The Atlantic Goes Goblin Mode

A soft, liquid chortle from the musty cabinet under the break room sink.

On Friday, the editors of 164 year old current affairs magazine The Atlantic turned out the office lights after another long week publishing the considered views of leading public intellectuals on the most vibrant issues of the day. But in the quiet darkness came a rustling from a heap of sticky Starbucks cups. From the grimy duct of an inefficient pre-pandemic HVAC system: a hollow scuttling. A soft, liquid chortle from the musty cabinet under the break room sink, and from every foul corner crept the goblin editors of The Badlantic, the Atlantic’s goblin mode Wario. Cackling as he typed Jeffrey Goldberg’s password into the CMS (“f-u-remnick”), The Badlantic goblin-in-chief posted his latest triumph of cancel culture drivel: an essay by Sarah Hepola called “The Things I’m Afraid to Write About.”

Hepola is “a writer at large for Texas Monthly,” though perhaps more at large now than she was last week. What are the things she’s afraid to write about? She never actually says, although she mentions “gender” suggestively a few times, and expresses a lot of sympathy for Brock Turner, the Stanford student Hepola takes pains to point out wasn’t technically, legally, “a rapist.” But if one bad editor who wrote one bad essay is just one (bad) data point, this is nevertheless the weekend when going goblin mode finally hit the mainstream, with an explainer by Kari Paul in The Guardian.

Once you’re aware of it, you realize goblin mode is everywhere. He doesn’t use the term, but Craig Jenkins described a full goblin mode Kanye West in Vulture. The Fence went restaurant review goblin mode with “No Such Thing,” a series of reviews of lunches they were explicitly provided for free. Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei went goblin mode promoting “a joint Chinese–Russian propaganda project” on his Instagram, which Tom Scocca explains is a common pitfall of “being a genuine dissident or whistleblower or an otherwise deeply committed critic of things: to really do it involves demolishing your standard frame of reference.” If They would lie to you about some things, whispers the goblin, maybe They’re lying to you about everything.

Hedge fund Fir Tree Capital Management figured out how to short the allegedly dollar-backed stablecoin Tether, making a goblin mode bet that the ongoing collapse of Chinese property developers will take down Tether and possibly the bulk of crypto finance with it. Pete Davidson, who was born in goblin mode and is in bed with your wife right now, will kick off the goblin space program on goblin robber baron Jeff Bezos’ dong rocket later this month. In ol’ Knifey, realm of the goblin king Brexit, even the roads are going goblin mode. Hayes Brown documented French President Emmanuel Macron going à la mode des orques, and in the very homeland of the hobbits themselves, nothing is more goblin mode than leaving a whole $2400 ham lying under a bush.

But not everyone is in goblin mode. Desus & Mero spent twenty minutes with Denzel Washington and it’s one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. Just the opening five minutes on public transit in the Bronx alone are worth it.

More great conversations: Tabs collaborator and number one philosopher on O.R.P. Substack Heather Havrilesky talked about being “the Mom” and “the Wife” for television’s misogyny factory The View on the Longform podcast. David Remnick, whose magazine doesn’t have a goblin mode twin, talked about the “historical pattern in Russia that we’re seeing again today” with Stalin scholar Stephen Kotkin. Isaac Chotiner demonstrated that he’s one of the best interviewers working even when his subject doesn’t suck, in a conversation with Russian military expert Michael Kofman. Also in the weekend’s Ukraine takes, it’s probably too optimistic but Francis Fukuyama wrote a list of predictions in American Purpose that depart from the conventional wisdom of the rest of the Smart War Boys.

Today’s Song: Aesop Rock, “Pizza Alley”

~ I can’t see a thing. I’ll open this tab. ~

It’s Sleepy Monday and I am so groggy. Tabs will be off tomorrow so I can handle some family stuff, apologies for the short notice. To make up for it I will only ask you to subscribe paraleptically today. Do I tweet? Very well then I tweet. (I am garb, I contain goblins.) Happy Pi Day, and may the force be with you.

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