Thoughts on Weigel

June 26th, 2010 at 7:38 am David Frum | 41 Comments |

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1) Weigel is a fine reporter. He writes intelligently and insightfully about the conservative world. If somebody is doing his job, he should keep it. Now we learn that Weigel was dismissive and disparaging about some of the people he covered in what he thought was private conversation. OK, unwise of him to trust the confidentiality of a 400-person listserve. But would anybody demand that a reporter covering Wall Street admire all his subjects? Congress? It’s a theoretically interesting question: can you provide fair coverage to people you may inwardly dislike? Weigel answered that question in his work: yes.

2) Ezra Klein’s JournoList was a disaster waiting to happen. I can understand why a reporter would wish to read what was posted there, but participating in closed lists is a bad idea for any writer. The idea that likeminded journalists would engage in formalized pre-discussions amongst ideologically like-minded people before publishing for the broad public is a formula for group-think. Genuinely private discussion via email is one thing. Coordination among colleagues: very different. Coordination seems to have been the purpose of JournoList from the start. It created “secret editors” to whom journalists privately reported, different from and undisclosed to their actual editors. That seems to me a genuinely sinister enterprise, a disservice to readers and corrupting of the participants in the list themselves.

3) First McChrystal, now Weigel. Not to equate a national hero and a promising young writer but there is this one commonality: both stumbled over the ever-greater vulnerability of private remarks to public report. The people at Facebook are right: We’re all going to enjoy less privacy in future. There are two obvious responses to that change. Either we all turn into tight-lipped self-protecting careerists in every waking hour, never emitting an untoward remark, never repeating an improper joke – or else we’re all going to have to develop a much greater tolerance for normal human indiscretion, sarcasm, flippancy and political incorrectness. We all know that people sometimes ventilate in private. They say things in the moment that do not reflect their considered or settled opinion. They are uncharitable, irritable, sarcastic, over-emphatic. If those remarks can appear in public at any time, as it seems they can, we all need to develop some new willingness to judge the careless words of others as we would wish to have our own careless words judged.

4) Weigel’s private comments confirm what is obvious from his writing: he is not a member and supporter of the conservative movement. He’s a critical but knowledgeable outsider. Some see that as a disqualification for his job as a writer. Some even suggest that the only way to cover conservatism “fairly” would be to hire a committed conservative. Thus blogger John Hawkins:

Here we have a leftward leaning Libertarian writing a column called  ”Inside the conservative movement and Republican Party with Dave Weigel.” Except Weigel isn’t a conservative, he isn’t a Republican, and he relentlessly runs down Republicans and the conservative movement.

You may say: Well who cares what John Hawkins think? Reasonable point – except that Hawkins is the person entrusted by Google to determine who may join the conservative blogads cloud. (Disclosure: He decided that FrumForum could not participate. We no longer qualified as conservatives because we had criticized other conservatives, particularly Rush Limbaugh.)

The challenge a paper like the Post would have if it hired a conservative to blog about conservatism is that such a person would be subject to tremendous pressure – might well feel personally obliged – to provide PR, not coverage. A lot of crazy things are happening inside the conservative world today. These are not marginal or unimportant things either. Ron Paul won the CPAC straw ballot. Glenn Beck was CPAC’s keynote speaker. This is a movement in moral and intellectual crisis. Yet it’s very difficult and even dangerous for a committed conservative to acknowledge that crisis or to write about the crisis without excuse or apologetics. Weigel did just that, and very successfully. He is no Max Blumenthal, a self-identified ideological counter-warrior bent on harassing and humiliating those who disagree with him. He is a sympathetic and skeptical outsider, as the best reporters almost always are.

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41 Comments so far ↓

  • gruffbear

    What I find stunning is that nobody, but nobody, thinks there’s an ethical problem with reporters participating in a secret politically-oriented forum with their sources.

    They never bothered to think it through. On the one side, we have news reporters, whose independence from government influence is the very quality that the First Amendment anticipates. On the other, leftish policy wonks whose business it is to influence government, and for whom journalistic independence is a professional problem.

    Yes, one could suppose that such a relationship is wonderful rich and stimulating for the journalist. Marc Ambinder and Michael Tomasky and any other journalist foolish enough to admit participation in the JournoList say that it’s the most wonderful thing since the flush toilet. It’s also dreadfully wrong. By participating, they have immediatly been co-opted by sources they should have an arms-length relationship with.

