Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


The outrageous Journolist scandal

posted by Rod Dreher

Here’s the latest about the Journolist scandal, and it really is a shocking example of unprofessionalism. I’d said earlier that I didn’t think it was right to use the e-mails Dave Weigel sent out on the private list (which included several hundred influential liberal journalists and professors) to burn him for having spoken ill of conservatives. I still believe that. But what Weigel did was nothing compared to this story, in which members of the list — prominent liberal journalists — conspired to try to kill the Jeremiah Wright controversy because they decided it was an illegitimate story that threatened to hurt Obama’s chances at winning the White House. Follow the link to read the depths of unethical behavior these leading journalists were prepared to go to for the sake of helping their favored candidate. They even discussed launching groundless accusations of racism against conservative journalists, for the sake of stopping the story. Andrew Sullivan is right here:

The latest revelations from Journo-list are deeply depressing to me. What’s depressing is the way in which liberal journalists are not responding to events in order to find out the truth, but playing strategic games to cover or not cover events and controversies in order to win a media/political war.
The far right is right on this: this collusion is corruption. It is no less corrupt than the comically propagandistic Fox News and the lock-step orthodoxy on the partisan right in journalism – but it is nonetheless corrupt. Having a private journalistic list-serv to debate, bring issues to general attention, notice new facts seems pretty innocuous to me. But this was an attempt to corral press coverage and skew it to a particular outcome.

I can’t say I share Andrew’s view of Fox News (the Beck show to the contrary), because I don’t have cable and don’t watch it, and have never watched Fox enough to form a judgment of my own. Nor do I agree with Andrew that thinking Rev. Wright’s racist, radical fatmouthing was a story only people with racist motivations care about. He’s very wrong about that. I can say that as someone who used to write as a conservative journalist at the national level, I never heard as much of a whisper among conservatives regarding how we had to all get together to protect “our” side, or to attack “our” enemies. It is true that there is a sense of tribalism among some leading journalists on the Right that often prevents them from taking on conservative sacred cows, but I never saw anything remotely close to the Journolist conspiracy — and would have been disgusted if I had, and left the room, so to speak.
If this were just a conservative vs. liberal thing, I wouldn’t blog on it here, because politics isn’t really my thing anymore. This, to me as a journalist, is a hugely important matter of morality and professional ethics, and a blow to the authority of journalism at a time when it is already reeling. I have worked around liberal journalists all my career, and most of them, though we disagree on many things, have struck me as men and women of real professional integrity. Yet read the story and see what some fairly prominent liberal journalists were willing to say and to do for the sake of quietly controlling press coverage in a way favorable to their side. Look at this, for example:

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”
Michael Tomasky, a writer for the Guardian, also tried to rally his fellow members of Journolist: “Listen folks-in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have. This isn’t about defending Obama. This is about how the [mainstream media] kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people.”

You see that theme in several of the quoted messages: We should do this for the sake of the country. The ends justify the means. Two well-known journalism professors also participated in the strategizing.
Here’s what I don’t get: even when I was a college journalist, I would have known that something like this was a betrayal of professional ethics. I would bet — I would hope — that most journalists in most American newsrooms, however liberal they may be, would have the ethical sense to know that this kind of thing is a shocking corruption of the basics they learned in J-school. And yet, here are some of the most prominent names in liberal journalism willing to sell out their integrity for a partisan political end.
This will be on conservative talk radio for at least the next week, and Fox will, I suppose, have a field day. Good. These journalists have brought it on themselves, and they deserve the opprobrium. This is terrible for public discourse, though, because it will just solidify the view many in the public have that all journalists do this sort of thing, and cannot be trusted, no matter what they say. It’s not true! Not all journalists do this.Those journalists did, however, and they are at or near the top of their profession. How can you blame people for thinking all journalists are corrupt in the same way, when the alleged best and brightest have behaved so disgracefully? Again, let me underscore that this is not, to my mind, a left-vs.-right thing. It is another example of the degradation of institutional authority in this country by personal and professional corruption.
And you know, I’ve changed my mind about revealing the letters on this list. Doing so to destroy a single journalist whose reporting (whatever his private opinions) was generally seen to be fair is hard to defend. But exposing something as widespread and as potentially significant as leading liberal journalists conspiring to control the news and to smear conservative journalists for the sake of changing the political game is a story of great significance, it seems to me.
UPDATE: Jonathan Chait, who was on Journolist, says this has been blown all out of proportion. He’s not defending the quotes cited in the Daily Caller story, only saying that they were not representative of the list as a whole. I think that could be true, and if/when more information comes out along these lines, I’m prepared to be less pissed off by this thing. Still, I find it really appalling that responsible journalists were part of this kind of discussion, and more than making me angry, it frustrates me, because it makes the jobs of honest journalists who try to do their jobs with integrity that much more difficult. And it provides hi-test fuel for the Noise Machine.



