Past Issues

Welcome to The Baffler’s past issues. What’s here? All 400 contributors, 251 salvos, 337 illustrations, 160 poems, 70 stories, 23 issues, 3,013 pages, and 1,188,272 words (and counting) will soon be live on this website, brought to you by the wonders of cutting edge technology—and the dubious science of outsourcing magazine digitization to Asian countries.


No. 23

No. 23 A Carnival of Buncombe

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Oh, we may say our colleges are the best in the world while we secretly believe they’re an overpriced rip-off, but leave it to Thomas Frank in The Baffler no. 23 to ask whether they’re the best in the world at committing the rip-off. Welcome to America five years after the financial crisis. It’s a place “made possible by buncombe,” as David Graeber explains here. And it’s a time of magical thinking, as Susan Faludi says in her exposé of the narrow brand of feminism on offer from Sheryl Sandberg’s positive-thinking tract Lean In.

Luckily, we have Jacob Silverman to burst the techno-bubble that is South by Southwest; Ann Friedman to explain why we’re “All LinkedIn with Nowhere to Go”; and Quinn Slobodian and Michelle Sterling to report from Berlin “How Hipsters, Expats, Yummies, and Smartphones Ruined a City.” Our midyear issue contains world-defining fiction by Adam Haslett and genre-bending prose by Thomas Sayers Ellis about Lou Beach’s surreal cover art. The carnival’s all here. From Seth Colter Walls on Jean-Paul Sartre to Farran Nehme on Buster Keaton, from Dubravka Ugrešić’s dreams of Wittgenstein to Richard Byrne’s “Nod to Ned Ludd,” The Baffler gives you the latest trends in cultural news and retail opinion. Step right up!

No. 22

No. 22 Modem & Taboo

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With the presidential election in the rear-view mirror, we wanted to think about the opposite of politics, so we thought about sex. The result was an issue in which Heather Havrilesky sent up Fifty Shades of Grey, Chris Bray tracked down General David Petraeus and his wandering PhD, Hussein Ibish remembered the Marquis de Sade, Christian Lorentzen buried the British pop star/pedophiliac Jimmy Savile, Slavoj Žižek told us why gonzo porn is the most censored of all film genres, and Anne Elizabeth Moore explored the hidden assumptions behind Nicholas Kristof’s bid to rescue the women of the world, who have nothing to lose, apparently, except their market potential. Thomas Frank and David Graeber wrote about politics after all, and Thomas Bernhard‘s homage to Arthur Rimbaud appeared here for the first time in English. Evgeny Morozov’s “The Meme Hustler,” meanwhile, made the longest single essay in the history of The Baffler. Hey, look, we’re finally in color!

No. 21

No. 21 Your Money and Your Life

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In the third and last issue of our revival year, Thomas Frank tells you how theory met practice in Occupy Wall Street (and drove it out of its mind), Rick Perlstein explains how Mitt Romney lies to be loved, and David Graeber asks whether it’s possible to think that you believe something when, in fact, you don’t, or to think that you don’t believe something when, in fact, you do? (Answer: yes and yes.)

No. 20

No. 20 The High, the Low, the Vibrant!

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In our summer culture issue, we bring you decomposing cities that tremble with vibrancy, art museums where cash-and-carry aesthetics are the rule, journalists on the endless education of the president, and imperial foundations and their pet broadcasters on public radio. Where else can you learn why Eugenia Williamson thinks Ira Glass’s This American Life is so annoying, or take in Steve Almond on the lame, postideological pantomiming of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, or admire, with Jim Newell, the performance art of Harvard fraud Adam Wheeler and laugh at the Ivy mothership’s efforts to smite the pretender down?

No. 19

No. 19

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The fallout from the financial crash continues—everywhere but Silicon Valley’s profit center. Alighting on the bloodless crossroads of culture and technology, this issue was driven there by Thomas Frank’s “Too Smart to Fail,” David Graeber’s “Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit,” and Maureen Tkacik’s hilarious satire of The Atlantic magazine. Barbara Ehrenreich, Rick Perlstein, Jim Newell, and James K. Galbraith all contributed. There’s fiction by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya and Kim Stanley Robinson, plus poetry by Geoffrey Hill.

Who could have guessed that this flying car, a symbol for the tech-induced stagnation we investigated in this issue, first graced the cover of a Soviet youth magazine? Well, this issue marked the first assembled by the mag’s new crew: John Summers, Chris Lehmann, Patrick Flynn, Lindsey Gilbert. What have they done?

