According to the Atlantic Monthly and the receptive audience at MSNBC, the year's "brave" and "provocative" thinkers include Lena Dunham, who made an ad comparing voting to sex, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tried to ban large sodas. [MP3 audio here .]
Jansing and Co. Guest anchor Richard Lui introduced Atlantic Monthly editor James Bennet by hyping, "The Atlantic Monthly has honored some of American's most provocative thinkers for more than 150 years." Highlighting a liberal actress in liberal Hollywood who bravely spoke out in favor of a liberal president, Lui insisted, "And another woman on your list who is being compared to Woody Allen and Nora Ephron, that is Lena Dunham."
Touting Bloomberg, Bennet touted Bloomberg's inclusion in the magazine as a "lifetime achievement award." He gushed that the NYC mayor is pushing the soda ban in the face of being "widely mocked" and that Bloomberg is "obviously to try to do something about the obesity epidemic that he says is on the way to banking the health care system."
The the new issue of the Atlantic does include some genuinely brave individuals, such as women who defied intimidation and is running for president in Afghanistan.
However, it's mostly filled with liberals, including Bloomberg, Dunham, Corey Booker and Georgetown President John DeGioia for "running counter to the [Catholic] Church."
A partial transcript of the November 19 segment can be found below:
RICHARD LIU: The Atlantic Monthly has honored some of American's most provocative thinkers for more than 150 years. In their latest issue, this week's picks for brave thinkers. People who have risked their reputations and fortunes and lives in the pursuit of big ideas. And I'm joined now by the editor James Bennet. And James, we were just showing the cover there. The magazine has been honoring America's big thinkers since 1857. When you go through the list, what makes the people that you choose stand out?
JAMES BENNET: Well, as you say, Richard, we are looking for unconventional thinkers. People who are willing to take some sort of a big risk to the reputation, to their career and in some cases to their very lives in pursuit of a big idea– On the theory that this is what ultimately drives society and the culture forward. They may turn out to be wrong, but they are willing to stake their reputation on the notion that they are putting forward.
LUI: All right. So, to the cover now, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. You interviewed him. What did you select that made him stand out?
BENNET: Well, it is a kind of lifetime achievement award for Mayor Bloomberg, but the specific thing this year was his pursuit of the soda ban and the ban on sugary drinks served in containers more than 16 ounces in size. He has been widely mocked for this campaign. In fact, the New York times' polling showed that the idea has been rejected by every demographic group in the city and every political persuasion, but he is sticking to his guns and what is interesting is I think that he has already changed the national debate on this subject. The reason he is doing it is obviously to try to do something about the obesity epidemic that he says is on the way to banking the health care system.
LUI: And another woman on your list who is being compared to Woody Allen and Nora Ephron, that is Lena Dunham.
BENNET: Yeah. It's always tough to pick out American cultural figures, Richard, because, obviously, their risks are not the same risks that, say a young women in Saudi Arabia might be taking. But Lena Dunham is really accomplishing something fairly radical, I think. Our writer Hanna Rosin argues that, you know, with the new series Girls she is basically taking the traditional romantic comedy and turned it into something honest and even uncomfortable-making in pursuit of kind of a radical notion that women aren't just necessarily out to be liked.
LIU: And she also had a political ad out for President Obama, right?
BENNET: That is true. She did.
-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow him on Twitter.