Monday, October 20, 2003

Pet Peeves

One of my pet peeves is that there is a class of opinion journalists who seem to be immune from harsh criticism from either "mainstream" or "leftist" media critics. Roughly speaking, that's the center right crowd including, but not limited to, the merry gangs at TNR and Slate. People like the folks at TAP, or Josh Marshall, or Eric Alterman, have no problems taking potshots at genuine movement conservatives like Jonah Goldberg, etc... But, for some reason they usually (but not always) balk at taking a harsh look at people like Easterbrook, or Jack Shafer, or Kaus, etc... I'm not entirely sure why -- these people never give the center-left to left crowd any quarter. And, more importantly, the Right usually lays off because they serve their purposes well -- they help to mainstream some truly poisonous beliefs.

So, when the inner bigot of someone like Easterbrook comes galloping out it causes me to react. I mean, in the last few weeks Easterbrook has declared that legally "no" shouldn't be enough to mean "no," he's stated that the ADL criticizes anti-Semitism for financial gain, he's glossed over the real controversy in Mel Gibson's film (I'll agree that reasonable people - particularly reasonable people who haven't seen the film - can disagree on this one, but Easterbrook provides a dishonest coverage of this issue), and of course did his bizarre bit to hold Jews to a higher standard and then subsequently providing a non-apology for it.

I understand why journalists tend to be hesitant to go after each other. It's easier when the objects of criticism are movement partisans - there's really no way Jonah Goldberg is going to lose his job at National Review regardless of what he says or what is said about him. But, when the ideological allegiances are less clear, I can see how journalists get nervous. No one wants to lose all their writing gigs over one dumbass thing they wrote one day. No working journalist wants to see the precedent of that happening to someone else.

I'm not one who thinks Blogging is going to revolutionize the universe. I tend to be skeptical about the degree of bloggers' influence, even when it's being acknowledged by Big Media. But, I do think that genuine media criticism is all but impossible for people "in the business." Ideological disputes, sure, but not actual criticism.

Back when I started blogging I had a generous invitation from Brian Linse to go to a blogger party out in LA. The main reason I didn't go was because Little Mickey Kaus was going to be there, and I knew that once I met him and discovered that he seemed like a nice enough chap, and he had a delightful macrame hobby, and that, well, he was human, I'd find it very hard to maintain the appropriate level of contempt.* I know not all journalists actually know each other, but there's great overlap in the circles in which they run, and they can all empathize with each others' plight to a greater or lesser degree.

Anyway, I don't know if Easterbrook should lose his job at ESPN or anywhere else, but I am shocked at the lame defenses/mute condemnations of his truly disgusting belief system.

*Sadly, I missed my chance to meet Warron Zevon, but...
**Creepily, Charles Johnson was there too, although that was before the world's longest meltdown was in full swing...