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.

In addition:

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…

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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So the Jlist had about 400 of the left’s media intelligentsia? Who leaked Weigel’s stuff and who goes over to the next Jlist 2?

d1carter on June 25, 2010 at 9:14 PM

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.

I just came back from the GreenRoom and there is a whopping 4 posts there and one is from AP from the future.

Electrongod on June 25, 2010 at 9:17 PM

Who leaked Weigel’s stuff and who goes over to the next Jlist 2?

d1carter on June 25, 2010 at 9:14 PM

And why did s/he/they leak Weigel’s emails? Was it the Conservatives and Republicans he covered–the same ones his liberal cohorts disdain–or a dislike of Weigel himself?

conservative pilgrim on June 25, 2010 at 9:18 PM

Karl: Don’t you find it a bit ironic that Weigel’s biggest supporters are lefties? See: hashtag #teamweigel on twitter.

I don’t see any serious conservative outcry over his firing (he didn’t resign, we all know in this day and age “resign” is code word for canned).

Ian on June 25, 2010 at 9:20 PM

Great piece. I love how Trucker Carlson tried getting on the email discussion group and they turned him down. I wonder why?

taney71 on June 25, 2010 at 9:21 PM

My understanding (though I’m not on any) is that there are conservative listservs, though none quite like JournoList was (and may be under a new name in the future). After all, can you see a Righties + MSM list? Unlikely.

Karl on June 25, 2010 at 8:37 PM

There are conservative listservs (not that I’m on any either). The difference is that they’re made up of citizens whose express intent is discussing and furthering conservatism, nothing more. JournoList was explicitly created, as the name clearly implies, for journalists to hang out, engage in mutual back-patting on having achieved membership into the proper social circles, and frame narratives in ways that help liberals and hurt conservatives.

In short, JournoList was all about ulterior motives and working to slant coverage behind the backs of MSM consumers. Any MSM reporter who partook of it was engaged in actions that were first-rate violations of basic journalistic ethics, and for which he or she would have been fired on the spot ten years ago.

And needless to say, it isn’t physically possible for any right-wing version of JournoList to exist, because there aren’t any mainstream conservatives allowed to be in national “mainstream” media newsrooms. Who would join such a list?

The Lone Platypus on June 25, 2010 at 9:24 PM

This article is a bit too precious for me.

AnninCA on June 25, 2010 at 9:26 PM

It’s too bad Sanchez is being such a douche, he actually has some intersting posts on hos blog.

RedRedRice on June 25, 2010 at 9:27 PM

I always heard the MSM say “Gosh, we don’t get together to coordinate how we are going to slant the news. Are you guys paranoid or something??”

How I read this is JournoList was just such a mechanism. Am I getting this wrong?

kurtzz3 on June 25, 2010 at 9:28 PM

Yikes, apologies for the typos.

RedRedRice on June 25, 2010 at 9:30 PM

And why did s/he/they leak Weigel’s emails? Was it the Conservatives and Republicans he covered–the same ones his liberal cohorts disdain–or a dislike of Weigel himself?

The latter is definitely possible; it could have been pure personal jealousy. But my guess is that it was simply the same old thing we see happen on the left every day: Weigel dared to utter one or more opinions on the list that deviated from Liberal Correctness (some have argued it may have been the mere fact that he didn’t treat Rand Paul as the Antichrist in his stories), and thus someone decided Weigel was a traitor to be taken out. Run with dogs, wake up with fleas.

The Lone Platypus on June 25, 2010 at 9:32 PM

I think the media insiders are as wedded as the politicos to being in on the “know.”

Frankly, they all remind me of a PTA group of women, proud of knowing the latest gossip more than their real accomplishments.

Beyond that, the very language of this guy?

Fire him.

AnninCA on June 25, 2010 at 9:32 PM

I think Limbaugh’s montages of the MSM all using the same wording really sum that up better than anything else could. It’s sad that they still have an audience and any credibility. And that doesn’t even get to the nonsense of somebody like Steffi being “a journalist”. The MSM is just deplorable in every way.

clnurnberg on June 25, 2010 at 9:32 PM

A lot of media insiders are literally married to the politicos, or they’re their children or they were politicos right before being “journalists”.

clnurnberg on June 25, 2010 at 9:34 PM

Another overlooked story from the Weigel kerfuffle…

http://www.verumserum.com/?p=15480

ninjapirate on June 25, 2010 at 9:38 PM

Reeks of Deception/Perception!!

canopfor on June 25, 2010 at 9:40 PM

Jonah Goldberg reports at “The Corner” with a follow-up letter from a conservative under deep cover in the MSM:

Weigel Resigns Cont’d [Jonah Goldberg]

From a conservative e-friend deep behind enemy lines in the MSM:

Jonah,

As a conservative who has lived and worked his entire adult life inside the MSM, please allow me a moment of reflection concerning Weigel.
WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
As in, I’ve listened to this kind of crap for the better part of three decades, confronted it in public and private on too many occasions to count, and am glad — really, physically and emotionally satisified — to see this kind of out-in-the-open comeuppance.

