Lost Exile: The unlikely life and sudden death of Russia’s angriest newspaper
By James Verini
The demise of The Exile began, as so many demises have in Russia, with an official letter. Faxed to the offices of the newspaper late on a Friday afternoon the spring before last from somewhere within the bowels of Rossvyazokhrankultura, the Russian Federal Service for Mass Media, Telecommunications, and Cultural Heritage Protection, it announced the imminent “conducting of an unscheduled action to check the observance of the legislation of the Russian Federation on mass media.” The Exile, a Moscow-based, English-language biweekly, stood accused of violating Article Four of that legislation by encouraging extremism, spreading pornography, or promoting drug use. The letter scheduled the unscheduled action to take place between May 13 and June 11. This being Russia, it wasn’t faxed until May 22. See Full Story
What Will Liberal Bloggers Do If Obama Wins?
By James Verini
In an interview with The New Yorker, Pat Buchanan recently described the life cycle of American conservatism this way: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” If we accept Buchanan’s logic, then it took about 40 years, beginning with the Goldwater campaign in 1964, for the Right’s roots to be forged into planks and those planks reduced to wooden nickels. In the resulting vacuum, another movement is already threatening to graduate from inspiring to oppressive: the Netroots putsch and its sounding board, the liberal blogosphere. Together, these forces bear a striking resemblance to the enemy. Just as Nixon, Reagan, Gingrich, and Bush depended on developments in new media—direct-mail campaigning, talk radio, cable news—so the new wired Left, with its disheveled assortment of journalist-activists and activist-journalists, has mastered the Internet. See Full Story
Big Brother Inc.
by James Verini
In Washington, D.C., power often resides in faceless corners. Consider Aristotle Inc., whose offices occupy a nondescript town house on Pennsylvania Avenue, just out of view of the Capitol Building. On a warm fall morning during the last congressional-campaign season, I find myself in a conference room there as Aristotle’s founder and C.E.O., John Aristotle Phillips, shows off his latest innovation. Phillips is in the business of political data mining—he finds out everything he can about individual voters and then sells that information to politicians—and the tool he’s demonstrating for me could be seen as a breakthrough in electoral politics, or a new low in privacy invasion, depending on your perspective. The culmination of nearly a quarter-century of digging up information on tens of millions of Americans, it’s called Aristotle 360. The best way to think of it is as a hal2000 for running campaigns. See Full Article
Will Success Spoil MySpace?
By James Verini
On the second level of a shopping mall in Costa Mesa, California, a short drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles, is a nightclub called Sutra Lounge. Don’t let the location fool you: to the partying young suburbanites in these parts, there is nothing incongruous about a nightclub in a shopping mall. (Shopping is fun; clubs are fun; there you have it.) And anyway, once you’re inside Sutra, you could be anywhere—anywhere in the vicinity of Los Angeles, that is. At around one a.m. on a Monday, Sutra is pulsing with that special brand of synthetic Southern Californian abandonment. Tanned, toned girls in denim skirts no wider than cummerbunds rub up against surfers and real-estate pashas as actress-waitresses pass by carrying trays loaded down with bottles of Grey Goose vodka. Professional dancers make mock love to assorted poles and railings. There is enough silicone bobbing around to improve the Statue of Liberty’s self-image. See Full Story