Infiltrating The Baffler: A Field Report

Last night The Baffler held a meeting at Housing Works in New York City. The Atlantic Wire has obtained, through colleagues sources at the CIA, a report on what transpired.

This article is from the archive of our partner .
Last night The Baffler held a meeting at Housing Works in New York City. The Atlantic Wire has obtained, through colleagues sources at the CIA, a report on what transpired.




Introduction / Background

The Baffler, a hyper-intellectual, sometimes satirical, left-wing publication, launched its latest issue, no. 19, on 2 April, 2012 after approximately 18 months on hiatus. The publication has been through multiple cycles of activity from its founding in Chicago in 1988. It currently operates from Cambridge, Massachusetts, with operatives primarily along the Eastern seaboard. Present for its meeting held at the Housing Works Book Store in Manhattan were four key members of the organization's leadership as well as approximately 50 to 60 rank-and-file members, ranging in age from early 20s to mid-60s, indentifiable by an abundance of sweaters, spectacles, and fashionable scarves. Senior leaders on hand were: recently installed editor-in-chief John Summers, senior editor Christopher Lehmann (see prior reports), and contributors David Graeber and Barbara Ehrenreich.

Threat Assessment

Discussions at the meeting outlined three major threats perceived by The Baffler:

1) THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY: An intelligence report within The Baffler's latest number, authored by Baffler operative Maureen Tkacik, posited that The Atlantic is probably a CIA front operation. She writes: "Of course The Atlantic is a turgid mouthpiece for the plutocracy, a repository of shallow, lazy spin, and regular host of discussion forums during which nothing is discussed. It is, in every formal trait, a CIA front." Tkacik, a Washington, D.C.-based operative, was not in attendance at the 2 April meeting. However, Lehmann, a senior editor, referred to Tkacik's report as an example of The Baffler’s mission to “dull the cutting edge” of culture. He also praised the publication for falling “outside the debate,” making clear his hostile intent toward media and culture in general. While The Atlantic styles itself as a "thought leader," Lehmann concluded, "I think we want to be either a thought provoker or, better yet, a thought destroyer."

Recommended action: Continue close monitoring of this organization's inquiries into this sensitive program for possible impacts on operational security.

2) ANIMALS: Erhenreich summarized her report in the latest issue concerning the latent threat animals pose to humanity after millenia of mistreatment. As their jobs morph from the work of pulling plows and sleds to more white-collar work such as therapy dogs, she concluded that they may be like us, but they do not like us. "When humans rest too much on the goodwill of animals, or simply let down their guard, things can go very wrong," she writes in her brief. 

Recommended action: Consider adding parakeet-based surveillance systems to The Atlantic operation.

3) TECHNOLOGY: Graeber posited that capitalism was hurting scientific advancement, contending that the bureaucracy necessary to develop things like space shuttles and atomic weapons was now largely concerned with trying to sell things and not actually aimed at putting people on Mars or creating robot-servants, the lack of which Graeber contended was a basic complaint of modernity. "The Internet is a remarkable innovation, but all we are talking about is a super-fast and globally accessible combination of library, post office, and mail-order catalogue," Graeber writes. "Had the Internet been described to a science fiction aficionado in the fifties or sixties and touted as the most dramatic technological achievement since his time, his reaction would have been disappointment."

Recommended action: Further monitoring of The Baffler will require outlay for a print subscription for the foreseeable future.

Conclusion / Analysis

The Baffler represents itself as an alternative to a national discourse fraught with mediocrity. In its drive to fall "outside the debate," as Lehmann states, it generates some brilliant counter-intuitive analysis, namely Ehrenreich's discourse on animals and how they hate us. It also puts forth a substantial amount of its own brand of mediocrity. After the meeting of 2 April one rank-and-file member said: "I feel like I just sat in on someone else's staff meeting." We judge that sentiment to be accurate, but contend that this staff meeting was enjoyable enough to repeat when The Baffler releases another cache of briefs.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.