Posted on | January 21, 2013 | 28 Comments
Obviously, it helps if you’re a Bolshevik:
When Bhaskar Sunkara was growing up in Westchester County, he likes to say, he dreamed of being a professional basketball player.
But the height gods, among others, didn’t smile in his favor. So in 2009, during a medical leave from his sophomore year at George Washington University, Mr. Sunkara turned to Plan B: creating a magazine dedicated to bringing jargon-free neo-Marxist thinking to the masses.
If that hardly seems less of a long shot at fame, let alone fortune, he’s the first to agree.
“I had no right to start a print publication when I was 21,” he said in an interview in a cafe near his apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “Looking back, I see it as a moment of creative ignorance. You have to have enough intelligence to execute something like this but be stupid enough to think it could be successful.”
The resulting magazine, Jacobin, whose ninth issue just landed, has certainly been an improbable hit, buoyed by the radical stirrings of the Occupy movement and a bitingly satirical but serious-minded style. Since its debut in September 2010 it has attracted nearly 2,000 print and digital subscribers, some 250,000 Web hits a month, regular name-checks from prominent bloggers, and book deals from two New York publishers.
When I saw the headline (“A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream“) at MediaGazer, it got my attention because, of course, Marxism is the deadliest idea in human history. Marxist-Leninist regimes killed 100 million of their own citizens in the 20th century but, hey, let’s assign a cheerful human-interest story about this young idiot who thinks it’s hip and cool to revive a discredited ideology.
It’s “an improbable hit” with “250,000 Web hits a month”? Guess that makes me “an improbable hit,” too, but I haven’t had any interview requests from Jenny Schuessler yet. Ace of Spades HQ has had more than 190 million visitors to date and, last time I checked, they were averaging something like 300,000 Web hits daily. However, for some reason Ace doesn’t get glowing coverage in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, and if New York publishers have been eagerly thrusting book contracts at him, Ace has been suspiciously quiet about it.
Almost like there’s a bias or something, y’know?
@jennyschuessler <- a journalist in the historic New York Times tradition of Walter Duranty!
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) January 21, 2013
UPDATE: Ask yourself, “How does a magazine with less Web traffic than this blog merit a gushy 1,100-word puff piece in the New York Times?”
Well, left-wing journalists like Jenny Schuessler read left-wing magazines, and they watch MSNBC and it turns out MSNBC host/Nation writer Chris Hayes is a big fan of Jacobin. So it’s a “friend-of-a-friend” kind of phenomenon. Donald Douglas at American Power quotes Jacobin’s interview with Chris Hayes:
I do think there is a potential for a radicalized upper-middle class. We already see that, it’s just a question of how that gets channeled. Everything about the Netroots, the anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment … One of the interesting things about the way our certain kind of fractal inequality has manifested, the people who see it the most, have the closest proximity to it, say, the top 2 to the top 20 percent: ‘I went to law school with Joe and I have some job at a firm and I’m doing alright, but he went into a hedge fund and is making $10 million.’
Only the elite can afford to be Bolsheviks nowadays.