Dear Reader (and the Chinese algorithm randomly scanning this missive in search of banned technology),
A Note on the Eternal Struggle
I think I’ve said all I need to on the Shirley Sherrod story for now. And I don’t say that simply because I’ve already written a lot. I also say it because I think this story is winding down, and that’s a good thing for everyone (despite my legendary yearning for one more national conversation about race).
But I’d like to add one last observation. Controversies come and go, even ones that divide the Right. I’ve been getting piles of e-mail from readers that begin along something like these lines: “I’m usually on your side but…” I’ve also gotten my share that start a bit less diplomatically, if you know what I mean. And I’ve gotten a lot of notes from people claiming that the conservative movement will never heal from this terrible rift – to which I say: Meh.
I’ve been through a great many of these moments over the last decade, and it’s worth keeping in mind that few of them do permanent damage to the Right, particularly when the opposition is working so hard to keep the Right unified, what with the industry-seizing, deficit-ballooning, and whatnot. The fault line this has (re)opened on the Right is not new, though some of its vocabulary is. People who think I’m mistaken (and those who think I’m a sausage-spined coward) think the Right must fight this Chicago-style administration Chicago style (they bring a knife, you bring a gun, they put one of yours in the hospital, etc.). Many of Breitbart’s biggest supporters insist that the Right needs to out-Alinsky the Alinskyites. As a matter of principle, I generally disagree with all of that. Chalk up my reluctance to whatever motivation you like; I can’t stop you. But, as a writer, being an Alinskyite is not what I signed up for. I think I stretch the boundaries of what pundits are supposed to do in print (don’t believe me? pull my finger). But the very definition of an Alinskyite is someone who will do anything for the cause and who counsels others to do likewise. That’s simply not what I signed up for. And when journalists — even opinion journalists like me – get seduced into that mindset, you get things like JournoList and much, much worse.
Now, there certainly will be times when I support going to the mattresses and will encourage conservative politicians and activists to fight Chicago style and never give an inch. But if you’re going to fight Chicago style, you need to be really, really right. Otherwise, you fall not just into an ends-justifies-the-means situation but into an even more perverse means-justify-the-ends situation. In other words, saying we need to fight like Alinskyites out of some principle almost certainly guarantees that we will lose sight of what we’re supposed to be fighting for.
I don’t think conservatives were right in this case, or at least right enough. But the next battle may be different.
Speaking of JournoList
From my column this morning:
Many conservatives think JournoList is the smoking gun that proves not just liberal media bias (already well-established) but something far more elusive as well: the Sasquatch known as the Liberal Media Conspiracy.
I’m not so sure. In the 1930s, the New York Times deliberately whitewashed Stalin’s murders. In 1964, CBS reported that Barry Goldwater was tied up with German Nazis. In 1985, the Los Angeles Times polled 2,700 journalists at 621 newspapers and found that journalists identified themselves as liberal by a factor of 3 to 1. Their actual views on issues were far more liberal than even that would suggest. Just for the record, Ezra Klein was born in 1984.
In other words, JournoList is a symptom, not the disease. And the disease is not a secret conspiracy but something more like the “open conspiracy” H. G. Wells fantasized about, where the smartest, best people at every institution make their progressive vision for the world their top priority.
Why it’s almost like the liberal Gleichschaltung is alive and well.
The Snollygoster Caucus
Tim Carney over at the Washington Examiner notes that for all Obama’s talk about taking on the “special interests,” he is in fact closely allied with the biggest special-interest lobbying outfits. And that’s not even counting the unions, which, by definition, are special interests (unions believe their members deserve more and better than everyone else).
I bring this up for three reasons. First, it’s worth pointing out on the merits. Second, this was a big theme of my book, and it’s nice to say “I told you so” every now and then. Third, Tim’s reporting on these sorts of things has been indispensable for years now, and it hasn’t gotten the props it deserves.
