The Atlantic Lets Fans Watch Journalists Drink

Also: Patti Smith Rambles About People Power

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My favorite magazine, The Atlantic, is celebrating its 150th year by talking a lot about the American Idea. Its New York City party last night certainly said something about the East Coast media idea. Picture if you will an NYU concert hall in which fans of the magazine are invited to sit in auditorium seats and watch journalists and VIPs -- including Robert Deniro, ABC's John Stossel (uncle of Atlantic Managing Editor Scott Stossel), BusinessWeek's Jon Fine, Andrew Sullivan, Georgette Mosbacher and bits and pieces of Nick Denton's Gawker Media empire -- mill about on the stage drinking free wine and eating Beef Wellington puffs. At least the poor souls didn't have to pay for the pleasure. And they were also treated to some bitchin' interpretive dance.

The main attraction, of course, wasn't grazing journalists and writhing bodies, but a panel discussion about the American Idea and performances by Josh Ritter and Patti Smith. The panel was led by P.J. O'Rourke, who managed to poke some fun at the party and keep his sense of humor about him. Commenting on America were: Arianna Huffington -- forced to speak in Haiku to prevent her from rambling on too long; Mark Bowden; Azar Nafisi, author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran"; former Massachusetts Governor William Weld; Moby; and Christopher Buckley. Considering the number of participants and the weight of the American Idea, the discussion was short (and drowned out at times by journalists who'd much rather hear themselves talk about other journalists than listen to a lecture about America).

Ritter did a short set of emo-folk stuff and Smith, proving she has all the intellectual rigor of a college freshman, rambled on at length about Ghandi, William Blake and people power. I'll assume she's never read Ghandi's thoughts about how the Jews should have handled Hitler and that when she says "people power," she doesn't mean all those people who watch Fox News.

UPDATE: Guess I wasn't the only one a little weirded out by it all.