I’m not sure I agree with your conclusion that Weigel was fairer than most — I usually had a bit of a teeth-grinding session everytime I read him. But I am sure he is not the worst there is — you’re absolutely correct that his crime was getting caught.

As for a “wholesale purge of liberals from the mainstream press,” well, there just isn’t time for that to be finished in this century. Seems more likely the MSM will purge itself of readership and viewership soon enough, anyway.

onlineanalyst on June 25, 2010 at 9:40 PM

conservative pilgrim on June 25, 2010 at 9:18 PM

I forgot to add a line above. Ezra Klein has made it clear plenty of times, and just reiterated today, that only leftists and center-leftists were allowed on JournoList. Being even slightly center-right was grounds for rejection. Thus, the only way it could have been a “conservative” or “Republican” that leaked the emails is if you believe the list was hacked, and then the evil conservative decided only to go after Dave Weigel instead of trying to destroy any of the hundreds of other, far bigger names that have unquestionably posted things far nastier than Weigel ever did.

In other words, it’s 99.99999999% likely that Weigel was thrown under the bus by a fellow traveler.

The Lone Platypus on June 25, 2010 at 9:42 PM

ninjapirate on June 25, 2010 at 9:38 PM

Journalists apply different standards to themselves than to their prey, hardly newsworthy \

clnurnberg on June 25, 2010 at 9:42 PM

[onlineanalyst on June 25, 2010 at 9:40 PM]

I found this from Jonah afterward more interesting:

“My larger point was that Weigel’s comments (Most of which, I’m told, predate his arrival at the Post) ….”

Is this accurate? I thought Klein had stated he didn’t know Weigel’s political views. He gave Weigel a pass into JL. If he gave him the pass prior to selling him to WaPo, does that mean he doesn’t read what’s posted there?

Dusty on June 25, 2010 at 9:54 PM

But Ed Morrissey vouched for him.

Oops, Ed.

portlandon on June 25, 2010 at 9:56 PM

Is this accurate?

Yes, it’s accurate. Many of his quotes in the Daily Caller article clearly come from discussions going as far back as mid-2008.

The Lone Platypus on June 25, 2010 at 9:59 PM

If there are any righty hackers out there, I hope they’re getting busy.

trigon on June 25, 2010 at 9:59 PM

I think Limbaugh’s montages of the MSM all using the same wording really sum that up better than anything else could. It’s sad that they still have an audience and any credibility. And that doesn’t even get to the nonsense of somebody like Steffi being “a journalist”. The MSM is just deplorable in every way.

clnurnberg on June 25, 2010 at 9:32 PM

As we’re supposed to believe it’s a coincidence. Brilliant minds think alike blah, blah, blah. Following Obama’s decision to cashier McCrystal and install Petreus, every single one of them used the word “brilliant.” Every. Single. One.

Uncanny./

conservative pilgrim on June 25, 2010 at 10:02 PM

I forgot to add a line above. Ezra Klein has made it clear plenty of times, and just reiterated today, that only leftists and center-leftists were allowed on JournoList. Being even slightly center-right was grounds for rejection. Thus, the only way it could have been a “conservative” or “Republican” that leaked the emails is if you believe the list was hacked, and then the evil conservative decided only to go after Dave Weigel instead of trying to destroy any of the hundreds of other, far bigger names that have unquestionably posted things far nastier than Weigel ever did.

In other words, it’s 99.99999999% likely that Weigel was thrown under the bus by a fellow traveler.

The Lone Platypus on June 25, 2010 at 9:42 PM

Yeah, I read that Klein article earlier. I never said a Conservative or Republican outed Weigel. Obviously it was a fellow lib. My curiosity was piqued wondering why the emails were leaked. Did his liberal buddies dislike the subject Weigel covered or was it personal? We’ll probably never know. Unless someone writes a book.

conservative pilgrim on June 25, 2010 at 10:06 PM

In other words, it’s 99.99999999% likely that Weigel was thrown under the bus by a fellow traveler.

[The Lone Platypus on June 25, 2010 at 9:42 PM]

That’s the most plausible explanation. On the other hand, I still have a shadow of a doubt about that. Weigel may not have been a true a lefty. I get the feeling Weigel is/was a shape-shifter. If that is more accurate, then he may have been ‘spotted’ at sometime elsewhere being a non-JL Weigel.

