The publication of JournoList discussions has opened a door into the private world of the left, revealing to some extent how their minds work.
In a way, the JournoList scandal is old news. It's something long suspected on our side of the aisle, something we've occasionally seen brief glimpses of (as in the identical slogans and taglines that just happen to appear in stories, columns, and headlines with amazing synchronicity). After the first debate of the 2000 election, I saw the line "Sometimes Al Gore is too hot, sometimes he's too cold, and sometimes he's just right" from six different sources in a single hour. This, as Trotsky would have put it, was no accident, comrades. Media leftists, and their co-conspirators in the academy and the think-tanks, manipulate and distort the news reaching the American public, and they always have. They do it constantly, consistently, and energetically. It is a formally established process, well-understood by anyone who has been paying attention.
Establishing that truth is plenty in and of itself. But there's another beneficial aspect to the JournoList downloads: They provide a useful window into the actual thinking of the left, which is something they like to keep hidden -- with good reason, as we shall see.
Again, this is nothing new. But confirming a fact adds to our knowledge just as much as discovering one does. And the JournoList scandal has confirmed -- or rather, reaffirmed -- a number of things concerning the legacy media.
The first is their stifling sense of moral superiority. These people truly believe they are moral paragons, fully qualified to act as guides to the Neanderthal rabble, even if they have to cheat, lie, and manipulate to do it. Signs of this are found throughout the e-mails, no matter what the ostensible topic. Sara Mead (Aug 30, 2008, 12:24am) asserts, "I'm not at all a fan of Palin, either, but as liberals and decent human beings, we should be respectful in how we refer to people with disabilities." Even if we're using them as a club to beat the opposition, evidently.
Katha Pollitt (Sept 8, 2008, 3:11pm) moans that the Dems are simply "too lofty" to get down in the gutter with the GOP. (The inclusive "we" is used throughout when referring to JournoList, the Democrats, or the Left in general.)
Harold Pollack (Aug 30, 2008, 11:43am) piously recommends turning to the Talmud for guidance - in a lengthy posting trying to justify the "Trig is really Bristol's kid" story. Hillel and Maimonides would no doubt have approved. [Editor's note: Mr. Pollack has written to AT denying that he wrote this, noting, "I have been misquoted by the Daily Caller.... I never said these things. Indeed I said the opposite publicly and privately many times. I am a caregiver for a mentally disabled man, and this episode is very hurtful to me." AT has asked Mr. Pollack to forward the actual JournoList pages in question, as well as his objections to the discussion of Trig, if any. On the HuffPo, Pollack posted this "nod" to Sarah Palin on the issue of disabilities. This appeared on August 29, 2008, not today, as erroneously posted here earlier. The Daily Caller has since corrected the transcript which was used in preparation of this article, so we believe the quotation was in error, and regret that we picked up an erroneous quotation.]
For more on this controversy, see J.R. Dunn's response to Pollack here.]
The second point is that they truly believe all their own propaganda. The U.S. is run by "racists" (as one of them states bluntly), and Bush is the reincarnation of Hitler. The Republicans are throwbacks out to force Americans into serfdom. This is Gospel Truth, so solid it requires neither evidence nor debate. The world works exactly like an Oliver Stone movie, and in no other way. Kathleen Geier (Sept 8, 2008, 3:01pm): "the GOP obviously takes great pride in being the stupid party. And hey -- it's worked!"
David Roberts (Sept 8, 2008, 3:34pm): "There simply is nothing on the left like the partisan media on the right. The left has no media soldiers, only ironically distanced media observers."
The Tea Parties in particular got the J-listers all in a tizzy, to the point where an entire thread was devoted to labeling them as fascists. Ryan Donmoyer (Aug 7, 2009, 8:08am) kicked things off: "You know, at the risk of violating Godwin's law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts? Esp. Now that it's getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s."
Rick Perlstein (Aug 7, 2009, 10:59am): "... fascism is a variety of coalition politics; and... elements for that coalition are visible on the horizon."
Katha Pollitt (Aug 7, 2009, 12:20pm): "Unlike the German or Italian fascists, today's US rightwingers have nothing concrete to offer people. Just the pleasures of racism and selfishness and fear."
In case you were wondering -- nope, no mention of Kenneth Gladney, the SEIU, or the New Orleans attack, either.
(Reading the original posts, by the way, is well worth it. Page after page of people earnestly pretending that they're not doing exactly what they're doing -- that is, distorting the news. Founder and chief guru Ezra Klein is particularly adamant: No message discipline here, he insists. We're just a discussion board! Then you get this, from veteran lefty academic Todd Gitlin [Sept 8, 2008, 9:37pm]: "On the question of liberals coordinating, what the hell's wrong with some critical mass of liberal bloggers & journalists saying the following among themselves: McCain lies about his maverick status. Routinely, cavalierly, cynically. Palin lies about her maverick status. Ditto, ditto, ditto. McCain has a wretched temperament. McCain is a warmonger. Palin belongs to a crackpot church and feels warmly about a crackpot party that trashes America ...
