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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Right's Journolist

Daily Caller leaks of private Journolist emails continue, now focusing on the fact that one or more "political operatives" were apparently on the list, sometimes spamming colleagues with appeals to pay attention to their message, issue, or candidate. Anyone on a political listserv of any type has received this kind of email -- I often receive them even on academic lists.

The Journolist problem seems to be that such "networking" was conducted by email. After all, the political right has long brought together political operatives, journalists, bloggers and members of think tanks (or interest groups). On July 26, Joe Conason wrote an excellent piece for Salon about one such regular meeting.

Specifically, Conason wrote about the weekly Wednesday meetings hosted by Republican political operative Grover Norquist.
Specific, orderly, disciplined, ideological coordination -- and not the freewheeling blather to be found on Journolist -- has been proceeding every week for nearly two decades at the "Wednesday meetings" convened by lobbyist Grover Norquist in the Washington offices of Americans for Tax Reform.
Conason includes a couple of long quotes from people who attended these meetings and I'd encourage everyone to check out his piece.

Of course, it's actually fairly easy to find information about these sessions. For example, journalist Patty Reinert (Mason) wrote an informative article in 2008, when she worked at the Washington Examiner:
It’s 10 a.m. on Wednesday and Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, and 150 of his closest center-right allies have packed the second-floor conference room at his L Street office for their weekly invitation-only, off-the-record meeting...a whirlwind hour-and-a-half meeting in which speakers on the agenda get three minutes each. The rules are simple: Get up. Talk about what you are working on. Answer questions. Surrender the microphone and sit.

...The “Wednesday Meeting,” which began in 1986 and has since spawned conservative strategy sessions in virtually every state and in many countries around the world, is Norquist’s signature creation
Norquist himself is quoted describing the flow at the meetings:
“The point of the meeting is to get everybody who is center-right to tell each other what they’re doing, to share technology, share tactics, share strategy, tell stories,” Norquist explained during an interview. “You don’t get to talk about mistakes somebody else has made. ... It’s a positive meeting, not a negative meeting.”
Perhaps more importantly, here's how Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson described Norquist in a New Republic article he wrote ("What I Sold At the Revolution") June 9, 1997 (I have EBSCO access):
Norquist is more than your garden-variety Washington lobbyist. He's one of the most influential conservative strategists in America--an intimate of Newt Gingrich, a small-government radical, the Che of the Republican Revolution.

...The purpose, he [Norquist] says, is not simply to influence specific pieces of legislation, but to build and strengthen what he calls the Leave Us Alone Coalition, a nationwide alliance of conservative activists. The coalition is Norquist's version of the Bolshevik vanguard, and, like the early Soviets, Norquist envisions a day when this revolutionary cohort will lead the proletariat to rise up, crush the corrupt liberal ruling class and reorder society along radically new lines.
Finally, consider the money paragraphs from the piece, highlighting the hypocrisy in Carlson's current journalism:
Today, the [Norquist-hosted] meetings draw a group of anywhere from fifty to eighty people--think tank analysts, members of Congress, sympathetic journalists and Hill staffers--who gather every Wednesday morning at 10:30 to talk about how to advance the Movement. The meetings are worth going to, says someone who attends, "if you want to know what The Washington Times and National Review will be writing about next week."

Norquist's meetings were influential partly because he himself was considered above ideological reproach, a man wholly and single-mindedly devoted to the Movement.
Journolist was nothing like that.


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