A human being lives here…

People are being harmed by the manufactured journalist scandal. For what purpose?

Today’s Daily Caller includes an article by Jedediah Bila, “Journolist’s anti-Palin crusade of 2008.” It notes:

Harold Pollack wrote this on August 30, 2008:

“Of course, she is nowhere near ready to stand a heartbeat away from the presidency.” He later added, “Senator McCain is 72 years old” and “The typical man of Senator McCain’s age faces a one in seven chance of dying before finishing his term, and a 30 percent chance of not finishing out a second one.”


I stand by that Huffingtonpost column, which tried to address the age issue openly, without snark or subterfuge. I wrote some nice things about Governor Palin, including

A tough election should not blind us to our common humanity. Anyone who walks the walk in the service of her personal beliefs deserves my friendship. So congratulations, Governor. You don’t come close to earning my vote, but you are welcome in my home, any time.

I–like many other liberals, including then-candidate Obama–denounced crazy rumors flying about Governor Palin’s family life:

We can’t let a tough campaign mess up our heads. Factually, politically, and morally, it never made much sense to chase rumors that Governor Palin was covering for her teen daughter’s pregnancy.

Bila seems to believe that I and other “Journolisters” orchestrated the liberal response to the Palin pick. Writing, “Hey, I wonder if any outside journalists happened to cover similar themes to those outlined by the Journolisters?” Bila goes on to quote various commentators who noted McCain’s advanced age alongside Palin’s decidedly less-advanced grasp of public policy. (Others in the conservative blogosphere have picked this up with even greater blunderbussness, with stories titled “Journolist Archives prove Media coordinated assault on Sarah Palin to secure Obama election.”)

My mom believes that President Obama couldn’t have won without my efforts. Even she doesn’t believe Democrats needed help or coordination here. If there was ever a story that wrote itself, this was it. When I wrote “Let’s be real…Senator McCain is 72 years old,” I only expressed the obvious public response to McCain’s reckless VP pick.

There’s more a whiff of McCarthyism in the frenzy over Journolist. As if they were sent from central casting, right-wing bloggers have compiled a list of Journolist “known members.” The above link is from the charmingly titled site thetreeofliberty.com. These listings include comically elaborate weblinks at the bottom to document our participation. Most of us were open Obama supporters during the campaign in academia or opinion journalism.

I am now identified as “journolister” #46. (Since I played such a central role bringing down Sarah Palin, why was my ranking so low?) I’ve already happily noted my participation in journalist. Still, what’s followed is creepy.

Conservative congressional candidate Chris Angelini, a.k.a. @ConserValidity, tweets: BEWARE: Unethical Leftist [expletive deleted] @haroldpollack was also a Journolist member posing as an Objective reporter. Since I am not a reporter and spent thirty months writing blog posts and columns supporting the Obama campaign and health reform, I hope Angelini is not selling his wares in opposition research. @cannoneerno4 believes we are Communists or something. He proves that irony is both dead and dismembered by calling us “enemies of the people.”

I am, it’s true, a nerdy professor. People who don’t like Journolist are prone to comment about stuff like that. The fact that many of us are both liberal and Jewish excites something old and deep in the far-right limbic system. If you google the terms “Journolist” and “Jews,” you will find much sickening stuff. The comment threads at many sites covering this controversy are filled with hateful comments about Jews, women, and gay people.

This stuff won’t harm established personages such as Joe Klein or Eric Alterman. It won’t harm those of us who are tenured professors. Had the Caller written a substantial and fair article about the statements and actions of public figures, I would have had to concede that this was fair game. We haven’t gotten that. Instead, the Caller has released a lot of misleading or selective quotations, and it has cherry-picked maladroit or inappropriate private comments of little news value.

Many of these comments come from fine young journalists struggling for a foothold in a tough profession. Some may be harmed professionally before this thing is over. More are receiving hate mail. For what purpose? In The Human Stain, Phillip Roth noted the dehumanization that accompanies manufactured scandal, suggesting that President Clinton should have hung a banner from the White House saying “A human being lives here.” The same applies here.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

7 thoughts on “A human being lives here…”

  1. Hey, how do you rate, Pollack? Kleiman<del datetime="2010-07-25T05:08:11+00:00">, Zasloff</del> and I <del datetime="2010-07-25T05:10:22+00:00">all </del>have groveling, guilt-ridden, garment-rending confessions a few posts down, but you just waltz into 45th place and we're completely dissed? How are we supposed to redeem ourselves if we don't get nailed in the first place?

