Current Affairs has just launched a new Kickstarter campaign intended to help us improve our coverage in 2020 and expand our magazine to build a formidable left media institution. We hope you’ll consider supporting it. Below is the text of our campaign pitch. We’re also releasing a number of special podcast episodes over on our Patreon to kick off the campaign. Thank you, and if you like the work we do, please consider donating and supporting us.
In 2015, Current Affairs magazine launched with a Kickstarter campaign. With the $16,000 we raised, we were able to publish our first print issue. Since then, we have established ourselves as an important independent left media outlet, publishing 20 gorgeous print magazines, over 70 podcast episodes, hundreds of online articles, and half a dozen books. Our articles have been quoted everywhere from the New York Times and the New Yorker to The Late Show. We have been able to open a physical office in New Orleans and hire a small staff. We’ve done all of this without any outside advertising or investors, relying entirely on revenue from our devoted base of subscribers.
Now, Current Affairs wants to go further. As the 2020 election season ramps up, it’s more critical than ever to have an independent left media organization holding candidates accountable and covering races at the state and local level. Journalism organizations have been decimated in recent years by corporate takeovers, and as a completely subscriber-funded publication, we are in a unique position to fill the gap, producing powerful and thorough independent reporting and commentary. But we’re still a tiny organization, with only a very limited budget. Much of our writing is produced in-house by editorial staff, because we can’t yet afford to commission enough outside writing from freelance journalists.
Current Affairs has established a reputation for being well-researched, witty, sharp, and thoughtful. We’ve put out so much material that we are proud of, and we have used our subscribers’ money carefully and efficiently to build a sustainable media organization at a time when so many newspapers and magazines are closing their doors. Now we want you to help us expand our operation and become the kind of serious left competitor to mainstream media that is so desperately needed in terrifying times.
From starting out of the editors’ living room, Current Affairs now reaches thousands of subscribers in 25 countries around the world. We’re part of a new generation of leftist media outlets that have begun to offer a powerful alternative to existing media institutions, and a reassuring voice during troubled times. As a 2017 profile in The Ringer put it: “Current Affairs is part of a wave of print and digital independent leftist media organizations gaining steam after the November presidential election…Their audiences are still looking for an alternative to the usual media model, a more intimate voice to help them keep up hope during an administration that few expected.”
- Analyzing 2016 Correctly – In February of 2016, Current Affairs warned that Hillary Clinton would lose a race against Donald Trump, and encouraged the Democratic Party to nominate Bernie Sanders instead. This led to an appearance on Democracy Now! and led Fortune magazine to call us one of the few outlets that successfully predicted the election.
- Bearing Witness To Injustice – In 2017, we drew attention to a story that nobody had covered: the execution of Robert Pruett, a Texas man who had been imprisoned continuously since the age of 15, when he was convicted of a murder committed by his own father. Current Affairs managed to get a previously unreported story in the pages of the New York Times and bring Robert’s incredible autobiographical story to a wide audience.
- Highlighted The Stories of the Disaffected – Malaika Jabali traveled to Milwaukee to speak with Black voters who had felt left behind by the Democratic Party, and produced a powerful report explaining some of the less-understood reasons for Donald Trump’s victory.
- Tangling With Terrible Right-Wingers – Our magazine has been known for writing thorough and persuasive deconstructions of right-wing arguments. We have demolished the work of Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Charles Murray, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, and Heather Mac Donald, among others.
- Deconstructing Kavanaugh’s Testimony – Our magazine attracted attention in 2018 when we published a thorough explanation of why Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate testimony was self-evidently riddled with falsehood and deception. This article was shared widely and led to an appearance on NPR.
For some representative samples of our work, see:
- “The Case For Free College” – Sparky Abraham gives a powerful and personal case for a universal entitlement to higher education
- “How Horrific Things Come To Seem Normal” – Nathan J. Robinson looks at the way the New York Times covered the rise of Hitler, and the lessons the media has failed to learn.
