So what do you do when you’re known as a responsible journalist, a trusted gate-keeper of information to the public, and some knuckle-dragging conservative colleague exposes you for what you really are: a political operative who conspires with other sham journalists to mold information into a vote-yielding commodity — measured and packaged into little lefty pills specially formulated to transform Americans into their unwitting marionettes on Election Day.
Well, if you’re Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress, you dig up your old textbook from Reporting 201, take a red pencil to that offending piece, and shoot off a snotty email to the the author — in this case, Jonathan Strong with the Daily Caller — sarcastically titled, “Another day, another lack of primary source documentation.”
Picture yourself being lectured by Lindsay Lohan for improper turn signal usage and you’ll have an idea of the level of hypocrisy in play here. But there is no shame. In fact Yglesias’ communication with Strong oozes with exaggerated tolerance and feigned intent to tutor a doltish neophyte on the basics of journalistic principles.
Ironically, however, the issue involves Yglesias’ activities with an exclusive on-line forum called JournoList – an association that disqualifies him from instructing a four-year-old on sandbox ethics.
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop him from posting a petulant jab at Strong on his blog yesterday, which included an email exchange that took place this week:
I wrote you about this yesterday, but I continue to be curious as to why it is that you’re writing this series of stories based on misleading descriptions of excerpts of JournoList emails where you don’t post the full text of the emails online anywhere.
Strong responded by requesting a comment from Yglesias for his piece about the JournoList’s treatment of Sarah Palin which has since been published at the Daily Caller.
The day McCain picked Palin, you started a new thread with the subject, “The line on Palin”.
The post said, “John McCain picked someone to help him politically, Barack Obama picked someone to help him govern.”
This thread came in the midst of many threads that discussed which attacks would work best politically on Palin.
What did you mean with the words, “The line on Palin”? Like, the best line to use? Your line? A line you found insightful?
However, instead of commenting, Yglesias’s response was sarcastic and contentious:
Before I answer, I’d be curious as to whether with this next story you plan to publish the full texts of the emails you’re reporting on or is this going to be another set of misleading paraphrases?
The point of Yglesias’ self-serving piece was to distract readers from a JournoList bull-session he started, targeting Sarah Palin. Incredibly, he expects fair-minded Americans to excuse him from conducting what was clearly a partisan search and destroy mission just because Strong didn’t persist in extracting his comment and the Daily Caller didn’t publish the JournaList emails in their entirety.
Strong didn’t reply. Which is too bad, since I think his story could have been enhanced by me answering his question. And I really don’t know what harm it would have done him to tell me in advance that this would be another article that’s curiously lacking in primary source documentation. Both Strong’s lack of interest in releasing his full primary sources and his lack of interest in getting commentary from me speak, I think, to the nature of his operation.
This is made even more interesting when you consider that Yglesias’ organ, Think Progress, didn’t choose to reveal all its “source documentation” last week when they created and released a microscopically-edited video stuffed with dishonest and discredited “evidence” that Tea Partiers are the newest incarnation of the Klan. That task was left up to the Tea Party’s defenders, and as the publisher of Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson, pointed out, Yglesias and others are welcome to do the same with the JournoList emails. Perhaps their choice not to reveals more than the documents themselves would.
Instead, Yglesias feels smearing the messenger is his best strategy to excuse his involvement with a cabal that Daniel Levy of the Century Foundation called Obama’s “non-official campaign” — but that didn’t stop him from offering an auxiliary excuse for good measure: The IRS made him do it.
Yglesias’ IRS defense goes something like this: Legal constraints didn’t allow him to criticize Sarah Palin publically, so he had no choice but to seek out journalists who were as horrified as he was by the ascension of a savvy, successful pro-life woman on the political horizon, and conspire with them to neutralize her.
And the rest, as we all know, is history. They spawned a strategy that General Patton would envy. Curiously, though, I don’t remember seeing all the “source documentation” laid out as each of those carefully coordinated propaganda bombs exploded on Palin and her family throughout fall of 2008.
It makes me wonder though, how even Yglesias could blame the Daily Caller or the IRS for being party to Spencer Ackerman’s over-the-top suggestion to divert voters’ attention from Reverend Wright: “Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”
I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.
Everyone knows that, under certain guidelines, journalists are allowed to state their opinions. But this goes way beyond that. As Jonah Goldberg wrote, “Even liberal opinion writers aren’t supposed to ‘coordinate’ their messages with the mother ship.”
Even Andrew Sullivan weighed in: “Look: you know how appalled I was by the Palin pick, but on this issue, I have to side with the JournoList critics. If this was not an organized media campaign in the service of a political candidate, what would be?”
We’re not contesting the right of anyone, journalist or not, to have political opinions. (I, for one, have made a pretty good living expressing mine.) What we object to is partisanship, which is by its nature dishonest, a species of intellectual corruption. Again and again, we discovered members of JournoList working to coordinate talking points on behalf of Democratic politicians, principally Barack Obama. That is not journalism, and those who engage in it are not journalists. They should stop pretending to be. The news organizations they work for should stop pretending, too.
So what about Yglesias’ future as trusted gatekeeper of information to the people? No worries there. The preservation of reputations in our culture lies firmly in the domain of the left. Yglesias and his ilk will continue in their present capacities, and the JournoList will go the way of Acorn.