Saturday 15 December 2012

Why ‘The Economist’ sucks

I have never liked The Economist.

Granted, it’s a successful magazine. It sells much better than any other current affairs magazine in Britain (UK circulation: 210,000 printed edition plus another 6,000 digital). It also sells well abroad (global paid-for circulation of print plus digital editions is over 1.5 million) and it is influential (more among business people than politicians).

The reasons for its success are precisely why I dislike it:
  1. It trades on being a sort of upmarket version of the Reader’s Digest, a one-stop shop that saves readers the bother of having to be more widely read.
  2. Most of its articles are not bylined, which creates the illusion that its opinionated content is somehow neutral or objective.
  3. It perpetuates conventional wisdom and rarely challenges orthodox opinion, which helps its (small ‘c’) conservative readership know which opinions are safe to hold and which might cause raised eyebrows.
Like the Beano, besides the weekly edition there is also an annual, The World in 2013. The New York Times gently mocks its “confident and sophisticated accumulation of factoids and predictions for 2013 that can make you seem not only smart but also visionary”.

But it’s The Simpsons who best nail The Economist’s platitudes. Homer is handed a copy of the magazine on board a plane. “Look at me, I’m reading The Economist,” he boasts to Marge. “Did you know Indonesia is at a crossroads?”

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