    <del datetime="2010-07-25T05:08:11+00:00">Three </del>Two more life members of the "I hate Harold" club, you betcha.

  2. So basicly the Journalistas conspired to notice that Sarah Palin is a intellectual/political light weight and John McCain is old and not competent enough to reject making such an obviously disasterous choice of running mate. Fire up the House Commitee on Unamerican activities!

  3. "So basicly the Journalistas conspired to notice that Sarah Palin is a intellectual/political light weight and John McCain is old and not competent enough to reject making such an obviously disasterous choice of running mate."

    Nah, that much was obvious, even to a lot of Republicans. The problem was that they were also conspiring to not notice that the junior Senator from Illinois was ALSO a lightweight with a disturbing tendency to vote "present", and a record of winning elections by getting his opponents disqualified from the ballot. He basically got elected on the strength of being a historical choice, not any personal virtues. The problem is that you can't govern on that basis, you've got to actually DO THINGS. Besides golfing a lot, I mean.

  4. some random notes:

    Right wing propagandist Tucker Carlson wins every time you link to his website. (I understand an academics impulse to link to the primary source, but you'd shed more light on the issue if you linked to a secondary source who was providing more context [and wasn't smearing you]).

    He wins a second time every time you fall for the idea that his paid flaks "believe" anything. Clearly the right-wing "Daily Caller" website is run by an unscrupulous hack who employs unethical character assassins.

    A central feature to everything Tucker Carlson has ever done in his life is being "misleading".

    "There’s more a whiff of McCarthyism in the frenzy over" on the right-wing.

    That's not an aberration, it's part of the right-wing's core strategy.

    Right-wing hack Tucker Carlson's is quite deliberately attacking the private conversations of his 'left-wing' opponents with "cherry-picked" comments in order to silence any future private conversations as well as damage them publicly with deliberately "misleading" attacks.

    Tucker Carlson is McCarthite slime personified. (And like sleazy Joe McCarthy, Carlson has the context of all those e-mails in his front pocket.)

    But to a larger pattern: Tucker Carlson now joins right-wing extremists Glenn Beck, Erick Erickson, and Lou Dobbs as all having their careers boosted by CNN-Time-Warner.

    A larger problem is that the the majority of Corporate media outlets like Time-Warner-CNN are hand-maidens to right-wing thugs.

    Think I'm kidding?

    CNN has right-wing apologist Howard Kurtz, one of the key figures in attempting to mainstream Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin, as their arbiter of journalistic standards.

    Even CNN's less extreme right-wing journalists have a history of propaganda that is simply abominable, see Digby's assessment of CNN's John Roberts and Kyra Phillips.

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/real-milli

    CNN's John Roberts literally gets his talking points from 'private' Republican e-mails. And Kyra Phillips attempt to use an orphaned child to push Republican talking points about the Iraq War is chillingly Orwellian.

    While Tucker Carlson is attempting to pump poison into the body politic, it's his old employer CNN which is mainlining that poison.

  5. I have finally come around to the opinion of Andrew Sullivan and 'litbrit' that Journolist may have done the country a disservice by discouraging looking at the Trig story. Not that i blame you. I felt the same way, that it belonged with the Wright/Ayres/Birther nonsense, and that it was absurd that a VP Candidate and very popular Governor could have been the sort of liar and monstrius human being to do this.

    Well, the second part is out, because, as we've seen, she is a reflexive liar, lying when she doesn't need to — see her endorsement of Kelly Ayotte where she says the Supreme Court upheld her suit against the ACLU when they merely sent it back to the lower court, where it was mooted when the law was repealed — and where the state was required to pay the ACLU costs. And that's just the latest example of literally thousands.

    And Litbrit has, at the very least, proven that the 'wild ride with her water broken' could not have happened, that it is inconceivable that she was pregnant when giving the speech, which means either the baby was already born or she wasn't the mother. Other parts of the story are also proving to be much more plausible than they seemed to be at first. (Why give birth to a Down's syndrome child at a hospital that was not equipped for difficult or even multiple births, deliberately bypassing much better equipped hospitals?) And while I am less willing to accept Litbrit's 'photo-forensics' as certain, they do raise questions.

    Not meaning to hijack this thread, but maybe this was a mistake to ignore.

  6. It's important to remember that the current crop of Right wingers have dropped any belief in consensual reality. So when they see a bunch of people talking about the same thing (i.e. the facts of the matter that are right in front of everyone's eyes), then collusion is the only explanation left to them.

  7. Sorry, but I posted from a public computer and this is the only way to get rid of my name…

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