Unlike a lot of my friends, I really don’t have a problem with Dave Weigel. He is what he is. Referred to the Washington Post by Ezra Klein as someone competent to cover conservatives (a bit like Lenin making staffing decisions at the Wall Street Journal for someone competent to cover capitalists, or setting up Mearsheimer and Walt as the heads of the NYT’s Israel bureau), Weigel’s primary job has been described to me on several occasions by so many people in the same basic terms as to make me think it is in fact his actual job description: “to report on groups and people on the right who should be viewed as fringe.” At least, that is how one Washington Post employee described the job. Another DC journalist described it as, “His job is to mock tea party foks as racist crazies if they criticize Obama.”
He seems like an affable enough guy. We trade emails and I’m happy to help him on stuff on occasion, but this latest post of his is precisely why I don’t take him seriously — I won’t even get into his twittering that shows total disdain for social conservatives who make up a very large part of that group he is supposedly covering from the inside.
A reporter moves in next door to Sarah Palin — a reporter with a negative history reporting on Palin — and Palin takes to Facebook to complain about the rather stalkerish vibe of this reporter taking up residence right next door to snoop on the family. This is the same reporter who once tried to get into a charity contest where he bid $60,000 to have dinner with Palin. Imagine if you had someone like that move in next door to your family and say they were going to write a book about being your neighbor. We all know that’s exactly what this guy is going to do.
But Weigel, along with a host of other reporters in DC, is going after Palin for being upset about it.
Politicians don’t have veto power over who gets to write about them, or how they research their stories, as long as they’re within the bounds of the law. It’s incredibly irresponsible for them to sic their fans on journalists they don’t like. And that’s what Palin is doing here — she has already inspired Glenn Beck to accuse McGinniss of “stalking” Palin and issuing a threat to boycott his publisher.
This follows on the heels of this defense of the White House that could have been ghostwritten by Greg Sargent, the Post’s lockstep defender of the left. According to the logic of the piece, it was impossible for anyone to know that Sestak was running for the Senate until the day he announced, and it would be totally impossible for Barack Obama to move someone out of the way for Sestak once that person was confirmed by the Senate. That one doesn’t pass the laugh test.1
In fact, if you go through Dave’s archives you’ll find a slew of stories from the most recent one as I write to others that no one on the right really cares about, but people on the left who see the right collectively as fringe will eat up. And that’s the whole point of why he’s there.
There’s nothing unique about this situation. If the job is to cover the right from “inside the conservative movement,” that’s not actually happening. It’s like they put Weigel in a gorilla costume to infiltrate some gorillas in the mist and he stumbled into the wrong camp and is now reporting on activity completely unrelated to what actually matters. Never mind that the Washington Post’s online coverage of conservatives reflects a view that gorillas are more civilized than conservatives. And never mind that Weigel’s reporting is clouded with the groupthink you get among up-and-coming self-styled thinker/journalists who live together in D.C., are out to have an impact, but have never lived outside the clique. Insular groupthink journalism isn’t just useless because it doesn’t talk about what’s really going on, but because it only exists to coo at the pet ideas of the epistemic closure elites, usually preceded by a Media Matters press release to help direct their path.
Sure, Dave Weigel is a nice guy. But don’t treat his reporting from “inside the conservative movement” as serious when he clearly is not on the inside. He’s there because of what he wrote for publications funded by Tim Gill and George Soros, he’s there to track the fringe, to make the fringe look like the middle, and to dig in on agenda-based topics which kowtow to the narrow views of DC elites. His smarter readers know that’s the case, and are just there to enjoy the ride — the only one who seems to think otherwise is the adolescent naif Ezra Klein, late of the Center for American Progress, who doesn’t have any journalistic incentive to be objective toward the right or even passably fair.
And let’s remember Weigel has admitted he voted for Gore, Kerry, and Obama, but constantly counters challenges to his political persuasion with “but I’m a registered Republican”. That is roughly equivalent to an atheist quoting the Sermon on the Mount to get passable clearance into a revival. He’s an Obama fan with an NRA membership, and not someone the right needs to take or should take seriously. In other words: he’s like any typical MSM journalist, he’s just nicer about it.2
Dave Weigel responds: One of the things about Sestak in my post is that, according to him, he was literally discussing the Senate race (as in, the WH helping him with getting into the race) the DAY Specter switched. That’s the key thing about the timeline.
Dave Weigel responds: Smith’s paraphrase was wrong: I voted for Nader, Kerry and Obama. I’ve voted GOP downballot though — Jim Ryan for gov of IL in 2002, whoever ran against Jim Moran in 2004, for the doomed GOPers on the local ballot in DC in 2008.