A few months ago, The National Interest ran an article essentially describing The Economist as the most important newsmagazine in the world. It's certainly hard to disagree with that assessment. (Full disclosure: I have written articles for The Economist.)
The author writes:
Twenty-five years ago, if you had asked a typical senior American corporate type or public official what his or her weekly reading consisted of, the answer would usually have run something like this: "Time, Newsweek and maybe U.S. News & World Report... oh, yes, and the Economist." Today, instead of being an afterthought, the Economist probably would head the list. It might even be the only publication mentioned.
That statement is also probably true globally. How do I know? Obviously, important people in France and Taiwan both read the most recent issue. And, oh boy, are they mad. High-level officials from both countries felt the need to respond. That's quite an impressive feat for a weekly newsmagazine.
What did this British publication do that ruffled so many feathers?
Calling France "the time-bomb at the heart of Europe" apparently didn't go over well in Paris, however true it might actually be. The cover photo, which was of several baguettes bundled like a package of dynamite, was their way of rubbing a little extra salt in the wound. Nobody can torque the French quite like the British can.
The French government responded with a childish ad hominem attack against The Economist. The credit rating agency Moody's responded by downgrading France's debt, which led ForexLive to speculate how exactly The Economist was celebrating. Sacrebleu!
Taiwan is upset with the magazine for referring to its president, Ma Ying-jeou, as a "bumbler." He has an approval rating of 13%, so they can't be that far off. But, this article really touched a nerve in Taiwan. Even the opposition party stated their support for the president.
The Economist should (and probably does) treat these criticisms as a badge of honor. Clearly, the magazine has more influence globally than most nations do. And even if they occasionally make some critics mad, at least they know people are reading.
(Image: The Economist)