrival every week. It just kept getting more and more political until about 15 years ago a particularly egregious "Letter from Washington" written by Elizabeth Drew made steam come out of my ears. Now even the cartoons annoy me.

Tim said...

But you won't be much better off if you stop subscribing. Months later, they'll still be sending you letters and postcards self-congratulatorily reminding you of all the great articles and reporting you're missing. Convinced that nobody would want to miss out on such things, they'll speculate that it was all just a mistake and that you must've accidently let your subscription lapse. And then, they'll throw in a special educator/student rate that's not cheaper than the rate you originally paid. At that point, you'll start getting peeved that someone, somewhere, thought that you could be swayed with a special offer that isn't. No, I think it's much better just leaving them on your table.

tommy said...


That's an article trying to claim that Iraq is like Vietnam, and that looks like a quote from Marine in Vietnam, not one in Iraq.

The military has moved well beyone Vietnam (or the conflict in Southeast Asia as they like to call it), I suggest everyone else do the same.

Brandon said...

Isn't the New Yorker the magazine that was explicitly founded with the notion that the "little old ladies in Dubuque" wouldn't get it? Well, I'm neither little, old, nor a lady, but I do live a little over an hour's drive from Dubuque and I ... don't get it. Maybe about half the cartoons even make sense to me, and only half of THOSE are funny. The rest ... eh. I guess you have to live in New York City, at least in the spiritual sense.

CCMCornell said...

Why read stuff about soldiers from partisans that create their own image of them and/or fish for quotes that suit their agenda when there's tons of blogs from soldiers themselves? Check out for links to some.

Ross said...

I saw the cover, and I thought it was sort of poignant, and I have to echo John's comment. I can't imagine any soldier spending Christmas in Iraq (or any war zone, any time, anywhere) is going to be thrilled about it.

I trust in our able host's grip, but I ask this: If the same picture were on the cover of, oh, the National Review, would you give it a second thought? I wonder how much the interpretation is colored by the perceived politics of the magazine. (Real politics of the magazine, actually, but I seriously doubt the editors are sending marching orders to the illustrators.)

Whatever, the politics of this war have really become twisted when giving a humane thought to soldiers deployed at Christmas is controversial.

Joan said...

Ross, a cover of National Review depicting soldiers overseas at wartime wouldn't be infused with a sense of pathetic futility. A certain wistfulness, to be sure, but I'm betting whatever artist they chose would also manage to convey strength, determination, and nobility. Ann's description of the NY cover makes it seem as if that soldier's sacrifice was but grudgingly given, or even perhaps coerced out of him.

Brent said...

As a boy growing up in South Carolina in the 60's, it was treat to be visited by my aunt and uncle, childless sophisticates living in Manhattan, he the Marketing VP of Hanes at that time. I dreamed of growing up to live the "intellectual, New Yorker" life, and one of my favorite gifts from my New York aunt and uncle was "Cartoons of the New Yorker (The First 30 Years)". I still "get" the cartoons.

I thankfully did not become the elitist I aspired to be, but while living in California, where there are more New Yorker subscribers than in New York, I did subscribe for about a decade. I did not renew 2 years ago, due to the very reasons Ann mentioned: it's unreasonable insertion of everything "anti-Bush" and "anti-Israel" into even non-political articles and cartoons.

Everything still good about the magazine is available for free on it's web site. I still read David Denby's wicked movie reviews each week, only now without the annoying covers.

Only decision left: what to do with all those saved back issues . . .

Brent said...

I do need to mention that Caitlin Flanagan's article in this issue on Mary Poppins is outstanding - numerous new facts about P.L. Travers and Walt Disney. (Caitlin is often in "The Atlantic") It's also free on the website, ""

James d. said...

I must be too easy-going, because all the New Yorker objections listed here sound reasonable, and from my own reading of the magazine, reliable.
But it doesn't bother me, and if it does, I simply move on to the next article.
I think it's because my natural personality is simply to absorb as much information as I can, and then do my own thinking -- internal writing, if you will. Bad writing bothers me much more than writing I disagree with. It's tough to explain.

Besides, every so often they do surprise you. Most often, it's when they vigorously defend New York City and that just happens to align with something not so liberal.

Brendan said...

That's the kind of image that in prior wars would have been printed on leaflets and airdropped by our enemies. In 2005, The New Yorker does the dirty work. But remember, they support the troops ... by depressing the hell out of them.

BrianOfAtlanta said...

Thanks, Anti-sheck, that Ken Bode screed was one of the most intellectually insulting pieces of hackery I've had the misfortune of reading in over a month. He quotes a study and a G.I. from Vietnam and then pastes it onto our troops in Iraq. Of course. Pity he couldn't find a real Iraq veteran or even read a milblog or two. But why waste the time? Iraq is just like Vietnam. Our troops there are just like those poor, confused souls in Vietnam.

Although the Bode article says nothing about our troops in Iraq, it does explain the mentality behind articles such as this one in the New Yorker.

DEC said...

I wonder how the late Norman Rockwell would have drawn a soldier in Iraq at Christmas.

Ross said...