- “We Considered Ourselves To Be A Powerful Culture” – Aisling McCrea on how our civilization may look to those 10,000 years from now
- “At The Border” – Brianna Rennix on what it’s actually like for immigrant families at the U.S./Mexico border
- “World Without Men” – Lyta Gold discussed the fascinating forgotten world of feminist utopian novels
- “How Liberals Fell In Love With The West Wing“ – Luke Savage on the damaging political influence of one of the most popular political television shows
- “How Identity Became A Weapon Against The Left” – Briahna Gray shows how race and gender identity can be wielded cynically to stifle left ideas
- “Inclusion In The Atrocious” – Yasmin Nair and Eli Massey on how the demand for “inclusion” in institutions can prevent us from examining whether those institutions are justified in the first place.
In our first Kickstarter campaign, this was the vow we made to our prospective readers:
Current Affairs has a single mission, which we summarize in our informal slogan: Making Life Joyful Again. It is common to feel despair at the state of the media. There is nothing to read, nothing to watch; everything is bland, dreary, and obsessed with the inconsequential and trivial. Current Affairs is putting an end to that, once and for all. We want to make sure that nobody in America is without access something fresh, fun, amusing, and intelligent to read.
Check out a sample edition of our magazine and see how we have fulfilled that promise.
Last year, our magazine launched its own podcast, which has successfully translated the magazine’s mixture of whimsy and depth into audio form. We’ve interviewed some of the left’s most interesting thinkers and activists, including Jane McAlevey, Ralph Nader, Molly Crabapple, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Glenn Greenwald, Mehdi Hasan, and Noam Chomsky.
Our editors have hosted episodes on everything from reality shows to Malcolm X to pet peeves. Under the directorship of podmaster Aisling McCrea and host Pete Davis, we’ve put together a delightful and unique listening experience that mixes thoughtful discussion with sketches and the bizarre. Check out the full feed on Patreon.
What listeners say:
- “Listening to the Current Affairs podcast and it’s so fun and still mega interesting.”
- “The podcast is great. Just like everything y’all produce, the amount of effort you put into it is clear.”
- “My favorite new podcast. Just absolutely lovely.”
- “This is SUCH a good podcast (and the Chomsky Drop almost caused me to crash my car due to uncontrollable laughter)” [LEGAL NOTE: Current Affairs is not responsible for damage sustained as a result of hilarity.]
- “The Current Affairs podcast whips ass.”
- “Absolutely loving the new Current Affairs podcast.”
- “Best podcast I have come across”
And the verdict from The Media:
- “Very much worth listening to, funny and substantive” — Jeff Stein, The Washington Post
- “Beyond the appeal of the hosts’ clear intellect, the show sets itself apart with footnotes clarifying obscure references and hazy assertions made during the conversation, and there are satirical commercials, too.” — The A.V. Club
Current Affairs has also launched its own series of spin-off books through our own publishing imprint.
- Superpredator: Bill Clinton’s Use and Abuse of Black America — An Amazon reviewer’s testimonial: “Through its focus on the effects of Clinton’s narcissism on black lives at home and abroad, this book provides an important history of how Bill Clinton remade the Democratic Party. It is also an important contribution to the history of race in 20th century American politics.”
- Trump: Anatomy of A Monstrosity — An Amazon reviewer’s testimonial: “They contents of this book are beyond insightful. What Robinson is saying you aren’t going to hear elsewhere and it’s going to resonate.”
- The Current Affairs Mindset — Our first essay collection, on subjects ranging from Hamilton to Silicon Valley. An Amazon reviewer’s testimonial: “This is the best new magazine out there. Fearless, smart, and funny. Current Affairs punches left, right, and center without prejudice.”
- The Current Affairs Big Book of Amusements — A giant collection of our satirical advertisements, puzzles, and games, lavishly illustrated. An Amazon reviewer’s testimonial: “Current Affairs magazine’s amusements are scathing, hilarious and on point! Also beautifully illustrated – I find something new every time I look at them.”
- Interesting Times: Observations and Arguments — Another essay collection. An Amazon reviewer’s testimonial: “Nathan J. Robinson is an essayist without contemporary parallel. He presents well-reasoned and unconventional ideas with characteristic accessibility and thoroughness.”
- The Current Affairs Rules For Life — An Amazon reviewer’s testimonial: “This is a book of gems from an extraordinary talented and entertaining writer… Rules for Life contains some of the most rigorous and demystifying writing on, among other things, different popular intellectuals and their indignant and apprehensive defenses of the status quo.