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alkali

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm


Follow the link to read the depths of unethical behavior these leading journalists were prepared to go to for the sake of helping their favored candidate.
If you follow the link, you get an article someone wrote about an e-mail exchange. Where, pray tell, is the link to the text of the e-mail exchange?
They even discussed launching groundless accusations of racism against conservative journalists, for the sake of stopping the story.
What appears to have happened is that one journalist suggested making an accusation of racism, and others thought that was ill-advised. Perhaps the actual text of the e-mail exchange would clear that up.
Not to belabor the point, but the other big inside-baseball story today is that Andrew Breitbart, the conservative writer who appears to have provided the source material for this Journolist story, also circulated a video clip of a woman recounting an episode of racist behavior on her part before a NAACP gathering. That video clip, it turns out, may have been misleadingly edited. Why should we believe the dailycaller.com article without seeing the text of the e-mail exchange on which it is purportedly based?



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Peter

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm


For a conspiracy, they were really bad at it and from the Daily Caller–whose owner desperately wanted to join–reporting, they spent most of the time disagreeing.
When columnists organized a petition, people on the site say there was a lot of opposition and Ezra Klein later banned such posts. On the question of people on the list being appalled at the coverage of the Wright issue–which WAS ugly and embarrassing, including the questions at the debate–there was no agreement or master-plan on what to do about it.
You talk all the time about exchanging emails with other journalists. Would you want those published? If your email chain went about five people, does that count as a conspiracy?



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amm139

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm


I think you might want to take a look at Jon Chait’s take on this whole episode. A bit of context makes quite a bit of difference…
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/76407/the-journolist-conspiracy-continues



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Peter

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:38 pm


Here’s Jonathan Chait at the New Republic’s take and what was left out of the Daily Caller/Breitbart hit.
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/76407/the-journolist-conspiracy-continues



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Cecelia

posted July 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm


to add to what has been said above – what is new about journalists shaping or covering information up for the “sake of the country”? Did not journalists engage in a genuine massive conspiracy to hide FDR’s paralysis? JFK’s philandering? Or any number of things not yet known to us? How about the coverage of the MSM in the lead up to the Iraq invasion – where journalists ignored information that would have made the administrations case for an invasion less compelling and did so because of the post 9/11 atmosphere? I’d be more concerned about this if they in fact did it – but it seems they instead discussed it and then it was rejected. That they rejected the notion of making racist accusations against conservatives seems more noteworthy to me than that they considered it.



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kevin s.

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:07 pm


Yeah, Jonathan Chait doesn’t want this to be a big problem, so why pretend that it is one? Clearly, Rod, you need to listen more to Jonathan Chait. Silly goose.



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celticdragonchick

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:07 pm


Not to belabor the point, but the other big inside-baseball story today is that Andrew Breitbart, the conservative writer who appears to have provided the source material for this Journolist story, also circulated a video clip of a woman recounting an episode of racist behavior on her part before a NAACP gathering. That video clip, it turns out, may have been misleadingly edited.
Why would anybody be surprised in this scorched earth partisan hackery environment if liberal pundits and online reporters for blogs debate turning the tactics of right wings smear merchants back on them?
I think your outrage is a bit selective, Rod. If you disapprove of Ackermans idea (which you should…!), then you should also call out the Karl Rove/Lee Atwater types who were busy planting fliers on cars in South Carolina accusing John McCain of having an out-of-wedlock child with a black woman back during the 2000 GOP primary.
They were at it again (some of the very same operatives who had smeared McCain in South Carolina were hired by the McCain campaign in 2008!) two years ago hustling race and hatred for political gain…and some liberals debated fighting fire with fire.
Andrew Breibart is the epitome of what you talk about.
The man is an inverterate liar who will do and say literally anything to smear people who disagree with his political views, and he will do and say anything to advance his views. He is the ultimate Machiavellian cynic.
captcha: moral overture



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celticdragonchick

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm


@ Kevin
Yeah, Jonathan Chait doesn’t want this to be a big problem, so why pretend that it is one? Clearly, Rod, you need to listen more to Jonathan Chait. Silly goose.
Some journalists and bloggers argued about a bad idea on a blog(just like they used to do in a bar over a cigar and scotch…). The idea was discarded by most participants.
Only in rightwing black helicopter paranoia land is this a story.



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stari_momak

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:17 pm


Mickey Kaus was all over the Journolist two years ago, saying it was an ill-conceived, and snobbish, project. And so it was.
Notice that Chait’s little apologia leaves out the most damning part, Ackerman’s suggestion that a coordinated smear campaign be waged against a random (‘who cares?’!) conservative commentator. As some recent posts have shown, the accusation of racism is absolutely the worst thing — short of actual violence — possible in contemporary America, and here is a top opinionator suggesting doing just that with zero foundation.
But worst still is that not one of the 400 ‘journalists’ thought it necessary to resign publicly from the list, not one brought to light a possible campaign of liable.



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Larry Linn

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:54 pm


What about George H. Buhs’s affair with his driver. When he was asked about it he did not answer, he just stormed of the set.