    It’s not enough to say, “Well, I’m a professional journalist, I will conduct myself as if this relationship didn’t exist.” Because the list was only open to journalists with liberal sympathies (as determined by Ezra Klein in consultation with others he doesn’t identify), it is already presumed that journalist and source will be singing off the same page politically. Bonding a natural adversary to the cause of another is a dictionary definition of co-option. That is what JournoList catalyzed, and nobody’s admitting that was a problem.

    Despite the public’s low opinion of people who write for newspapers, journalism can be practiced at a professional level; and one topic that is revisited over and over in journalism programs at the undergraduate and graduate level is ethics. To a pro, having an improper relationship with a source is like screwing around behind your spouse’s back. Yes, it may be gratifying as hell, but you don’t do it, because it denigrates the relationship you ought to value the most.

    The real scandal is not that Dave Weigel was fired, but that Ezra Klein is still employed — or was even hired to begin with. Klein has an impressive CV with respect to leftish political activism. He is a good writer and has a lithe mind. But nowhere in his experience do we find any training or experience in the ethical practice of journalism. It used to be that if you wrote for the Washington Post, you had to have that. Now, they employ people like Klein, who see journalism as a means to some other end, rather than the end itself. Is it any wonder why this scandal occurred?

    Dave Weigel lost his way, but so has the Washington Post. Firing Weigel isn’t going to address the corruption that the Post has invited into its house.

  • nhthinker

    You have to guess- what was the WP thinking in accepting Weigel’s resignation?

    I think it comes down primarily to the WP has an image it wants to project:
    That it is a progressive but fair newspaper.

    Weigel’s column was exposed as inconsistent with that image.

    Weigel claims he is libertarian but he revels in the use of term “PaulTard”.

    WP probably initialed the column to demonstrate some left/right balance. It was a total failure at doing that, and as a result, WP seems even less balanced especially to the Drudge reading crowd.

    That is likely why Weigel was let go.

    Score one for Matt Drudge.

    One thing that is interesting is all of the user comments on Weigel’s columns are no longer available at the WP.
    What is with that?

  • The Classless Society / They should have fired Klein, not Weigel

    [...] (Cross-posted in FrumForum comments.) Comments closed — Trackback URI RSS 2.0 feed for these comments This entry (permalink) was posted on Saturday, June 26, 2010, at 8:53 am by Scott F.. Filed in Politics, Ugly and tagged Dave Weigel, David Frum, Ezra Klein, fuckups, journalism. « Glass-Steagall Lite Home [...]

  • mthen

    “Some even suggest that the only way to cover conservatism “fairly” would be to hire a committed conservative.”

    When the title of the blog is “Right Now: Inside the conservative movement and Republican Party with David Weigel” its clear he was being presented as something other than a “critical but knowledgeable outsider”. I only knew that he had worked for Reason but had voted for Obama so I figured he was more or less in Frum, Brooks mold. I then read his blog which was mostly a collection of birther and tea partiers gone wild stories and decided he wasnt even that. Now I read the emails and it turns out he wasnt just a Democrat but a fairly nasty partisan Democrat. His comments about the Scott Brown and a Norquist meeting being the most damning in this regard.

  • LauraNo

    gruffbear, Ezra Klein and the others were not hired as journalists per se. They were hired as bloggers who have opinions and they write about their opinions. You are holding them to a standard that is not applicable.

    I understand why the conservatives want an insider reporting on their movement, they are so used to FOX cheerleading them on that they have accepted that as the usual way of reporting. Which it certainly isn’t.

  • florishes

    Whatever happened to freedom of speech? If journalist are expected to resign for having voiced an opinion, then virtually all journalists should resign for the mere act of asking leading questions.

    Weigel is a Democrat hired to follow Republicans – his work was likely to be skewed left – who’d have thunk it!

  • mthen

    “Whatever happened to freedom of speech?” lol Yes and the fact that I am not on the 60 Minutes lineup is a violation of my freedom of speech.

    Weigel was presented, as evidenced by the title of his blog, as being a conservative or Republican insider of some kind. It was dirty pool from the day that he was hired. If his blog didnt have a purposely misleading title there would be no problem here.

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  • msmilack

    I agree with you David, that there was no need for him to leave that job, not least because I enjoyed reading him; he is one of the authors I read regularly.

