Regular readers of this blog probably know some of this, but here goes anyway.
On Newsbusters: I wrote two stories today based on Newsbusters stories, and it occurred to me that I ought to clear a few things up. First of all, I have no axe to grind against Newsbusters. In fact, quite the opposite. Along with Jason Linkins, they saved my career. They did really excellent reporting on my firing from Politics Daily, without which I’d be a former troublemaking blogger-turned-fry cook. Melinda Henneberger tried to ruin my career, and she would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for Newsbusters’ and Jason Linkins’ refusal to let her muddy the waters, and for Ed Morrissey’s extraction of a slanderous lie from her. Conservative radio host Media Lizzy also pitched in the smoking gun, and was also shitcanned by Henneberger for her trouble.
For this, I will always be grateful, as I am to Michelle Malkin, who was also very supportive at that time, despite our near-uniform disagreement on just about everything.
More than that, though, I think people tend to dismiss Newsbusters too easily. Certainly, they make no bones about their point of view, and it shows in everything they do. But that doesn’t mean that if you don’t agree with them, you should stay away. The two posts I wrote today were perfect examples. If you strip away all of the editorializing, there are useful facts in both Newsbusters pieces that I linked to that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Is TPM going to count how many Bob McDonnell pieces were in yesterday’s Washington Post? Does HuffPo have those CNN emails? Looking back a bit more, is Daily Kos going to put together a montage of Ed Schultz spitting fire?
They also watchdog liberal shows and websites for quotes and coverage they don’t like, which has several benefits. First, if Newsbusters hates it, it’ll probably be good content to promote to the left. Sometimes, they have a point, and digesting that can help you become sharper, perhaps avoiding the same mistake. I also have long believed that it is important to call out your own side, as well as the other, because it is the right thing to do. For me, being liberal isn’t about being on a team, it’s about having a set of beliefs and values, and applying them with integrity.
Having said all that, of course, I reserve the right to criticize Newsbusters, and they, me. The key is not to personalize it, not to be completely and personally negating. Any wiseass can string together insults, but it takes real talent to learn from, and teach, your adversary.
That brings me to Michelle. In probably the least helpful endorsement ever, it turns out I’m Michelle Malkin’s favorite liberal. I’m actually very proud of that fact, because it’s easy to gain the admiration of people who agree with you. I also reserve the right to criticize Michelle, but I’m not sure if I ever have, at least not directly. Her influence is such that, like Keyser Soze, I’ve probably fought with those she influences without even knowing it.
I met Michelle at CPAC, and I was very nervous, for a few reasons. One of the things I admire about her is her toughness. The attacks she endures are way out of proportion, yet she doesn’t just endure them, she seems to relish them. For all of her outrageousness, she will feed your outrage right back to you. She also doesn’t try to weasel out of the inflammatory things she says, like Rush Limbaugh does.
This is why I don’t understand the way some people treat her. Max Blumenthal, for example, who I’m decent friends with, went up to her at CPAC once and tried to get her to sign a photo of a Japanese-American internment camp. Keith Olbermann, who I also like, always flashes that awful picture of her, as if being caught in a grimace makes you wrong. If her rhetoric is so wrong, why resort to these kinds of tactics?
In person, she’s just a tiny thing, underscored by this sick video of some guy getting in her face and screaming, followed by a violent fantasy shot of her bleeding. I haven’t read her book, but if I did, I doubt I would have to physically intimidate her in order to get my point across, or use Japanese internment victims as props, or try to deny that she is a very attractive woman.
Anyway, I like my relationship with Michelle the way it is. Despite her toughness, I sense some very raw nerves, and I’m sure her positive feelings about me are fragile. Whatever she sees in me, perhaps she can see in other liberals, so I didn’t want to screw it up by getting in an argument with her, or being too suck-uppy. There are a million liberals for her to fight with. So, I said “Hi,” and I hope I thanked her, and went on my way.