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Indy

posted July 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm


@stari_momack, how would you or anyone know if anyone resigned from the list? How do you know how anyone responded? Not everyone is a spotlight hog or drama queen, sometimes people move away from a group quietly. I’ve had acquaintenances I’ve moved away from without ever doing one of those reality show confrontations with them.
@Rod, disclosure of one type of content as opposed to another would not change my position on whether revelation of a non-publicly viewable email list is all right. Either the messages are disclosable to outsiders or they aren’t. I said originally that they weren’t and that’s still where I am. Content plays no part in that. I tend to be leery of situational ethics in such matters. Yes, I know, there are people who blab trade secrets and even blog about them. There are people who disclose corporate problems to reporters. There are people who disclose government secrets to journalists. And there are millions of Americans who go to work every day and keep such matters internal. They talk to corporate counsel and to management about concerns, without ever going outside to people friendly to their interests and saying “hey, here’s some juicy stuff, look what’s happening.”
I am much more comfortable in the latter category than the former. That doesn’t mean I don’t take part in workplace internal debates, even arguments, on some issues, at times quite forcefully. Or talk generally about standards, practices, processes, even business cultures, when I’m outside my workplace. But if the ethos for certain matters is “keep it inside,” say on specific details about named persons and specific actions, that’s what I do. To do otherwise is to say that each one of us, as an individual, can decide what written and unspoken rules and regulations apply to us and which don’t. Kind of like choosing which aspects of our faith apply to us as individuals and which do not. If everyone involved acted that way, there would be chaos in most workplaces and no one would trust anyone in any situation. We all would waste an awful lot of emotional energy on regarding everyone around us as potential betrayers of our trust.
I hate to sound cynical, but I don’t think there are going to be many people beyond the ususal crowd rallying to complain about Breitbart’s and The Daily Caller’s selectivity or to complain about liberal journalist’s proclivities. On so many issues these days, right and left largely cancel each other out because so few people know how to fight fairly, model integrity, and argue convincingly. I mean, on this issue, as on any other one you could pick, people already were standing there, poised in corners of the ring and ready to punch away, before Weigel’s messages were leaked. Jon Stewart’s been showing that on his show for years, by running loops of robotic and coordinated responses by pundits and politicians across the spectrum. Everyone has pre-assigned roles and they just keep playing the same part. Because no one can budge, no one has influence except with those already on their side.
The readers in the middle, or at least people like me, will say, “some dudes had some bad ideas, wow. Going after random dudes as payback, getting in the gutter with people you regard as being in the gutter, never is a good idea. But we don’t know what the other dudes thought. There’s been no independent investigation and assessment by an unbiased judge who has had access to the entire set of messages.”



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PeterK

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:08 pm


Sullivan’s comments about Fox and a coordinated conservative effort are meant solely to deflect/soften his criticism of Journolist. I suspect he believes that if liberals are capable of creating a secret cabal than of course conservative rightwing racists MUST have a secret group out there.
What he can’t believe is that “good and decent and fair-minded writers” would ever come up with something like this.
It’s really sad when one’s peers are exposed as being what you think the other side is really like



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trotsky

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:12 pm


Now, that kind of conversation would be hopelessly unprofessional — really, a prima facie firing offense — for any newspaper or “mainstream media” reporter. What are the professional standards for “opinion journalists”? Many are talented, but on both sides they are very much part of a movement, no?
was microfilm



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PeterK

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:14 pm


I’m not surprised by some of the other comments here, what will be interesting is to see what else will be revealed by the Daily Caller. this is getting as good as the Climate Research Unit emails that were revealed last fall.
Breitbart and Daily Caller have learned well the tactics of the radical left. Now it is up to the prog/lib ‘journalists’ to disprove this negative. and no amount of pointing to Rover/Atwater or alleged “racist FNC” conspiracies by their supporters will deflect the story



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kevin s.

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm


“Some journalists and bloggers argued about a bad idea on a blog(just like they used to do in a bar over a cigar and scotch…). The idea was discarded by most participants.”
One of whom described George Stephanopoulos as a “little rat snake”. It doesn’t really matter who discarded what, though there is no evidence to support your assertion at this point. The fact that this is how supposedly objective journalists think and interact speaks volumes.



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polistra

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:30 pm


As with global warming, the corruption isn’t new. What’s new in both cases is the sunshine, the revelations by whistle-blowers. And the sunshine was made possible by a new web-based semi-amateur culture that operates outside of the closed “professional” rooms. Before this competing culture arose, the whistle-blowers could be silenced or “crazified” or suicided with no publicity.



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kevin s.

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm


“I’m not surprised by some of the other comments here, what will be interesting is to see what else will be revealed by the Daily Caller. this is getting as good as the Climate Research Unit emails that were revealed last fall.”
So, they’ll find some in-the-tank crony to determine that this is not big deal, disseminate a press release to that effect, and move on? Like the CRU scientists, we’re talking about people who control the message.
Captcha: conceits the
Tell me about it…



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kevin s.

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:38 pm


“I hate to sound cynical, but I don’t think there are going to be many people beyond the ususal crowd rallying to complain about Breitbart’s and The Daily Caller’s selectivity or to complain about liberal journalist’s proclivities.”
I don’t know if you’re right. There has to be a breaking point somewhere. There are those who cling fast to the notion that objective media really is objective, and not for the reason that the stories they read reinforce their existing opinions.
At minimum, what independent or conservative (i.e. 80% of the population) would want to subscribe to a paper written by these people?



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Boz

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:43 pm


I think makes this disclosure makes it fairly obvious that cries of “racism” are used as a cudgel to intimidate conservatives. I wonder how African Americans like being used by liberals. Delightful.



