The Atlantic –- the one time publisher of Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edith Wharton –- is now publishing Scientology propaganda. The "sponsored content"</a, bought and paid for by the Church of Scientology, went up Monday around noon and features all sorts of breathless praise for Scientology and its alleged growth last year.
The post — an example of the kind of advertising many publishers are turning to as display ad revenue stagnates — is basically one long tribute to David Miscavige, the "ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion":
Mr. Miscavige is unrelenting in his work for millions of parishioners and the cities served by Scientology Churches. He has led a renaissance for the religion itself, while driving worldwide programs to serve communities through Church-sponsored social and humanitarian initiatives.
And focuses on Miscavige's plans to expand the religion's already existing churches:
David Miscavige spearheaded a program to build every Church of Scientology into what Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard termed "Ideal Organizations" (Ideal Orgs). This new breed of Church is ideal in location, design, quality of religious services and social betterment programs. Each is uniquely configured to accommodate the full array of Scientology services for both parishioners and the surrounding community. Ideal Orgs further house extensive public information multimedia displays that introduce every facet of Dianetics and Scientology, along with libraries, course and seminar rooms for an introduction to and study of Scientology Scripture. Chapels serve to host Sunday Services and other congregational gatherings.
It is from these Ideal Churches that Scientologists extend their humanitarian programs to mitigate intolerance, illiteracy, immorality and drug abuse.
The post then lists the "unprecedented 12 Ideal Scientology Churches" built around the world last year, including locations in Germany, California, Italy and Israel, with accompanying pictures of each opening's celebration.
And let's not forget the comments. Of the 17 comments posted as of this writing, 11 are so pro-Scientology they read as though they're an extension of the original post. A bold, proud day for The Atlantic and its fine history of journalistic excellence.
Unsurprisingly, Atlantic staffers are distancing themselves from the post by tweeting about Lawrence Wright's forthcoming Scientology exposé, Going Clear:
There's no time like the present to tout my friend Larry Wright's great new investigation of the Church of Scientology: theatlantic.com/national/archi…
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) January 15, 2013
— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) January 15, 2013
— Alexis C. Madrigal (@alexismadrigal) January 15, 2013
UPDATE: The Atlantic took down the post, writing: "We have temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads."
Here's a screen grab of the original post, in case you missed it.