    What bothers me with writers of all print media is their source. e.g. When “Game Change” came out, I was appalled that nothing was sourced. For all we know, the authors could have made it all up. I’m not saying that I believe that, only that by repeating highly inflammatory statements and not naming their sources, I was left wondering how seriously to take any of it. If they had said that Valerie Jarrett was their source for the inside look at the Obama campaign I’d react to the information differently than if they said their source was Governor Blagovich, e.g. I think the tradition of not naming sources is one that is not treated with enough respect because it is used too often. I was glad when the Supreme Court ruled that anyone signing a petition would have their name in print: of course, what did they expect, that just a number, a total would be listed? If that were true, they could just make it up.

    Accountability is what is missing.

    The group-think aspect is pretty unavoidable if you’re talking about sessions where you discuss politics. Who doesn’t have those discussions with their friends, and most often, friends tend to hold pretty similar views in that area. In fact, one of the reasons I come to this blog every day is that I have no interest in reading what people “like me” think; I already know and can’t learn from it the same way I can if I mix it up and hear from people who don’t necessarily think like I do, but who are people I respect who have points of view I find interesting; they give me a new way to look at what I think which is a pretty protean process. The days my ideas are fixed is the day I give up reading.

  • uriel81

    Weigel seems a tad naive, but I do agree with your point #1, and am quite sorry to see him go. I very much enjoyed his appearances on Countdown. Thanks for commenting.

  • Matthew Yglesias » After “JournoList”

    [...] extent the subject of unwarranted conspiracy theories. For example, David Frum in the context of an otherwise excellent post states that: The idea that likeminded journalists would engage in formalized pre-discussions [...]

  • Don

    That seems to me a genuinely sinister enterprise,…

    I think you are correct that Journolist was a disaster waiting to happen as it grew beyond a group of like-minded personal friends, but isn’t a little over the top to think of it as ‘sinister’? Naive, sure, but when you label such a thing as sinister you start to sound like the paranoid conservatives (or liberals) you dislike.

    Anyone who has spent any time on listservs knows that they naturally grow into a group that does nothing but childishly quarrel all the time. A listserv a at least 200 people couldn’t possible be sinsiter — that would be too effective.

  • msmilack

    gruffbear:

    Quick question: You wrote “On the one side, we have news reporters, whose independence from government influence is the very quality that the First Amendment anticipates. On the other, leftish policy wonks whose business it is to influence government, and for whom journalistic independence is a professional problem.”

    By saying the bad reporters are the “leftish policy wonks” you imply that the good ones (to whom you attribute no party affiliation) are the good ones. Excuse me, but have you ever seen Fox TV?

    This is not a party issue or an issue of political persuasion, but if it were, I’d put the most left leaning organization up against Fox any day of the week and Fox would win that contest. It’s not a contest any good journalist would want to win.

  • nhthinker

    “I’d put the most left leaning organization up against Fox any day of the week and Fox would win that contest.”

    Hillary spokesperson Lanny Davis did not seem to agree with your view of Fox…

    “I consider FOX News to be a network that genuinely tries to be balanced, offering political perspectives from all sides,” he said, “and I look forward to providing political analysis and information to its audience at a time of great and historic national importance.”

    It was after MSNBC had already anointed Obama and called out Chelsea for being pimped out for votes.

    MSNBC wins hands down.

  • Rabiner

    nhthinker:

    How about you use sources beyond Lanny Davis who at the time of the statement was probably reacting to the fact Fox News was pushing Hillary Clinton over Barak Obama. CNN is the most balanced news source out of the 24 hour news sources from my perspective. One thing however that separates Fox from MSNBC is how much their (FOX) News Programming bleeds into their Commentary Programming and vice-versa.

  • mpolito

    He deserved what he got. It does not matter that he dislikes Rush Limbaugh, what matters is that he used the most obscene language to put forth these objections. When Mark Levin does this, Frum throws a fit. Yet Weigel is a fine person and should have continued his job. Come again?

    He is in the Frum/Brooks mold insofar as he exists in a community that is simply markedly different from the community that most conservatives exist in, and therefore out of touch with it. He is unlike them in that he uses crude and bizarre language to communicate his point.

  • Rob_654

    While I believe that people can be an objective reporter regardless of their personal views – what strikes me with this guy is the same thing as with the General that just got the boot.

    A lack of judgment on knowing to keep their yap (verbal or written) shut because the blow back if it becomes public could be big.

    Surely this reporter is aware of others who have self-destructed when what they thought were private conversations became public.

