Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Weigel and the cruelty of violating privacy

posted by Rod Dreher

We’ve been arguing in a thread below about the morality of a Minnesota gay reporter infilitrating a support group for gay Catholics and other gay Christians seeking help living chastely, and outing a closeted Lutheran pastor who attended the group. The pastor had spoken out against homosexuality before, so the reporter apparently felt morally justified in lying to get into the confidential support group, then exposing the secrets he learned there. I find this an absolutely reprehensible act, and would feel exactly the same way if a right-wing vigilante journalist infiltrated a pro-gay support group and exposed anyone within it, and their secrets. It infuriates me that there are people who believe their cause — in the case at issue, a reporter for a gay newspaper advocating for gay rights — gives them the right to destroy by any means necessary the characters and careers of people who get in their way. It’s a matter of fundamental decency that the privacy and confidentiality of those groups be respected, unless they are used to commit criminal acts. When people lose the ability to trust the confidentiality of such groups, it diminishes our social capital, which depends greatly on trust.
I’ve never been part of a support group, but if I ever had a personal problem, addiction or some other challenge, unless I was “out” with my problem, there’s no way I would go to one, no matter how much I thought it might help. It’s too risky.
Now we’ve seen another egregious violation of privacy: the publication of the private e-mail messages of journalist Dave Weigel, a libertarian who covered the conservative movement for the Washington Post. Someone within a private e-mail list to which Weigel contributed leaked to hostile conservatives his bitchy comments about some of them. As a result, Weigel, who apologized for some of it, is no longer working for the Post. It’s understandable that the Post would think him incapable of covering the conservative movement after these private comments went public, but as Ross Douthat notes, it tells you something about the quality of Weigel’s writing and reporting that a number of conservative bloggers are defending him. National Review’s John J. Miller, for example, says that Weigel’s reporting was so thoughtful and serious that it surprised him (Miller) to learn that Weigel’s private opinions about many conservatives were so hostile.
Which raises an interesting moral question: If Weigel’s public journalism work was so good that even some thoughtful conservatives had no idea he was so hostile to certain conservatives and conservative ideas, why are his private views of conservatives relevant? I ask this in response to those who think exposing liberal bias in the news media is such an important cause that it justifies making public things said within a group setting that’s supposed to be private and confidential. That e-mail list is supposed to be for elite liberal journalists, and I assume it’s an invitation-only thing, making it so it’s probably not the case that a conservative joined it secretly, or under false pretenses. Somebody on that list betrayed Weigel accidentally or on purpose. But somebody else received that information, and made a decision to publish it. I think it was an immoral decision — not because I agree with Weigel’s views, but because I think it’s a shame that a man has now lost his job because someone took it on themselves to violate his privacy. The list has now been shut down. After this, there’s no way a journalist would be foolish enough to share his private views on a list like that. Whom can you trust? N.B., Dan McCarthy, who generally defends Weigel, says nobody who posts on a listserv to which a number of journalists subscribe has any reasonable expectation of privacy.
You can say that Weigel ought to have more sense than to mouth off like that on a listserv, but do we really want to live in a world in which people have to watch every single word they say, for fear that somebody is lying in wait to use those words to destroy that person? Because that’s the kind of world we’re making for ourselves.
There’s one time in my professional life when something like this came up. Read on if you want to know more [plus, I’ve added more commentary about the Weigel situation, based on a blog post by the WaPo ombudsman…]