Don’t Bet on It
Lately, it seems that a lot of liberals have been showing some sympathy for this line of argument. JournoLister Kevin Drum claims to pine for a new left-right convergence on this idea. Chris Hayes (another JournoLister) made a similar case at some length a while ago. I have no reason to doubt that they’re anything but sincere (despite their JournoListing), but I think it’s terribly naïve to think it will happen. It’s not impossible – the hugely beneficial deregulatory period of the late 1970s was a bipartisan affair. But that was a rare moment. It seems to me that the essence of contemporary economic liberalism is the desire to plan, shape, and nudge. Picking winners and losers is so central to the liberal approach to governing that it strikes me as inconceivable that folks like Drum (I know less about Hayes) could just sit on their virtual porches and watch the fireflies of the free market sparkle without interfering. Moreover, there’s no way liberals will stop calling conservatives scrooges (or, if you prefer, quomodocunquizing clusterfists) any time the next GM comes hat in hand. Indeed, I have a problem with liberals claiming to be interested in fighting corporatism just as soon as the current riot of corporatism is over. This is the economic equivalent of crying, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”
It’d be nice if I were wrong (“It usually is” – the Couch).
Take Care of This!
I’m willing to suspend judgment on the question of whether Al Gore is an inveterate tripsolagnophile, at this point. I do think people need to get over their reflexive impulse to dismiss the Enquirer as if it were The News of the World. The Enquirer doesn’t do “Elvis’s Jockstrap Found on the Moon” stories. Yes, it pays for stories. But only after it’s confident it is paying for true stories. Getting paid to tell the truth is unseemly and should invite more skepticism than other kinds of testimony, but it isn’t inherently disqualifying. What are autobiographies other than extended efforts to get paid to tell the truth? What do reporters do, if not get paid to tell the truth? When Sully Sullenberger sold the movie rights to his story, he was getting paid to do so. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t heroic. Al Gore’s masseuse may have been paid to tell her story, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Meanwhile, it’s been pretty interesting to see how the media has been trying to figure out how to cover the story. I’ve got to say, I think Jaclyn Friedman in The Nation makes a lot of good points.
Booger, Booger, Booger
Not to be verbigerate, but booger.
That’s in response to the people who tell me I’m wasting their time with the G-File. No, they’re wasting their time by reading it. I don’t send letters to the editors of Cat Fancy or Coastal Living saying, “Hey, you’re wasting my time with this magazine!” I don’t read them, and so save everyone the trouble. Meanwhile, leave me alone so I can talk to the thousands of brilliant, attractive, and generally awesome people who do want to be here. Oh, and booger (it’s a G-File/WKRP reference, look it up). And if you don’t like it, forgive me. I suffer from Witzelsucht.
Speaking of Looking It Up
I am getting e-mail from a lot of people wanting to know how to link to or excerpt the G-File. Our team of sacofricosis-suffering Web monkeys are dealing with this question night and day. But since they are distracted by other matters, if you know what I mean, if one of you brilliant people has a solution to the problem, please let me know. Basically, the problem is this: The psaphonic suits want you to subscribe to the newsletter so we can subject your eyeballs to advertising. If we post the newsletter online for all the world to see, we will discourage people from subscribing to it.
See You Next Week
Hey, I hate to be an epistolary swedge and skip out without offering a glossary this week, but I had to write this very, very fast because I’ve got a million things on my plate (“That sounds consistent with your physique” – The Couch). I’m basically leaving town for the rest of the summer and having work done on our house, which requires clearing out my office, which has accumulated stalactites and stalagmites of old papers, matchbooks, books, press releases, comics, various insect life, unlabeled DVDs, unopened bills and letters, notes, and what appears to be gnu scat. Add to that some professional and personal matters best left for the made-for-TV movie, and my head’s just not in the game. My apologies for being a day late, and perhaps a dollar short, in today’s G-File. But then again: Booger.