Over in the Corner, Dan Foster examines a John Tabin argument and concludes, “I agree that the e-mails have some news value, and that there is certainly room on the blogosphere for them. But I’m glad that I didn’t have to make the editorial decision on whether or not to release them.”
I don’t think anybody begrudges liberal activists and journalists their right to free association, either in the physical world or the Internet/e-mail world. But hearing that the Marc Ambinders, Ben Smiths, Mike Allens, and other non-liberal correspondents were on the list is eye-opening and potentially troublesome.
Let’s say you’re one of these guys, and while JournoList existed, you wrote an article arguing something like, “Sarah Palin just completely mishandled this issue.” I find it likely that the JournoList crowd would respond in their chat board, “Great piece by [JournoList Participant X], he really astutely lays out how she screwed up, etc.” Now let’s say he wrote, “Palin just hit it out of the park.” The response on JournoList, I suspect, would be or was quite negative, accusations of stupidity, dishonesty, hackdom, etc. Sure, journalists are always getting feedback and criticism from all quarters. But the mainstream folks on JournoList were hanging around a crowd that pretty clearly was determined to influence the conversation about the presidential race, touting some stories as important and blocking off others as unfit for serious news attention.
There’s only one right-of-center list that I know of, and the vast majority of posts on it are “Hey, look what I wrote,” mostly from bloggers who are hoping for links and traffic. I don’t know of any “mainstream” journalist on it. So the ostensibly non-liberal, non-partisan guys were in the JournoList environment where they would constantly be hearing, in one form or another, that their coverage ought to be more pleasing to liberals. Did it influence them? I’m sure they would deny it, but I suspect if you’re constantly surrounded by folks from one viewpoint, the other side starts to look more distant, alien, and strange . . .
Also note the anonymity of the list is a problem. As some blogger noted this week, every time a mainstream reporter writes an article that slams conservatives, some readers will be left wondering, “Was this one of the guys on JournoList”?
Finally, the excepts we have seen show a list dramatically different from the descriptions Ezra Klein and other participants gave when it first came to light. A dry conversation group for wonks, my tushie. Three of the excerpts we have seen involve fantasies of violence against conservatives: setting Matt Drudge on fire, throwing them through plate-glass windows, and watching Rush Limbaugh suffer a fatal heart attack. Then we saw a recommendation that random conservatives be accused of racism as a maneuver to ensure the media stopped covering Jeremiah Wright. Clearly this was an environment where everybody felt comfortable expressing unsettlingly lurid rage against those on the other side. The thought that the mainstream guys hung around in that environment and, as far as we can tell, never registered an objection to those comments is not terribly reassuring, either.
As I said earlier this week, the violent tone of the revealed JournoList comments is disturbing, and the fact that it doesn’t bother more people is more disturbing.