I once joined an e-mail list for Dallas Muslims, and was on it for about a day before they found out I had subscribed and kicked me off. I read comments on there in which subscribers discussed a plan they were trying to hatch to start a whispering campaign against me, with the hope of getting me fired. I publicized all of this. The thing is, that list was public — all you had to do to join it was sign up, which I did — and the thing those guys were discussing was potentially illegal, and would have cost me my job had they succeeded. Had that been a private list, and had I been leaked those e-mails by someone who subscribed to it who was disturbed by what he had read, I don’t think I would have published the e-mails — but I would have shown them to my editor and the newspaper’s publisher, to protect myself. And if a media lawyer had told me definitively that what that group was talking about was legally actionable by me, had they carried out the whispering campaign, I would probably have published them.
UPDATE: The Washington Post’s ombudsman has a blog post up about this affair, in which he writes:
Weigel’s exit, and the events that prompted it, have further damaged The Post among conservatives who believe it is not properly attuned to their ideology or activities. Ironically, Weigel was hired to address precisely those concerns.
I wasn’t aware that it was possible to damage the Post’s standing with conservatives any further. Anyway, like I said, once these ill-considered comments by Weigel became public, he clearly was too compromised to do his job effectively. That said, I don’t like the idea that newspapers should pick people to cover political groups, or any group, based on whether or not they are “properly attuned to their ideology or activities.” If by “properly attuned,” you mean “takes them seriously,” well, fine. The longtime complaint by conservatives has been that the MSM doesn’t understand conservatives, and doesn’t want to understand them, but rather simply seeks to condemn them. If conservatives think the lack of fairness they perceive in MSM coverage is properly addressed by hiring an open conservative partisan to cover the movement, they’re badly mistaken. Rare is the partisan conservative journalist who has the capability of standing outside the movement with which he identifies, and criticize it. Robert Novak was that kind of writer, but he was a columnist who reported, not a reporter who opined. Big difference.
I feel the same way about religion coverage, frankly. I don’t expect a religion reporter to be personally religious. I just expect him to be able to report empathetically on religious people, even if his reports are critical. By “empathetically,” I mean that he’s able to take religious people and their concerns seriously, and get inside their heads to imagine what the world looks like from their point of view. This weekend I talked to an Episcopal priest who said he once ran into David O’Reilly, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s religion reporter, and he complimented O’Reilly for his fair and balanced coverage of the nasty dispute between conservative Episcopalians in Philly (as this priest was) and liberals. He said O’Reilly told him, “Your opposition said the same thing to me.” This priest related that story in praise of O’Reilly’s skills and ethic.
I think one of the big problems with journalism, political and religious, is that reporters are biased one way or another, and don’t recognize it. I’ve got no problem at all with a journalist like Dave Weigel who understands his bias, but who works to keep it out of his reporting and writing.



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Peter

posted June 26, 2010 at 10:44 pm


if a media lawyer had told me definitively that what that group was talking about was legally actionable by me, had they carried out the whispering campaign, I would probably have published them.
Even if the listserv had been private?
I’m not sure the Daily Caller or FishbowlDC were wrong on publishing the emails. At least at the Daily Caller, there was at least a conversation about the motives of the leaker. It was wrong to leak the emails, but once that’s been done I’m not sure there was anything wrong with the first set of emails since they were done by a blogger whose job it is to write about DC media. The Daily Caller’s motives are more suspect since Weigel had earned the wrath of some DC conservative elites and the Daily Caller is a conservative publication.



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celticdragonchick

posted June 26, 2010 at 10:45 pm


Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic seems to think there is no such thing as ‘Off The Record’ for anybody at any time. His enthusiasm for the fioring of Dave Weigal speaks for itself.
I am not a fan of Mr. Goldberg.
I think that this is somewhat different from the case with the pastor, as the views Mr Weigal held were not particularly secret. He was excoriated for being overly colorful in his denunciations of Matt Drudge. The pastor was an open foe of GLBT people while keeping a secret that badly compromised his public stance. In either case, I think the ‘outing’ was unethical, although I have no sympathy for the pastor. I would not have gone forward with the information about him, although I have difficulty condemning the repoter who did.



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Marifasus

posted June 26, 2010 at 10:53 pm


Rod,
Picking up where we left off on the thread you just closed below, you say of my (and others’) positions:
“So, reason does not apply when it comes to homosexuality, in your view.”
I understand the point. (I agree that an argument which has devolved to opposing assertions is of no interest.)
But for me its fatal flaw lies in the fact that I haven’t seen any “reasonable” defense of anti-gay thinking not based on (your words) “the Church’s teachings on sexual morality.”
So please, apply reason to this question — without reference to the Church (surely, if its reasoning is sound, its argument can be expressed abstractly) — and explain why the free expression of a phenomenon like homosexuality — observed across time, cultures and species, and “witnessed” (to borrow a term from churchgoers) as healthful and joyous and true — is actually something society should reprehend, and whose stifling it should applaud.
Marifasus



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Rod Dreher

posted June 26, 2010 at 11:04 pm


Marifasus, I don’t want to argue with you about this anymore tonight. Don’t post again on this thread. I will say that you keep missing the point, in your cold rationality. We don’t grant people moral standing and human dignity on an issue by issue basis. We don’t arrogate to ourselves the right to decide whether or not they are to be treated with common decency based on the rationality (to us) of their arguments. People have a right to be wrong, and to still be treated with dignity and respect! On what grounds will you stand when someone decides that you are on the wrong side of history, and that your arguments and beliefs are irrational, therefore you have no right to hold them without being abused, harrassed, and ruined?
I’m asking that rhetorically. I really am in no mood to get into it with you further right now. Your logic is that of the terrorist, who doesn’t see human beings, only obstacles in the way of his goal — Allah, the Revolution, whatever.
I will note too that you say these things behind the cloak of anonymity. I could quite possibly, with a little bit of work, find out your identity. I think what you stand for is hateful, truly hateful and destructive of human dignity. And yet, if I did happen to discover who you were, I would never reveal your name or identity. Because it would be wrong.