    This guy isn’t some older person who doesn’t understand how technology works – anyone of his age should know that anything you put down in writing, particularly on a server somewhere is ALWAYS subject to being made public.

  • Rabiner

    mpolito:

    “He deserved what he got. It does not matter that he dislikes Rush Limbaugh, what matters is that he used the most obscene language to put forth these objections. When Mark Levin does this, Frum throws a fit. Yet Weigel is a fine person and should have continued his job. Come again?”

    While I agree he used obscene language, he didn’t do it publicly. Someone leaking his emails was a violation of trust and sadly it cost him his job because the emails caused him to lose all credibility on the topic he was covering as a blogger/commentator/journalist.

  • nhthinker

    Fox was the only network that would cover Hillary- MSNBC and CNN didn’t want anything to do with her.
    So much for balance at CNN and MSNBC.

    CNN is known for giving favorable coverage to Saddam Hussein in order to get access.

    Wiki: “A joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that people see liberal media bias in television news media such as CNN.[8]. Although both CNN and Fox were perceived in the study as being left of center, CNN was perceived as being more liberal than Fox. Moreover, the study’s findings concerning CNN’s perceived liberal bias are echoed in other studies.[9] There is also a growing economics literature on mass media bias, both on the theoretical and the empirical side. On the theoretical side the focus is on understanding to what extent the political positioning of mass media outlets is mainly driven by demand or supply factors.”

    CNN has also been bleeding viewership terribly.

  • agentprovocateur

    Weigel and The Washington Post were forced to part ways and, yet, that paper still has torture apologists on the payroll.

  • Rabiner

    nhthinker:

    Fox was the only network that would cover Hillary- MSNBC and CNN didn’t want anything to do with her.
    So much for balance at CNN and MSNBC.

    CNN is known for giving favorable coverage to Saddam Hussein in order to get access.

    Wiki: “A joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that people see liberal media bias in television news media such as CNN.[8]. Although both CNN and Fox were perceived in the study as being left of center, CNN was perceived as being more liberal than Fox. Moreover, the study’s findings concerning CNN’s perceived liberal bias are echoed in other studies.[9] There is also a growing economics literature on mass media bias, both on the theoretical and the empirical side. On the theoretical side the focus is on understanding to what extent the political positioning of mass media outlets is mainly driven by demand or supply factors.”

    CNN has also been bleeding viewership terribly.”

    Considering that source shows that people perceive Fox News as ‘left of center’ just tells you how the people in the study (general public) are amazingly uninformed, uninterested, and fairly ignorant of what reality is.

  • nhthinker

    “Considering that source shows that people perceive Fox News as ‘left of center’ just tells you how the people in the study (general public) are amazingly uninformed, uninterested, and fairly ignorant of what reality is.”

    … spoken like a true leftist elitist! Try adding at least 10 pounds to your right shoulder to straighten you out.

    Have a nice day!

  • Rabiner

    nhthinker:

    a true leftist elitist? Want to add ‘socialist’, ‘communist’, or ‘fascist’ to the tag on that one? You saying Fox News is in any way ‘left of center’? That alone tells me the lunacy of the mob. Seriously, what is ‘center’ if Fox News is ‘left of center’?

  • msmilack

    nhthinker

    You are right, but I believe that statement would only be made during a hot campaign when the last audience in the world he would want to alienate would be Fox TV, especially if he felt she was getting unfair coverage of MSNBC. It’s a win/win situation for him to go on Fox (coverage)and say Fox is good, MSNBC is bad, at that moment in the campaign. But now? I think you give him too much credit for meaning everything he says: he was trying to get her elected and took what tactics he had. Just my opinion . . .

  • mpolito

    Also, the guy did vote for Obama. As far as I’m concerned, it is almost impossible to justify a “conservative” vote for Obama with a straight face. We are constantly told on this site of the importance of a “big tent”- which means that someone like Weigel has to live with social cons even if he doesn’t like them, and vice-versa (living in DC, he probably does not have to see many of them anyway). How is voting for Obama over McCain helpful to the “big tent” approach, exactly? Or is it big tent for thee but not for me?

  • msmilack

    nhthinker // Jun 26, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    My criticism of Fox TV did not mean I think MSNBC is unbiased; they both are. What I was pointing out was that in your original post, you criticized the left and let the journalistic slant of Fox go unmentioned; that is all I was trying to point out.

