Joe Klein has been, shall we say, a bit on edge about how he has been treated by the “liberal blogosphere” lately. (Others might say he has been whiny, pouting, and bitter. Your mileage may vary.) Recently, he did a podcast with Ana Marie Cox (formerly Wonkette) on the Time web site regarding Klein’s recent take-down of left-wing bloggers. While listening to it, I jotted down a few (!) notes. If you’re interested, read on. If not, skip right on over this entry; it’s quite long.
It’s “Ahna,” folks, not “Anne-uh.” Just for your information. (Lucky for me “Doug” is so easy to pronounce. Unless you’re a native non-English speaker, in which case the mutilations are almost always amusing. Native Spanish-speakers: “Dog.” Native French-speakers: “Doog.” Native Madarin-speakers: “Duck.”)
I don’t think he has a whiny voice, as opposed to some of the commentors on Swampland. You guys must have sensitive ears. Or maybe you need to spend more time with Yankees; we all sound like that. Heck, some of us sound worse. (I sure do.)
Klein draws a comparison between the noxious atmosphere brought into Washington by Newt Gingrich and the online community. Joe, ol’ buddy: the online community has always been like that. Go look at the USENET archives, and remember Sturgeon’s Law: 90 percent of everything is crud.
Why he’s only focusing his ire on the left-wing bloggers strikes me as odd. Hasn’t he surfed over to Blogs for Bush or Little Green Footballs or Free Republic? Lefties may argue with him, but those people talk about things that are, well, nuts.
He’s only been a blogger for 4-5 months and the heat in the kitchen is already getting to him. Itty poo.
Am I the only guy who is not overly-impressed by Juan Cole? Maybe it’s just that his seemingly constant anti-Israel idee fixe makes me nuts.
Klein complains about Glenn Greenwald’s column on Klein’s reportage. Of course, Greenwald is hardly the only person to complain, but the important thing here is, Klein is missing the point, which is that Klein is relying on anonymous sources to “report good news,” and then asking us to trust him. After six and a half years of bended-knee reportage during the Bush administration, after the Clinton impeachment fiasco and how the press kept harping on that even when the American public continued to give Clinton high favorability ratings, after how lame the press was during the Reagan years, after Judith Miller and her “anonymous sources,” Klein wants us to trust his “good news” from anonymous sources because, well, because he’s Joe Klein, and he wouldn’t steer us wrong!
Um, Joe: fool us once, shame on you, fool us 3000 times, and we’re a bunch of utter boneheads.
His protests that news of less violence in Anbar province is “bad news for the Bush Administration” simply because it wasn’t al Qaida-specific is, well, pretty weak. If you don’t believe that Bush can spin an article you write about lowered levels of violence in Iraq as “good news,” al Qaida or no al Qaida, you’re deluding yourself, Joe.
He complains that people should push policy positions, and that Kos only pushes “tactics.” But if his arguments in favor of the Democrats backing away from facing down Bush over the Iraq war funding isn’t classic tactics, I don’t know what is.
He notes that readers won’t have a full understanding of his story because he couldn’t give them all the background because of “space considerations.” Joe, you have a blog! Point to it, and give your readers the background there! (Ana Marie Cox points this out.) Joe insists that he doesn’t have to do this; we should just trust him.
Again, he misses the point about what Greenwald was saying. The “drop dead assumption” is not that all “mainstream media” reporters are going to cocktail parties; the “drop dead assumption” is that “anonymous-sourced” stories should be treated with extreme suspicion unless proven otherwise, especially those citing “administration sources.” And Klein should further realize that when we, the great unwashed, see Richard Wolffe attending white-tie dinners at the White House with the Queen, David Gregory dancing with Karl Rove, Tony Snow hobnobbing with reporters who all agree what great people they all are, and Tim Russert’s absurd performance on the stand at the Scooter Libby trial, he needs to realize the the level of trust “the peepul” have for reporters–particularly those quoting single “anonymous sources”, is beyond low.
Joe: I don’t care that you’ve been reporting for 38 years. The mainstream media reporting class in general has burned all their “trust us” cachet in the last 10 years, and you personally burned quite a bit of yours with your totally absurd objections when people accused you (correctly!) of being the “Anonymous” author of Primary Colors.