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Marifasus

posted June 26, 2010 at 11:18 pm


I understand the point you’re making, Rod, and it’s a powerful one. All along in these posts, to be honest, I’ve been making an argument which is to an extent a devil’s advocate one. As absurd as it sounds at the moment, historically (i.e., over the past 20 years) I’ve been a vociferous opponent of outing of any sort, so it’s been off for me to be considering the pro-outing side.
I don’t think my point in the previous thread about taking this line of thinking as far as it could go (e.g., in my “Obama belonging to a support group of Sharia sympathizers” example), has been addressed, but I’m not prepared to say that it’s therefore an unanswerable point.
In any case, you’ve acquitted yourself very well, and if I were forced at this moment to choose one side or the other, I think I’d choose yours. It feels more humane, despite what I think are very strong humane considerations on the other side.
I know you’re Irish is up at the moment, but I think my, and others, opposition has drawn some good argumentation and prose out of you. :o)
Good night!
Marifasus



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Marifasus

posted June 26, 2010 at 11:20 pm


Er, in the first paragraph I meant to type “it’s been ODD of me,” not “off of me,” but I suppose one can’t argue with potential Freudian slips.
-M
P.S. Okay, captcha, “washington hyena” — really?!



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Mont D. Law

posted June 26, 2010 at 11:23 pm


I wouldn’t worry about Weigel. He is one of the best new media reporters working today. My bet – he’ll be at the Atlantic in a matter of days.



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Andrea

posted June 26, 2010 at 11:45 pm


I think it was foolish of him to leave an electronic trail even on a private list serve. What happened to him is unfortunate but I wouldn’t be badmouthing sources on a private list or a public web site.



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matt

posted June 27, 2010 at 1:40 am


Unlike the pastor, who was highlighting a personal struggle, Wiegel was essentially talking about his job in that semi-private space. I’m all for privacy, but the journalistic profession, with it’s special legal protections and pretensions of objectivity, seems to be a special case.



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Tocqueville

posted June 27, 2010 at 4:14 am


I’m sorry, Rod, but there’s simply no such thing as a “private” e-mail list-serv discussion group. If you send correspondence to large groups of people (many of whom are technically strangers who happen to have the same profession as you), you don’t have an reasonable expectation that they won’t divulge any or every thing you say. To think otherwise is absurd.
You sound like a postmodern teenager.



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Thomas Collins

posted June 27, 2010 at 7:08 am


A support group relies totally on the mutual trust within the group to uphold confidentiality and respect privacy. In an age where privacy is compromised everywhere, the vey basis for a support group’s therapeutic effectiveness is lost. The reporter’s actions are insensitive and egregiously unethical.



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Richard

posted June 27, 2010 at 7:30 am


I feel the same way about Weigel as John J Miller at NR.
That said, Weigel had no expectation of privacy on a listserv, (especially one that has been the undoing of more than one journalist), his comments were juvenile and personal, and I find it hard to believe that a WaPo writer of his stature had to rely on a listserv as his sole outlet.
As many other columnists have said – several on NRO – Weigel’s sin was not saying this stuff, but putting it in writing on a public forum while pretending to be a fair and balanced reporter. It isn’t much of a shock to anyone that a WaPo reporter is a lefty – they often hire from liberal opinion magazines!
Rod, did you read the stuff he put up on Journolist? Much of the stuff he got in trouble for was not rediculing conservative Big Ideas or taking down policies, but mean spirited insults directed at individuals.
What does that say about Weigel’s maturity, let alone judgment?