Dusty on June 25, 2010 at 10:07 PM

[The Lone Platypus on June 25, 2010 at 9:59 PM]

It seems to me, then, that Klein mislead the people he was selling Weigel to at WaPo.

Dusty on June 25, 2010 at 10:12 PM

I just saw that Dick Cheney has been hospitalized.

Link

Poor Dave Weigel – no longer at the Compost so he can tell us all how he hopes he fails.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to VP Cheney.

Gator Country on June 25, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Jonah Goldberg reports at “The Corner” with a follow-up letter from a conservative under deep cover in the MSM:

onlineanalyst on June 25, 2010 at 9:40 PM

Conservatives having to be under “deep cover” says it all. I’ve heard it’s pretty much the same in Hollywood.

ddrintn on June 25, 2010 at 10:26 PM

This post greatly over-analyzes the story.

We know that Lefties are deceitful, willfully blind, and self-destructive.

What if YOU had only Lefties for “friends”??? Would YOU feel safe??? Would you EXPECT to be supported when things get difficult???

Someone said “Socialism fails when it runs out of other people’s money”.

Similarly, Leftist groups such as JournoList must fail when they run out of sufficient memory to remember all of their own falsehoods.

landlines on June 25, 2010 at 10:33 PM

I’m not sure why he resigned. All the reporters are biased and hate conservatives.

Blake on June 25, 2010 at 10:43 PM

Yeah, I read that Klein article earlier. I never said a Conservative or Republican outed Weigel. Obviously it was a fellow lib. My curiosity was piqued wondering why the emails were leaked. Did his liberal buddies dislike the subject Weigel covered or was it personal? We’ll probably never know. Unless someone writes a book.

conservative pilgrim on June 25, 2010 at 10:06 PM

Knowing how shallow, petty and self-absorbed these propagandists are, it probably arose out of a spat over drinks between Weigel and some fellow traveler at some cocktail party or other.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Gator Country on June 25, 2010 at 10:56 PM

Weigel got submarined by someone on or with access to JournoList, which was closed to conservatives.

Or someone with access to a member’s computer.

Wasn’t there another scandal like this with a mailing list that attempted to manipulate news coverage across the media? I think it was called Townhouse or something. This will pop up again under a different name with all the usual suspects on it.

crosspatch on June 25, 2010 at 11:08 PM

That article linked above by Ambinder is so disingenuous. No doubt this is because what Weigel was doing is what Ambinder and the rest consider normal practise, ie, misrepresent their own beliefs and opinions to appear somewhat impartial, and together with like-minded partisans try to shape stories to suit their objectives.

Its a propaganda machine Goebbels would be proud of.

csThor on June 25, 2010 at 11:24 PM

Propaganda 101.

Fallon on June 26, 2010 at 12:17 AM

WaPo blogger Dave Weigel resigned today

WaPo meeting today:

“Dave you either quit or we fire you. And Ezra you either dump your list or we fire you to as well. “

Caper29 on June 26, 2010 at 12:48 AM

….just another example of why a majority of the American Public view the MSM as nothing more than “Pravda West”….

……no credibility what so ever.

Baxter Greene on June 26, 2010 at 1:03 AM

Juxtapose this incident with the McChrystal kerfuffle and one notices an all to frequent reaction. It seems that when supposedly off the record comments are recorded and published, it is only when the left is exposed that outrage is expressed. Anyone think that Julian Sanchez would write this of RS’s McChrystal expose?

I’m only going to say a few words specifically about his ignominious ouster from the paper today, coming on the heels of a vile smear campaign against him, culminating over the past 24-hours in the publication of a series of cherry-picked excerpts of private e-mails to an off-the-record mailing list.

For all their talk of tolerance and harmony, the movers and shakers of the left are viciously Machiavellian.

bains on June 26, 2010 at 5:37 AM

You’re right on the money about some journalists’ selective observance of the restrictions imposed by off the record agreements, bais.

It’s been rather amusing listening to Weigel’s defenders complain bitterly that someone violated the off-the-record ground rules at JournoList in order to out him as a biased propagandist actively colluding with his fellow-traveling peers to advance the Democrats’ agenda & sabotage the Republicans’ .

From Neil Patel over at the Daily Caller we learn that it was hard to find Weigel’s fellow J-Listers who’d offer their defense on the record:

Few members of JournoList have commented publicly on Weigel to date. One of the few who has anonymously defended him to POLITICO:

“Whoever broke the confidentiality of the list obviously has no respect for some pretty basic journalistic norms. But I can’t talk about it because it’s supposed to be confidential.”

