The Corner

JournoList, Round Two

The Daily Caller has a second group of leaked “JournoList” e-mails — these dating to the scandal surrounding Barack Obama’s association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 presidential campaign — which illustrate a coordinated effort among a group of left-leaning news and opinion journalists to bury the story and/or make it about right-wing racism.

First, a couple of caveats: little in the threads the Caller publishes rises to the level of a nefarious “mainstream media conspiracy,” as most of the journalists quoted are columnists or work for lefty opinion rags like The Nation and Mother Jones. They have no duty to report the news neutrally, and indeed would not be good at their jobs if they weren’t trying to shape the debate about Rev. Wright. So much the better — at least we know where they are coming from. Indeed, much of what is said in the thread — for instance by Spencer Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent — was echoed on blogs and other public fora, and the course of action that ultimately emerged from the JournoList’s coordination on the Wright story was . . . an open letter to ABC News, the one and only of its kind to have emerged from the list.

This all being said, the thread does reveal the kind of naked flackery that characterized much of the lefty media’s coverage of the 2008 presidential race, a paranoid Obamania in which the then-candidate’s cheerleaders in the press did their best to bury potentially damaging story-lines, in this case by trying to recast any criticism of Obama as latent right-wing racism. The participants in the thread are perfectly forthright — maddeningly so — that this should be their strategy in shaping the Rev. Wright narrative.

I won’t add much else in the way of color commentary, since the money-quotes in the story speak for themselves. Here’s Ackerman:

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.”

Ackerman went on to say that while “part of” him didn’t like Wright’s association with Obama, “what I like less is being governed by racists and warmongers and criminals.” His recommended course of action?

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.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

And here is Chris Hayes, of The Nation, also placing blame on the Right and advocating a similar strategy, going so far as to urge the list’s straight-journalist members to ignore the Wright story:

The Wright controversy, Hayes argued, was not about Wright at all. Instead, “It has everything to do with the attempts of the right to maintain control of the country.”

Hayes castigated his fellow liberals for criticizing Wright. “All this hand wringing about just

how awful and odious Rev. Wright remarks are just keeps the hustle going.”

“Our country disappears people. It tortures people. It has the blood of as many as one million Iraqi civilians — men, women, children, the infirmed — on its hands. You’ll forgive me if I just can’t quite dredge up the requisite amount of outrage over Barack Obama’s pastor,” Hayes wrote.

Hayes urged his colleagues – especially the straight news reporters who were charged with covering the campaign in a neutral way – to bury the Wright scandal. “I’m not saying we should all rush en masse to defend Wright. If you don’t think he’s worthy of defense, don’t defend him! What I’m saying is that there is no earthly reason to use our various platforms to discuss what about Wright we find objectionable,” Hayes said.

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster is a former news editor of National Review Online.

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