It’s hard for me to believe, but we’ve just put together the 40th print issue of Current Affairs and sent it off to the press. This is Volume 8, Issue 1, meaning we’re somehow entering our eighth year of existence. I say “somehow” because the survival of Current Affairs was highly improbable from the start. We began with a small Kickstarter campaign in 2015 and operated out of my living room until 2017. We’ve never had any corporate backers or advertising. At a time when print publications are folding left and right, we’ve managed to get one to flourish.
The new issue is, I have to say, delightful. With cover art by the incomparable Janet Hill, and packed with a dozen original illustrations from artists like Ellen Burch, Nick Sirotich, Kasia Kozakiewicz, and Tom Humberstone, it’s a visual feast. It’s also filled with trenchant analytical essays on an eclectic array of topics by some truly great writers.
My aim with the print edition of Current Affairs has always been to produce something that could be described as “Mad/Nickelodeon magazine for grown-up radicals.” When I was a kid, and commercials for Nickelodeon magazine came on, I became just as desperate as the kids in the ad to get ahold of a magazine “packed with comics and puzzles and great stuff to collect.” One thing I’ve realized about being an adult is that you don’t stop wanting the silly stuff, you just have to pretend you’re too mature for it. But I know that secretly, nobody ever really matures, and so Current Affairs is full of “comics and puzzles and great stuff to collect.”
But it’s also on a very serious mission. I didn’t just become an overgrown child, I also became politically aware, and I realized how much in the world was unjust and cruel and how superficially that injustice and cruelty was discussed in the press. So, for example, the new print edition of Current Affairs doesn’t just contain fun stupid things (a warning about Smokey the Bear being a cop, a cartoon of Tucker Carlson sexually fantasizing about M&M’s). It also has a look at how the idea of “natural law” is being used by conservatives to push a disturbing reactionary agenda through the courts, a historical examination of Stalin’s crimes, a look at the labor politics of Staten Island, a review of Tom Cotton’s new foreign policy manifesto, and a discussion of how the idea of “manifest destiny” is still alive and well in Silicon Valley. We explore the politics of everything from South Park to Les Misérables to Dr. Phil, whose show will be ending this year after 21 seasons.
One of the aims we have here is to help readers learn to think critically about their culture. I want our magazine to be accessible to people who aren’t committed long-term leftists, and who are only just beginning to scrutinize some of the hidden assumptions in mainstream politics and media. In the hundreds of articles we’ve published since 2015, we’ve done our best to provide incisive, thoughtful, and fun commentary from a left perspective on an astonishingly broad range of topics.
We’ve done it all on a very tight budget. I still lay out every page of the print magazine by hand on my computer, and I had to learn graphic design in order to start the magazine. The whole thing is edited by myself and my coeditor Lily Sánchez. We operate out of a tiny office (overflowing with review copies of books) in New Orleans. We are about as far as you can get from being the New Yorker, with its hundreds of employees, and yet I will put our print edition up against theirs any day in terms of its beauty, substance, and humor.
If you haven’t seen our print edition, please consider trying a subscription. We’re currently giving away FREE copies of my new book Responding to the Right: Brief Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments, with every new subscription. Also, please consider donating to help us expand further. There is a great deal more we can do, and we depend entirely on our readers. We are fighting against a giant right-wing media behemoth, and keeping independent media live could not be more important.
Thank you for all of your support through these 40 issues! We aim to constantly make the print edition better, so here’s to an even more dazzling next 40 issues. Despite the long, long hours, this job is the best I could imagine having, and I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped this project succeed from its days as a Kickstarter campaign to now, from our many amazing freelance writers and artists to our endlessly supportive fans.