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Indy

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm


Kevin, there isn’t going to someone to assess and judge the emails as a whole. There will be no verdict of guilty or innocent. The dude who made the lame comment about picking someone from the right deserves all of our opprobrium but we’ll never know how his fellows on the list reacted, nice as it would be to have resolution on this. This isn’t a leak from a company, where corporate counsel might look into it. If this happened with my workplace, that’s what would happen. Or the CEO might hire an independent party to assess this. It’s a loose association of people who came together voluntarily and informally. They had the right to do that. But that freedom of voluntary loose association now boxes them in, too, because they have no way to prove how they operated as a whole over time. They don’t answer to anyone in terms of the messages, which were privately distributed by an individual (Ezra Klein). I mean there are no stockholders to answer to. So report to be filed with the SEC or such. That’s the whole problem. That’s why I pointed to confirmation bias, predictable potshots by people on both sides, and no final answers.



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Indy

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:49 pm


I mean no report to be filed with the SEC. . .



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Joe Carson

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm


there is no intentional, collective, Christian “salt and light” influence in journalism profession, because Christians in the profession think playing such a role would be harmful to their professional and economic interests. “Do not blame the meat for rotting, blame the lack of salt” and “love of money is (still and ever more clearly) the root of all evil.”



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Indy

posted July 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm


Kevin, isn’t this kind of like the Mark Williams, the Tea Party express dude who just lost his position within the Tea Party movement? Those who don’t like the Tea Party folks pointed to his racism as typical, when that is not fair to the larger group of Tea Party activists, as a whole. Absent reliable data from a larger universe of associates, I didn’t agree with holding Williams up as an representative of the Tea Party. I’m consistent and hard to persuade on things like guilt by association. I’m not holding Ackerman up as an example of all journalists, absent evidence of like minded people from a larger universe of his associates, either. Consider me condemnatory of him and anyone who agreed with his views and tactics, but not of journalists as a whole. The Tea Party will have to work harder to overcome the Williams embarrassment but overcoming is doable. I think overcoming the Ackerman embarrassment is doable for journalists, as well. If I were either a Tea Party activist or a journo, I would be going “grrrr” at the need to climb a steeper hill because of actions by such individuals, however. Maybe its just my corporate culture, but I believe we each are responsible for our own actions and while we can’t keep others from rolling in the mud, we can choose the high road for ourselves.



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kevin s.

posted July 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm


“Kevin, isn’t this kind of like the Mark Williams, the Tea Party express dude who just lost his position within the Tea Party movement?”
No. He was immediately excommunicated, and never pretended not to have an ideological bias.
If you want to draw a comparison between the journalistic class and the Tea Party, that is probably apt. They are both fervently ideological, and do what they can to advance their objectives. Peas in a pod, only one is forthright about its aims.
Only, organizations like Fox News are vilified for their lack of objectivity. So let’s dispense with this notion of an objective media. We have Fox News on one side, and just about every other organization on the other. Everyone has a bias, so let’s quit pretending otherwise.



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stari_momak

posted July 20, 2010 at 9:24 pm


@stari_momack, how would you or anyone know if anyone resigned from the list?
That’s why I used the modifier ‘publicly’ . A lot of these folks have blogs. Why didn’t Chait, say, come clear with his readers ‘Dear Readers, for the past X months I have been a member of Jounolist’. Today something very disturbing happened, a well known commentator suggested an orchestrated smear campaign against a generic conservative — simply to distract public attention from the Rev. Wright situation. I fell I must resign immediately from the list…’
And no, writing a public, ill-conceived ‘parody letter’ is not the same as suggesting a smear campaign which could threaten a commentator’s career, merely for political gain and with zero evidence. And so far I’ve not hear any liberal commentator denounce Ackerman — the idea yes, but the man no.



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Indy

posted July 20, 2010 at 9:35 pm


Kevin, I almost never watch tv news any more. I used to watch Fox but no longer do (got tired of rolling my eyes and saying “conservatism is stronger than that, stop weakneing it, do better, guys”). Shep Smith I used to like, I think he’s still with Fox. I’ve only seen Beck in web clips — I had abandoned Fox by the time he launched his show — and have no interest in seeing him beyond that. I used to watch O’Reilly’s Factor — he had a distinct POV but did some interesting interviews — but stopped several years ago. I’ve never really watched MSNBC in a sustained fashion, although I’ve caught enough Olberman to decide I didn’t want to watch on a daily basis. I probably would find myself thinking the same as I do about Fox (“Liberalism is stronger than that, stop undermining it.”)
Part of it is my work schedule (I’m often still in the office when the prime time news shows come on. As I said, my schedule is going to be even tighter soon, with the change in in my job situation. That should lighten up after a shakedown period, however). Part of it is my preference for print the media, which covers issues more in depth than tv does. I am very discriminating there, however, and understand that I have to differentiate between the opinion pages and hard news stories. I am very much a detail person, I want to drill down really, really deeply on issues and to take in as much context as I can find. Reading long, serious books always has been my biggest hobby although I have to do it in bits and pieces around business and family obligations.
TV generally seems to be too fluffy, too shallow (Jon Stewart once did a great send up of the tendency for interviewers to go “we’ll leave it right there”) and too dependent on drama and controversy. I don’t find appealing the anchors who play up and over hype stories. (I know, it’s corporate that wants that, they have to do what the suits think the public wants). So I largely steer clear of them all. If I want to watch breaking news, I watch on on my computer through a feed on the web.



