Letters to the Editor: 2/20/19

“I Hate The Economist”
Thoughts from a Law Weekly guest writer
Ben Lucy ’20


It has gradually occurred to me that I will criticize The Economist, the only news publication that I both hate and pay money to read.


I usually kind of enjoy the publication, the same way I enjoy The American Conservative, because a lot of smart people work there and they’re generally more libertarian, so nowadays there’s this impulse to say things that are, like, shocking to the neoliberalcon establishment or whatever, and I need those kinds of things to survive. So we get along fairly well. 


This weekend I made the mistake of reading “How to deal with the mullahs” from the February 9 edition. (I love how they don’t capitalize words in their titles. So edgy! So liberated!)


Synopsis: To get Iran to do what would be best for the writers of The Economist, “America needs to mix firmness with pragmatism…” Yeah, so basically another completely meaningless article by these status-quo propaganda hacks, but it sets some norms that I think are conversation-worthy even though the substance of the piece is not.


Anyways, sometimes The Economist writes these sentences, and they seem like they’re stating facts, but then if you think about it you’re like wait a second (1) some British people definitely wrote this sentence, ugh they’re the worst and (2) definitely some of them were high-fiving when they finally wrote this sentence and (3) my God—they, an alleged news organization, have written this sentence exactly as if they were reporting facts, but really it’s just a bunch of highly controversial conjectural nonsense! Again!


“If Iran casts off the JCPOA’s nuclear constraints, America and Israel will have to choose between the risk of Iran building a nuclear bomb and the dangers of a bombing campaign to stop it.”


That’s like saying, “If that bus crosses the street, I will have to choose between the risk of also crossing the street or pulling out my gun and declaring that no one is crossing this street anymore.” Like yeah, okay, sure, maybe? But isn’t it weird to say? Are they dichotomous? Is it clear that one or the other is the only solution?


From another angle: pretend I’m a machine learning algorithm that literally learned to read from this article. Even I know that “the JCPOA” means “Mr. Obama’s accord,” and that President Trump “abandoned Barack Obama’s nuclear deal in favour of tight sanctions.”[1] So like, as a strictly logical computer, I have to ask, are you aware that the “JCPOA’s nuclear constraints” have already been lifted? Okay, maybe I’m an algorithm that also understands basic contracts, but yeah this is some pretty one-sided propaganda nonsense.


I get that the Economist is run by a crack team of like 500 MI6/CIA college interns from conservative economics and political science departments around the world, but I will say unabashedly that it unnerves me how every article is reported like it’s God’s truth without a name attributed to it. Maybe there’s like a special British way that you attribute names to things and I’m just not looking in the right place, but it’s weird. Anyways, true story, I wrote in to my hometown newspaper one time the criticize its editorial board for criticizing Robert Bentley (years before the whole he-was-a-hypocrite thing), and I specifically called them out for not affixing their name to the attack on Bentley. My parents literally didn’t tell me what editorials were as a child. I’m embarrassed about this to this day. So I’m hesitant on this one. Like, maybe every Economist article is an editorial? If that’s the case, could the smart macro people come in and tell the PolySci people how to write?


Back in reality, it’s really frustrating that supposedly objective or mainstream news sources operate so transparently as organs of the state. Maybe next week we can talk about The Economist’s coverage of Venezuela?



[1] I have this subscription because this charming English college student called me and was like “Hey do you want some discounted The Economist” and I was like “Haha my brother-in-law is British you folks are alright yes that’d be great here’s my credit card.” He found me in America. He knows I’m in America. Why am I reading “favour”? Why can’t they tailor my user experience as closely as they apparently can tailor my prospective-user experience? Anyways, yeah, definitely not gonna renew.