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Rod Dreher

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:05 am


As many other columnists have said – several on NRO – Weigel’s sin was not saying this stuff, but putting it in writing on a public forum while pretending to be a fair and balanced reporter.
Why was he “pretending to be a fair and balanced reporter”? I mean, why do you put it like that? Miller’s point was that judged by the quality of his work, Weigel’s reporting was exemplary — this, despite his private opinions, now made public. I think that speaks to his professionalism. Every reporter who has two brain cells to rub together has private opinions, some of them strong. Reporters don’t have to like, or to feel neutral towards, their sources to report with fairness. Indeed, that’s the essence of professionalism. In fact, it’s more important for reporters to be able to see the people and institutions they report on with skeptical detachment than it is for them to like them.
Remember that Mark Oppenheimer piece on Eve Tushnet, the lesbian traditionalist Catholic who lives chastely? I’d bet you my paycheck that Oppenheimer is strongly opposed to the choices Tushnet has made. But that didn’t come out in his essay. If I knew nothing about Oppenheimer’s personal views and faith commitment, I wouldn’t be able to tell from his report. He came across as a reporter who had found an interesting subject, and wanted to let the story itself, not his personal views, guide his writing. That’s what we should expect from journalists — and though I’m not a regular reader of Weigel’s writing, it appears that that’s what Weigel delivered, for the most part. I would much rather read the reportage of a skilled journalist who hated conservatives, but who was able to put that aside to report deeply, critically and thoughtfully on them (us), than I would to read the reportage of some cheerleading scribe who went at his job from a position of advocacy. You don’t have to love conservatives (or liberals) to understand them, and in fact, depending on the quality of your love, that affection might make it harder for you to understand them.
Anyway, Weigel’s comments were embarrassing, and it was obviously foolish for him to post them to a listserv. But having made equally foolish and bitchy comments in the past about people or institutions about which I was writing, I still feel sorry for him. The reporter who hasn’t made those kinds of remarks in an unguarded moment, even about sources he basically likes, doesn’t exist.



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Rod Dreher

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:37 am


The Washington Post’s ombudsman has a blog post up about this affair, in which he writes:
Weigel’s exit, and the events that prompted it, have further damaged The Post among conservatives who believe it is not properly attuned to their ideology or activities. Ironically, Weigel was hired to address precisely those concerns.
I wasn’t aware that it was possible to damage the Post’s standing with conservatives any further. Anyway, like I said, once these ill-considered comments by Weigel became public, he clearly was too compromised to do his job effectively. That said, I don’t like the idea that newspapers should pick people to cover political groups, or any group, based on whether or not they are “properly attuned to their ideology or activities.” If by “properly attuned,” you mean “takes them seriously,” well, fine. The longtime complaint by conservatives has been that the MSM doesn’t understand conservatives, and doesn’t want to understand them, but rather simply seeks to condemn them. If conservatives think the lack of fairness they perceive in MSM coverage is properly addressed by hiring an open conservative partisan to cover the movement, they’re badly mistaken. Rare is the partisan conservative journalist who has the capability of standing outside the movement with which he identifies, and criticize it. Robert Novak was that kind of writer, but he was a columnist who reported, not a reporter who opined. Big difference.
I feel the same way about religion coverage, frankly. I don’t expect a religion reporter to be personally religious. I just expect him to be able to report empathetically on religious people, even if his reports are critical. By “empathetically,” I mean that he’s able to take religious people and their concerns seriously, and get inside their heads to imagine what the world looks like from their point of view. This weekend I talked to an Episcopal priest who said he once ran into David O’Reilly, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s religion reporter, and he complimented O’Reilly for his fair and balanced coverage of the nasty dispute between conservative Episcopalians in Philly (as this priest was) and liberals. He said O’Reilly told him, “Your opposition said the same thing to me.” This priest related that story in praise of O’Reilly’s skills and ethic.
I think one of the big problems with journalism, political and religious, is that reporters are biased one way or another, and don’t recognize it. I’ve got no problem at all with a journalist like Dave Weigel who understands his bias, but who works to keep it out of his reporting and writing.



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Peter

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:01 am


There is not universal agreement that Weigel was fair. Many conservatives–beyond the establishment leather chairs of NRO–were out to get Weigel because they didn’t like his coverage because of the things he reported about the Tea Party, etc. Inside the beltway conservatives weren’t nearly as enthusiastic as the Scarsdale crowd at NRO and the Weekly Standard, but much of that dislike may have been professional jealousy.



