How have Newsweek’s covers changed since it went digital-only?

Newsweek’s new cover hits every note that used to make its covers darlings of social media discussion: As the nation discusses gun policy, playwright David Mamet writes a fiery essay calling for “more armed citizens in the schools” and drawing a line from gun control to Marxism.

It’s a classic, buzz-riling effort that holds its own among the best conversation-starters foisted on readers by Newsweek/Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown. But oddly, now that Newsweek is no longer a print publication, online discussion of its covers seems to have lessened.

Is that because the digital covers are less provocative than their print predecessors? Let’s put ‘em on the table and decide whether one of 2012′s best Internet trolls softened after it went digital.

Cover date: Jan. 4, 2013

Subject: Tom Wolfe

Trolling quotient (0-10): 0

Notes: This is a very nice portrait of Tom Wolfe.

Cover date: Jan. 11

Subject: The sea

Trolling quotient: Complicated. The cover is an animated GIF, and the coverline “Have We Hit Bottom?” practically begs bloggers to go nuts. But deep sea exploration is an important topic that, unfortunately, rarely arouses passions. 0 for achievement, 5 for effort.

Cover date: Jan. 18

Subject: President Obama

Trolling score (0-10): 7

Notes: By declaring Obama “The Second Coming,” Newsweek taps into a rich tradition of seemingly LSD-influenced visions of the 44th president of the United States. It’s called him the “First Gay President” and illustrated him as a Napoleonic general. Likening him to Jesus is a link to the Newsweek we miss.

Cover date: Jan. 25

Subject: Guns

Trolling quotient: 5 (Though the magazine’s tweet announcing the cover, sporting the hopeful hashtag #HandsOffOurGuns, gets a 9).

Notes: David Mamet’s stance is only outré in bastions of elite privilege like New York and Washington, D.C., and among media elites on Twitter. Good try!

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