Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, and the JournoList "scandal"

So Spencer Ackerman, Michael Tomasky, Joe Conason, Chris Hayes, Katha Pollitt, Mark Schmitt and Kevin Drum are liberals who, in 2008, wanted to see Barack Obama elected president? Shocked! I am very very shocked!

Actually, I'll go ahead and say that Tucker Carlson -- the guy behind the Daily Caller -- is a liar. His headline -- "Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright" -- is wrong on two counts, and Carlson must know it: It wasn't the "media" having a discussion about the Rev. Wright story, but a group of liberal journalists who write from openly liberal perspectives. This wasn't the "straight" reporters from mainstream media outlets, it was the people who get paid to do opinionated journalism. Furthermore, from the Daily Caller's own reporting a good chunk of the people involved in the conversation argued against a response proposed by one or two members of the group. So it wasn't the "media" and they weren't "plotting."

But it's the headline, not the details, that will burn their way into the public consciousness on this story.

Maybe the least-defensible person in the story is Ackerman, who proposed going after Republicans as a bunch of racists for trying to make the Jeremiah Wright story into a brouhaha. But even he's defensible: The Daily Caller's own reporting shows that Ackerman said some Republicans -- the "non-racist" ones -- shouldn't be tarred with that brush. Whether you agree with him or not, he was being intellectually honest: He was proposing going after "racist" Republicans because he really believed they were racist.

Honestly, to these liberal eyes, there did seem to be a whiff of racism about the Jeremiah Wright scandal. Obama's opponents had failed to find a way to depict him as an angry black man, so they generated controversy out of the next best thing: He knew an angry black man. I'm not defending Wright, who has long proved himself untrustworthy, but it seemed to me at the time the point of the controversy was to render unelectable any person -- like Obama -- who had been immersed in "black culture." In retrospect, it still seems that way.


Deregulator said...

* Shakes head. *

Joel said...

What? What did I say that was incorrect?

For what it's worth, before I pressed "publish" on that, I asked myself if I was being a partisan hack. I really don't think so. If you think that Spencer Ackerman is "MSM" -- or that Jeremiah Wright was somehow sadly undercovered in Spring 2008 thanks to an MSM blackout -- well, all I can say is that we're living in different universes.

The part that troubled me -- why I called it "least defensible" -- is Spencer Ackerman's veering close to smear jobs for the sake of smear jobs. I'm not down with that.

Deregulator said...

Difference of interpretation, K?

As I said in the link, Klein portrayed Journolist as this happy little left-wing online flea market where ideas were exchanged and nothing nefarious happened.

Maybe that was how it operated most days. Though we now have at least two examples (the first one leaked by Kaus) that suggest, no, the listers really did try to not only coordinate their message but also lean on those who didn't go along.

I don't think the Wright issue was underreported, but it was certainly badly reported, in that there were very few probing questions about Obama's genuine interaction with Wright. My guess is, this was a social-climbing deal for Obama. He wanted some street cred, so he latched onto Wright, not really paying attention to the guy's message ... for 20 years.

That's monumentally stupid, if you ask me. But that angle was scarcely looked at.

Or maybe Obama really did believe all the hateful trash Wright spewed from the pulpit. That would be even scarier.

You may consider the entire matter a form of drive-by reporting. But when someone like Obama falls from the sky, with so little experience or accomplishments, and is a serious candidate for a serious job, reporters must work with the available material. Obama offered damn little.

And by trying to smear journalists who asked questions about this relationship, Journolist showed itself to be, well, hackish if not a bit thuggish. Hardly the tea-and-crumpets crowd Klein insists it was.

Monkey RobbL said...

I don't really think "veering close" is accurate. I think James Taranto had some insight in today's BOTW:

"What Ackerman proposed was to carry out a political dirty trick in order to suppress the news and thereby aid a candidate for public office. That's about as unethical as journalism can get."

I also don't think you can dismiss the story because these were opinion journalists. There's a BIG difference between strong, persuasive opinion journalism and acting in secret to collude on talking points and plan strategy on hit pieces against your opponents.

You know I'm not a fan of Carlson or the Daily Caller, and I don't think the headline is accurate, but there IS a story here, and I think if conservative journalists had done the same thing, the left would be every bit as apoplectic as the right is today.

Much more to say, but I have to get back to work. I'll try to add more later.

Monkey RobbL said...

On the other hand:


On the other-other hand:


In other words, I don't really know what I'm talking about and my opinion probably shouldn't be considered. Move along...