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Indy

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:14 am


Rod, I think you largely get it right @8:05. Everyone says snarky things about people from time to time, reporter or not. Isn’t that usually how arguments start in families and among friends or in workplaces, someone let’s loose with a comment that expresses irritation about something? It could be just that, momentary irritation, or it could be an expression of something deeper. In some settings, working through the subsequent discussion can lead to clearing the air. That learning moment that parents talk about. I think that even could happen on an email discussion list under the right circumstances.
Problem is, the possibility of someone wanting to out or hurt someone is greater in certain situations, and politics is near the top of the list of risky areas where people may want to hurt each other. It’s really weird, but as soon as political issues rise to the fore, an awful lot of people seem to get defensive and to assume a fighting stance, sometimes to the point where they stop listening altogether. And it’s been becoming worse and worse, although that might just be part of the question of who most influences public discourse these days.
Your blog is one of the few places where we’ve been able to have pretty reasonable discussions about certain subjects, such as whether the Limbaughs and the Olbermans hurt or help the right and the left. In most settings, such convos would degenerate into irrelevant battles about whether conservativism or liberalism are good or bad. What Weigel said might have been part of some thoughtful threads or simply standalone snark or momentary irritation. Unfortunately for him, we’ll never know, we don’t have context for the fuller picture. Is it true those comments were posted before he took his job with the Washington Post?
Rod, that brings up a question for you. You said your new blog is going to require registration. Does that mean people actually will have to post under their full names? Or that their names would be “on file” but they still could use handles? The former certainly could potentially limit some of the discussions, especially since we often talk about morality and ethics. I’m thinking of cases where people have shared intimate details about their lives here at your BeliefNet blog and posted under handles such as “Anonymous for this thread” to indicate they want to share something sensitive or difficult about their families or their personal lives but don’t want it associated with their usual posting names. Couldn’t talk about their personal lives as freely if it was associated with their real names on a public blog. Yet some of the most interesting threads include candor about families, marriages, etc.
Captcha says: United sentry
Hmmm, sounds as if it has some relevance to this thread.



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Halbert Weidner

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:16 am


Bias? Doesn’t bias mean a prejudice? Weigel had made judgments. Were the judgments negative? Certainly. Were the judgments biased?



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hlvanburen

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:28 am


Mr. Dreher: “Every reporter who has two brain cells to rub together has private opinions, some of them strong. Reporters don’t have to like, or to feel neutral towards, their sources to report with fairness. Indeed, that’s the essence of professionalism. In fact, it’s more important for reporters to be able to see the people and institutions they report on with skeptical detachment than it is for them to like them.”
But this is not the meme that many conservative pundits put forth. They cite surveys which show how many editors and publishers in the “liberal” media are Democrats, and how many of them do not go to church. To many in the conservative column it is not simply professionalism that they wish to see in our mainstream media, it is like-mindedness.
This meme gains popularity among the rank and file when it is repeated by the conservative media voices (FOX News, Limbaugh, Beck, etc.). Thus we have the notion that any deviation from the so-called “core values” needs to be punished, even if that deviation is couched in professional, hard hitting journalism.



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Scott Lahti

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:55 am


Usually, the periodic rounds of ethical soycle-joyking navel-gazing conducted by American journofolk swotting one another with bundled birch-switches in their tribal sweat-lodges do little more than bring out my inner Gazoo, dum-dums, followed hard by my inner Morris the Nine-Lives Cat, and my more-inner still Frank Nelson (the dark-haired moustachioed “YEESSSS!” guy from vintage sitcoms):
OOOHHH! Did you see what Ross said about Andrew’s response to Tyler’s post on Megan’s thoughts about l’affaire Frum and the Brooks Brouhaha? NO? My dear, you haven’t lived!
However, in the present case I make an exception the better to emcee the first annual awards for Best Comic Lines Issuing From a Blog Topic of Historic Insider-Dodgeball Magnitude.
The runner-up:
Jim Geraghty, NRO, “Getting angry and expressing a desire that somebody else engage in an anatomically difficult act of self-procreation is, I suspect, very human and common in the world of journalism.”
And the winner by a :
Rod Dreher, Templeton, “I once joined an e-mail list for Dallas Muslims.”
Though the Muslim franchise in the AFFL – American Fatwa Football League – only lasted one season before hometown fans blew up its stadium after the Muslims lost to the Philadelphia Infidels in the slayoffs, it lives on in the next world, with season-closing games scored at 72-Allah against both the Atlantic Virgins and the California Raisins, before sudden death by stoning rendered both games exhibition-only.



