One of the most infuriating sideshows of the holiday week(s) was a column by even-the-liberal Ruth Marcus of the WaPoo, which said, in the requisite 700 words such hacks are allotted, “Edward Snowden is a big, fat, poopyhead.” No, really, that’s what her argument boiled down to.
Leaving aside for the moment whether a proven poopyhead like Marcus should so blithely toss arpund the “P” word, given, well, everything she’s written for that embarassing page in that crummy newspaper, the laziness and rote quality of her typing ought to have given her pause. But she’s a Villager, so naturally it didn’t.
Of course, she couldn’t have possibly known that within 48 hours, the editorial boards of two more respected organs, the UK Guardian and the New York Times, would print lead editorials calling for clemency for Snowden, but I’d like to think that her obnoxious column might have spurred them on. If it did, that would qualify as her very first contribution to political discourse in her lackluster career.
What Marcus illustrated, and what her journalistic betters soundly refuted, was a pernicious trend in the mass media that has become all but universal, that of the anti-journalism journalist. What makes the NYT and Guardian editorials remarkable (and boy howdy, are they being remarked upon) is that they are so, well, unusual.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the NYT was running Judith Miller stories hyping WMD in Iraq, and it was even more recently that it withheld James Risen’s stories about warrentless wiretapping until Bush was safely reelected; that paper was hardly more skeptical, when it counted, than the ever-disreputable WaPoo. At any rate it seems that the two papers learned opposite lessons from that debacle.
The problem, though, is how few people we are talking about anymore when we talk about the media at all; when the NYT or the WaPoo, or, hell, Fox News gets a story completely wrong, America gets it wrong. Worse, they like it that way. So few voices, all holding such exalted but precarious seats, can simply say, we were all wrong, get over it, in perfect unison like a choir of unusually unattractive angels. And get away with it again and again.
But just as Condi Rice was going to descend from the flyloft on a winged cruise missile for her hundredth stirring rendition (pun intended) of “No One Could Have Predicted,” a pesky extra wandered onstage and ruined the whole show. That the extra was an improperly credentialed whippersnapper who is also a computer smartypants, to boot, only further inflamed the Village. In poor Ruthie’s case, as Bmaz eloquently tweeted, she “intellectually shit herself.” Well, yes, she did, but where she comes from, this isn’t unusual. I think Meet The Press has logo diapers in the green room for just this purpose, or at least ought to.
But I do find it somewhat heartening to think that cracks seem to be forming in that impenetrable wall between what the media tells is and what is actually happening, and those few media outlets that still care about their reputations are being dragged along, however haltingly. This afternoon, ABC’s Jake Tapper brought Marcus on to debate none other than Glenn Greewald about clemency for Snowden, and the resulting hilarity made Bambi vs. Godzilla look like a fair fight.
If nothing else, it was good TV. Maybe there will be more of it.