In December, St. Martins Press will publish the book Why You Should Be A Socialist, a charming and accessible introduction to left politics for a general audience. We’ve been able to do all of these thanks to your initial Kickstarter support in 2015. Imagine the next phase!
We’re launching this fundraiser so that you can help us take Current Affairs to the “next level.” We have so many ideas for new projects, and every dollar you give us helps us create a powerful left competitor to corporate media. Here we want to tell you what our main priorities are.
- On-the-ground reporting and deeply researched journalism pieces in 2020 – In 2016, we were able to put out some of the most accurate analysis of the entire election season, despite not being able to afford reporting from the field. In 2020, we want to do much, much more, offering actual reporting on the exciting races unfolding around the country and bringing you some of the best and most trustworthy analysis. With your help we will be able to give you reliable accounts of the unfolding political drama of our time that goes far beyond the “horse race” punditry that saturates the mainstream media and offers a serious understanding of what is actually happening and why.
- Better magazines, better online articles – Our ability to produce excellent work is seriously constrained by our budget. We have to turn down many great pitches from writers because we simply don’t have the resources to edit their work or pay them. Our magazine itself, while gorgeous, is entirely laid out by the editor-in-chief on his computer. With your money we can have better design, more content, deeper research, and more professional work.
- A beautiful, professional overhaul of the Current Affairs website – Our website has long been rudimentary compared with our lavish print edition. We have commissioned a full overhaul that will give our site capabilities to match those of big media companies, enabling us to do interactive infographics and bring the stunning visual qualities of the magazine to the web. We’ve hired designer Jon White to bring our site to a whole new level. For a small taste, see this prototype of just one type of page here.
- New books – Current Affairs would like to expand its book series and put out new volumes from a diverse range of talented left authors. We have volumes planned on the case for open borders, the urgency of animal rights, the way disingenuous right-wing arguments work, and the possibilities for a real socialist economy. But writing and editing books takes considerable time, and we remain severely constrained in our capacities. (We’ve also been unable to afford to promote any of the books we’ve published so far, limiting their impact.)
- Even better podcast production – We aim to offer a podcast that is more than just free-flowing chat. We want our podcast to feel like an old-time radio show, and to be comparable to the best of NPR in its production quality (if not its politics). You’ll be helping us offer new kinds of audio experiences that make the CA podcast an infectiously listenable communicator of left ideas.
- New videos – YouTube is infamously crawling with fascists, and the far right’s presence threatens to radicalize a whole generation of young people, with devastating political consequences. We’d like to bring the kind of thorough analysis that we’ve produced for print to the medium of video. We have already produced videos with dynamic left intellectuals like Adolph Reed Jr. and Abdul El-Sayed, and hope to produce everything from persuasive explainers of left ideas to fascinating interview shows with some of the most exciting thinkers in the world.
- Wider reach – Current Affairs does no marketing, and we’re not in bookstores or newsstands. We rely entirely on word of mouth, and we don’t have the staff resources available to get our magazine out as widely as we’d like. If our editors could afford to spend their time focusing on editing, we could get more articles out, and we would be able to devote some resources to coordinating our distribution so that you’d be able to find us in many more physical locations around the world.
For a more thorough explanation of Current Affairs‘ future expansion plans, see Nathan J. Robinson’s essays “What We Could Do With Your Money.” An excerpt:
We publish a lot of excellent political commentary, but we can’t afford to publish much actual original journalism. It just requires too much money. Sometimes that’s just the price of a plane ticket, but it’s more than we can afford. When we have been able to do it, the results have been excellent… You don’t see the stories that don’t get covered, by definition, which has made it hard to convey how much journalism has been lost through the decimation of local newsrooms. I can tell you that here at Current Affairs, we have had to pass on potentially exciting exclusive stories, because we don’t have the fact-checking or reporting resources necessary to actually pursue a “big” story. I hear all the time about stories that nobody knows about. Corporate misconduct, malfeasance by top law firms, internal dysfunction in a major labor union, corruption in a large school district, abuse in a prison. I wish we could investigate and report. We can’t… yet.