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Chas Clifton

posted June 27, 2010 at 10:50 am


Haven’t we been told since the early 1970s that “the personal is political,” and thus that private attitudes cannot be separated from public work?
I am not saying that I always agree, but that attitude is pervasive, although more likely to be cited by the cultural left. No doubt the gay reporter who outed the minister would cite it.
WV: Harvey it. The invisible rabbit is political too.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 27, 2010 at 11:51 am


Weigel’s a great reporter and a very intelligent guy, so the real mystery here is why in hell he ever imagined that this insider’s listserv group could remain confidential. I mean, how freaking stupid. The only universal rule of modern life is that anything one posts or emails on the internet is public, or will soon become public. Private conversations between close friends can be expected to remain public, but email forums in which your messages are spread over an entire group, who really thinks that’s going to be private? It’s simply not possible, and Weigel should know that. So he shouldn’t write things on the internet that he’d regret later once it is more widely known.
That said, I think it was a mistake for the Post to fire him, in that his reporting was very good despite his once private views. But reporters do have to follow a very fine line in keeping their own private political views completely out of the public eye. It’s one of the sacrifices reporters have to make, and not be tempted to break through the attractions of the internet. Weigel clearly felt the need to blow off steam, and rather than head down to the local newsman’s bar, where these sorts of things used to be said in confidence not so long ago, now he heads off to the internet to share his private views on a listserv. Not the smartest thing to do if confidentialty is one’s most prized value. So I think there’s a lack of discipline on Weigel part that he’s got to pay attention to, and that we can’t absolve him of responsibility for.



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m.e.graves

posted June 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm


but do we really want to live in a world in which people have to watch every single word they say, for fear that somebody is lying in wait to use those words to destroy that person? Because that’s the kind of world we’re making for ourselves.
Actually, there is a part of me that does want to live in that world. I know that I have probably said some offensive things on this blog (in fact, I may have made some snide comment a few blogs back…) and I always, always have looked back on them with regret. An off color joke here and a bitchy comment there; they all add up to what becomes one’s character. Do people have a right to say such things? Of course. But why do people say such things out loud? And do such comments contribute to the discussions at hand? If I may, I’d like to just put up one or two of the offending quotes that Weigel used to describe conservatives:
“This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”
“It’s all very amusing to me. Two hundred screaming Ron Paul fanatics couldn’t get their man into the Fox News New Hampshire GOP debate, but Fox News is pumping around the clock to get Paultard Tea Party people on TV.”
You mention of having to watch our every word for fear that somebody is lying in wait to destroy us. I cannot agree with you more. However, I believe that that which destroys you is not outside of you, but rather, is inside of you. In a way, when you allow your thoughts to run rampant, you lose control over your thoughts and begin to harbor more and more destructive emotions. In Buddhism, this is called an unskillful action, or not following Right Speech.
Personally, I wish that every word that I say, if I capriciously insult somebody, could be used to shame me. That is the only way that we can become better people. That is the only way that we can improve our lot in life and become closer to God (however defined). We must control our words, for our words carry within them great power, and much more so for those who can influence large numbers of people.
I know we say they are just words, but as Buddha said, “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
And finally, I know this will probably come off as childish or naïve, but I truly hope to one day have the strength of mind and character to fight off negative thoughts that seem to creep up so easily, like kudzu during hurricane season, and to always speak with compassion and truth.



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Robert C

posted June 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm


Following in the disjointed logic of many of my gay brethren, Sharia cabals aside,and deviating from the “core values” punditry, I suppose one could construe that Francois Cousteix should be lauded rather than convicted for hacking into Barack Obama’s twitter account. You see a case could be made for any number of justifications to ‘out’ Mr. Obama. Foot dragging on important gay issues comes to mind, let alone breaking his word, and remaining steadfastly opposed to gay ‘marriage’. But then again would we really want to know about those alleged dark room escapades at Man’s Country a few years back? An alleged secret prediliction for a certain performance art conducted by older white men genuflecting in steam room solemnity? Is Francois a hacker punk who we should reprehend, or a truthsayer whose stifling we should not applaud?
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/roddreher/2010/06/the-cruelty-of-violating-privacy_comments.html#ixzz0s4ZtCUOJ
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100625/ap_on_hi_te/eu_france_twitter_hacker



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Quiddity

posted June 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm


Rod’s comment about reporting and professionalism reminds me of this quote by Bertrand Russell (in his History of Western Philosophy):
“I would rather be reported by my bitterest enemy among philosophers than a friend innocent of philosophy.”