  • msmilack

    mpolito

    The conservatives and Republicans I know who voted for Obama were quite simply not interested in having Palin as a possible leader of the free world. Wanting to keep the world safe from such an event happening, they voted for their future when they chose Obama instead of supporting the Republican party which had already abandoned them, kicked them out of the tent when they added her to the ticket in the first place. It’s not easy for them to return to a party that continues to include her as one of their spokespeople to say nothing of Limbaugh and Beck. The left has its own fringe members but none are fueled by the hatred and bigotry as represented by those three loud voices.

  • nhthinker

    Lanny Davis went on to collect a paycheck from Fox News as a political analyst. Not exactly just a “heat of the moment analysis” by Lanny.

    Anyway, which left-leaning broadcast or cable network would give Hillary the time of day after Obama took a lead in the race for nomination?

    Hillary may seen on the conservative side to many left leaners- but the left-leaning media considered her too conservative to bother covering after they fixated on their love affair with Obama. They wore their preferences on their sleeves in every single interview.

    Name a politician that Fox won’t cover, won’t give an interview to…

    I’d put Chris Wallace up against anyone as the best hard hitting balanced reporter/interviewer in the business.

  • grackle

    … would anybody demand that a reporter covering Wall Street admire all his subjects?

    Please. Covering the financial doings of Wall Street is just a tad bit different than covering politics. That Frum can’t(or won’t) see the difference confirms Frum as a leftard apologist. He needs to stick to enthusiastically pounding Palin, Limbaugh, Beck and the GOP in general with the folks on MSNBC. Their viewers, what’s left of them, eats that crap like candy and best of all there’s no irritating comments to sully The Template.

    Weigel’s private comments confirm what is obvious from his writing: he is not a member and supporter of the conservative movement.

    Yes, but Frum conveniently misses the point of the outrage and the reason that Weigel had to resign:

    Weigel was touted by the leftards at WaPo not as another leftard writing about the conservative movement, which they have plenty of already, but as a true-blue conservative writing about conservatism. This was an underhanded attempt to regain readership from an important demographic that has rightly(excuse the pun) fallen away from the progressive-dominated print media. WaPo is desperate to regain readership but apparently not desperate enough to hire a real conservative.

    WaPo: Are you rightards tired of ingesting the same old progressive BS in the MSM? Then come to the Washington Post and read our newspaper’s new conservative blogger!

    Deception, once it’s found out, understandably fosters outrage.

  • Slide

    msmilack // Jun 27, 2010 at 7:59 am: My criticism of Fox TV did not mean I think MSNBC is unbiased; they both are.

    I really hate this false equivalency between MSNBC and FOX. Bias is defined as an inclination of temperament or outlook and in that regard there are many commentators on MSNBC that have a liberal “inclination of temperament” of that I will agree but that is quite different than Fox News which is simply a propaganda arm of the Republican party.

    MSNBC has, for 3 hours every day, the very conservative Joe Scarborough hosting their morning show. Show me the Fox equivalent of Joe Scarborough. Ask yourself if Fox would EVER allow a strong, unrepentant, liberal to host an important show on their schedule? Please. Give me a break.

    Also, do the Democrats get a free ride on MSNBC? Are you kidding? I was totally taken back by the commentary on MSNBC on Obama’s speech on the oil spill. The excoriated him. And that was from the supposed “liberal” commentators, never mind Pat Buchanan who must live in the MSNBC studios as often as he is on. Show me where Fox commentators did the same after any Bush speech?

    But commentary is commentary. I have no problem with Fox having the Bill O’Reilly’s, the Sean Hannity’s etc., but their supposed news reporting is also very slanted to help the GOP and hurt the Dems. Again, this is less about left vs right but GOP vs Dem. This is not just speculation on my part, there are many leaked memos from Fox executives telling their on-air talent how to “report” on various issues. Here are a few examples from FOX News Senior Vice President, News Editorial, John Moody :

    Moody on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal:

    The pictures from Abu Graeb [sic] prison are disturbing. They have rightly provoked outrage. Today we have a picture — aired on Al Arabiya — of an American hostage being held with a scarf over his eyes, clearly against his will. Who’s outraged on his behalf? It is important that we keep the Abu Graeb [sic] situation in perspective (5/5/04).

    Moody on President George W. Bush:

    The president is doing something that few of his predecessors dared undertake: [putting the US case for mideast peace to an Arab summit. It's a distinctly skeptical crowd that Bush faces. His political courage and tactical cunning are worth noting in our reporting through the day (6/3/03).