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Donna V.

posted July 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm


then you should also call out the Karl Rove/Lee Atwater types who were busy planting fliers on cars in South Carolina accusing John McCain of having an out-of-wedlock child with a black woman back during the 2000 GOP primary.
While that was certainly dirty pool (although I’m finding it difficult to believe that liberals were ever deeply concerned about McCain’s good name), you’re comparing nasty tricks pulled by political staffers to an attempt by *ahem* “journalists” to misdirect and slander in order to achieve a particular political outcome. And please stop with the “but they do it too!” It never worked with my mom when I tried it in 1st grade. You apparently had more success with it because you seem to think it comprises an argument.
The man is an inverterate liar who will do and say literally anything to smear people who disagree with his political views, and he will do and say anything to advance his views.
Can you prove that? How, exactly, were the innocent community organizers of ACORN unfairly targeted, the poor persecuted dears? I also note Breitbart offered $100,000 to anybody who could come up with tapes actually showing Tea Partiers spitting on black representatives and calling them the “n” word, as the press and those Dem politicians alleged they did. That $100,000 remains unclaimed. Imagine that! In a world where $100,000 is still good coin (that might change as the Dems continue to stimulate the economy into the dust) and just about everyone carries a camera of some sort to a political rally, nobody managed to film, you know, actual proof.
Breitbart isn’t the liar. He’s exposing the liars and the racists – and you hate and fear him for that reason.
Only in rightwing black helicopter paranoia land is this a story.
Oh, sure. That’s why you keep writing about it. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, folks!
I have a feeling November will be far, far more enjoyable for me than it will be for you.



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unapologetic catholic

posted July 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm


“Here’s the latest about the Journolist scandal, and it really is a shocking example of unprofessionalism.”
How can you be shocked when journalists are all playing craps at Rick’s Cafe?
Here’s your winnings sir.



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Christian Toto

posted July 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm


You say that you know plenty of journalists who would be outraged by this … but I’m guessing you’ll hear mostly silence from them. Is the MSM reporting this story, or just Fox News?
Isn’t that your answer?
Also, the folks on this list who behaved so badly will not be punished. They will go on as usual, since their bosses won’t be upset by this – or won’t want to feed the notion that they’re biased.
Where were all the good journalists you described during the lop sided coverage of the 2008 Presidential race? They stayed quiet then, too. A few ombudsman, like the Wash Post’s person, agreed Obama got a break – although she spoke out after all the votes were tallied. Nice.
It’s part of what’s wrong with journalism. This case was just one example of a greater problem.



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Donna V.

posted July 20, 2010 at 10:25 pm


Ann Althouse sums matters up quite nicely:
The Tea Party was besmirched with charges of racism that could not be proved with video, and Andrew Breitbart followed the strategy the White House promulgated a year ago: “If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard.” There’s a lot of video out there. Breitbart indicates he’s got lots more. This could be painful.
Oh yes, brace yourself, lefties. It looks like Breitbart is going to rely on the horribly unfair, incredibly dishonest, completely evil tactic of publicizing what liberals actually say. In public. Everyone knows conservatives should just shut up and take it when liberals play the racist card. How dare the dastardly cad punch back! And twice as hard, too!
Me, I’m stocking up on the popcorn.



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Indy

posted July 20, 2010 at 10:44 pm


@Celticdragonchick, you mention Rove/Atwater but of course Atwater died in 1991. Do you know that he apolgized to Michael Dukakis before doing so? In an article in LIFE magazine published shortly before his death from a brain tumor, Atwater wrote:
“My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me — a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime.
I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”
Google it and you’ll see that quoted in numerous places on the web. I copied the extract from an op ed by Francis Shrum (http://obits.grossepointenews.com/Articles-i-2008-03-20-215325.112112_The_wrong_lesson_was_learned.html)
If I were running for office, and one of my operatives did what was done to McCain in South Carolina in 2000, I would have used it as a teachable moment. I would have given a speech of the type that Obama did in 2008 in Philadelpohia on race. I would have talked about the tactics used in modern day political campaigns, their corrosive nature, and the way they undermine and unman candidates because of the baggage and mud by association that they hang on even the successful ones. I would have repudiated whoever put out their fliers. Or did the pushpoll calls. I would have said I would rather lose the primary than be associated with people who smeared McCain that way. Who knows, Bush might have won the popular vote in 2000, had he done that. Polls certainly showed there was a lot of Clinton fatigue and a number of voters out there looking for something different. Then again, if I ran a campaign like that, given the gap between what people say they want and what they reward, I probably would lose the primary and never make it to the general electio9n. But I’d go down to defeat as my own man.



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Peter

posted July 20, 2010 at 11:04 pm


The real outragge today, of course, was at the hands of Breitbart and his manipulation of a tape that resulted in Sharon Sharrod being fired and her reputation being smeared. Ugly, racist behavior from the person whose underwear was in knots over journalists disagreeing on a listserv.



