Monika Bauerlein


Since taking the helm at Mother Jones in 2006, Monika and editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery have won two National Magazine Awards, launched a nine-person Washington bureau, relaunched the website, given birth, and forgotten what it’s like to sleep.

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Monika Bauerlein is CEO of Mother Jones. Previously, she served as co-editor with Clara Jeffery, who is now editor-in-chief. Together, they spearheaded an era of editorial growth and innovation, marked by two National Magazine Awards for general excellence, the addition of a 12-person Washington Bureau, and an overhaul of the organization’s digital strategy that grew's traffic more than tenfold. She has also worked as Mother Jones' investigative editor, focusing on long-form projects marrying in-depth reportage, document sleuthing, and narrative appeal, and as an alternative-weekly editor, a correspondent for US and European publications in Washington, D.C. and at the United Nations, an AP stringer, corporate trainer, translator, sausage slinger and fishing-line packager. She lives in Oakland.

Fix the Climate, or the Kid Gets It

| Wed Oct. 14, 2009 11:36 PM EDT

Let's see. In climate news today, we have Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announcing that you can get a climate bill through the Senate—so long as you include billions in loan guarantees for nuclear plants (because, well, the market thinks they're lousy investments and won't finance them. Safety issues aside.). Meanwhile Big Ag becomes the latest industry to launch a campaign to kill what measly climate legislation is on the table (never mind that farmers in general, and the heartland in particular, are likely to see some of global warming's worst effects). The Freakonomics guys muddle the issue with junk science. We're headed for a potential debacle during the global climate talks in Copenhagen, and virtually no one in Washington can really be bothered to pay attention to the issue anyway because health care reform is sucking up all the oxygen. Great!

So what is it going to take to get action on this issue? You know the answer—we all do: It's going to take popular pressure, aka politicians feeling that they have to produce something on this issue to get reelected. And that, in turn, takes convincing Americans that something we care about is actually at risk here. 

And of course something is. Climate change poses the greatest danger not to polar bears, not to glaciers or beaches, but to our kids. Their world, if you read the scientific predictions, is one where the Southwest is a dust bowl; 30 percent of the planet's species go extinct; 200 million people become climate refugees. And those are the relatively moderate scenarios--there are also the scientists who, looking back over millions of years' worth of geologic evidence, suggest that the last time we had carbon levels like those we're headed for now, sea levels were 80 to 130 feet higher than they are today. 

That's grim stuff, which is why, most of the time, our reaction is "quick, give me something else to think about!" But the love of our children is a powerful force, and it has motivated enormous change in the past. It hasn't become a real factor on this issue—but what if it did? As Clara and I write in our editors' note for the upcoming issue of Mother Jones, which is almost entirely devoted to this topic: 

"We still have the power to shape their future. Just for perspective: The entire sum required to buy off Third World opposition to carbon caps is around what we spent to bail out Fannie, Freddie, and AIG. And hey, Europe's on the hook for at least half. Our kids will measure us by how long we tarried. What will we tell them?"

To dramatize this point, we did something unusual for this special issue: We printed four different covers, featuring four different children and four different headlines. Now it's your turn. Next week, on the eve of International Day of Climate Action, we'll debut an app that lets you put your own picture (of your kid, yourself, your cat, your pet lizard) on our cover, and share the image with your friends and your members of Congress. There's also a contest to create new headlines for the climate cover—we'll feature the best on our home page. 

Meanwhile, today is Blog Action Day, which means that nearly 8,000 blogs from all around the world are posting climate-change content today. One of the first entries comes from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. What's he got to say? 

Like every parent, I want to leave a safe and secure world for my children. And I want to be able to look them in the eye because our generation stood up for their future.

Hint, hint, White House Blog: President Obama, no doubt, would agree.

You can follow me on Twitter here. Clara tweets here. Our DC bureau chief, David Corn, tweets, as do our colleagues Daniel Schulman, Nick Baumann, Kate Sheppard, and Rachel Morris. And of course you can follow Mother Jones itself. 



