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Everything Wrong with Publishing: The sports writing of Scott Stossel of The Atlantic

Monday 1/31/22

Scott Stossel, when he was the editor of The Atlantic, dangled a full-time writer job in my face. He told me I was someone they were looking to hire as they were hiring dozens and dozens of full-time writers because Steve Jobs' widow had bought The Atlantic, and they had so much money now, even though The Atlantic itself only loses prodigious amounts of money. I had written for The Atlantic, memorably, for years. My Beatles feature in June 2013 was how I got started on NPR. I wrote on a lot--sports, music, film. A piece on Beethoven. The Rolling Stones. Ring Lardner. The best teams not to win it all. Kurosawa. Curt Schilling. Various Beatles pieces. Star Wars. Stossel told me he'd help set this up. If I didn't hear from him in a few days, to "ping" him. We're both from Boston. We talked about Boston. We had a relationship.


Scott Stossel then disappeared on me for months. During that period, The Atlantic hired everyone they hired. He ducked me, despite our relationship, despite what he led me to believe, and despite my abilities, and my track record with this venue, and my track record overall. They hired people who have no writerly skill, and people with no careers. People who were two, three years out of undergrad, as well as fossils whose careers are tantamount to one continuous, undeserving handout. One woman had only published in some paper in Hawaii. Scott Stossel had also accepted this short story of mine called "The Last Field." (which is in Cheer Pack). It was accepted the same day that Harper's accepted "Find the Edges." I did that, on my own, with no help, no agent, when nothing is accepted this way, nothing is done this way, because nothing is ever about merit or the quality of anything anyone has written, but I did that, my work did that, against a trillion to one odds and everything working against you being able to do that, even if you have the best work ever written. I did that on the same day. Ann Hulbert, who is a racist, a sexist, and an evil woman--The Atlantic's literary editor--wrote me later to tell me that she was unaccepting my short story. She did this in less than ten words. No explanation. Stossel told me that she wanted to publish a story by a woman from Argentina. He was quite clear: that story was desired because it was by a woman from Argentina. Stossel said that Hulbert thought this was, "Hot shit."


Scott Stossel was too mentally weak to do his job. He had to keep taking time off. He resigned from his editor position. He had also gotten his sister a job at The Atlantic. Isn't that funny? Here you go, sis! Because that is how this works. A position at The Atlantic was then created for Scott Stossel called national editor. It's a made up job, so that the human basket case can be carried, and continue to collect his large salary, and live in the wealthy community in which he lives. He does nothing.


I was not happy with what was happening, obviously, and Stossel knew just how hard he had screwed me, and for no deserved reason. He knew it was sick. He phoned me to do damage control. I could hear the weakness in his voice. This was when he was still editor. I heard what a traffic cone he was. I heard that this was a man that no one could ever really respect. I heard the chorus of a thousand silver spoons. I heard the voice of someone who has been handed everything in life without deserving it.


Despite what was clearly happening, despite the joke people The Atlantic was hiring, nothing changed, and it got worse. More people there treated me poorly. They wouldn't even assign a $150 web piece. Masterpiece stories like "Fitty," which would rock this world and be among the most viewed and discussed Atlantic pieces in the magazine's history, wouldn't get a response. Nothing would--not a single pitch--because it was from me. Once before I'd done a Beatles piece, and Hulbert, who is so twisted in her bigotry, told me it said nothing new about the Beatles. She said this to me. Go on over to the Beatles section on this site. I am known for saying things about that band that no one has ever said or thought, and things that are at the same time correct. It's not even worth defending. Everyone knows that. What could be more axiomatic? A Fleming Beatles piece, and you're seriously going to try and make that BS fly because you don't like me? You think anyone is going to believe that?


I said I wasn't going to take this, it was criminal, and I mentioned this blog, which had just started. Stossel emailed me to make a threat. He said if I ever told the truth publicly about how he and The Atlantic had treated me, I would never write for The Atlantic again.