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Anon Prof

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:07 am


I agree that the comments expressed on the journolist are outrageous. I’m not so sure it is reasonable to expect anyone to publicly denounce what was in essence a private conversation. It does highlight why ideological diversity is so important in our nation’s newsrooms. But I’m still uncomfortable with what I see as collecting scalps. It was wrong when the left did it, and the fact that they did it doesn’t make it OK for the right to do it. The Anchoress has a post that captures my feelings on the whole scalp hunting approach to politics as it applies to the sherrod incident:
http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/theanchoress/2010/07/20/sherrod-blames-naacp-for-resignation/
From digging for embarrassing emails, smearing people with guilt-by-association, or taking out of context comments in order to score points, political/public discourse is a farce. It is one thing to think that someone is wrong because s/he supports position X. It is something else to assume the worst motives are driving that approach. So the republican is just a homophobe, racist, reactionary know-nothing and the democrat is just an anti-american, socialist, terrorist-loving, anti-religious bigot.
Even if one of these characterizations is accurate in a particular case, what difference does it make? Who cares if a teaparty leader really is a racist. Either, the auto/bank/mortgage bailouts and various stimulus plans were a good idea or a bad idea. The democrat arguing for comprehensive immigration reform may be a socialist, but who cares. Either providing illegal aliens a path to citizenship is a good idea or a bad idea. The character of the person making the argument should be irrelevant.
At the end of the day, none of the personal attacks tell me whether affirmative action is a good idea, whether laws should protect human life from conception, whether carbon should be taxed, how to pay for underfunded pensions, how to deal with exploding deficits, how to increase jobs, what to do about our involvement in the middle east, how to deal with NoKo, how get control of our borders, or whether NCLB is good policy. The people arguing on various sides of these issues are all imperfect. Digging up dirt to embarrass them doesn’t move us forward to good solutions, and it keeps talented people from entering public service. I suspect (hope?) this is what Mitch Daniels is getting at when he talks about a truce on social issues. I hope he gets far enough in the 2012 GOP primary for us to find out.
recaptcha: we chirping



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G

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:13 am


What Peter said.
Conservatives are never interested in racism except when it involves allegations of racism against white people who, among other tragedies, are denied admission to Harvard.
It would be comical if it weren’t actually transparently manipulative, cynical and evil. And while I’m pretty sure that that the JournoListers weren’t “doing it for the good of the country” (at least partly because the only person who seems to have actually said that is, well, Rod…) right now I gotta tell you that if they were, maybe that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.
Maybe being the operative word – we’ll never know, since the most substantive action the JListers were talking about was writing a letter that never got written. And I don’t see a maliciously edited tape of someone on JLister’s enemies list. Of anyone at all, actually. Anywhere.
Except Breibart’s. There’s that.
I want to say “outrageous” but I’m too (sick and) tired…



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kevin s.

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:35 am


“Conservatives are never interested in racism except when it involves allegations of racism against white people who, among other tragedies, are denied admission to Harvard.”
Admitting minorities over more qualified white students is the most glaring example of extant racism in this country. So yes, conservatives care about it.
“It would be comical if it weren’t actually transparently manipulative, cynical and evil. And while I’m pretty sure that that the JournoListers weren’t “doing it for the good of the country” (at least partly because the only person who seems to have actually said that is, well, Rod…) right now I gotta tell you that if they were, maybe that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.”
What’s with the “maybe”. Would it be a good thing if journalists conspired to influence opinion through ostensibly objective journalism or not?
“Maybe being the operative word”
It renders your opinion opaque. It is operative only insofar as it does so.
“Except Breibart’s. There’s that.”
Breitbart is guilty of malicious editing. What, precisely, does that mean, and how is he guilty of the practice?
“I want to say “outrageous” but I’m too (sick and) tired…”
But you just said “outrageous”. If you were too (sick and) tired to say it, why did you take the time to say it?



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G

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:00 am


OK Kev, ya got me dude.
I want to say that your comment about white kids’ college admissions rates being the most glaring example or racism extant in America makes my point about conservatives all by lil’ self and leave it at that but:
* A report sponsored by the American Bar Association in 2007 concluded that one-third of African-American death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been African-American.
* A January 2003 study released by the University of Maryland concluded that race and geography are major factors in death penalty decisions. Specifically, prosecutors are more likely to seek a death sentence when the race of the victim is white and are less likely to seek a death sentence when the victim is African-American.
* A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. In addition, killers of white victims are treated more severely than people who kill minorities, when it comes to deciding what charges to bring.
* The breakdown of race of homicide victims resutling in a death penalty in the past 40 years:
- Hispanic: 5%
- African-American: 14%
- White: 79%
- Other: 2%
Black people are put to death more than white people, Kevin. The problem is not white kids getting who can’t into Ivy League schools.
As for Breitbart’s tape, go look at the unedited version or if you can’t be bothered go read even what the wingnuts at NRO say about it.
And now I really am sick and tired.
Thanks.



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Heritage Hills

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:11 am


Not surprised some are trying to downplay this. Biased leftwing news reporting is really nothing new at all. A lot of us are used to it. Look at how relatively downplayed the whole “Hide the Decline” story was. The right media were trying to get the word out, but it was very purposely ignored elsewhere. This is why a lot of us refuse to spend good money on newspapers, anymore. It will only get worse.



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Irenaeus

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:42 am


FWIW, some members of the list suggested that the government shut down Fox News.