Similarly, I would urge those on the right not to dismiss sites like Media Matters or Crooks and Liars, or personalities like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Any dope can work up a froth, but it takes talent to put your opponent’s argument in context, concede the points that have merit, and argue those that don’t. The right could learn a lot from Maddow, whose charm and cultivated sense of fairness trump a truckload of snark. If Fox News had any brains, they’d give Mary Katherine Ham a show at 9 pm.
That brings me to David Shuster. I did a write-around on an interview I did with him a few weeks ago, and everybody flipped shit when I said “From what I know of Shuster, I don’t think that he’s ideologically driven.” I’m not going to re-argue the point here, I just want to point out that clinging to assumptions is never helpful, it’s not going to help you “win.” I was one of the people who assumed that Shuster was a lefty. Now, whether you think he’s good at it or not, I think Shuster’s passion for journalism is what drives him into a ditch now and then. His contempt for James O’Keefe is obviously about that. Ditto Breitbart. But also, think back to the Chelsea Clinton incident. The central issue there was the Clinton campaign’s use of Chelsea on the campaign trail, while insisting the press stay away.
His throwdown with John Ziegler was also mainly about the press’ treatment of Sarah Palin.
What surprised me most about our interview was Shuster’s acceptance of the roles of people like O’Keefe, Breitbart, and Drudge in journalism. I assumed it might have had to do with his network’s reprimand of his handling of O’Keefe. Now, I think I get what he was saying. I think he views them the same way I view Newsbusters. While I understand, I have to disagree on the particulars.
That brings me to Big Journalism. The key difference here is the fundamental dishonesty with which they operate. It all started at CPAC.
First, a little backstory. I was outside the hotel copping a smoke when I heard some CPAC attendees buzzing about a run-in between Andrew and liberal videographer/columnist Max Blumenthal, that had just occurred (this is an annual rite at CPAC). I learned later, from Max, that he was on his way out of the hotel when he was accosted by James O’Keefe’s ACORN-busting partner, Hannah Giles.
According to Max, she began asking him “bizarre questions,” and a crowd quickly formed. He engaged the crowd for about an hour, and while they started out hostile, by the end, it was much more civil. As the gathering broke up, Breitbart saw Max, and (according to Max) started an argument, part of which can be seen here. (Max’s own video may be available soon.) The crux of the argument was Max’s accusation that Breitbart’s…independent contractor… is a racist. I find it instructive, though, that in both this argument and in his interview with me, he says that the worst thing you can do in America is to accuse someone of racism. Andrew, if you’re reading this, here’s a follow-up: How many notches below that is actually being a racist?
Max also claimed that the DC police who were handling security for the conference advised him to leave for his own safety.
Upon hearing this, I rushed into the hotel to ask Andrew about it. Aside from his dissertation on mucus and weird personal cracks, there are several things worth noting.
First of all, I did not accuse anyone of racism, no matter how much Breitbart wishes I did. I simply asked a question. Breitbart and his crew might want to paint this as an indictment itself, like “when did you stop beating your wife,” but this is just not the case. There’s ample reason to ask it, and it’s a gift-wrapped opportunity for them to put this issue to rest.
In fact, this points up a neat contrast between O’Keefe and myself. I had a reason to ask the question. It’s an issue that’s been raised elsewhere, based on O’Keefe’s own behavior. In fact, after my interview with Breitbart, several CPAC attendees thanked me for “calling it out.”
O’Keefe, on the other hand, decided to set up a sting operation to see if ACORN would give tax help to a pimp and a prostitute. Why? Did O’Keefe have any reason to believe that this was an issue for ACORN? He’s never said so. So what is it about ACORN that made him want to engage in the pimp attack? Where was the probable cause?
If only James or Breitbart would answer that. For it appears that Breitbart’s influence over O’Keefe extends to only let him talk to friendly journalists, but, as our encounter shows, his influence isn’t large enough to include taking responsibility for O’Keefe’s actual product. Apparently, O’Keefe has no editor. This is a great deal for Breitbart, as he gets to exploit O’Keefe’s work, but assumes less responsibility in protecting him.