By the way, I'll just add that there is a very interesting profile of Zalmay Khalizad (sure the spelling is wrong there), the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, in the issue in question. It's well worth reading, and actually rather flattering to the ambassador, though I'm sure some will see it as enemy propaganda.

Ann Althouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

DEC: "I wonder how the late Norman Rockwell would have drawn a soldier in Iraq at Christmas."

I think Rockwell would have produced a facial expression that clearly combined the love of Christmas at home and the noble determination to fulfill the important wartime task the soldier had staunchly committed himself to. The viewer would feel urged toward greater appreciation of the simple, traditional joy of being safe at home for the holiday and the profound and courageous service the soldiers are giving. Rather than hatch marks on the wall, showing a soldier just marking the days until he can get out, I think Rockwell would have found a way to express the gift-giving theme of Christmas: the simple gift-giving of the home-style Christmas, the soldier's gift of his service at the risk of his life, and maybe even Christ's gift to humanity. The New Yorker's soldier on the gift theme? Damn, why did I ever think it waa worthwhile to offer myself? If jesus had run the analysis that way, there wouldn't be any Christmas.

DEC said...

Re: Ann on Rockwell

Perfect. You should be teaching art, too.

Ross said...

I won't argue with our kind host's nuanced interpretation, but I'll offer a link to an archive of the late, great Bill Maudlin's work -- -- for compare and contrast purposes.

The Private intellectual. said...

Your comment has actually made me wish to subscribe to The New Yorker - which is undoubtedly not what you had in mind.

Why would I want to do that?

Simple: because I believe that one must see both sides of a situation to understand it fully and to make a good and informed decision. One can close out the opposition as much as pretend that everything one party or another - one person, firm, organisation or another - is correct because, not having read the other side, there is no opposing information.

Perhaps a few high level decisions would have been made in the past - and might be made in the future - more to the benefit of our respective continents when some of those making decisions actually weighed up all the alternatives.

As to the green streaks making up the soldier's Christmas / Holiday (very PC) Tree, there are two alternatives: either the number of days he's been in Iraq, or the number of colleagues he has lost (two thousand one hundred and counting, isn't it?). Either way, I'd want to go home too.


ChrisO said...

Boy, talk about letting your own prejudices color your reaction. I'm a loyal New Yorker reader. It's my favorite magazine, because I learn something from every issue, whether it's how coal trains operate or a physician's view of malpractice issues. There's an anti-Bush slant to the editorials, but it's also been the source of some great reporting. The fact that much of the reporting exposes problems with the war, or activities of the Bush administration, doesn't make it "bad," or "wrong."

As for the cover: since many of the commenters appear to be reacting to Ann's description, rather than seeing it first hand, it's important to point out that nowhere in the picture does it indicate that the soldier's in Iraq. When I first saw the issue, it didn't even occur to me that it was an anti-war piece. I saw a soldier, reading a card from home, looking sad as he misses his family. It is ridiculous to think that every soldier maintains an expression that shows he resolutely believes in his mission, and is determined to bring freedom to Iraq. Right. No 22-year old who's been away from home for a year gets sad when he receives a note from his family. Oh, but if we point out that some soldiers might be lonely at the holidays, it means "In the world of The New Yorker, the war is just a big, sorry mistake, and our soldiers have nothing but regret." Wow, I guess I missed the next three panels where all of that was pointed out, because it sure wasn't in the cover I saw. You don't want art, you want a caricature.

And of course, if a soldier ever does look sad, this massive support group leaps into action to soothe his feelings.

The message I took from the picture was that we should remember that there's a lot of men and women in uniform, far from home during the holidays. So many of you want to declare that this cannot be the meaning, since liberals hate the military. Isn't life easy when we only deal in caricatures?

eddieboy said...

Gee, I find myself doing the same thing with the New Yorker. I hadn't really thought about why, but now that I do, it must be the pervasive anti-Bush landscape. I haven't read the last six issues, but have read Baldacci's Camel Club. (Lots more fun.)

Jim Fergus said...

We don't live in a time in which Norman Rockwell type paintings would portray our more cynical natures. We, however, struggle with many of the same problems.

I don't believe that any soldier finds his duty in Iraq enjoyable especially when compounded with homesickness during Christmas. This type of art work has a history as long as our involvement in war. In a sense, as in most New Yorker covers, the artist creates a tension by combining the past and the present.

Ann, I might expect that despite your disagreement with the New Yorker's obvious point of view, you would at least honor their investigative reporting which has done much the heavy lifting for the MSP.

Pogo said...

The reactions here are typical. The left sees nothing wrong whatsoever, the right (and increasingly) the middle gets quite worked up about it.

Here, one lefty even claims not to have realized this was a soldier in Iraq. (I wonder what meakes me me think of Iraq when showing a US soldier at war?)

The MSM left is so obtuse, dishonest, or clueless that they cannot see their bias at all. Because, of course, they're not biased, they're right.

The only good part is, I don't have to part with my money to support their dwindling venture.

Ross said...


Yes, the reactions are typical: The righties fling accusations of treason.

I.e., this from above:

"That's the kind of image that in prior wars would have been printed on leaflets and airdropped by our enemies. In 2005, The New Yorker does the dirty work."