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Indy

posted June 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm


Robert C, I read the Yahoo piece. There’s no point in anyone hacking politicians’ twitter account. They often are not the ones doing the tweeting and anything one thinks one gleans from it would be based on media strategy and message by committee, not from spontaneous comments by the individual. Haven’t you seen the reference to self as third party in some such tweets, a sure sign that the dude who’s name is associated with the account is not doing the actual tweeting? Haven’t you ever seen the way large corporations handle public relations? They sure don’t send their spokesmen out to make off the cuff statements. The more disciplined the entity, the more likely that is. The staff around a president generally is very disciplined, and hyper aware of message.
Don’t know what the rest of your post means, it left me going, huh, what was the point of that?



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steve

posted June 27, 2010 at 2:50 pm


“Why was he “pretending to be a fair and balanced reporter”?”
Weigel is a libertarian with some views that place him on the left and some on the right. It would be difficult to find a quality writer more balanced. Did he think some people in the Tea Party are bozos or some conservatives are nuts? Sure, but then some are. Same on the left. But, he vented on an email list, which he should know is dumb.
Steve



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BobSF

posted June 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm


I’ve never been part of a support group, but if I ever had a personal problem, addiction or some other challenge, unless I was “out” with my problem, there’s no way I would go to one, no matter how much I thought it might help. It’s too risky.
Rod obviously feels very, very, VERY strongly about this pastor’s outing, but the reaction above is irrational. We are talking about one instance of this happening. Now, it’s quite clear that this isn’t the only time someone has been “outed” (not necessarily in the gay sense) for attending a support group. There have been cases of “celebrities” having their attendance at rehab groups disclosed. That’s why they tend to go to clinics. Plenty of people hear about people who hear about people, etc.
I have read one account (which I don’t trust) that said the reporter in the pastor’s case was “tipped off” by a member of the group. How many times have we heard that one? The Inquirer and People thrive on that sort of thing, no? So-and-so is in rehab, so-and-so said this-or-that. (Pardon the vagueness, I don’t read that tripe.)
So, there was certainly precedence for the lack of reliable confidentiality in support groups. There’s also evidence of lack of reliability in, well, almost anything. To refuse to seek help because there’s a small chance of exposure is like refusing to leave the house because there’s a small chance you’ll get hit by a bus.



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Robert C

posted June 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm


So, i’ll tweet Francois and suggest that he hit the blackberry next. A little Googling would certainly turn up the delicious point. BTW saying Brock deserved it is like saying someone deserves to get AIDS, neither is a very ethical or a rational perspective, but simply the typical vindictive queen at work.



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Richard

posted June 27, 2010 at 4:16 pm


“Why was he “pretending to be a fair and balanced reporter”? I mean, why do you put it like that?”
Because it’s pretty clear now that he is (was) no such thing; that holds a great deal of disdain – some of it quite personal – for people who hold conservative ideas.
Remember, this is the Washington Post. For John Miller or some other conservative to be treated decently by a WaPo reporter is remarkable. It doesn’t mean that Weigel’s left bias wasn’t visible from a mile away. Miller said “I had taken him to be a left-of-center libertarian, not a cheerleader for Democrats”. Jonah called him “fairer than most”. Neither statement sets the bar all that high!
There was never any doubt about where Weigel’s bias was.



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Indy

posted June 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm


Robert C, you totally are losing me here. What is all this about tweets and blackberries and that Francois dude? I don’t know what line of work you’re in but whatever you’re trying to say doesn’t make sense in the corporate/political world. Dude, it just doesn’t fit.



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Pat

posted June 27, 2010 at 5:03 pm


Broken Yogi — I completely agree with your first paragraph. I used to frequent academic listservs, and was amazed by the stuff graduate students posted on fora whose only attraction was that they were read by the people who’d be deciding whether to hire those students.
OTOH, some people are too sensitive about posting mistakes. I posted a comment politely questioning a scientific blog post a little while ago, and the day after the blog was entirely gone and has never come back…



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Indy

posted June 27, 2010 at 5:05 pm


Richard, do you ever look in on the Washington Post’s site? I do sometimes. It’s not the paper it was during Kay Graham’s heyday (I’ve read some interesting books about Graham and about Ben Bradlee and what the newspaper used to be like.) Fred Hiatt’s opinion pages frequently are excoriated by readers who think columns tilt too far to the right or are too hawkish. Did you know that Charles Krauthammer, Mark Thiessen, William Kristol, and Mark Gerson write op eds for the Post? And that Dan Froomkin reportedly was forced out. Granted, that’s the editorial and opinon side. I’m not familiar with all its reporting but what I have seen when I click on stories seems pretty standard to me. I don’t think playing the violins the way people apparently once did about the Washington Post works anymore. People who follow it more closely than I (I have friends who live in Washington) tell me it’s not the robust liberal newspaper it once was.



