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The Atlantic runs fawning ‘sponsor content’ glorifying Scientology


The Atlantic is coming under fire for an “article” that appears to be nothing more than a paid advertisement for the Church of Scientology. The piece, which practically deifies church president David Miscavige, looks suspiciously like an actual Atlantic article, with only a small yellow label denoting its status as “Sponsor Content.”

Check out @theatlantic photo gallery of brainwashed morons – no, wait, it’s an ad for Scientology! theatlantic.com/sponsored/scie…

— Jacob Weisberg (@jacobwe) January 15, 2013

if i knew cancelling my atlantic subscription would have made them this desperate, i would have pity subscribed

— Oliver Willis (@owillis) January 15, 2013

Utterly gobsmacked as to why The Atlantic would accept money to run this Scientology propaganda. theatlantic.com/sponsored/scie…

— Rhodri Marsden (@rhodri) January 15, 2013

Accepting ad dollars from Scientology: kosher. Helping them put together an advertorial spread: much more questionable.

— Josh Greenman (@joshgreenman) January 15, 2013

Sponsored Tweet: Scientology is actually misunderstood

— Josh Greenman (@joshgreenman) January 15, 2013

[SPONSORED] Wow, Scientology is really on a roll with all these new churches!

— Parker Higgins (@xor) January 15, 2013

Look, I understand sponsored content is sponsored content, but Scientology is Scienfrickintology.

— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) January 15, 2013

Honestly, an ad department flub shouldn’t reflect badly on a whole media publication. But it is a flub.

— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) January 15, 2013

FYI, all comments on Atlantic scientology piece have to be approved by a moderator. No moderation on regular stories.yfrog.com/h4yooyp

— Ross Neumann (@rossneumann) January 15, 2013

The squelching of negative comments did not go unnoticed, as anyone knows that troll-free comments sections are not a naturally occurring organism in the ecosystem that is the Internet.

Best part is the comments section: theatlantic.com/sponsored/scie…

— Joshua Treviño (@jstrevino) January 15, 2013

So, I left a comment on the sponsore Scientology article. Just “Are the comments sponsored too?” We’ll see if it ever shows up.

— Jenny Jinx™®©° (@Jennyjinx) January 15, 2013

Comments weren’t 100 percent positive, though. It looks as though one cheeky employee at Disqus was able to override the aggressive comment moderation and sneak in some criticism.

@rossneumann @ethanklapper Interestingly, the one non-positive comment is from a Disqus employee. Circumventing moderation?

— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) January 15, 2013

Ooh, good spot RT @johnstumbles: @mjrobbins posted by someone who works at Disqus, so maybe hacked in?!

— Martin Robbins (@mjrobbins) January 15, 2013

An employee of Disqus has overridden the comment moderation on The Atlantic puff piece on Scientology. twitter.com/explanoit/stat…

— explanoit (@explanoit) January 15, 2013

The top comment on the Atlantic scientology ad. Between the time I screenshot and tweeted it was up to 440 votes. twitter.com/BuzzFeedAndrew…

— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) January 15, 2013

That seemed to break the dam, allowing other negative comments in.

Negative comments now up on the Atlantic Scientology advertorial. Linked to @johnstumbles‘ observation that a Disqus staffer weighed in?

— Adam Banks (@adambanksdotcom) January 15, 2013

Even magazine employees expressed discontent. A note on The Atlantic website explains that sponsored content is produced without the input of the magazine’s editorial team. Correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg took the occasion to post a piece on The Atlantic website touting the book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” even including an Amazon link. His link to that piece was retweeted by James Fallows, another Atlantic correspondent.

I love how Atlantic employees are reacting to the Scientology sponsored post. twitter.com/JamesFallows/s…

— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) January 15, 2013

MT @jeffreygoldberg: No time like the present to tout my friend Larry Wright’s great new investigation of Scientology: bit.ly/Um0Gwx

— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) January 15, 2013

Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal also gave a shout-out to “Going Clear.”

A wonderful new book about Scientology, highlighted by our @jeffreygoldberg. bit.ly/UM9j1O

— Alexis C. Madrigal (@alexismadrigal) January 15, 2013

@alexismadrigal are you guys just trying to laugh off a mistake?

— Mike Hedrick (@thehedrick) January 15, 2013

@thehedrick I wouldn’t say laugh is the operative verb.

— Alexis C. Madrigal (@alexismadrigal) January 15, 2013

The buzz about The Atlantic’s choice of sponsor content was so strong that it even generated a parody account.

Simmer down everyone, the Church of Scientology ran out of space on their website and we’re just helping out.

— Atlantic Sponsored (@TheAtlanticAds) January 15, 2013

Tom Cruise should fix the debt ceiling.

— Atlantic Sponsored (@TheAtlanticAds) January 15, 2013


* * *

Update: The infamous Mat Mullen of Disqus weighs in and laments that his comment disappeared as well.

RT @rossneumann: Is this guy who commented on Atlantic scientology piece only able to comment b/c he works at Disqus?yfrog.com/esj4dep

— Alex Klein (@alexnklein) January 15, 2013

@alexnklein @rossneumann Doesn’t work like that, it ended up getting deleted just like all the others unfortunately.

— Mat Mullen (@matmullen) January 15, 2013

Update: The Atlantic has removed the Scientology ad “pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads.”

The Scientology ad is down. Redirects here to the official word: theatlantic.com/misc/notice/

— Alexis C. Madrigal (@alexismadrigal) January 15, 2013

More here:

The Atlantic backtracks and removes controversial Scientology advertorial – The Next Web tnw.co/XAf5G4

— Ali A. Akbar (@ali) January 15, 2013

Editor’s note: The title of this post was amended to reflect that it was not firmly established that a Disqus employee circumvented comment moderation to get his negative comment approved. Tweets about his comment making it through moderation were speculation.

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2013/01/14/the-atlantic-runs-fawning-sponsor-content-glorifying-scientology-disqus-employee-overrides-comment-moderation-writers-balk/

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