No. 18

No. 18 Margin Call

Ah, the financial crash. Old media has kicked the bucket, and so has the economy. The founding Baffler crew reemerges one last time to say we told you so . . . with full-color art and a built-in ribbon bookmark. Christine Smallwood considers the difficulty of thinking about the Internet. Astra Taylor asks about the meaning of “free” in an age of digital piracy. Michael Lind resurrects the word “oligarchy.” A.S. Hamrah links the work of the painter Thomas Kinkade to the mortgage bubble—an observation that would be quoted frequently when Kinkade died a few years later. Naomi Klein discusses the continuing relevance of her ten-year-old classic, No Logo. Will Boisvert remembers Detroit. Mike Newirth remembers Nelson Algren. Walter Benn Michaels tells us how Americans’ fixation on social virtue has blinded us to our economic regression. Matt Taibbi reads Rod Blagojevich. And Maureen Tkacik drops an eight-thousand-word bomb on the literature of the financial crisis. “This issue of The Baffler was assembled in December 2009 in Chicago, Washington and New York after having been painstakingly ghostwritten by Bill Ayers,” reads the front matter. It was also the last issue edited by Thomas Frank and Dave Mulcahey.

No. 17

No. 17 Superslayer Storybook

This one we produced in Chicago and Washington, D.C., at the tippy-top of the bubble. Thomas Frank describes the Washington culture of centrism. Thomas Geoghegan tells what inequality does to the rule of law. Andrew O’Hagan remembers where he was when William S. Burroughs died. Jim Arndorfer reveals how the fortune of a Milwaukee plutocrat helped to change the nation’s politics. Kim Phillips-Fein understands online poker as a symbol for bubble-time economics. Steve Evans describes the rise of backlash poetry and “Free-Market Verse.” Jim McNeill honors labor bureaucrat Victor Reuther. Catherine Liu observes the ultimate commodification of dissent in Singapore. Matt Weiland marvels at Chautauqua reenactors. With fiction from Martin Riker and Whitney Terrell. Spring 2006.

No. 16

No. 16 Nascar, How Proud a Sound!

The backlash is back, the New Economy is dead, and Thomas Frank does a close reading of Ann Coulter, uncovering the remarkable similarities between the newest of rights and the oldest of lefts. Kenneth Neil Cukier reminisces about the salad days of New Economy journalism. Steve Featherstone reminisces about the management practices of New Economy offices. Paul Maliszewski writes the original and to this day the most thorough demolition of Richard Florida’s “creative class” theory. Dan Raeburn rescues the reputation of Baffler household god H.L. Mencken. Ana Marie Cox reads paperback potboilers. Dubravka Ugresic remembers happy days under Communism. Dan Kelly builds plastic models of movie monsters. Spring 2003.

No. 15

No. 15 Civilization With a Krag

The Global War on Terror has begun, and Ian Urbina and Chris Toensing tell of a colorful military clique wallowing in the new wave of defense dollars. Thomas Frank makes a pilgrimage to the Super Bowl. Martha Bayne appraises the cult of culinary excellence surrounding a certain celebrity chef. Andrew Friedman gets beneath the swirly titanium skin of the Bilbao Guggenheim. Terri Kapsalis draws frightening parallels between artificial insemination and American Girl dolls. Sharon O’Dair tells of the ne plus ultra in scholarly self-absorption: academic memoirs. J.D. Connor reads a submarine movie as a glorified deal memo for a corporate merger. Seth Sanders and Mike O’Flaherty remember rock music’s part in the backlash. With poetry from Daniel Bouchard. November 2002.

No. 14

No. 14 The God That Sucked

An issue about that ungracious deity, the Market, which starts off by wondering why Americans continue to love their shabby god when it sure doesn’t love them back. Mike Newirth narrates the awful story of the gun culture. Josh Glenn blames youth quiescence on the brainwashing power of OK Soda. Clive Thompson describes Conrad Black’s effort to bring an American-style backlash to Canada. Earl Shorris recalls his personal fight with the neocons. Chris Lehmann traces the long history of the liberal-media myth. Harper’s magazine publisher John R. MacArthur remembers the backlash election of 1972 and the sparsely populated political group, Republicans for McGovern. Martha Bridegam ponders the beginnings of the real-estate bubble in booming San Francisco. With fiction from Christopher Sorrentino and Leon Forrest, plus a legendary illuminated cover by Mark Dancey. A classic issue—at the printer when fire destroyed the Baffler office in Chicago. Spring 2001.

