Get PJ Media on your Apple

Ed Driscoll

‘The Self-Immolation of David Weigel’

June 25th, 2010 - 12:49 pm

I don’t know what the financial aspects of such a deal would be, but from an employee point of view, if the rumors wind up being true, and Weigel goes from the liberal Washington Post to the liberal Huffington Post, that seems more like a lateral transfer than self-immolation. But as Ann Althouse writes:

Consider poor, conflicted David Weigel. Hired by the Washington Post, he had the trappings of prestige and therefore he deserved the admiration of the cool young journalists of Washington, D.C. But his assignment was to cover the conservative movement, and that threatened to make him toxic, a man to be shunned. He needed a way to wriggle — to wiggle-Weigel — into the good graces of the cool kids. He had to show that he was covering conservatives, but he was not one of them.

He could try to do that subtly, and without deviating from the good-faith performance of his assigned task, perhaps by writing in a neutral, questioning style about what was going on with the righties these days and carefully raising doubts, undermining foundations, and strategically inserting a knife blade now and then. But would they get it? Didn’t he need something a little more emphatic… and a little hipper?

So David started letting his need for lefty approval express itself on the email list, the Journolist, where the cool kids were being intimate and snarky. But those other kids were not tasked with covering conservatives. While they might have been embarrassed if the mean things they wrote in the email were ever leaked, they didn’t have careers founded on their suitability for covering conservatives. The risk poor Dave took was of an entirely different nature. Why, Dave, why? Why did you risk the plum job?

Stacy McCain adds:

News organizations don’t hire conservatives. Therefore, conservatives don’t seek careers in journalism and instead become lawyers or accountants or stock brokers or whatever.

Ergo, none of the people making decisions in MSM newsrooms are conservatives. Where set A = “employees of news organizations” and set B = “conservatives,” we see that as the closer set AB approaches to zero, the more likely journalists are to view conservatives as The Other, and vice-versa.

If you think such a situation is a good thing, then you’re obviously congratulating yourself about Dave Weigel’s downfall, and you don’t want to hear the explanation of my disagreement.

I think the key phrase there is “News organizations don’t hire conservatives.” And from what Weigel has been quoted writing on the Journ-O-List, he’s not one himself, or has a rather unique definition of small government, laissez-faire conservatism. As the Daily Caller notes, “Weigel seems to harbor special contempt for a type of conservative he calls a ratfucker, a favorite phrase of his:”

In a thread with the subject line, “ACORN Ratf*cker arrested,” Journolisters discussed how James O’Keefe, whose undercover reporting showed officials from activist group ACORN willing to help a fake prostitution ring skirt the law, had been arrested in another, failed operation at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office.

Weigel’s response: “HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.”

“Deep breath.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHHAHAHA.”

“He’s either going to get a radio talk show or start a prison ministry. That’s was successful conservative ratfuckers do for their second acts,” Weigel wrote, likely alluding to Nixon aide Charles Colson who converted to Christianity after a stint in prison for obstruction of justice and founded Prison Fellowship.

Republicans? “Ratfucking [Obama] on every bill.” Palin?  Tried to “ratfuck” a moderate Republican in a contentious primary in New York. Limbaugh? Used “ratfucking tactics” in urging Republican activists to vote for Hillary Clinton in open primaries after Obama had all but beat her for the Democratic nomination.

Is the rodent being violated in this instance Hillary or Obama? And what does PETA think of such language?

Reached by phone late Thursday and asked about the e-mails, Weigel responded, “my reporting, I think, stands for itself.”

“I’ve always been of the belief that you could have opinions and could report anyway …. people aren’t usually asked to stand or fall on everything they’ve said in private.”

In the e-mails, Weigel appeared particularly invested in the President’s health care law, expressing undisguised scorn for moderate Democrats who seemed fearful about voting for it.

That’s a rather curious stance from someone who rose to prominence writing for the libertarian, free-market Reason magazine. But then politicians aren’t the only ones whose worldviews “mature” while inside the Beltway to blend in with the establishment tone, rather than espousing the attitude of free minds (however imperfect and mercurial they may be) and free markets. (Update: Much more on this from Dan Riehl.)

Or as Steve Green writes, “At Reason, Weigel always did a fair job of keeping the magazine honest, covering conservatives. At the Washington Post, Weigel was just another sneering lefty — and WaPo already has plenty of those.”

Update: Weigel’s former associate at Reason, Matt Welch spots Ezra Klein claiming he’s shutting down the Journ-O-List.

If they’re being replaced by in-person gatherings, Jim Geraghty suggests the perfect meeting place.

Speaking of which, Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic spots sour-grapes amongst the Washington Post’s old guard:

Man, soon after I posted that item on The Washington Post, the phone started ringing off the hook. This means that superannuated reporters were calling me, because younger ones would have just texted, or carrier-pigeoned. In any case, here is some of what was told to me from inside The Post:

“This is not just sour grapes about the sudden rise of these untrained kids, though I have to think that some people in the building resent them for bypassing the usual way people rise here. This is really about the serial stupidity of allowing these bloggers to trade on the name of the Washington Post.”

“It makes me crazy when I see these guys referred to as reporters. They’re anything but. And they hurt the newspaper when they claim to be reporters.”

“Ezra Klein is a talented guy, but he’s just an absolute partisan. If this is where journalism has to go, so be it, but I don’t want to go there.”

At least at the Washington Post, where Ben Bradlee was famously chummy with JFK, and Carl Bernstein admitted in his 1989 memoirs that his parents were members of the Communist Party, you’re about five decades too late for that, friend. Though to be fair, there’s definitely less class, even as declining readership means there’s less mass, at the Post these days, than the Victorian salons of Katharine Graham.

Update: Jonah Goldberg writes:

I don’t know if Weigel needed to resign or not. The revelation of his comments certainly might hurt his ability to get conservative activists to talk to him. But the fact that he talks this way among his fellow liberal journalist friends shouldn’t be cause for him to lose his job at the Post. Because he’s hardly alone. Weigel’s real sin was getting caught.

Never tell anyone outside the family what you’re thinking, Santino.

Update: Moe Lane adds:

Nice of Ezra Klein to shaft his good buddy Dave Weigel on the way out by explicitly admitting that Klein wouldn’t let anybody on the Right onto JournoList in the first place, but that’s the Online Left for you.  You ain’t with them all the way, you ain’t worth nothing to them.

Ace adds that Weigel is “entitled to his… nuanced version of ‘libertarianism.’ But he really cannot be writing a column that purports to be written ‘inside the conservative movement.’”

Update: “One hopes that whoever did the leaking also saved the archives. Why should journalism be the only profession entitled to conspire together in secret to get their story straight, without worry about whistleblowers?”