If someone gave us $150, we’d commission an online article with it. If they gave us $150,000, we’d hire three people full-time for a year to make excellent leftist political analysis and journalism. If some benevolent soul happened to gives us $1,500,000, I bet we could destroy FOX News forever. We have an excellent team of smart and committed young people, and there is no limit to what we can do. Every additional dollar is an additional step toward building a more humane and decent politics and transforming political media from intolerable to effervescent.
This isn’t an exaggeration. We’re trying to reach $50,000, but if we can go beyond that, we can get even closer to fulfilling our potential as a media organization. There is a powerful, well-funded network of right-wing disinformation out there to compete with (PragerU, for instance, racks up billions of views on YouTube). These organizations often have hundreds or thousands of staff members. Current Affairs has been able to do what we’ve done with exactly two full-time staffers. Now imagine what we could do if we had 50. Or 100…
People who read our magazine are often astounded by its breadth, vibrance, and quality. That’s not some empty boast—read this testimonial from reader Ben Wrobel about the way Current Affairs can “make you literally jump from your seat with joy and wonder.” And here are the reactions of some prominent left intellectuals:
- “Current Affairs is an important breath of fresh air. It stands out as by far the most intellectually sophisticated, thought-provoking, and politically astute among organs of left commentary directed toward a popular audience that have appeared in recent decades.” — Adolph Reed, Jr.
- “Nathan Robinson’s articles, and Current Affairs generally, have been consistently challenging and thought-provoking, with incisive critique and informative discussion, lucid and provocative, and focused on well-chosen issues of major significance. I find myself regularly recommending Robinson’s articles to others, and re-reading them myself. Unusually valuable contributions.” —Noam Chomsky
- “Nathan J. Robinson and Current Affairs are consistently excellent, writing at a very high standard, and offering serious and compelling alternative perspectives. Very worth following and reading.“ —Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept
Current Affairs has built up an incredible fan base, and we’re constantly getting letters from our readers talking about what our publication means to them. We hear all the time from people who have been persuaded to adopt left positions, or have The testimonials from our subscribers show just how important our work is and hint at what we could do if we could expand our reach:
- “Very briefly, I just wanted to thank you for your work with Current Affairs magazine and the brilliant articles you have written and will continue to write in the future. I have (un)learned a bunch from you, transformed into a more well-informed citizen… and have consistently had a good laugh reading your articles… I have not encountered many publications that spread ideas in a manner as robust, convincing, detailed, and comedic as Current Affairs does. Because of this magazine, I have been able to think about issues in light of a cultural and historical context that I regularly missed before… and also think about issues I didn’t even know existed before. So, here is me very simply saying thank you.”
- “Thank you for your tireless efforts to be a thoughtful and incisive voice for the progressive left— your article on Pete Buttigieg, in particular, flipped a few of my friends who were otherwise charmed by the hollow glow that surrounds him in the mainstream media. I always love to hear the perspectives offered by you and the other members of the CA staff and I feel I am witnessing the baton being passed from great popular socialist writers like Chomsky and (old-school) Hitchens to a new generation before my eyes. I think if I had your attention I would be remiss without expressing my support, and gratitude, for what you and the team do.”
- “I’m a huge supporter of yours and of Current Affairs (I’m a subscriber!). I’ve identified so much with your writing and it’s made me feel less crazy for thinking many of the same things w/regards to morality, humanity, etc. You have a very uncommon perspective and one that I dare say is invaluable to humanity. I have learned so much from you and your friends.”
- “I adore Current Affairs and see it as a huge sign of hope that there is a finally a socialist magazine that is decidedly joyous and not dreary or pretentious in any way.”
- “After receiving the first issue I can definitely say that this was the best 60 dollars I have ever spent. The professionalism and clarity of design are superior to publications 10 times your size. The artwork is whimsical, witty, and greatly contributes to the impact of each article. The variety of topics covered in each issue is refreshing in an otherwise myopic media landscape (Russia, Russia, Russia, Trump tweet, Russia!!!).Your magazine is a great presentation both aesthetically and rhetorically of a positive vision of what the left can be. Seeing this vision contrasted with the increasingly sterile, homogeneous, and self-parodying aesthetic and rhetorical presentation of the right has cemented my confidence in the political alignment I have made in the past few years. The left is more fun, witty, and offers so much more to so many more people.”
As we grow, you can expect many more reactions like this!