The Matrix and the Journolist

Don’t you just hate it when some guy peddles his wares? People are always trying to sell you something. It bothers us and gets our back up. Wouldn’t it be nice if people were not always playing some angle? What if they did it for you, not just for grubby, greed-soaked self-interest? Why can’t these idiots just stop bugging us during dinner?

A lot of people think it would be nice, and that’s an illusion that journalists have played on for years. A cursory examination of the economic model for print and broadcast media suggests that media really could avoid trying to sell you a political viewpoint. They could sell classified ads, 30-second TV spots and radio mentions of how good it tastes to drink Snapple Ice Tea. The revenue stream could truly be divorced from political content, leaving fair-minded individuals peace and room to be fair-minded individuals.

The rock-band Rush once sang ”All of this machinery, making modern music, can still be open-hearted….it’s really just a question of your honesty.” Ezra Klein, Spencer Ackerman and the other assorted Leftists who founded Journolist realized that this illusionary potential objectivity achieved through the media business model was an opportunity to sell a message while pretending not to do so. They had the chance to push harmonized, pre-engineered “news” that supported Left Wing groupthink onto an uncritical audience. It was to be their Matrix- the world pulled over our eyes.

In our daily metaphorical “Dessert of the Real”, we understand that everyone has something to sell you. Not always in a structured market or on an auction block. Transactions involving non-monetary salesmanship occur in houses of worship, bedrooms, university admissions offices and hiring offices every day. We sell pieces of ourselves every day. The goal is to do this with honor and self-respect. We try to sell without selling out.

In response to the constant selling, we have developed an unconscious attitude of “Caveat Emptor.” We evaluate stuff to the best of our flawed and human abilities and work at getting the best deal. This is no more dishonorable or deleterious in principle than the selling itself. However, it does make the selling a much harder job. This is why Ackerman, Klein, et al wanted a ticket behind the wall of healthy cynicism. This is why they developed Journolist as a tool to secretly organize the memes that would be pushed through the “unbiased” media.

The Journolisters engaged in an economic activity nearly as old as prostitution. They were engaged cartelization. If media offers an speech market, Ezra was setting himself and his buddies to be the OPEC of the Mouth-Mart. By attempting to control what content got covered how, he was attempting to control who’s ideas, beliefs and views get aired. Morally, Ezra Klein is closer to Boss Hogg than Cato the Censor. He is in the business of peddling Leftist beliefs and he wanted to make darn well sure no one else’s competing products ever quite made it out of the supply chain alive.

The Journolisters consisted of a jacquerie of Left-leaning journalists, professors and other intellectuals who secretly communicated in how to coordinate media stories that would help left-leaning political objectives and desroy conservatives. They now stand accused and possible guilty of spiking the Jeremiah Wright story, leading journalistic wolf-packs against Sarah Palin, and aiding and abetting a Conservative-hating journalist who covered Conservatives for The WaPo. Frequent Journolist target, Fred Barnes, describes this alleged process in the Wall Street Journal, in a column entitled ”The Vast Left-Wing Media Conspiracy.”

Then, Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent proposed attacking Mr. Obama’s critics as racists. He wrote: “If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them—Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares—and call them racists. . . . This makes them ‘sputter’ with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”

Held over cocktails at a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, this sort of a discussion is par for the course and to be rationally expected. Amongst self-identified partisan Democrats, working to stem a political scandal before it attenuates their hold over the K-Street hog troughs, this is typical professional art. Held behind the scenes, by individuals publically avowing to speak disinterested truth to the people, this becomes the despicable and inexcusable behavior of liars, vipers and soul-sucking jerks.

The end product of this cheapens what the Journolisters attempted to exploit. It rips the cover off of the charade. We see the greasy, sweaty mediocrity behind the curtain in the throne room of Oz. Journolisters have done for professional journalists what Ivan Boesky did for stock brokers. I can argue that metaphorically at least, even Christ himself came here to sell stuff. If you got duped into 10,000 shares of POS AIG stock, you are probably not open and receptive to that whole line of argumentation unless you are an atheist.

Barnes ends his piece with an example of just how badly activities like Journolist damage the public credibility of “impartial” and “unbiased” activites like the so-called journalistic profession. He recounts a phone call he got from Karl Rove.

. He said he wanted to talk to his “fellow racist.” We laughed about this. But the whole episode was also sad. I didn’t sputter at the thought of being called a racist. But it was sad to see what journalism, or at least a segment of it, had come to.

Karl, Fred Barnes and the rest of us all laugh about it. It’s funny, if you didn’t expect anything better. We don’t sputter. We just quietly remember. It’s then a cold day in Hell before we believe that our societal institutions can be trusted or relied upon ever again. That leaves me with a sense of existential nausea and intangible loss, regardless of what Ezra Klein and his fellow-travelers got out of Journolist.