26 July 2010

Journolist and antitrust

From The Daily Caller, 21 JUL 2010 article by Jonathan Strong quoting Journolist members:

“I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tough legal framework. Davies, a Brit, frequently argued the United States needed stricter libel laws.

“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time Magazine. Roger “Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organization. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”

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.

From 15 USC 1:

Sec. 1. Trusts, etc., in restraint of trade illegal; penalty

Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $350,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

From 15 USC 2:

Sec. 2. Monopolizing trade a felony; penalty

Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $350,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

From The Daily Caller, 20 JUL 2010 article by Jonathan Strong quoting Journolist members on what to do about Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Michael Tomasky, a writer for the Guardian, also tried to rally his fellow members of Journolist: “Listen folks–in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have. This isn’t about defending Obama. This is about how the [mainstream media] kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people.”

“Richard Kim got this right above: ‘a horrible glimpse of general election press strategy.’ He’s dead on,” Tomasky continued. “We need to throw chairs now, try as hard as we can to get the call next time. Otherwise the questions in October will be exactly like this. This is just a disease.”

(In an interview Monday, Tomasky defended his position, calling the ABC debate an example of shoddy journalism.)

Thomas Schaller, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun as well as a political science professor, upped the ante from there. In a post with the subject header, “why don’t we use the power of this list to do something about the debate?” Schaller proposed coordinating a “smart statement expressing disgust” at the questions Gibson and Stephanopoulos had posed to Obama.

“It would create quite a stir, I bet, and be a warning against future behavior of the sort,” Schaller wrote.

Tomasky approved. “YES. A thousand times yes,” he exclaimed.

The members began collaborating on their open letter. Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones rejected an early draft, saying, “I’d say too short. In my opinion, it doesn’t go far enough in highlighting the inanity of some of [Gibson's] and [Stephanopoulos’s] questions. And it doesn’t point out their factual inaccuracies …Our friends at Media Matters probably have tons of experience with this sort of thing, if we want their input.”

Jared Bernstein, who would go on to be Vice President Joe Biden’s top economist when Obama took office, helped, too. The letter should be “Short, punchy and solely focused on vapidity of gotcha,” Bernstein wrote.

In the midst of this collaborative enterprise, Holly Yeager, now of the Columbia Journalism Review, dropped into the conversation to say “be sure to read” a column in that day’s Washington Post that attacked the debate.

Columnist Joe Conason weighed in with suggestions. So did Slate contributor David Greenberg, and David Roberts of the website Grist. Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, helped too.


Chris Hayes of the Nation posted on April 29, 2008, urging his colleagues to ignore Wright. Hayes directed his message to “particularly those in the ostensible mainstream media” who were members of the list.

The Wright controversy, Hayes argued, was not about Wright at all. Instead, “It has everything to do with the attempts of the right to maintain control of the country.”

Hayes castigated his fellow liberals for criticizing Wright. “All this hand wringing about just
how awful and odious Rev. Wright remarks are just keeps the hustle going.”


Hayes urged his colleagues – especially the straight news reporters who were charged with covering the campaign in a neutral way – to bury the Wright scandal. “I’m not saying we should all rush en masse to defend Wright. If you don’t think he’s worthy of defense, don’t defend him! What I’m saying is that there is no earthly reason to use our various platforms to discuss what about Wright we find objectionable,” Hayes said.

(Reached by phone Monday, Hayes argued his words then fell on deaf ears. “I can say ‘hey I don’t think you guys should cover this,’ but no one listened to me.”)


“Part of me doesn’t like this shit either,” agreed Spencer Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent. “But what I like less is being governed by racists and warmongers and criminals.”

Ackerman went on:

I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.


Several members of the list disagreed with Ackerman – but only on strategic grounds.

“Spencer, you’re wrong,” wrote Mark Schmitt, now an editor at the American Prospect. “Calling Fred Barnes a racist doesn’t further the argument, and not just because Juan Williams is his new black friend, but because that makes it all about character. The goal is to get to the point where you can contrast some _thing_ — Obama’s substantive agenda — with this crap.”

(In an interview Monday, Schmitt declined to say whether he thought Ackerman’s plan was wrong. “That is not a question I’m going to answer,” he said.)

Kevin Drum, then of Washington Monthly, also disagreed with Ackerman’s strategy. “I think it’s worth keeping in mind that Obama is trying (or says he’s trying) to run a campaign that avoids precisely the kind of thing Spencer is talking about, and turning this into a gutter brawl would probably hurt the Obama brand pretty strongly. After all, why vote for him if it turns out he’s not going change the way politics works?”

But it was Ackerman who had the last word. “Kevin, I’m not saying OBAMA should do this. I’m saying WE should do this.”

From The Daily Caller, 21 JUL 2010 article excerpting Journolist postings:

Jonathan Zasloff – UCLA law professor


From The Daily Caller, 21 JUL 2010 article by Jonathan Strong on Journolist reaction to the election of Obama as President:

Nov. 7

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, THE NEW YORKER: As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?


SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the fuck up, as with most bullies.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.


From Instapundit, 22 JUL 2010, commenting on Journolist and its activities:

When competitors collude this way, it’s also an antitrust violation.

Why yes, yes it is.

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