    Moody on the 9/11 Commission:

    The so-called 9/11 commission has already been meeting. In fact, this is its eighth session. The fact that former Clinton and both frmer [sic] and current Bush administration officials are testifying gives it a certain tension, but this is not “what did he know and when did he know it” stuff. Do not turn this into Watergate. Remember the fleeting sense of national unity that emerged from this tragedy. Let’s not desecrate that (3/23/04).

    Remember that while there are obvious political implications for Bush, the commission is looking at eight years of the Clinton Administration versus eight months (the time prior to 9/11 that Bush was in office) for the incumbent (3/24/04).

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200407140002

  • msmilack

    Slide

    I do not disagree with you. When I said they are both biased I was speaking generally — too generally, I see. Like you, I also do not see an equivalency. To me, Fox is an extension of the Republican Party, shilling for them, featuring them, hiring them, and it’s not true that they give the same coverage to Democrats; Lanny Davis is not a spokesperson for the Democratic Party, he was a friend of the Clintons in law school and he gets involved in the campaigning but in off-election years, he does other kinds of work. That Fox hired him does not make them suddenly fair and balanced; they never were.

    Fox is the only station that chose to run Dancing with the Stars instead of Obama’s press conference early in his presidency and when Obama called them on their bias they suddenly became all self-righteous — maybe that’s around the time they hired Lanny Davis. More recently they censored out the applause with one of his speeches.

    MSNBC: it is more liberal leaning, no question. Ed, Chris Matthews, Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow are clearly not Republicans; but they are not working for a political party either. Remember when Bush didn’t know he the audio was one and he asked how his good friend Roger Ailes was: no smoking gun and it came as no surprise, but still . . . Murdoch wanted to support Obama in one of his papers and Ailes threatened to quit; try to tell me Ailes doesn’t have an agenda for his fair and balanced paper. Since the bottom line for Murdoch is money, he gave into the threat. (Not that he is usually Democratic but he also supported Hillary).

    MSNBC gives Democrats a hard time too including Obama. They don’t have a hidden agenda, whereas Fox (to generalize) is always pitching the agenda for the right. Who else would hire Sarah Palin as a journalist?

    I have been disappointed with Chris Wallace probably because I expected him to be a thorough reporter like his father and he is not. In my view, he gives lightweight interviews if the subject is a person he votes for — when he had Cheney on, he asked him no serious questions. I prefer Bill O’Reilly; he’s so smart that even if I disagree with him, I find him interesting. If you have never seen the interview between him and Jon Stewart, it’s worth a watch.

    Shep Smith is a real reporter: and for me, that is Fox News.

  • prm79

    “what he thought was private conversation…would anybody demand that a reporter covering Wall Street admire all his subjects?”

    Would anybody think that a man should be a commentator on BET if he privately said that black people should “set themselves on fire”?

  • msmilack

    I thought Weigel did a great job. It is true that the title of his blog led the reader to assume that he had an inside view of the conservative movement, but even if he didn’t, so what? I honestly don’t think it is necessary to be a member of the club to have intelligent observations and insights. Throughout history we can share the belief that certain writers are great without having to discuss their politics and what person doesn’t have a political point of view? In addition, if he announced that he was a Democrat writing about the conservative movement, would the same people have read him, or maybe the better question is would they have comprehended his words in the same way? I think not. My point is that I don’t remember people complaining about his observations before this episode.

    Whenever I read a post that mentions “lefties” my stomach ties into a knot: why? Because I know that anything I read after I see that word will be angry and defensive, and the same applies to the instances when I see words like “right wing fringe” or “wingnuts”. Call me an idealist, but is there any possibility that we could have the same discussions we have now without inserting that division, without taking sides before we even get to our points? I’m not criticizing anyone; this is something that is pervasive in our culture, especially in the media (TV) but oh, how I would love it if we could suspend those categories; I suspect we would find we have far more in common than not.

  • msmilack

    prm79 // Jun 27, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    You wrote: “Would anybody think that a man should be a commentator on BET if he privately said that black people should “set themselves on fire”?

    I don’t think the two examples are equivalent because clearly he was speaking in hyperbole –we have no reason to believe that he is a sadist or a violent man, and in a friendly conversation I think it would be obvious that it was said to make a point, that he didn’t mean it literally; whereas if anyone said that about an African American, it would be appalling because African Americans have a history of being treated in a hideous way; would it be different on BET? I think back to a comment Jessie Jackson made about Obama when he didn’t know the audio was on; I never thought for a minute he meant it literally; it too was said to make a point but heard by other people, as opposed to the person he said it to, it sounded violent.

