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.”
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.
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.
That seemed to break the dam, allowing other negative comments in.
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.
Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal also gave a shout-out to “Going Clear.”
The buzz about The Atlantic’s choice of sponsor content was so strong that it even generated a parody account.
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Update: The infamous Mat Mullen of Disqus weighs in and laments that his comment disappeared as well.
Update: The Atlantic has removed the Scientology ad “pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads.”
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.