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Lynn Gazis-Sax

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:51 am


Notice that Chait’s little apologia leaves out the most damning part, Ackerman’s suggestion that a coordinated smear campaign be waged against a random (‘who cares?’!) conservative commentator.
What I got out of Chait’s post was that people on Journolist didn’t respond to Ackerman’s suggestion because it came late in the thread (with the implication that by that time perhaps most people had quit reading the thread), and “because Ackerman was in the habit of writing wild, bombastic things that people usually didn’t feel like responding to.” While it’s true he didn’t explicitly say what Ackerman had said that was so bad (and it was bad on Ackerman’s part), it doesn’t look to me as if he’s ignoring the most damning part, more suggesting that on the list Ackerman was a blowhard that people didn’t take seriously.
As for Ackerman himself, since this message is now the only thing I know about him, hey, go ahead and condemn him all you like, as far as I’m concerned.



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stari_momak

posted July 21, 2010 at 2:18 am


Sherrod is, unfortunately, collateral damage. A definite injustice. But really, if any white official talked about ‘sending him to one of his own’ — even if it was 20 years ago, he or she would be canned instantaneously.
Black people are put to death more than white people, Kevin.
That’s because they way more capital crimes per person than whites, certainly Asians, and even ‘Hispanics’ , ‘G’.



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G

posted July 21, 2010 at 2:20 am


Aw wow, it couldn’t have been that easy. Kev, dude, I didn’t answer your penetrating question about whether it JLister’s conspiracy was a good thing (oh wait, sorry I said I didn’t think there was one…) or what malicious editing meant (oh wait, sorry I said it’s self-evident but only if you actually look at the thing…) Oh well. Hey, I did make a couple of grammatical errors though! C’mon man!
No? Ah well, I tried. Meanwhile, just askin: I realize the JListers said just awful (true) things about wing-nut shock media tactics, wrote shocking (later confirmed) insinuations about the motives of the perpetrators, vented (personal) frustrations to an (unofficial, unaffiliated) email group and clearly had nasty (private) thoughts about all of this. Maybe even while at work!
Clearly a vile, corrupt conspiracy. Obviously a plan to collude, concentrate power and effect undue influence through deliberate misrepresentation of facts, events, quotes. Certainly there is evidence of something they actually did! Stolen emails posted out of context! A libelously edited tape! Cash ewards offered for career-destroying dirt!
Oh wait. Those are all Breibart’s. Well goldurn it. The JLister’s must be around here somewhere…
Something? Anything? No?
Oh. Wait…



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G

posted July 21, 2010 at 2:38 am


stari_momak:
the statistics presented are percentages of charges brought, sentences sought and convictions made comparing whites vs non-whites who committed an identical crime, not a count measured against the population.
you either didn’t bother to read the information or you totally don’t understand what you did read and in either case, why in the world are you making a claim about it?
g-d help me…



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G

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:23 am


OK, clearly I need help now because I just can’t stop. But I need to know, truly, I must know…
What is the source of your power,O Conservatives, to not only create but endure, utterly irony free, in these alternative realities? A magic ring? Exposure to our yellow sun? What?
Because Loony Lefty that I am, I am just gobsmacked that once again, we have an It’s End of the World as We Know It outrage moment over percieved liberals’ probable conspiracy based upon the presumed motives behind private expressions and the potential things they might possibly be do when over here RIGHT OVER HERE ON THE VERY SAME DAY is a big time conservative media figure who with obvious malice aforethought deliberately manipulated information towards and inflammatory and inarguably false representation and then disseminated it as widely as possible with the sole motive of tarring his political opponents with a poisonous charge of racism, the “collateral damage” (as it was son kindly put) of an utterly innocent individual’s destroyed career and reputation being of no regard whatsoever.
Here! Right over here, in reality!
So, Kevin, you want to know what the maybe meant and whether and why I might, if they’d actually done anything, be inclined to give a pass to a group of journalists so enraged by these unending assaults on reason, fairness, the freakin’ democratic process that they stepped over a professional ethics line to fight back for, yeah, the better good of the country?
Maybe. Yeah maybe I would.
Luckily I don’t have to because the JListeres didn’t actually do anything. Breitbart did. Over here. In reality.



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Quiddity

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:28 am


Rod writes:
“I can’t say I share Andrew’s view of Fox News (the Beck show to the contrary), because I don’t have cable and don’t watch it, and have never watched Fox enough to form a judgment of my own.”
Fox News has deliberately put out false information – and on its news programs (as opposed to their opinion shows, which they assert, are sorta exempt from such standards). One that sticks to mind is when they reported that “literally”, Obama-favored legislation was going to result in a high speed train that would run from Disneyland (where there are kids, get it?) to a bordello in Nevada.
The morning show Fox and Friends frequently tosses out remarks that are frequently incorrect, yet surprisingly always favor a Republican/conservative world view. Jon Stewart has made a career out of pointing that out.
I would strongly advise Rod to look into Fox News and decide if it’s anywhere near a reputable news organization. BTW, you don’t need to watch the shows sitting down and for their full length to come to an assessment. Two to four minute clips (on YouTube) are sufficient since that’s close to the total time they spend on ANY topic.



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Quiddity

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:35 am


Re Fox News: Rod is concerned about coordinating the message by the Journolist cabal. Surely he knows about the daily memo (now suspended) that Fox would issue regarding what to report and how. That was years ago but recently Fox (internally) spoke about how the Obama administration was the “enemy”, and that it needed to be countered AS SUCH. That’s not neutral journalism.



