Many people on the right are seeking ways to escape the dumpster fire of Twitter. Since it’s Screen-Free Week, this seems a good time to ponder strategies for reducing our consumption of the propaganda and biased garbage proliferated by leftist corporate media and disseminated on social media.
While I still read publications like the Washington Post regularly, I really do try to limit my consumption of such outlets for my mental and emotional health. Actually, my personal rule applies to all digital media, regardless of political affiliation.
That’s for good reason, given the ever-growing evidence of how digital media affects us and even reshapes our brains. It’s for this reason that I take time every day — often in the evenings when I’m trying to wind down — to consume good, intellectually stimulating print media. Below are some of my favorite print magazines that are well worth the price of an annual subscription.
1. Claremont Review of Books
At a recent small gathering of prominent conservatives, a friend I trust and admire declared the Claremont Review of Books to be the best magazine in print today. It’s increasingly difficult to argue otherwise. The quarterly review of politics and statesmanship has been around in its current form for more than 20 years, under the helm of conservative academic Charles R. Kesler.
Recent editions certainly can claim their fair share of big names on the intellectual right: Victor Davis Hanson, Michael Anton, Christopher Caldwell, Nathan Pinkoski, Helen Andrews, Sohrab Ahmari, Kyle Smith, Amy Wax, Charles Murray, Hadley Arkes. And that’s just in the most recent issue! Perhaps more than any other publication, the CRB in recent years has provided intellectual ballast to conservative repudiations of the activist left’s obsession with racial, gender, and sexual identity politics, while providing a plethora of interesting and sometimes surprising book reviews.
Worth mentioning, it published one of the most important pieces of opinion journalism in the last ten years: Anton’s 2016 “The Flight 93 Election,” which made a compelling case for Americans to elect Trump that year.
2. First Things
I have been a faithful subscriber to First Things longer than any other print magazine — 20 years now, since my grandfather first ordered me a student subscription while I was a first-year at the University of Virginia. Then, as now, it has continued to offer some of the most insightful religious-based commentary on the public square. Indeed, as a religious studies minor, I found First Things to often provide me with the intellectual ammunition to debate my leftist, a-religious fellow students, and even professors, in the classroom.
First Things also features some of the most important voices in conservatism, including R.R. Reno, Mark Bauerlein, Darel Paul, Carl Trueman, Gary Saul Morson, Theodore Dalrymple, Glenn C. Arbery, Matthew Rose, and Algis Valiunas, among many others. Some of the best critiques of critical race theory and the 1619 Project have appeared in its pages, as well as some of the most thoughtful and spiritually uplifting theological commentary. As an ecumenical journal, it has something for everyone, including Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Jews.
3. The American Conservative
I’m also an old supporter of The American Conservative, beginning my subscription while still at the University of Virginia. At the time, I was a confused and frustrated conservative, a wayfarer looking for an intellectual home among friends who were all supportive of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, conflicts I detested (although, little did I know, I would in a few years serve in the former one, more than once). A fellow student suggested I try TAC. I was in love from the first issue.
TAC promotes what it calls “Main Street Conservatism,” by which it means a conservatism that is focused on the values of communities, families, and faith. Always opposed to benighted foreign interventionism (something that made it an ostracized outsider in conservatism for many years), it was also years ahead of its time in arguing for economic policies that would protect American workers and their families.
Indeed, one of its founders, Patrick Buchanan, ran for president (unsuccessfully) on that agenda twice in the 1990s. TAC’s content in the print edition is not only engaging, but intellectually provocative, daringly willing to put “ideas over ideology.”
4. The New Criterion
Think of The New Criterion, published out of New York, as the more stolid, artistically knowledgeable counterpart to CRB. It features many of the same writers, but its content is much heavier on the arts: not only poetry, but theater, sculpture, art exhibits, music, etc.
Nevertheless, the New Criterion always has something for everyone — the monthly review by Roger Kimball and James Bowman’s reflections on the media are alone worth the price of admission. So too are Kyle Smith’s witty and often hilarious reviews of the theater scene in New York (let’s just say there’s not much in contemporary drama to recommend itself!).
5. New Oxford Review
I wouldn’t be a very good contributing editor if I didn’t put in a plug for the place where I’m a contributing editor: New Oxford Review. Of all the magazines I’ve mentioned, it’s the oldest, founded in 1977.
Although a conservative Catholic monthly, it has featured the work of a wide variety of intellectuals, writers, and even politicians, including Walker Percy, Sheldon Vanauken, Bobby Jindal, Stanley L. Jaki, Peter Kreeft, Avery Dulles, James V. Schall, John Lukacs, Robert N. Bellah, L. Brent Bozell Jr., Christopher Lasch, and Robert P. George. It has also been willing to feature diverse content with sometimes opposing viewpoints — something I believe to be a sign not only of intellectual health but moral courage.
For the sake of intellectual honesty and journalistic professionalism, it is willing to take the risk of offending even its most loyal readers. Not many journals can claim to do that in 2022!
These magazines, and a few others (e.g. The Spectator, The Lamp), provide me the intellectual and spiritual stimulation and comfort to help guide me through the confusion and anger-inducing emotions of the daily battles in the digital realm. All are worth paying their very affordable subscription fees, which are all well under $100 per year.
All should be read with a hearty cup of tea or coffee, or, in the evenings, a good beer or whiskey. For those looking for a break from — or perhaps a counter to — the grind of our digital age, consider one of the above excellent print magazines. You won’t be disappointed. Happy reading!