A few things. They had already taken care of this. You recently saw the same thing with Chris Beha--an even worse person than Stossel--and Harper's. A second thing: Yeah, I will. A day is coming when my work will appear wherever I'm willing to have it run. People leave, too. People like this are things at the level of that which is flushed down a bowl--they have no more worth beyond that silver spoon that makes others, who are also weak, talentless, and entitled, carry them.


Being from Boston, The Atlantic has Stossel write on the Patriots and Tom Brady. Stossel has no ability, he can't think, he's can't deal so he takes time off. Stossel is someone I know has sat up many a night, deep into the night, reading through my emails to him. He told me once that he was tortured by his guilt over what he had done to me. He told me that his guilt made it hard to interact. Until I saw what he did today, the last time Scott Stossel wrote anything for the place that employs him was this piece on Tom Brady after the 2019 season. It was called, in various corners of the web, the most pretentious sports piece anyone had ever seen. Stossel has a way of writing, as an insecure, weak, talentless man. He overcompensates by his lack of strengths with pretentiousness. The piece is so out of touch, isn't it? So turgid. It's comical how over-written it is. This is a desperate, broken man--who is also a human puddle--trying to cover that up. He creates as much distance as he can between the reader and an actual worthwhile reading experience. Because Stossel is dead inside, and his mind is also dead. There's nothing there, let alone anything that can produce great, purposeful, connective writing.


I'll just screenshot the beginning of the Stossel piece I saw today, on Facebook, where it was trending--because it's The Atlantic, and that will automatically happen, no matter how bad the writing--and you can see how terrible it is. Have you ever read anything this pretentious and pathetic? You'll note Stossel's technique. He'll say something that no one will understand, forcing some reference in there, which is not made plain by context. You might get it if you're very well read, but you may well not. People you know won't get it. That's not the point. Or, after a fashion, it is the point. It's how this broken man needs to function. He can't write anything true or honest, because he's incapable of being that way himself. He also has no skill. He can't write anything people might connect with. He has to rely on pretentiousness. His entire life is a defense mechanism meant to obscure that he is a piece of human residuum. He writes that way, too. After he gives the obscure reference, note how he gives a second on top of the first, and a third on top of the second. This is an insecure man and a writer. He's doing SAT synonyms as a means of writing. He's breaking down on the page in front of you.


Also note how he says Brady is "the" MVP candidate this year. That is someone who has no idea about sports. Doesn't watch sports, has no knowledge of them, doesn't understand them. There is not one MVP candidate. That's not even how the phrase works, so it shows how out of touch Stossel is with the basic workings of the English language or even how sports are discussed. Even the "folk" that Stossel has looked down upon his whole life, the rabble, know this, because they are smarter than Scott Stossel, too. And you want to know something hilarious and fitting? In 2018, when the Red Sox and Yankees were about to face each other in the Division Round of the playoffs, Stossel, who The Atlantic thinks should be writing about sports--which means, really, "this silver spoon fraud from Harvard grew up rich in New England, so he should probably be our guy for pieces on the Patriots and/or Tom Brady"--wrote me an email with his prediction: The Yankees in seven, Scott Stossel said.


Only problem was the Division Series is a best of five games. That's your Atlantic sports expert. You like that?


This is who gets the money, the big house, the life of ease, and they don't have a brain in their head, or any decency anywhere in their personage. This is as fraudulent, weak, untalented, deceitful, sick, as you'd think someone can be. But you know what? This person is actually not the worst of these people. There are thousands of them in this industry who are worse. This is what you're dealing with.


You know what kind of letters I get on here a lot? Letters from people who are sane, "normal" people, who have never heard of such insanity, evil, and dysfunction in their lives as they're learning is the norm of the publishing world. They'll say, "I had no idea that such a thing as what publishing is was even possible." They'll say it's worse than anything they have heard of, have ever experienced, could even have imagined. They'll say it with something like this account of Scott Stossel, who has written all of two pieces--wretched pieces--in more than two years. But he's carried, paid, massaged, because he's a terrible person, who can create nothing of value or competence, and he's one of them. He also called me a generalist once, which was a pretty stupid thing to do.


One last Stossel item for now: When I told him that I wasn't going to sit back indefinitely and be treated this way, and that I would say the truth, he called me a thug.