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JournoList Day Two: Shouldn't the Federal Gov't Do Something About This Fox News Problem?

2:05 PM, Jul 21, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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We are on Day Two of JournoList revelations at The Daily Caller.

JournoList Day Two: Shouldn't the Federal Gov't Do Something About This Fox News Problem?

Yesterday, we found out that liberal bloggers don't like conservatives, that writers employed by The Nation think America has the blood of millions of innocents on its hands, and that both would have liked to convince the media to ignore the rantings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in favor of covering Obama's policy press releases. Spencer Ackerman's call to smear conservatives as racist to distract from the Wright story was notable for its candor and naked partisan motivation, removing the veil of moral authority from liberals' cries of racism.

Today we learn more about mainstream players at national outlets, which is the more interesting part of the JournoList. Among the ideas that raise less objection than they should— wishing in graphic detail to witness the death of Rush Limbaugh and using the federal government to shut down a cable news network one doesn't like.

To his credit, Michael Sherer of Time magazine argues against the idea of the federal government yanking broadcast rights of Fox News, but everyone seems pretty much agreed that more government regulation of media should be used to deal with the Fox problem. At one point, a law professor suggests the FCC could opt not to renew Fox's broadcast license, and a writer for the Guardian favorably references Britain's libel laws, which presume writers guilty until proven innocent.

But don't worry. Once the government starts funding journalism to save journalism, these guys will never lose their committment to fierce independence in favor of subservience to the state.

The Daily Caller:

Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA, suggested that the federal government simply yank Fox off the air. “I hate to open this can of worms,” he wrote, “but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”

And so a debate ensued. Time’s Scherer, who had seemed to express support for increased regulation of Fox, suddenly appeared to have qualms: “Do you really want the political parties/white house picking which media operations are news operations and which are a less respectable hybrid of news and political advocacy?”

But Zasloff stuck to his position. “I think that they are doing that anyway; they leak to whom they want to for political purposes,” he wrote. “If this means that some White House reporters don’t get a press pass for the press secretary’s daily briefing and that this means that they actually have to, you know, do some reporting and analysis instead of repeating press releases, then I’ll take that risk.”

Scherer seemed alarmed. “So we would have press briefings in which only media organizations that are deemed by the briefer to be acceptable are invited to attend?”

John Judis, a senior editor at the New Republic, came down on Zasloff’s side, the side of censorship. “Pre-Fox,” he wrote, “I’d say Scherer’s questions made sense as a question of principle. Now it is only tactical.

Ezra Klein, writing on the JournoList leaks at the Post today, says Judis was taken out of context and wasn't agreeing with Zasloff about Fox News' FCC license. I think Klein's right, if you read the whole quote, provided by The Daily Caller, here. Judis was disagreeing with Scherer and arguing for the White House to use a more formal system of discrimination, which seems a bad position for an ideological journalist to take, but it's not pro-censorship:

"Fox, like the business/GOP thinktanks that began in the '70s, are taking advantage of an older Progressive era concept of disinterestedness and objectivity to peddle partisan coverage. It may be that it's counter-productive for the White House to out them, but it would not be unprincipled for the O adm to give precedence to the other networks, and to newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post that try to adhere to, rather than exploit, the older standard."

(The fact that Judis is writing this to a list including many allegedly "disinterested" and "objective" reporters participating in a partisan listserv, and that it's now being defended at the Washington Post by the "disinterested" and "objective" newspaper's ideological health-care reporter apparently doesn't set off any irony alarms for either of them.)Other excerpts from the list reveal further evidence that this allegedly wonky group of our moral and intellectual betters was indulging in the kind of thuggish tactics, childish venting, and hateful rhetoric many of them spill copious ink condemning in conservatives.A reporter for Bloomberg uses the exact language to describe Tea Party protesters that the press repeatedly admonished Tea Partiers for using against Democrats:

“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?” asked Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer. “Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”

A producer for NPR's "Left, Right, and Center" wishes, not just for Rush Limbaugh's death, but describes graphically a desire to watch it happen:

In a post to the list-serv Journolist, an online meeting place for liberal journalists, Spitz wrote that she would “Laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

In boasting that she would gleefully watch a man die in front of her eyes, Spitz seemed to shock even herself. “I never knew I had this much hate in me,” she wrote. “But he deserves it.”

Spitz’s hatred for Limbaugh seems intemperate, even imbalanced. On Journolist, where conservatives are regarded not as opponents but as enemies, it barely raised an eyebrow.

Spitz is clearly no major player, but her rather disturbing message says something about the spirit of debate among these 300-400 left-leaning Washington journalists.

Reaction:

Matt Welch says there's no there there.

Sam Stein reports that there was a Daily Caller reporter on the JournoList for at least a short time, which looks like a fact they should disclose.

Dave Weigel raises questions about the timeline Daily Caller reported for his comments on JournoList.

Ezra Klein says the e-mails reveal there's no conspiracy to shape news coverage, but his definition of shaping news coverage is a bit on-the-nose for me. Collusion between ideologues and journalists claiming to be objective doesn't have to be as formal as he suggests to be problematic.

Jonah Goldberg: This is bigger fun than it is a big deal, but incredibly entertaining.

Rush Limbaugh: “Not having wished anyone dead, nor having fantasized about watching someone die, I cannot possibly relate to this,” Limbaugh responded.



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