No. 13

No. 13 Vox Populoid

In which we kicked off our long-running study of American conservatism with a look at the nation’s long parade of kooks and cranks. In it, Jeff Sharlet remembers Westbrook Pegler, the “It Boy of attack journalism.” Dave Mulcahey remembers the backlash bible known as Reader’s Digest. Robert Nedelkoff remembers the black godfather of American fascism. And Dan Raeburn remembers when the beloved comic strip Li’l Abner took its sharp turn to the right. Dan Kelly tells the anti-heroic story of the John Birch Society. Daniel Lazare traces the career of The New Criterion’s Hilton Kramer. Christian Parenti singlehandedly launches the discipline of Seventies Studies with an essay about wildcat strikes. Paul Maliszewski tells the Rest of the Story about his tenure at The Business Journal of Central New York. With microfilm-pastiche art by Hunter Kennedy and fiction by Aleksandar Hemon, Number Thirteen was editor in chief Thomas Frank’s favorite issue of them all. Winter 1999.

No. 12

No. 12 Then Came Nylon

Contains Thomas Frank’s classic essay, “New Consensus for Old,” in which he lays waste to the academic field of cultural studies. Plus: Jim Arndorfer stands in awe of the multilayered historical simulacrum that is Fado Irish Pub. Stephen Duncombe marvels at Cadillac, the historical embodiment of the aspirations of the middle class. Bryan Urstadt gives a blow-by-blow account of the luxuries of a major automobile press jaunt. We unearth a forgotten fictional delicacy by Thomas Beer. Christian Parenti offers a slab of gritty reporting on the California prison system. Loic Wacquant translates Pierre Bourdieu’s treatise on neoliberal thought. Plus: Rock n roll is dead, and Mike O’Flaherty says that late capitalism killed it. Also: beautiful cover art by Patrick Welch. March 1999.

No. 11

No. 11 Mid-Cult Today

An issue on middleness, which starts out—of course—with an essay on USA Today and the theory behind that colorful newspaper. Then: Ben Metcalf seethes at the Mississippi River. Paul Maliszewski confesses to the Swiftian fabulism he practiced while working as an editor at The Business Journal of Central New York. Tom Vanderbilt explores a California ghost town that has become a federally subsidized film set. Dan Kelly lunches with Rotarians. Kim Phillips-Fein explores the bankruptcy industry and the morality of indebtedness a full ten years before these issues dawned on the rest of the nation. Marc Cooper remembers where he was on September 11, 1973. Also: an entertaining epistolary exchange between Chris Lehmann and Michael Berube. Summer 1998.

No. 10

No. 10 The Folklore of Capitalism

An issue dedicated to business culture that features Matt Roth’s classic essay on Amway and how he happened to sign up for it. Elsewhere: Thomas Frank reads Babbitt. Tom Vanderbilt marvels at the ubiquity of branding. Nelson Smith provides a history of security alarms. Chris Lehmann pops the culture bubble. Kim Phillips-Fein looks at the urban poverty initiative Bridges-to-Work. Mike Newirth remarks bitterly on the urban gentrification initiative known as Wicker Park. Stephen Duncombe questions why history books written by establishmentarians focus on underdogs. Seth Sanders reviews records, including Atari Teenage Riot’s first compilation and Wu Tang Forever. Fall 1997. 128 pages.

No. 9

No. 9 An Injury to All

The New Economy is in full swing, and we decide to do an issue on labor. It features Jim Frederick’s classic essay on the intern economy (the spine of the issue bore the slogan, “Interns Built the Pyramids”). Thomas Frank tells us how class was disappearing. Josh Mason examines the ephemera of bull-market culture, including a punk-rock investment magazine. Tom Vanderbilt rips into office culture, from Dilbert to Successories. Chris Lehmann writes on the intersection of class and labor in the American university. Dan Bischoff recalls the story of union-buster Henry Clay Frick; Frances Reed remembers the Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike of 1912; Christian Parenti remembers prison labor and tells why it’s coming back. With fiction from Lydia Millet, a nod to authors-in-hiding by Robert Nedelkoff, and a cover by Mark Dancey. Spring 1997.

No. 8

No. 8 The Cultural Miracle

“For all its great cable channels, the excellent new global cyber capitalism is turning out to be a lot like the simple, grinding, exploitative capitalism of a hundred years ago,” writes Thomas Frank in the lead essay, in which he begins to explore the ways we deceive ourselves about our basic economic interests. Mike Newirth pours a nice frosty cosmo for the One Percent, while Tom Vanderbilt calls Skyy vodka’s marketing efforts “a Reaganite shibboleth charted in the barroom.” Aaron Cohen praises Thirties band-leader Artie Shaw; Artie Shaw remembers dealing with the music industry in the Thirties. Gary Groth reads Quentin Tarantino. Daniel Harris writes about gay porn in the age of AIDS.  Produced in Chicago in February 1996; 128 pages.