Also worth noting is that when Breitbart realized what my followup question would be, he grabbed my camera and tried to end the interview. I shouted, to be heard above the crowd, “Because I got him, I got you!” I challenged him to stay and answer the question. As you can see, he wanted to leave because he had no answer, because there’s only one answer.
Now, for some reason, it’s very imp0rtant to Big Journalism’s John Nolte to believe that, after the interview, I said “We got him. We got him.” I don’t understand the significance, but it’s so crucial to him that he even made the quote a nickname for me. The problem is, that’s not what I said.
What I did say is pretty similar, and I only object for the sake of accuracy. The point is, Nolte refuses to correct his reporting.
After Breitbart used the crowd of 100 or so to get away from me, several CPAC attendees urged me to go after him, and I say “Nah, that’s ok, I got him. That’s why he’s running away.”
Saying “We got him” would make no sense, since there was no one there with me. If there had been, I probably would have said that. The fact, though, is that I did not.
Later that night, I went out for karaoke with about 10 other conservative bloggers, mostly from Redstate.
Christian Hartsock, one of James O’Keefe’s friends resourcefully trailed me to the karaoke bar, and accosted me outside, at about 2 am.We had about a 15 minute exchange, during which I completely demolished him. I asked him the same thing I asked Breitbart, and after dodging me for as long as he could, he predictably accused me of racism for equating a pimp costume with black men.
“So you’re saying that pimp=black is racist?” I said.
He warily agreed. “Then why did James tell Fox News that he was surprised anyone believed he was a pimp, when he’s the whitest guy ever? White=not a pimp?”
Boom! He had no response. Looong pause. “C’mon, that was a joke.”
I predicted that he would chop up the video, if he posted it at all, and I was right. Here’s what Hartsock put out. Even in his cherry-picked version, I still crush him:
It should be noted that the Redstaters surrounding me all promised, at the time, to loudly call Hartsock out if he tried to post an edited version. They have all chickened out, and can GFT. Ask any of them, they’ll tell you what happened.
Anyway, Nolte seems to think he can help himself by crawling onto Twitter every now and then to insult me, then run away when I challenge him ass to post the whole Hartsock tape.
The irony is that Hartsock posted the clip in an article where he tries to defend the heavily edited ACORN tapes. Awesome, right?
Aside from correcting the record, the point of all this is that these guys are fundamentally dishonest, so you can’t even trust the facts they present. Other partisan blogs like Media Matters or Newsbusters might leave out facts that don’t support their stories, but by and large, they don’t alter them. There is no place for outright liars like O’Keefe, Nolte, and Henneberger in journalism. I cut Hartsock some slack because I don’t blame him for hiding the utter humiliation I dealt him. We’re all only human.
The irony is that these guys are picking a fight with the one guy who can give them a fair shake. The right is certainly not going to tell them what they tell me, the left has no interest in their side of things, and the mainstream media is just happy to point at them until they stop being entertaining.
Which brings me to Alan Colmes, a guy who is unappreciated by the people he can most help. I said my piece about Alan on Mediaite, and I was humbled to get a big “Thank you” from him. This is a guy who is a better liberal than a lot of the posers who snark it up around the internet, he’s sharp as a tack, and he’s the only liberal who’s in a position to do any good. Everyone else is preaching to the choir, but when Alan points out something that doesn’t make sense, he does it in front of people who actually need to hear it. He might not convince them to love health care reform, but maybe he can convince a few that it’s not going to kill them. And if you think you could have done better than him against Hannity, keep in mind that Keith Olbermann won’t have any guests on who disagree with him.
If this business has taught me anything, it’s that you should always challenge your own assumptions, and that it’s rarely a good idea to personalize that which is not personal. Since I’m only human, I’m sure I will continue to do a little of both, but that’s how we learn. I suppose it’s also important to remember that Andrew Breitbart, Michelle Malkin, Keith Olbermann, Markos Moulitsas, and even Tommy Christopher are all human beings, not bogeymen.