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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Journolist: Reading the comments so you don't have to

Daily Caller has been cherry-picking embarrassing emails from thousands (probably tens of thousands) of Journolist emails written over a period of about three years. Publisher Tucker Carlson admits they have to cherry-pick because "a lot of the material on Journolist is actually pretty banal."

Keep in mind that Journolist was an off-the-record listserv that Carlson tried to join ("I can promise you I have no interest in flaming anyone or even debating"), so the leaks are pretty sleazy.

After the Daily Caller hypes the material (frequently on Fox News), the right-wing blogosphere has been referencing these examples as if they reflected the typical conversations of Journolist and the views of the 400 or so members of Journolist.

Daily Caller emphasized one tasteless post from someone working in public radio being unwilling to help if she suddenly confronted a suffering Rush Limbaugh and another from a better-known columnist sneering at NASCAR fans just after the 2008 election results. Suddenly, all list members are guilty-by-assocation. It's not a lot different than the "real America" campaign of 2008.

Clearly, the message seems to be that J-listers are not part of the "real America."

I've read a lot of the right-wing blogs "reporting" on Journolist this past week and have been appalled at how the writers so often generalize from the same few examples -- even when they are pretty weak tea. Fellow former J-lister Kevin Carey explains:
For example, in the course of a long string of Journolist emails about Fox News, a law professor wondered whether the FCC could legally decide not to renew Fox's license. A journalist from Time responded by saying, in essence, "that would be a terrible idea." Nobody mentioned it again. Yet this exchange produced a gigantic 60-point Caller headline: "FOX HUNT: Liberal journalists suggest government shut down Fox News." It was an obvious lie: no journalist, much less journalists, plural, had suggested any such thing.
Much more disturbing, however, are the comments left on these right-wing blog sites. Posters are only too willing to reveal what should happen to non-real Americans.

For example, take a look at a recent FreeRepublic post, which alleged that it had identified 107 J-listers:
MindBender26: At the risk of being called an anti-semite, (which I am the opposite of, I am very pro-Israel), has anyone noticed that this list seems to have a very large percentage of Jewish names?

detective: Thanks for the list. Can we add party affiliation, sexual orientation and a short bio? I have never heard of most of these people and it would be nice to be able to put them in context.

oldbrowser: What is curious is that these are mostly Jewish names with white faces.

Tallguy: I probably could have come up with at least 30 of them right off the top of my head. We're not talking about center-left political writers here... these people are flaming communists.

hosepipe: Look at them.. A whole generation of traitors.
From an American Thinker post:
wbhickok: get all 600 something names of these slimy JournoLists... I'm sure it goes much deeper. This is an impressive list of the old communists and red-diaper babies. But there is more...Lot more will come out and more, and more of these people will be exposed as evil anti-American Marxists that they are.

Syrin: Holy ****ing cow. The grand list of traitors of the state. "Journalists" in favor of censorship. These people should ALL be tried for treason and given the appropriate penalty.

Cynthia: Are any of the names associated with Saturday Night Live? A sad reality, another one, from 2008 is that an unseemly number of people got their news, their NEWS from snl. pathetic. It's as if the masses have had a frontal lobotomy.

rashputin: The companies represented by these people are ignoring so they're actually admitting that they're a single monolithic propaganda machine, not multiple competing organizations.

Pete: Treason.What they have conspired and done is undermine the freedom of the press, and subvert the Constitution. They have conspired and lied to the public, they have broken the trust. Since they have gotten together to defraud the public, they should be prosecuted under the RICO act as a minimum. Treason, or high crimes against the Constitution, seems more appropriate.
From Patterico's Pontifications:
Aaron Worthing: My big takeaway is how much these people sound like the idiots at Daily Kos.

JosephD: This isn’t just scheming to spin the news. This is fascism.
Journolisters have been taken to task for talking privately and sometimes making intemperate comments that seem indefensible (especially when taken out-of-context).

By contrast, these members of the right are willing to make intemperate comments anonymously on public blogs.

I can see why that's so much better [sarcasm -- OFF]. J-listers have been vilified for not publicly rebuking the list members who made dumb remarks. Where are the right-wing blog posts condemning their reader reactions?

There's more vile invective in these few threads than I recall in nearly three years on J-list. Some J-listers strongly disliked some of the views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict held by the publisher of The New Republic, but they didn't really say anything much different on the list than what they were willing to defend in public.

Of course, Journolist occasionally hosted heated debates -- but they were generally civil and genuinely dedicated to what Habermas might call "the forceless force of the better argument."

We've seen nothing made public about the long 2008 primary campaign debate threads about which kind of health care system was needed. And the Hillary Clinton supporters certainly backed their candidate against the lists Obama backers. I'm interested in climate change politics, but even I sometimes felt overwhelmed by long (and well-linked) discussions of the merits of cap-and-trade versus carbon taxes versus regulatory approaches.

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