Sorry, dude; it’s a new world. Trust in the media is at an all-time low. You need to rebuild it. Whining about how ill-treated you are by the online community is not a good way to start.
Personally, I don’t think the thing about Klein’s reporting about the Jane Harman vote is a big deal. A lot of people are bent about it, but I agree with Klein; it’s a minor point.
On the flip side, just a few minutes after hammering Kos for talking about political tactics rather than policy substance, here he’s talking about tactics himself.
If he mentions one more time he’s been reporting for 38 years, I’m going to fly to D.C. and whack him over the head. I’ve been a technical writer for 20 years, but I don’t go around mentioning it half a dozen time in every conversation.
Ah, now we’re going to hear about a major mistake that “the left” is making about “the war.” He doesn’t trust the fact that the vast majority of Americans want to get out of Iraq; he doesn’t trust the polls.
Joe notes that 4 million people read Time magazine, but only 4% read Swampland or visit Time.com. (We’ll leave aside for a moment the debate about whether, if their web site was well-designed, those numbers might not rise.) Two points here: his snide implication clearly is, why should I care about the online community when my audience is those 4 million people? (Answer: the online community is growing, and the print community and its revenues are shrinking.) Second: if you had links from the print version to your blog, that percentage might grow, Joe.
Ana asks an excellent question: “Is this [Klein’s article] a fair portrayal of the left-wing blogosphere.” Given that Joe has only been online for 4-5 months, the answer is, obviously, “No.” Joe totally dodges the question. Instead, he compares the left-wing blogosphere to the lies that the Bush administration has been pedaling for the last 6.5 years. Thanks, Joe! What a sweet comparison!
Another “I’ve been doing this for 38 years” comment. Let’s see: tickets from Austin to Washington, round trip, are currently running about $300 . . .
He doesn’t read the comment thread on Swampland “a lot of times.” Perhaps after time goes by he will, like a lot of us who have been online for a while, develop a filtering system that allows him to plow through a bunch of comments really fast, filtering out that 90% of crud (other than the ones he wants to read for, you know, entertainment value). He’s clearly a newbie. Over time, his skin should thicken. We can only hope.
Like many old-time mainstream media types, he has “doubts and fears about whether Time magazine should be hosting this type of thing” [the Swampland comments section]. I have seen lots and lots of old MSM types say the same thing. Typical online newbie thing to say. I understand how overwhelming online forums are at first. Get over it, Joe. Like exposure to cold germs in Kindergarten, it’s something you get used to. Keep remembering: 90% of everything is crud.
Joe talks about “those who relentlessly attack the mainstream media.” Joe, it’s the right-wing folks who do that more often than the left. Much more. They have been targeting the media since the Reagan administration.
Joe suggests that Glenn Greenwald “call him up.” Hell, Joe doesn’t even has his email address listed at the bottom of his blog, let alone his phone number; how the heck is Greenwald supposed to “call him up?” I’ve tried to contact any number of high-profile columnists (George Will, Joe Klein, David Brooks, David Broder, Maureen Dowd, etc.), and they have never responded. I don’t think Klein should get in high dudgeon about Greenwald not “calling him up.” (As an aside, the only columnists who have ever responded to me are bloggers as well: Andrew Sullivan and Dan Froomkin, to name a couple. And I am inveterate letter-writer, believe me.)
Besides, I’d bet $5 Greenwald tries to call him up now.
Klein states that he’s not going to read the comments on this article, and that he doesn’t feel that he “threw down the gauntlet.” I can’t decide if he’s being disingenuous, or stupid. I’ll spell it out, in the unlikely event he reads this: writing an article like that is throwing down the gauntlet, Joe. So read the comments, and read the blogs. Otherwise, you’re just a coward.
He finishes up by saying, essentially, that until we clean up our act, he’s not going to address us rude folks again.
Ah, Joe, you’re such a newbie! You’re probably right; you probably should take a few months off from the rough and tumble of online commenting to grow a thicker skin. It’ll do you some good. Log on to google and comment on the film forum or something, to get some practice in, is my advice.
Next post, I promise we’re back to my regularly-scheduled blather.