Cultivating American Ignorance

I don’t usually just link to a prominent blog without having anything much to add. I figure if Joe Romm says something important y’all will just notice it without my help. But by God, this is such a repulsive corporate decision that even now in 2010, after all we’ve seen in the past couple of years, I am floored by it.

Is this the height of cynicism or the height of cowardice? You decide. Vote in the comments below. I’d also ask, if cynical, what are Time/Warner trying to achieve? If cowardly, what are they afraid of?

How is the world supposed to reach a sustainable condition if its most powerful interest is a democracy whose voters are encouraged to remain ignorant?

Update: I mean, look at the thing. They borrowed a school bus, parked it in a random spot in a parking lot, and photographed the side of it up so close you couldn’t see the New Jersey corporate landscape in the background. Then they shopped a bunch of kids in the window, shopped the sky blue, and shopped the tire black for good measure.

And it has nothing to do with good schools. Do good schools encourage their kids to stand on the seats of a school bus with their whole body leaning out the window? (Note that the way the kids appear, there are some missing seats in the bus. Also I think the scaling of the kids doesn’t match the scale of the bus, but there I’m not totally sure.)

If this garbage wasn’t done in a great hurry under great pressure, the graphics talent at Time needs to be good and fired. On top of everything else it may be the worst Time cover ever.

Update: Apparently this is nothing new. (h/t TB in comments) I note that in the first and third of the three cases shown the US cover was of obviously inferior design quality, and even the middle case, though arguably effectively designed, might have been put together quickly.


  1. I'm floored by this too. But I wonder what's going on with the comparisons, 'statistically'. Perhaps I'd find it less amazing if there was one cover for the US version and one for everywhere else. Like, is there an Asian version, European, and Latin American version of the magazines? Or is there just US and international? I might not find it quite as troubling somehow if the Asia, Europe, and Latin America covers are all just pseudoreplication.

  2. Not closely related, but it reminds me of the Daily Mail which was simultaneously campaigning both for the anti-chlamydia vaccination in Ireland, and against it in the UK – both on supposedly health grounds.There are other examples amongst the UK tabloids – which will have quite different and diametrically opposed stances in say English and Scottish, or English and N. Irish editions.

  3. Chris, I had a look at your terrifying blog and I see you don't have enough actual, real physical world doom to go with all the cultural and political gloom. Please come back here for further information about how bad it really is going to get. Happy to make your acquaintance… in a sort of a gloom and doom is best when shared sort of a way. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Here, unsurprisingly, during the cold war the most equally balanced stories were said to be made by the Germans or the Japanese or the pre-Berlusconi Italians or Greeks… Jugoslavian, Czech, or Hungarian news stories were also said to sometimes be good…

  5. During medieval time when climate was unpredictable, farmers coped by planting several crops in the same field. If it was cold and wet, the buck wheat grew. A bit warmer and the rye and barley made a crop. In very warm years, and they were able to harvest. However, this required a variety of adapted seeds. Expensive, in terms of seed, and labor, but it did produce food in times of unpredictable weather. Modern industrial agriculture has moved monoculture and (government) crop insurance. Integrated farms tend to plant small fields of different cultivars of different crops that have different climate requirements. Something makes a crop and produces some food. In addition, they graze livestock. Waste from livestock (including draft animals) is used as fertilizer.This is a system that historically, worked without need for weathermen or climatologists, in the face of changing weather. With some prudence, this approach can sustain communities even against weather events that are several standard deviations off of the expected climate. The problem in agriculture is not transportation, but all the ways that cheap oil subsidizes our industrial agricultural production. Take those subsidies out of our food production system and we have a very different system of food production.

  6. I agree with Oystein that this is simply Time's editors paying attention to the bottom line and knowing that their readers have an aversion to international news that even a compelling photograph won't overcome. They'll sell more copies with a "Back to School" issue. Now that doesn't excuse those editors from their failure to use their position to educate people. Its just par for the course for Time.

  7. Oh, nothing new. I recall in grammar school when a new student brought in his schoolbooks from his previous year in, I think, Illinois — one of those Yankee states — and we compared it to our (North Carolina) edition from the same publisher.Amazing how they don't tell those Yankee kids all the many pages of glorious history of South that we got in our edition. They had about two pages for a chunk of history where our edition had upwards of twenty pages. They even had a different name for the period: "Civil War." Who knew? No surprise the same games are still being played 60 years later. Who knows? Who cares?

  8. This presumes that a boring (and in fact, obviously hastily composed and shabbily executed) school bus on the cover will sell more copies in the US than a story about devastation in Pakistan with a fine piece of photojournalism on the cover.I do not think this is obvious.

  9. Let me say as a Norwegian: this is human. Time is an american magazine, IIRC, and in the US at least it will do what the news industry does – sell copies. Those subscribing outside the US will, naturally, be more interested in international news, and the cover reflects that. Norwegian newspapers are just the same.I'd vote cynisism eight days a week. Which, of course, means it not news. Move along, people..

Leave a Reply