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Pat

posted June 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm


m e james — I see the sense of your wanting to be held accountable for rude remarks, but one unwanted byproduct would be that often that is the only way the subjects of those remarks would ever hear about them. Their peace of mind should take precedence over yours in situations where you were the rude one.
In general, people who want to be called on their rude remarks are the ones who don’t need to be called.



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Robert C

posted June 27, 2010 at 6:07 pm


Some people just can not connect the dots.



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Indy

posted June 27, 2010 at 6:29 pm


Robert, problem is your “dots” make no sense. Are you talking about someone hacking government officials Blackberries? Why? Do people want to hack your corporate Blackberries? Why? Pull out your corporate BB and scroll through it. Don’t you see how mundane business emails are? There’s little there that is sensitive or interesting. Do you really think information that would give a lot of insight into a person would be discernible in company email? Or in corporate twitter accounts, which is what Obama’s is? Didn’t you see the item the other day when Obama referred to Twitters (rather than Twitter) and people said, yeah, well it’s not like he writes his own tweets for the most part. I don’t know what it is you’re wishing for here, with your references to Francois, but it doesn’t fit with the way business is done.



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the stupid Chris

posted June 27, 2010 at 7:01 pm


Here’s the deal: We now live in a global village. Pretty much nothing is “private,” while at the same time most of what we know isn’t relevant to the work or views of the people we know them about. We’ve managed to globalize gossip, some of it malicious, some of it prurient, most of it irrelevant.
What is the relevance that a pastor who is anti-homosexual is struggling with his own homosexual impulses, impulses that he’d rather not have?
What is the relevance that a reporter who covers conservatives has a low opinion of some of the people he covers? Is there a conservative alive who holds no negative opinions of some other alleged conservative? Even Rush Limbaugh has been known to belittle other conservatives, for cryin’ out loud.
What’s not stated here is the underlying problem, which is fear. Homosexuals are afraid of those who don’t agree that homosexuality is normal and good. Conservatives are afraid of each other and anyone who’s not conservative. Global village gossip feeds those who sell fear as a commodity. Like all gossip it is destructive, one searches in vain for anything good that comes from it.



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Richard

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm


Indy, I’m not playing any violins or begging sympathy for us poor pitiful under-represented conservatives. If you read the Post as often as you suggest, you know that they have a rather proud tradition of hiring young reporters from liberal opinion journals.
That’s just fine with me. But don’t tell me your publication is without bias.



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Indy

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:56 pm


Richard, it’s not my publication, it’s just a site I look in on for opinion and news, one of many. I’m not a journo. But whatever.



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public_defender

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:36 pm


I wasn’t aware that it was possible to damage the Post’s standing with conservatives any further.
Funny, I thought it had basically become a pro-torture, pro-war rag. Who does respect that paper?



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Broken Yogi

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm


“What’s not stated here is the underlying problem, which is fear. Homosexuals are afraid of those who don’t agree that homosexuality is normal and good.”
And why do you think homosexuals have been and still are afraid of those who don’t agree that homosexuality is normal and good? Is it just that they can’t tolerate opposing views? Or do you think it has something to do with those who oppose their views having the nasty habit of executing, imprisoning, beating them, discriminating against them, and generally denying them the ability live free of repression and, yes, fear. If you think the problem with homosexuals is fear of those who oppose them, you have got your head screwed on backwards. Their problem is that the people who oppose them actually have a long history of repressing and denying them their basic human rights. That’s what they’re afraid of. You would be too if your human rights were in dispute.



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public_defender

posted June 28, 2010 at 5:59 am


As to Weigel, some thoughts are best spoken, not written. That’s not a guarantee of privacy, but it’s a giant leap in that direction.
I think his dismissal was unwise, but he really showed a lack of judgment by being so caustic about people who could influence his career on an email list. I am on some email lists for criminal defense lawyers. And generally, we are very careful about using caustic remarks to call out specific judges, prosecutors, or fellow defense lawyers. If I feel the need to say something I don’t want to write, I pick up the phone or walk down the hall.
I wonder if this incident shows a problem of the physical isolation of some professionals. Walking down the hall to find someone to kvetch to is not an option when you are working from home. And maybe Weigel’s friends weren’t good about answering their phones.



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Isyou

posted June 28, 2010 at 7:13 am


Live by the sword….



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