Smug Liberals, Conservative Trolls, and Jake Tapper

Two seemingly contradictory essays out today highlight the exhausting political conversation environment.

Apropos the conversation going on in the “To Ban or Not to Ban” thread, two seemingly contradictory essays out today highlight the exhausting political conversation environment. Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward argues in a piece for the NYT Sunday Review (yes, it’s Friday) titled “When Smug Liberals Met Conservative Trolls” that conversation is impossible because nobody is willing to listen anymore. Meanwhile, Graham Vyse explains for the New Republic “Why (Almost) Everyone Likes Jake Tapper” regardless of their ideological or party alignment.

Mangu-Ward’s setup:

Modern American political discourse can seem disjointed to the point of absurdism. But the problem isn’t just filter bubbles, echo chambers or alternative facts. It’s tone: When the loudest voices on the left talk about people on the right, it is with an air of barely concealed smugness, quick to declare them either beyond the pale or dupes of their betters. Right-wingers, for their part, increasingly respond with a churlish “Oh yeah? Hold my beer” and then double down on whatever politically incorrect sentiment brought on the disdain in the first place.

Two terrible tendencies now feed off each other, growing stronger every day: the more smugness, the more satisfying to poke holes in it; the more toxic the trolling, the greater the sense of moral superiority. The result: an odoriferous stew of political rhetoric that is nearly irresistible to those on the inside and confusingly abhorrent to those on the outside.

The explosion of the smugs-vs.-trolls phase of our political discourse is traceable to a now infamous 2004 confrontation between Jon Stewart and Tucker Carlson in the waning days of “Crossfire,” in which Mr. Stewart, a comedian, dropped his jester’s mask and accused Mr. Carlson and his ilk of undermining serious discourse with their partisan feuding and made-for-TV talking points. “Stop hurting America,” was his specific request. Mr. Carlson sputtered and fumed; it was generally agreed that Mr. Stewart won the day.

Around the same time, New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt was formulating a theory about why liberals and conservatives have such a hard time productively conversing. After mucking around in a lot of survey data, he came up with this basic idea: Liberals and people of the left underpin their politics with moral concerns about harm and fairness; they are driven by the imperative to help the vulnerable and see justice done. Conservatives and people of the right value these things as well but have several additional moral touchstones — loyalty, respect and sanctity. They value in-group solidarity, deference to authority, and the protection of purity in mind and body. To liberals, those sincerely held values can look a lot like, in Dr. Haidt’s words, “xenophobia, authoritarianism and Puritanism.” This asymmetry is the fountainhead of mutual incomprehension and disdain.

That bridges to this:

For many on the right, the real lesson of the Stewart-Carlson exchange was “Do as I say, not as I do.” Mr. Stewart urged sincerity and good-faith efforts at dialogue when lecturing Mr. Carlson but practiced the opposite when it suited him. Mr. Stewart’s smugness was itself a form of trolling. And conservatives, no matter what liberals might think of them, are not stupid. The clear lesson was if you want to win, stop being the debate team kid in the bow tie and start being the class clown who gives that guy a wedgie.

Mr. Stewart has since retired from the ring, having successfully replicated himself a dozen times over on every channel, each copy smugger than the last. But Mr. Carlson, too, has triumphed. He now hosts one of the top-rated shows on Fox News, where he has become a shouty populist version of his former mini William F. Buckley Jr. persona — much closer to the trollish partisan Mr. Stewart accused him of being than he ever was in his “Crossfire” days.

The piece loses steam after that and offers only vague hope that a solution is possible. Yet, in the midst of all this is our man Tapper.

In this era, consensus journalists—those who are respected across America’s partisan divide—are not supposed to exist. And yet, Tapper has become perhaps the most widely praised journalist working in TV today.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, calls him “one of the most exemplary journalists working today in America.” Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman from Illinois and ardent defender of gun rights, said, “He and I probably disagree on damn near every issue. But having said that, I don’t think there’s anybody more fair and objective in what we call the mainstream media.” Bari Weiss, an editor and writer for the New York Times opinion section, told me Tapper is “one of the few people who’s generally watched and respected, at least in my world, by people across the political spectrum.” And Shapiro called Tapper “a definite rarity” among cable news hosts.

He’s even won over libertarians. “Tapper is the only person who, when I see him on TV, I stop to listen no matter what,” said Nick Gillespie, an editor at large at Reason magazine. “He forces people who think Sheriff Scott Israel is a good guy to face up to the fact that Israel is kind of full of shit, and he pushes Dana Loesch and the NRA to really explain their contradictions when it comes to recently stated ideas about gun policy. I mean, I’m a libertarian, so I hesitate to say anything is a public service, but that’s kind of a great public service he’s doing.”

How did Tapper pull this off?

From there, the essay gets sidetracked with folksy biography rather than a direct answer to the question. Eventually, it gets back on point:

What really makes this the Tapper Moment, though, is not his growing fame and viral interviews. It’s the breadth of the respect he’s earned, and how he’s wielding it in the age of Trump. Because while he’s tough on conservatives and liberals alike, he doesn’t engage in bothsidesism. As Tapper said to Maher, “I’ve never really seen this level of falsehood, just quantitatively.”

“It’s a terrible conundrum you’re in,” Maher lamented, “because the more you call it out, the more his fans say you’re being biased…. Because everything is so politicized, there is no truth for anybody left, and so the more you actually do your job well, the more you’re not given credit by the people you actually need to convince.”

