Famous last words: “Laying down the marker—Obamacare implementation’s going to be great and people will love it,” Matt Yglesias of the Washington Post-owned Slate forecasted in July, as highlighted by the above Tweet.
“Nailed it!”, Ace of Spades jokes in response — and had lots of fun Twitter today along with others at Yglesias’ expense — before moving on to a more serious point on his blog: that while many pundits think they’re in the journalism business, they’re actually in the advertising and marketing business, both for their own personal brand, and for their ideology. Read the whole thing; halfway into his post, Ace writes:
Now, every political writer is, ultimately, an activist. People do not write about politics disinterestedly. Everyone has his own take on what the Social Good looks like, and his writing will always, always be informed by this.
Every writer, every blogger, every Tweeter, every commenter writing about politics has his own conception of The Good and will write in support of this.
There is no avoiding that.
There will always be Political Advertising encoded into any political essay.
It’s a question of the degree to which we permit ourselves to be captive to the lowest form of communication, Advertising.
It’s a question of whether we elevate the Advertising Imperative above the Truth-Telling Imperative, and by what margin.
The problem is that as regards online writing — or online Political Advertising, as Matt Yglesias writes — is that laughable shills are not punished, they are rewarded.
None of Yglesias’ fans will hold it against him that he got this completely wrong. In fact, they will praise him, because while he got this completely wrong, he got it completely wrong to the benefit of the right Advertising Account, Obama-Brand Health Care Solutions.
He will not be called out as a gullible jackass; he will be lauded as a “fighter” who “tried to help the cause.”
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Because writers are paid to write what people want to read.
And if all the public demands is perpetual advertising on behalf of the Brands the public favors, that is what writers — never accused of being an especially honorable, moral, or courageous bunch — will churn out.
American politics isn’t getting nastier. Oh, it is nasty, but it has always been fairly nasty.
What it is getting is downright stupid, because being right — speaking the truth — is no longer rewarded, and being wrong, and writing fictions, is no longer punished.
And Matt knows it. In 2010, he was surprisingly honest in confessing his dishonesty:
Jonathan Strong, then with the Daily Caller, placed the 2010 tweet into context, in terms that sound remarkably familiar in light of Yglesias’ “marker” this past July:
Asked who he meant by “advocates,” Yglesias said, “Politicians, things like that.” Not bloggers? “Not me. No I don’t think that’s conducive to what I do. I’m trying to inform people, so I try to present them with accurate information,” Yglesias said.
“What I write on my blog is honest,” Yglesias said.
Yglesias’s spat with Hemingway revolved around estimates for high-speed rail lines about how many people would ride on those trains. On that subject, Yglesias wrote more than a year ago that advocates for high-speed rail may need to present “unrealistically optimistic” ridership estimates to obtain government funding for the projects. “For better or for worse, that’s politics,” Yglesias said then.
But what set off a flurry of Tweets today – and Yglesias’s advocacy of lying – was a charge by Yglesias via Twitter that Washington Times reporter Eli Lake has a “deserved reputation for dishonesty.” Hemingway, Lake and others confronted Yglesias on Twitter about the charge, pointing out that Yglesias himself had actually advocated dishonesty.
Then, Yglesias dug in, saying lying was a necessary part of politics.
Yglesias’s Twitter opponents also charged he does not take criticism well.
In concluding his interview with The Daily Caller, Yglesias said “go f***k yourself” and hung up the phone.
On Monday, Neo-Neocon quoted David Horowitz, a ’60s and ’70s member of the New Left, who eventually had second thoughts about his dalliances with radical chic, and described “what the newer left learned from the older left,” by way of some thoughts from David Horowitz:
There is a marked difference between the radicals of the Sixties and the radical movement Obama is part of. In the Sixties, as radicals we said what we thought and blurted out what we wanted. We wanted a revolution, and we wanted it now. It was actually very decent of us to warn others as to what we intended. But because we blurted out our goal, we didn’t get very far. Americans were onto us. Those who remained on the left when the Sixties were over, learned from their experience. They learned to lie. The strategy of the lie is progressives’ new gospel. It is what the progressive bible — Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals — is all about. Alinsky is the acknowledged political mentor to Obama and Hillary, to the service and teacher unions, and to the progressive rank and file. Alinsky understood the mistake Sixties’ radicals had made. His message to this generation is easily summed up: Don’t telegraph your goals; infiltrate their institutions and subvert them; moral principles are disposable fictions; the end justifies the means; and never forget that your political goal is always power.
Perhaps that explains why so many leftists in the media such as Yglesias are much more willing to be open and casual about their efforts to lie when appropriate. Or as Dan Rather told Bill O’Reilly a few years before getting caught with his documents down in 2004 in what came to be known as RatherGate, in his pretzel-logic estimation, “you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.” Now, on the surface that’s true to some extent — a father can tell his young son that Santa Claus is on the way, or that their puppy is now in doggy heaven, that sort of thing. The Allies in World War II built up elaborate deceptions regarding troop placements to confuse the Axis. Every politician in the heat of a campaign says, “When I get into office, I’m going to…”, even if he’s faced with a Dewey-Defeats-Truman-level Hail Mary. (And Harry Truman used duplicity for his successful comeback, of course.) But it used to be rare for successful journalists with national followings to flat out admit they’re deceiving their audiences. Now it’s increasingly commonplace.
Of course, to return to Ace’s theme of political sophistry as a form of advertising, as everyone who’s watched the lavish lifestyle that Don Draper and the boys are accustomed to in Mad Men, there’s always been plenty of money made to be made in sales and advertising. That was true in 1960 — and even more so today.