The other night TRex paid me a very nice compliment and I'd like to return the favor by pointing out that this very funny, but important, post of his should be read by one and all. The DC punditocrisy has not just been craven and opportunistic, although they have been that. And they haven't just been servants of power, although they have been that too. Apparently, they have actually been frozen for the last two decades and the blogosphere has caused them to melt. Via TRex, here's Joe Klein:
As a newcomer to this blogging business, I've been interested in the Edwards dust-up. As readers know, I've been critical of the tone of the left-wing blogosphere in the past. But I think that Yglesias raises an important point here and anyone reading the comments section of any Swampland post knows that troglyditic right-wing cavedwellers fester there, in a vomitously vile manner, too. And I'd add this: Radio. I was driving into Springfield, Ill last night for the Obama festivities and caught the ever-vile Sean Hannity "interviewing" the even-more-vile Dick Morris about Hillary. Just disgraceful…and they were mild compared to the crap I've heard from Rush and others over the years.
It's obvious that the current level of vitriol on the left is a reaction to nearly twenty years of sewage emanating from Rush et al. …The intemperance on the left has three other sources (1) justifiable fury over the Bush adminstration (2) justifiable fury over the way the media treated Clinton and, to a certain extent, Bush and (3) ideologues of any sort tend to be obnoxious.
Now I recognize that Klein goes on to make a number of predictable lukewarm water points about playing nice-nice. But, nonetheless, this is a breakthrough. Indeed, it is a sign of an important sea change in the punditocrisy's worldview. For years they have been living in a Republican establishment bubble headed by society mavens pretending to be journalists — people like Cokie Roberts and David Broder. These are people who spent the decade of the 90's aiding and abetting a GOP character smear of epic proportions, either because they felt the need to pretend that they were living in Bedford Falls instead of the ruthless capitol of the most powerful nation on earth — or because they are foolish and shallow people who enjoyed the sophomoric tenor of the rightwing machine. Either way, they were (and are) a symptom of a very sick political culture.
For years the allegedly liberal pundits willfully ignored the horrific eliminationist rhetoric of the right and instead focused their attention on tabloid scandalmongering and outdated liberal stereotypes. They pretended that people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter were, at worst, rodeo clowns whose angry violent swill was some sort of a joke. They shrugged their shoulders when Coulter wrote a bestselling book called "Treason" that opened with this passage:
Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Everyone says liberals love America, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy. This is their essence. The Left’s obsession with the crimes of the West and their Rousseauian respect for Third World savages all flow from this subversive goal. If anyone has the gaucherie to point out the left's nearly unblemished record of rooting against America, liberals turn around and scream "McCarthyism!"
They looked away when Rush Limbaugh, feted by both the president and the vice president and everyone in between as a highly valuable member of the Republican coalition said things like this:
I mean, if there is a party that's soulless, it's the Democratic Party. If there are people by definition who are soulless, it is liberals — by definition. You know, souls come from God. You know? No. No. You can't go there.
When Limbaugh made his famous inappropriate and bizarre sexual statements about Abu Ghraib, the flagship magazine of the American right came to his rescue with this essay by FDL fave Kate O'Beirne:
Rush's angry, frustrated critics discount how hard it is to make an outrageous charge against him stick. But, we listeners have spent years with him, we know him, and trust him. Rush is one of those rare acquaintances who can be defended against an assault challenging his character without ever knowing the "facts." We trust his good judgment, his unerring decency, and his fierce loyalty to the country he loves and to the courageous young Americans who defend her. For millions of us, David Brock is firing blanks against a bulletproof target.
The allegedly liberal press and the allegedly liberal pundits were silent. We could only assume they agreed. In fact, as time went on, they became angry with the newly minted liberal blogosphere because we were aghast, as we had been for years, that this was considered acceptable. From Limbaugh to the Gang of 500 to Drudge to Joe Klein to Richard Cohen, it seemed that everyone agreed that liberals and Democrats were fair game for the worst sort of fascistic language imaginable. Liberal bloggers who objected were served up as proof of the right wing's smears that the left was "unhinged."
As far back as 2000, Bob Somerby and the late Mediawhores Online pioneered this media critique, which was admittedly often harder on the so-called liberals than on the others. It had to be — these people were allegedly speaking for us and they would go on television and parrot rightwing cant at every turn. They railed about the "angry left" and they cried to their friends in the rightwing media when we insulted them. We wrote and wrote and wrote about it, documenting the atrocities and making the case.
But nothing changed until these liberal pundits and journalists started blogging.
This piece by Rick Perlstein spells out what happened to Klein's colleague Jay Carney when he thoughtlessly repeated rightwing spin disguised as history on the TIME blog:
Chalk up 7:22 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 23, 2007, as the moment a milestone was passed. On Time's new blog, Swampland, D.C. Bureau Chief Jay Carney posted a pre-assessment of the State of the Union address comparing President Bush's political position to Bill Clinton's in January of 1995. Like Bush, "President Clinton was in free fall. … His approval ratings were mired in the 30's, and seemed unlikely to rise." Moments later, a writer identifying himself as "TomT" pointed out an error in Carney's "nut graf" that would have earned a failing grade for a first-year journalism major: "Clinton's approval rating in January [of 1995] was 47 percent. It was not mired in the 30s." At 9:12, the blogger Atrios, also known as Duncan Black, alerted his readers to the gaffe, and they descended on the Time blog like locusts–and, to mix the Biblical metaphor, served Jay Carney's head up on a charger. [...]
At which Carney snapped back so churlishly ("the left is as full of unthinking Ditto-heads as Limbaugh-land") that, for a moment, it was hard even to remember–why was it, again, that we were supposed to defer to the authority of newsweeklies (and the mainstream press) in the first place? Carney was rude and wrong. The barbaric yawpers of the netroots were rude and right.
Joe Klein has suffered many such incidents since he started blogging, as have other journalists who entered the fray and subjected themselves to the wild and wooly world of the blog comment section. And he didn't like it one bit. But as other journalists who are entering the online writing world are finding, the feedback from readers is a bracing splash of reality that makes them take a new look at the world they've been writing about for decades. Joe Klein is seeing the current state of politics through new eyes. And for the first time he's understanding that we are angry for a reason.
I don't expect him to give up his vaunted "centrism" which is his very special view of himself as being above it all. But if blogging means they can see even a tiny little speck of light about the right's decades long jihad against their fellow Americans, then I say let them all blog. (Hell, make them all blog.)
I think I speak for all of us out there who've been mixing it up with readers and trolls and critics for years, that while it may be somewhat harsh and disconcerting at first, it keeps you honest. And that is something the political punditocrisy has needed for a very long time.
Welcome to the blogosphere, Joe.