Which is quite an ironic defense there, given that Weigel himself had no problem betraying ‘pretty basic journalistic norms’ while relaying to other JournoList members the details of off the record interactions he’d had with some conservatives, who found out yesterday that Weigel had broken the confidentiality agreement he’d made with them in order to ridicule them with his fellow ethically-challenged ‘reporters’:

Meanwhile, key conservative anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform informed Weigel he would no longer be permitted to attend the group’s weekly off the record gathering of conservative activists. In e-mails revealed by The Daily Caller, Weigel told the roughly 400 members of Journolist what took place at one of ATR’s meetings.

leilani on June 26, 2010 at 9:02 AM

When Rush plays clips of news reports (recently done on screen by Fox) of all the reports saying the exact same thing on any given “story” then you know they are in the tank for the administration. They all use at least one buzz word. I don’t know if it is so the administration is sure they received their orders and obeying dutifully or no one has a Thesaurus.

Cindy Munford on June 26, 2010 at 9:19 AM

Dear Karl, what exactly is the problem with encouraging people to refute things that aren’t true or anything else that the people on that list wished to discuss?

Did Weigel suggest anything beyond a couple of talking (or non-talking) points?

Are you implying that Weigel was suggesting that reportage be non-factual or where his remarks aimed at bloggers of opinion such as yourself?

Did Weigel do anything that you wouldn’t do in discussion?

audiculous on June 26, 2010 at 11:19 AM

What you’ve asked isn’t remotely analagous, audiculous.

Karl hasn’t accepted, let alone been offered, a position at the Washington Post to cover the progressive movement as an “insider” on the pretext of providing ideological balance on behalf of the left wing against another equally conservative columnist’s gushingly sycophantic coverage of Republicans.

If, under the rather loose interpretation of journalistic ethics you seem to be proposing here, it is now deemed perfectly acceptable conduct for a mainstream newspaper reporter to actively conspire with other left-wing reporters in coordinating a group strategy to shape the national reportorial narrative in such a way that it helps advance the agenda of one political party to the detriment of another’s – specifically, to the detriment of the very party he was supposed to be covering rather than actively advocating against – then why did the Washington Post demand his resignation?

And if even the notoriously lax Washington Post has chosen to demand more rigorously ethical practices from its employees than the ones you are evidently quite comfortable defending, perhaps it might be a good time to engage in some thoughtful reflection on just how your own attitudes regarding acceptable professional conduct might have plummeted to such precariously abysmal depths?

leilani on June 26, 2010 at 12:08 PM

audilculous – if one looks at his JournoList activities:

If you are a journalist, you are interested in – for instance – how Brown’s defeat of Coakley impacts Democrat morale.

If you are a leftist activist you are interested in getting others to sell the story that Dem panic is overblown.

Funny…some of us believed for a long time that ‘climate science’ was being hijacked by a bunch of folks with an agenda, and when the Climategate email was released we were proven right.

We’ve suspected at least since the Obama campaign that a significant body of purported journalists had stepped over the line into coordinating a narrative supportive of the left agenda, and it’s looking more and more like that’s the case.

I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist, but we’ve now kicked over enough rocks that we ought to expect the rest have worms under them too. Heaven forbid we should ever see Hank Paulson’s email from, say, late 2008.

JEM on June 26, 2010 at 12:18 PM

To landlines: You quoted Winston Churchill.
Another quote:
“The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses”.
Vladimir Lenin

LarryG on June 26, 2010 at 12:33 PM

I am guessing that Weigel was checking his e-mails while in a bar, and drunkenly left his phone, with his e-mail account open.

Slowburn on June 26, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Dear Karl, what exactly is the problem with encouraging people to refute things that aren’t true or anything else that the people on that list wished to discuss?

Did Weigel suggest anything beyond a couple of talking (or non-talking) points?

He wasn’t asking people to refute things that weren’t true. He was asking journalists to stop covering certain stories.

And do you seriously believe that a journalist should be suggesting partisan talking points to his or her colleagues?

Karl on June 26, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Karl

I think that you’re attempting to ignore the difference between reportage and opining.

If you can show the Weigel was advocating that stories not be reported, go right ahead and I’ll concede the point.

But that’s not what Weigel was about or has ever been about. He covers the story.

But suggesting that opinion pieces not focus on the more outrageous claims of some people, and by not repeating them, even if in refutation, not afford those claims greater publicity is nothing like your charge that he was calling for ignoring “news”.

Try to be serious, Karl.

audiculous on June 27, 2010 at 9:19 PM