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Jon

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:21 am


We have two ongoing wars, unemployment nearly at 10% and a major environmental disaster along the Gulf– and here we are wasting time over some minor teapot tempest which doesn’t even concern anything current at all, but a rather unimportant kerfufuffle over two years ago.
Excuse me while I put this non-issue on Ignore.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:48 am


Jon:
We have two ongoing wars, unemployment nearly at 10% and a major environmental disaster along the Gulf– and here we are wasting time over some minor teapot tempest which doesn’t even concern anything current at all, but a rather unimportant kerfufuffle over two years ago.
That’s always a weak argument. You could say it about anything. “We have two ongoing wars, yadda yadda, and here we are wasting time talking about [raw milk/teen pregnancy/wine and food/epistemology/the Catholic sex abuse scandal/anything else that turns up on this blog].” I understand not thinking this is an issue worth talking about, but it is to me, because I’m a professional journalist.



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Jon

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:20 am


It may be a weak argument, but this is also a weak non-issue. Sorry, but I fail to see why a bunch of private email trash talk that never amounted to anything over a matter that was hardly earth-shaking at the time should suddenly rate headlines at this late date. And consider the source: a man whose ethics (as shown in the Shirley Sherrod business) are two feet lower than the sewer. Breitbart is fast becoming one of those people who, if he told me the sun will rise in the east, I would get up early to check on it.
I do understand that as a journalist you yourself will be interested in this sort of thing, but as far as the bigger picture goes there’s no “there” there.



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Anon Prof

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:48 am


Quiddity said, “Two to four minute clips (on YouTube) are sufficient since that’s close to the total time they spend on ANY topic.”
Tell that to Sherrod! You really think you can develop a fair sense of a news channel based on excerpts clipped out for comic effect? I have no love for cable news of any stripe, but your attitude is part of the problem.



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Helen

posted July 21, 2010 at 9:30 am


Well this does appear to be a breach of journalistic ethics, especially if an actual conspiracy was created.
I think we can ask a couple of questions. First, was this bloviating, an expression of frustration, or a real call to conspiracy? Liberals trash talk conservatives in private all the time. Conservatives do the same to liberals. We’re they really going to actively try to get the government to close down Fox News (um, how?), or write about “racist” conservatives without any basis or story to tell? Or were they mad about how the Reverend Wright story was playing in the press, and were they whining to their friends about it?
More importantly — did anything they planned work? Was Rev. Wright not a story? Do we all know what Wright was saying? Have we all formed opinions on him, and Obama’s association with him? If so, the conspiracy did not work.
I wouldn’t let these jounalists off the hook. What they were proposing (assuming we are missing no other context, etc.) was unethical and wrong. But I guess I’m not so worried this is proof that liberal journalists have no ethics. It sounds to me like it was more trash-talking than anything else, and in any event the plans to change the subject didn’t work.
I do agree with Rod that it hurts journalists’ credibility generally, though.
Catcha: Irishman war. Were all the journalists involved Irish? :)



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celticdragonchick

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:26 am


@ Donna V
Breitbart isn’t the liar. He’s exposing the liars and the racists – and you hate and fear him for that reason.
Looking a little different this morning isn’t it? It’s one thing to doctor Acorn gotcha videos when you have the only copies. It’s something else altogether to doctor and lie about video that other people have as well.
BTW, you may want to work on your reading comprehension tools. Your strawman “And please stop with the “but they do it too! It never worked with my mom when I tried it in 1st grade.” comment indicates you seemed to miss my earlier jab about selectivity and calling out both sides…your Romper Room first grade ethics from Mommy notwithstanding.



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Kathryn

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm


Let’s look at the results of this Journolist plan: Was the anti-American Rev. Wright’s longstanding influence on Obama hushed up before the election? CHECK! Was the fact Obama had a Marxist mother and father, who both abandoned him when he was a child, hardly even mentioned? CHECK! Was the fact that Obama’s grandparents in Hawaii fixed Obama up with a male mentor, who happened to be a Marxist, ever investigated? No! CHECK! Were the racist statements Obama wrote about white people in his own books, i.e., “My grandmother was a ‘typical’ white woman…” and “I learned how to get along with white people was to smile a lot and not make any sudden moves,” were those ever questioned in the media? No!CHECK!
Sounds like a conspiresy to me. Add to that all the fawning and lack of any substantive questions by the press during Obama’s first 18 months, giving him a total “free pass” to do as he pleased, and it points to the Journolisters as being Liberal yes-men rather than doing their jobs, fair and balanced news reporting! The reason Fox sounds so unbelievable is that they report information that ALL the media should be reporting, if they were doing their jobs, but the others just hush it up!
I agree with another commenter, that the entire list of journolisters should be made public so that Americans can decide whether or not they want to ruin THEIR lives by writing campaigns and boycotts of advertisers like they have tried to ruin ours through their unethical conduct, which resulted in this Obamanation of a president being “elected”, because people were buying a “pig-in-a-poke” — they had no idea that “change” meant dismantling our country and sending us into financial ruin – because the Liberal journalisters decided that they were going to help Obama slide smoothly into the White House. And when and if people found out what a horrible choice they made, it would be way too late.
Now, does anybody else wonder what the journolisters know about Obama’s real birth certificate? Maybe every one of them should be asked under oath!
SO LET’S SEE THE ENTIRE LIST OF THESE WEASELS, EH?



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