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Journolist flap shows a destructive 'gotcha' mentality

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By Kathleen Parker
Sunday, July 25, 2010

The current Journolist controversy that has the blogosphere heaving sparks and Washington even more self-absorbed than usual is weak tea -- a tempest in Barbie's teacup.

At least as concerns the so-called conspiracy itself.

As a larger lesson about the way we search and destroy each other in the political/media world, there may be something darker brewing.

For the millions who have no idea what I'm talking about, a brief history: Journolist was an e-mail list (Internetspeak for watering hole) where liberal-leaning journalists gathered to kvetch.

Started by prodigal blogger Ezra Klein for a few friends, it grew in numbers and popularity, attracting a few mainstream luminaries (Joe Klein of Time magazine) along the way. But mostly it was a consortium of far lesser-known folks (academics, mid- to low-level producers, etc.) who enjoyed the camaraderie of the like-minded.

In the conservative world, we call such people Fox News. (Just kidding, guys, but really.)

Today, Ezra Klein is a ripened 26-year-old Washington Post blogger -- hired as a known liberal -- who makes trenchant observations about health care and other complicated policy issues. Klein is young, in other words, and could be seen as relatively inexperienced in the world of which he has precipitously become a pretty high-level moving part. Today he is best known -- in certain quarters -- for his role in creating Journolist, which is being characterized as the locus of left-wing conspiracy.

The story, such as it is, was broken by conservative Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, a newish Web site where a number of my friends happen to write. And a former reporter was on the benighted Journolist.

It is no fun writing about friends and colleagues, but I think perspective is needed here.

Carlson has been making the news rounds with his traffic-driving story; appearing on Fox News, where he is a contributor; and criticizing journalists who posted comments suggesting that they were teaming up to advance a policy agenda and, more specifically, to get Barack Obama elected president.

It should come as no surprise that self-identifying liberals have liberal thoughts and friends, so no foul there, as Carlson has said. And, indeed, some of the comments are, on their face, condemnable, not to mention banal. But some also have been presented out of context and, besides, were offered as part of an ongoing argument among colleagues who believed they were acting in good faith that theirs was a private conversation.

Were they naive to think so? In this world, yes. Was Carlson right to "out" the private comments of people who, for the most part, have no significant power? That, to me, is the more compelling issue.


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