Some days, "serious" journalism provides the most absurd stories. A story on the Atlantic Monthly's move from Boston to Washington in the NYTimes, pointed out by David Sirota, provides that moment for me today:

... The Atlantic Monthly does not have as lofty a motive for moving to Washington in the months ahead. David Bradley, the owner of the venerable magazine, said the recent decision to move and consolidate his publishing enterprises in Washington was driven by economics, not symbolism or a desire for cachet. But the news has given some readers, writers and thinkers - not to mention Bostonians - a familiar pang of anxiety, a reminder that even in the democratic Internet age, all cultural capitals are not created equal.

... However far the geographic divides have been bridged, certain places are doing better than others. The interplay between personal contact and ideas still matters, at least somewhat.

And while three East Coast cities have jockeyed for prominence, a perceptible southward tilt is continuing, as Boston has evolved from its liberal arts and political origins, and Washington has, in a sense, matured. Intellectuals still reside in Boston, New York and Washington (and hop the shuttle easily among the three), but in a highly charged political environment, there has been a move away from academic ideas toward ones generated in the real world, or at least real government. And if not that, then in think tanks.

... Washington has become the beneficiary of a gradual intellectual migration. As industry-financed think tanks grow and finance a culture of policy analysts and serious thinkers with ideological differences, more intellectuals have been drawn to a city previously considered a backwater of shallow politicians and colorless government bureaucrats.

... Intellectual creativity and politics have grown ever more intertwined in the nation's capital in the half-century since the last president from Massachusetts was in office, the result of a boom in the election industry, ongoing partisan warfare and the sheer size of government, among other things.

... Louis Menand, the New Yorker writer and Harvard literature professor, who has also worked in Washington, said that while the capital has "this reputation of being wonky and boring," this can be appealing for practitioners of ideas. Washington journalists especially "become suddenly interesting in a way they might not be in New York," where they are competing with artists, actors, restaurateurs, advertising executives and Wall Street moguls for prestige, he said.

...[B]y the time of Irving Kristol's move to Washington in 1988, the capital had begun to eclipse the Hub of the Universe. New York too, in his view, was on the wane. "If you want an animated discussion of 'large ideas' about God, human destiny, Western civilization, modern art, the future of democracy, etc., you are better served in Cambridge, Mass., or Chicago's Hyde Park than in New York," Mr. Kristol wrote in a farewell essay in The New Republic. "As the city with the most consumers and the most purveyors, New York retains a semblance of an intellectual center. But the reality is not there." Then again, he wasn't terribly impressed with the capital, either. "And Washington?" he added. "It's certainly not here, either, and never has been."

But at least it is still trying.

Washington, D.C., the reality-based intellectual capital of the world where the Washington press corps is interesting? You gotta be kidding me. This reads like an Onion piece.

The funniest thing is that there has been no place in the world LESS connected to reality and actual thinking in the past 4 years than Washington, DC. Those DC "intellectuals" should think about going back to Boston; maybe they'll do better there.

Certainly the Atlantic did better from Boston than the Beltway Media.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Apr 24, 2005 at 02:44 PM PDT.

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