The overlooked story from the Weigel kerfuffle
posted at 9:06 pm on June 25, 2010 by Karl
WaPo blogger Dave Weigel resigned today, after a slew of his anti-conservative comments and emails from the newly-defunct JournoList were leaked to FishbowlDC and the Daily Caller. However, by focusing on his invective and profanity, most of his detractors and defenders are overlooking Weigel’s biggest offense.
Weigel used JournoList for exactly the purpose its critics suspected it would be used, i.e., to attempt to shape media coverage for the benefit of the Left. And he did it more than once. As the DC’s Jonathan Strong reports:
After Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat, threatening to kill the health care legislation by his presence, Weigel stressed how important it was for reporters to highlight what a terrible candidate his opponent Martha Coakley had been.
“I think pointing out Coakley’s awfulness is vital, because it’s 1) true and 2) unreasonable panic about it is doing more damage to the Democrats,” Weigel wrote.
After Sarah Palin claimed Obama’s health care legislation included “death panels” that would ration health care, for instance, the Huffington Post reported that many Americans believed the claim was true. Weigel suggested that reporting on the subject might be counter-productive to liberal policy aims. The Huffington Post, Weigel pointed out, ran “a picture of Sarah Palin, linking to a poll that suggests 45 percent of Americans believe her death panel lie. But as long as the top liberal-leaning news site talks about it every single hour of every day, I’m sure that number will go down.”
“Let’s move the f*** on already,” Weigel wrote.
No wonder folks at the WaPo who were backing Weigel on Thursday night were ready to accept his resignation after today’s DC piece.
The second example is particularly striking because Weigel was explcitly urging his fellow J-Listers to engage in what Weigel’s buddies and fellow travelers like to call “epistemic closure,” to operate as a closed media ecosystem that excludes competing political narratives. (It’s arguably there in the first example, too.)
So how are the bloggers that spent a decent chunk of this year complaining about “epistemic closure” reacting to Weigel’s resignation? Andrew Sullivan is on Team Weigel, natch. So is Conor Friedersdorf. So is Marc Ambinder. And all of them sidestep the worst things Weigel did. But taking the cake is the guy who mis-coined the term “epistemic closure,” Weigel’s pal, Julian Sanchez. Sanchez not only ignores Weigel’s advocacy of Lefty closure on JournoList, he manages to get in a swipe at contemporary movement conservatism, which he calls “Manichean,” and “tightly in the grip of a bunker mentality,” before conceding (as he must) that Weigel got submarined by someone on or with access to JournoList, which was closed to conservatives.
In short, the people whining the loudest about “epistemic closure” on the Right find themselves utterly blinded when Weigel advocated it for the Left, and had to resign due to the “epistemic closure” that was inherent in JournoList itself. I think there’s a hip term for that…
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