No. 7

No. 7 The City in the Age of Information

A gimlet stare at what twentieth-century capitalism has done for the American metropolis. Keith White reads city lifestyle magazines. Paul Lukas pays a visit to Times Square, then a retail wasteland. Naomi Klein hangs out at an online café. Maura Mahoney reads Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and finds it depicts Savannah, Georgia, as a Southern Gothic theme park. Dave Mulcahey reflects on the “Screw Capital of the World”: Rockford, Illinois. Kim Phillips-Fein regrets how lotteries bilk the poor, and Stephen Duncombe rankles at the way cities police them. Plus: dialect fiction by Irvine Welsh. Produced in Chicago in June 1995.

No. 6

No. 6 Dark Age

Thomas Frank’s “Why Johnny Can’t Dissent” is a once-in-a-generation lament that made punk rockers everywhere gasp at the futility of their attempts at rebellion. Meanwhile: Keith White turns his guns on Wired Magazine, Stephen Duncombe subjects himself to corporate edutainment, and Seth Sanders braves the theme-restaurant wasteland of Chicago’s River North. Joanna Coles describes the collapse of publishing while Charles Bernstein finds a few signs of life. Will Boisvert decodes the management theorists. Tom Vanderbilt bemoans the imperial arrogance of advertisers. David Berman recalls his time as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Produced in Chicago in December 1994.

No. 5

No. 5 Alternative to What?

To fully appreciate this issue of The Baffler, you have to transport yourself to a time when the word “alternative” did not provoke a reflexive cringe. (Go back and watch the movie Singles, or just look at its theatrical release poster to get in the mood.) Because the war on corporate culture continues with Steve Albini’s “The Problem with Music,” an essay that compared the act of signing with a major label to traversing a trench filled with “runny, decaying shit.” Plus: Keith White’s legendary takedown of Details magazine. Then: Herbert Mattelart assails world music, Eric Iversen follows the search for the new Seattle, and Thomas Frank probes the nullity that is Pearl Jam. Maura Mahoney deflates the Beat revival, and Tom Vanderbilt wonders about the day when retro culture finally catches its own tail. Produced in November 1993 in the tiny office of WHPK-FM at the University of Chicago’s Reynolds Clubhouse, this was our biggest issue yet: 168 pages!

No. 4

No. 4 Twenty-nothing

The Baffler muscles its way into that great debate of the early 1990s: What exactly is Generation X? In their titular essay, Thomas Frank and Keith White tell the ad men and the Boomers to go pound sand. This is also the issue in which we introduced “Semiotics Mailbag,” our high-theory lifestyle advice column, and where we revealed that a glossary of slacker slang printed by the New York Times was, in fact, bogus, thus exposing what became known as the Great Grunge Hoax—and launching the phrase “swingin’ on the flippity flop” into the general lexicon.

We produced this issue over three weeks in November 1992 on a Macintosh computer in Chicago, and upped our page count to 134. The idea struck us to boost bookstore sales by printing something provocative on the magazine’s spine. After rejecting one editor’s gnomic suggestion—“Not now, Caitlin, Mommy’s tattoo hurts”—we decide to go for straight-up insult: “Your lifestyle sucks.” Which appeared to be on the money, as bookstore sales went way up. We’re on our way.

No. 3

No. 3 Let’s Deviance!

Baffler no. 3 marks the first appearance of house anti-hero, Gedney Market, as well as the beginnings of The Baffler’s distinct style of cultural interpretation. To wit: Thomas Frank’s hipster demolition job and Rick Perlstein’s robust analysis of Scooby Doo.  Laid out in a four-day marathon session in Kansas City, this issue was printed on a Macintosh laser printer there in the winter of 1992; at 107 pages, we doubled our previous output.

No. 2

No. 2 Suburbia

The yellow issue was conceived as an homage to those familiar fears of “mass society” and the great concern of many decades past: conformity! “In a time when the ‘cutting edge’ has become a powerful tool for mediocratization,” our editor declared, “we proudly rededicate ourselves to its blunting.” The anxious-making midcult of the time included arts festivals sponsored by tobacco companies and the “affected playground cynicism” of nineties suburbanites.  Produced at the University of Chicago in the summer of 1990, our second issue ran forty-eight pages.

No. 1

No. 1

Who told us to start it? Nobody. How much were we paid to do it? Nothing. Well, why then? Because we were allergic to the world, but we weren’t sure just why. Determined to find out, we generated a torrent of juvenilia. Among it, our comic explication of “Mark Trail” remains worth reading. One thousand copies of this forty-eight-page inaugural were printed in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the summer of 1988 and distributed to bookstores by the editors (Thomas Frank and Keith White) in person.

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