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Will Ahmadinejad Free the Hikers?

| Wed Sep. 23, 2009 2:01 AM EDT

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad always goes on a bit of a PR offensive during his trip to New York for the UN General Assembly, doing interviews and meeting with prominent Americans. This year's visit, which comes after the brutal suppression of election protests in Iran as well as on the heels of a fresh round of Holocaust denial, should be a bit more challenging than usual, with massive protests planned outside the UN. On one front, though, the Iranian president seems to be offering an olive branch: In an interview with the AP, he signals that he'll ask Iranian courts to treat three US hikers detained in Iran, including MoJo contributor Shane Bauer, with "maximum leniency." (The hikers' mothers last week issued an open letter (pdf) asking Ahmadinejad to bring their children with him to New York.) 

For another American held in Iraq, Ahmadinejad offered less hope, reports the AP: 

"[He] also was asked about the case of an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari, who was working for Newsweek magazine and imprisoned while covering the social unrest in Iran after the disputed June presidential election. Ahmadinejad did not reply about Bahari, limiting his remarks to the case of the hikers."

 Stay tuned for more signals during Ahmadinejad's speech today.

9/11: Truth, Trutherism, and Truthiness

| Thu Sep. 10, 2009 9:11 PM EDT

The morning of 9/11, when the alarm went off with National Public Radio’s Carl Kasell talking about planes flying into the World Trade Center, I was convinced I’d stumbled into a modern-day War of the Worlds. And that unreal feeling didn’t lift for the rest of that day—not when I got to the virtually empty Mother Jones office (there were still all those reports of more planes in the sky), not when I saw ex-CIA head James Woolsey on TV, already talking about how Saddam Hussein had to be behind this.

Nor, really, did it lift for another seven years. These were the years when we were served up lie after lie, when doubt became treason and reality itself grew increasingly preposterous. (We had a 21-year-old private from West Virginia do what?) Even the accounting, when it finally began, came not over the substance of what had happened, but focused on oddly procedural sideshows (did Scooter Libby out Valerie Plame Wilson? Did we really care, when the point was that Dick Cheney stovepiped intelligence to con the nation into war?) They were the years of truthiness—of claims just plausible enough to be believed, of accurate details gathered into deceitful conclusions, and of course of reporters who truthfully reported the lies they were told.

This is the first 9/11 anniversary when the country is no longer being run by those who so cynically exploited horror and legitimate anger. We have repudiated torture (though we’ll still send detainees to be tortured elsewhere on our behalf). We are withdrawing from Iraq, and will withdraw from Afghanistan sooner or later; most importantly, perhaps, we have elected a president who reminds the world that America is more than Gitmo and Predator drones.

But the end of the Bush era is not the end of the 9/11 era. There were deeper historical currents that made both the attack and its exploitation possible, and they still run strong.

Remember the poll that appeared around the fifth anniversary—revealing that one-third of Americans believed the government engineered the attacks or deliberately let them happen? Really, it wasn’t that surprising. At a time when both government and media were giving Americans ample reason for distrust, it wasn’t such a leap to conclude that the official story was not to be believed. The corollary to truthiness, its opposite and logical partner, was trutherism.

Trutherism is an expression of one of those deeper trends—the growing belief that no deed is too heinous, no deception too extreme, for the evil overlords in our government. It’s the legacy, at least in part, of the 60s and 70s, of Vietnam, J. Edgar Hoover, Watergate. It is also the belief that animates the birther and death-panel conspiracists of 2009: Of course the government would lie, cheat, and kill your grandmother. Why do you ask?

This is the world we live in post-9/11, and post Iraq War; a world where for many people, “the other side” has become so repugnant that nothing seems beneath it. We are no longer interested in understanding the people we disagree with; we just want to defeat them, for the good of the nation.

Which is where we come back to the events of 9/11. What made the horror of that day possible, in part, was the belief of 19 men that their adversaries were so dark and monstrous as to justify the mass murder of innocent people. And no, I’m not comparing anyone to Mohammed Atta. I’m saying that the seeds of evil are alive—however dormant—in most humans. (Germany, where I was born, found that out most catastrophically.) And we feed these seeds each time we act as if our adversaries weren’t worthy of basic respect, compassion, engagement. That is the truth of 9/11. Or at least one of them.

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