Again. And again. Vary the details. There are plenty[.]"
Kind of blows the whole charade, doesn't it?)
Decades ago, H.L. Mencken pointed out that Boobus Americanus (his shorthand term for native jackasses) couldn't perceive the world around him except through the preset pattern of black v. white, heroes v. villains, angels v. devils. It's a comic-book view of the world derived from the deep selfishness of unconscious childhood: the inborn conviction that anyone opposed to you must be wrong because he or she is in opposition.
After undergoing the ordeals of the past century, born in large part of the horrors that absolute certainty brings, most Americans have matured far beyond this. We now understand that there is no one, group or individual, who never fails, who is consistently right, who makes no mistakes. We know that if we are ever to achieve purity of action, the motives that must be constantly and honestly examined are our own. This new social maturity has brought us some great victories: the collapse of segregation with next to no bloodshed, the recovery from the disasters of the '60s with no purges or recriminations, the response to one of the most vicious attacks this country has ever endured without vengeance upon the people of the same creed as the murderers.
This new maturity of outlook has achieved the level of a standard of behavior in this country. It is well on its way to becoming part of the definition of what it is to be an American.
...With one great exception, as we have seen here -- the American Left. Amid that group, mental tribalism exists in almost refined purity. It is commonplace among journalists, intellectuals, and academics: Their side wears the white robes and wields stainless blades. The other side -- no matter who they are -- are no more than Orcs and Morlocks.
That's the JournoList worldview, as derived from their own words on their own private network. Many of us (and I'm certainly one) have thought for years that this mindset was so naïve, so unworldly, as to be totally bogus. It had to be a pose intended to disarm, a mask for something more cynical and calculating. But that's not the case. What we have here is a pack of Eric Hoffer's True Believers in the flesh.
This attitude is dangerous. It validates any kind of atrocity. Recall that the younger and more "innocent" the Khmer Rouge and Chinese Red Guards were, the more viciously and heartlessly they behaved. (Though not all the JournaListas have the excuse of youth -- Gitlin, for example, has been peddling socialism since the Bolshis wore spats.)
They know the truth. They are fighting on behalf of a "better world," so no crime exists for them. They are absolved before they even act.
So any action is justified. Attacking Sarah Palin's family. Calling for FOX to be shut down. Giggling as you imagine Rush Limbaugh's death. Or these immortal words from Spencer Ackerman, written in the world's leading democracy in the first decade of the third millennium: "[F]ind a rightwinger's [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically." (Obviously, as anybody who has seen a photo of little Spencer is well aware.)
There's mystery hovering over our current political situation. That mystery is this: They should have won long ago. The Left should have taken over American society with ease at about the time of Lyndon B. Johnson, or at the latest, Jimmy Carter. They controlled the media for generations, along with the bureaucracy, the educational system all the way up, and many of the professions. They ran Congress as a fiefdom for nearly fifty years. Under the circumstances, we should today be all getting up for daily calisthenics at 4am under the benign eyes of our neighborhood commissars before setting out on our bicycles for work at the People's Cooperative Embryo Processing Plant.
But even today, when they're the closest they've been in seventy years, the Left is suffering moral collapse, giving up before the final bell, all the while whining about how unfair it all is, how this country is too recalcitrant and stubborn for them to "save."
A contradiction this deep requires an explanation -- which can also be found in the JournoList e-mails. Namely, they reflect a stupidity of an extremely high order. All of it -- the misinformation, the confusion between fact and opinion, the dull-witted schemes -- and the grammar and spelling, for that matter -- all suggest nothing more than a crew of not-too-bright adolescents sneaking smokes out in back of the field house and moaning about parents, teachers, and the jocks. The e-mails have that same sour air: the sneering, the boasting, the half-digested half-ideas, the inability to carry any project to conclusion, and the well-practiced impulse to blame somebody, anybody else. And these are their best and brightest, the cream of the graduates of their highest institutes of learning. Ezra and the four hundred dwarfs.
So what we should take away from the JournoList debacle is a sense of confidence and good cheer, born out of knowledge that the opposition is nowhere near as potent as many of us may have feared. This doesn't mean that we can ignore them. The truly stupid can do as much damage as, or more than, the committed psychopath. But handling them is easier -- simply a matter of flushing them out. Put the "JL" brand on them and assure that it never comes off. See that they're tied to this particular yardarm no matter where they go or what they do. Buckeye Texan's list can act as a resource -- it should be taped to the side of every AT reader's computer tower, on every basement rec room wall, and stored in every bathrobe pocket. I'll get the ball rolling with this mention of Walter Shapiro -- one of the list's older members, from the look of him -- who in this piece has taken the time to straighten us all out about the meaning of Sherrod "scandal." I'll grant Bud his status as an expert, due the fact that he probably knows more about manipulating the news that most of us, and leave him and the rest of the J-Listers with a revised version of an old line, adapted to the realities of their new world: There ain't no comeback from stupid.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.