  • CentristNYer

    nhthinker // Jun 26, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    “It was after MSNBC … called out Chelsea for being pimped out for votes.”

    That reporter was suspended by MSNBC for his remarks and he made an on-air apology. I’d love to know how many times Fox has called its so-called journalists on the carpet for their incessant and nasty attacks on Obama.

  • JJWFromME

    Repeated from another thread:

    This from Ezra Klein is key:

    It was an idea born from disagreement. Weeks, or maybe months, earlier, I had criticized Time’s Joe Klein over some comments he made about the Iraq War. He e-mailed a long and searching reply, and the subsequent conversation was educational for us both. Taking the conversation out of the public eye made us less defensive, less interested in scoring points. I learned about his position, and why he held it, in ways that I wouldn’t have if our argument had remained in front of an audience.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/06/on_journolist_and_dave_weigel.html

    basically, civil war had broken out among establishment types like Joe Klein and upstart “Juice Box Mafia” types like Ezra Klein, and basically the launching point was the Iraq War. Joe Klein’s signing up for Journolist was a kind of gesture of generosity, and that was the list’s birth. Joe Klein was willing to dialog outside of public view, so everyone could speak frankly and get some satisfaction. It’s kind of related to the reason why the Federalist Papers were written with pseudonyms. The contributors’ names would have changed everyone’s attitude about contributing. Only on Journolist, everyone knows each others’ names, but the space is out of the larger public view, so everyone can speak frankly. Remember, the 1st Amendment is about protecting everyone’s right to free speech, but also freedom to *assemble.*

    Now someone can interpret an assembly in a certain way (they’re conspiring, etc.), of course. But look at the reason why this assembly had to happen in the first place–the Iraq War. If it wasn’t for *that* assembly of interests that met in *ahem* certain places in Washington once upon a time, there would be no Journolist (come on, if there was ever an American political event that was less based on public deliberation, you’d have to go back to the Spanish American War)…

    The case for freedom of assembly, I think, is eloquently made by Henry Farell in this dialog with Cass Sunstein:

    http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/8936?in=00:01&out=55:44

  • Weigel on Weigel - Ross Douthat Blog - NYTimes.com

    [...] of the respondents to the Weigel affair — Julian Sanchez, for instance, and David Frum — have worried about what this incident means for journalists’ ability to vent in private. [...]

  • nhthinker

    CentristNYer // Jun 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    “That reporter was suspended by MSNBC for his remarks and he made an on-air apology. I’d love to know how many times Fox has called its so-called journalists on the carpet for their incessant and nasty attacks on Obama.”

    You seem to lack an understanding of the difference between a reporter and a opinion host.

    If you want to hold opinion hosts to the same standard as reporters then what do you say about
    Chris Matthews who played the pimp piece several times and talked about it in a joking manner. I don’t recall Matthews being suspended. The only reason Clinton went to Fox is she felt unwelcome at MSNBC and CNN.

    Clinton is a generally centrist, not a conservative- only Fox would give her the time of day.

  • Rabiner

    nhthinker:

    “Clinton is a generally centrist, not a conservative- only Fox would give her the time of day.”

    There is a big difference between ‘time of day’ and ‘favorable coverage’. And I’m glad you can consider Clinton a centrist considering she advocated an even more liberal approach to health care and had many other ‘liberal’ positions as First Lady and Senator of New York.

  • emilyg

    David, you’re a smart man. But your musings on the now-dead “Journolist” as a “sinister” means to put a progressive version of groupthink over on the public reflect one or more category errors: psychological projection; mis-comprehension of the liberal and progressive mindset; a cynical attempt to discredit non-conservatives. (For the record: I am a journalist, and was never a member of Journolist.)

    Feeding a single, simple line to the public is the hallmark of the Right (and the far Left, for that matter), where conformity of thought and expression are apparently prized and enforced.

    Among most other political persuasions (such as true libertarians, as well as liberals, progressives), coming to agreement on a single talking point is remarkably rare. This is demonstrated in every session of Congress, as well as any non-Right political march, so it’s hard to accept that you could really believe otherwise.

    The bloodbaths I’ve observed among progressives defending their political positions, particularly in the abstracted worlds of online communities and mailing lists, would put you in a coma.