In addition to colluding on stories, one of the curious aspects of the leaked JournoList missives this week has been their collective tone. That rock ’em, sock ’em, fighting ratf***ing netroots-style verbiage that sounds more akin to dialogue from a Tarantino movie, rather than group of elite, effete leftwing Northeast Corridor journalists.
So what accounts for that discrepancy? That’s the subject of James Bowman’s latest post at the New Criterion:
One thing, at least, we have learned from the sorry saga of the now-discontinued “JournoList” — which, according to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, has lately been trimmed down to its presumably more trustworthy members and renamed the “Cabalist” — is the extent to which the Internet is the cultural equivalent of the id of Freudian psychology. All our deepest, darkest and most shameful secrets go there to hide from more decorous public view, only to reveal themselves when our guard is down, when we are shielded (as we imagine) from real life and all its inconvenient “judgmentalism” and we suppose we can indulge our taste for what Freud called “true psychic reality.” Journalists, required by their “professional” conceit to be all ego and superego, must be particularly susceptible to what the rest of us regard as the dubious charms of a total immersion in those disreputable passions that constantly bubble beneath the surface of their conscious self-presentation as “objective” and “non-partisan.” As more and more of the media migrate to the web, I predict that we can expect to see fewer and fewer inhibitions on these passions too.
At any rate this must be the explanation for Mr Spencer Ackerman’s violent fantasies in more than one note to his JournoList colleagues: “Let’s just throw [Michael] Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the f— up, as with most bullies.” By the way, I know Michael Ledeen, and unless Mr Ackerman is approximately the size of Shaquille O’Neal, he might find the actual performance of this fantastical operation more difficult than he imagines. Likewise, Sarah Spitz of National Public Radio wrote on the list of how the imaginary sight of Rush Limbaugh having a heart attack led her to the further delicious fantasy of herself as she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out.”
Interestingly, she adds that “I never knew I had this much hate in me, but he deserves it.” Deserves? The heart attack, presumably — though I wonder if she ever has a similar reflection on the question of desert in relation to the speculative circumstance of her own death? — but also to have herself standing by and laughing at him “like a maniac” for having it. This sounds to me like the cry of an almost unbearable emotional repression, groaning and stumbling under the weight of journalistic respectability and desperate to find an outlet. It should therefore serve as a reminder that journalists spend their lives pretending to be something they are not. In fact, it’s worse than that. They spend their lives pretending to be something that they know that everybody knows they’re not — which is non-partisan, objective, disinterested reporters of The Truth. Tucker Carlson, who exposed the e-mails in his Daily Caller, writes that “these are political hacks, and I think they should stop calling themselves journalists. It discredits the rest of us.” But does he really imagine that “the rest of us” who call ourselves journalists have much more credit to lose?
Besides, there is no chance of their doing this, or even of feeling any shame about carrying on as if nothing had happened. So far as I have been able to see, all the Journolisters who are also journalists continue to insist that the whole thing is a non-story and no reflection at all on their journalistic integrity. Even you or I might crack under the strain if we were similarly so ill-advised as to live such an odious lie for the sake of making a handsome living. Something’s got to give.
Read Bowman’s conclusion as well. As I’ve written before, consider the chaos going on within the walls of the Washington Post. In addition to the myriad woes already facing the newspaper and its sister publication Newsweek, they’ve had to deal with the Dave Weigel wiring, and oldtimers at the Post complaining to the aforementioned Jeffrey Goldberg that ““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.” And now this week, successive tut-tutting “move along, nothing to see here” dispatches from first Howard Kurtz, and then Kathleen Parker.
I’m not sure from which vantage point he’s observing the action, but as with Dan Rather’s meltdown in 2004, the ghost of Richard Nixon has to be savoring the karma of the Washington Post being forced to issue their own set of modified limited hangouts.
Update: John Fund of the Wall Street Journal adds, “Liberal bloggers sulk at this year’s Netroots Nation gathering:”
Many of those in attendance openly expressed concern that President Obama is losing momentum in pushing their causes. “I’ve definitely never heard more cursing by speakers at a political conference than at Netroots Nation,” Philip Klein of the American Spectator told me.
As Orrin Judd notes, in a headline that applies equally well to the JournoList and the Netroots convention, “Profanity Is a Sorry Substitute for Thought.”