“I refuse to buy into that paradigm,” Tapper shot back, “because the truth of the matter is there’s no bias when it comes to facts and there’s no bias when it comes to decency. It is empirically indecent to make fun of the disabled. You don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican or an independent or, whatever, a socialist, a libertarian—that’s just indecent. My children know better than that.”

Truth and decency are running themes in Tapper’s work. ”The great discomfort for journalists is that, if a president declares war on truth, those who try to stand by truth and defend her are then labeled partisans and biased. We’re not supposed to be fighters on the battlefield,” he said in a speech at the Canadian Journalism Foundation Awards in June. ”We’re not the opposition to President Trump. We’re not the resistance. We’re trying to figure out the way to cover this new world, however, where fact and decency often seem to mean so little. And I do think we as journalists need to defend fact and decency.”

Quotes like these make clear that Tapper is simultaneously an innovator and a throwback of sorts: tough but fair, aggressively non-partisan, and determined to separate fact from fiction, all with a healthy whiff of moralism. Perhaps that’s why he has been repeatedly compared to Edward R. Murrow. But Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple sees shades of a more recent TV newsman in Tapper. “He’s kind of a less glib, less verbose version of Tim Russert,” Wemple said, referring to the Meet the Press host who died in 2008.

But, while that may be why intellectuals and fellow journalists respect Tapper, it doesn’t really answer the title question. Part of the problem is that the old Daniel Patrick Moynihan aphorism, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,” has ceased to be true. We’ve created an information environment where both sides actually do have their own facts. (Although the problem has become decidedly tilted to the Right: continued belief in some core positions, such as climate change and evolution denialism essentially require a rejection of the scientific method, if not science itself.) So, a commitment to facts can’t explain it.

This may be part of it:

“I just have never thought one ideology holds all the answers to everything, and so it’s probably more just that I don’t close off people’s ideas just because one Twitter mob hates them.”

Not that Tapper disdains Twitter; rather, he immerses himself in the conversation there, interacting with his sources, guests, and audience. “He is fully engaged in where media is now, in a way that I don’t think any other anchor is,” Gillespie said. “He understands that the new media landscape is that the host or the anchor or the star of the show is much closer to his audience now than he ever was, and you need to engage them. The best way to engage them is by being honest and open, admitting mistakes with a graciousness that is rare among journalists.”

“Jake Tapper has always offered a seat—when others do not offer a seat at table—for someone from the progressive moment,” said Nomiki Konst, an investigative reporter for The Young Turks and prominent Bernie Sanders supporter. “That’s not just a strategic move. He and his team will reach out and ask questions. They want to understand what’s happening on the ground. That’s reporting. They’re doing their work. They’re doing their job.”

But being open to ideas from all sides, while perhaps fair, tends to alienate everyone. Ronald Reagan’s axiom, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally—not a 20 percent traitor” seems quaint in the modern environment. Indeed:

This is not to say that Tapper is respected by all. “When I go on the radio and I have something good to say about a Jake Tapper,” Walsh said, “99.9 percent of my listeners will jump on my head. When I tweet something fairly objective or positive about him, I’ll get hammered by my side.” Fox News host Sean Hannity once dubbed him “fake Jake.” Breitbart calls him “Fake Tapper.” And he’s criticized by some on the left, too. Shareblue writer Oliver Willis tweeted last month that Tapper “regularly punches left and elevates near-meaningless nonsense to keep righties off his back,” calling it “silly.”

What’s silly is pretending that Tapper hasn’t taken a side:

But Tapper says he’s clear-eyed about where the threat to truth and decency is coming from. “It’s far more prevalent on the right,” he told me. “Of course it is. It’s being led by the president of the United States and his enablers and supporters. There’s no equivalence. And please put this in, because it’s so tiresome when I tweet something about Louis Farrakhan, just reporting on things he said that were just empirically anti-Semitic, and people act as though I’m making an equivalence. I’m not making an equivalence. There’s no equivalence. Louis Farrakhan has not a fraction of the power President Trump has and I’m not saying otherwise.”

He’s right on that score—and yet also right to call out Farrakhan. It’s not that hard.

The bottom line, though, is that (almost) everyone doesn’t like Tapper. To the extent they know who he is, I’d guess most Trump supporters don’t much care for him. But, because he’s smart, fair, and funny, Tapper is pretty well-liked among the intellectual class. That’s hardly everyone.

As to Mangu-Ward’s piece, I don’t know that anything has eroded Haidt’s analysis. It’s just that, fourteen years later, it’s even harder to have a reasonable conversation with Twitter, Facebook, and various 24/7 media outlets giving a bigger megaphone to the most obstreperous voices. Not to mention the bully pulpit of the White House.

FILED UNDER: Media, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tapper is one of those people who seems to annoy people on the left and the right depending on what he reports. That’s usually a sign a journalist is doing their job.

    Personally I’m a fan of his reporting, and his Twitter feed, and have been since the days when he was a White House reporter for ABC News




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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yeah, I thought ABC really screwed up when they didn’t name him the permanent host of “This Week” after the talent search that somehow yielded Christianne Amanpour, who was an unmitigated disaster.




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  3. @James Joyner:

    Which just made it all the more amusing when CNN gave him the helm at State Of The Union in additi0n to his daily show (which I’d love to see expanded to two hours and take an hour away from Wolf Blitzer, who has become insufferable of late.)




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  4. al-Ameda says:

    This is not to say that Tapper is respected by all. “When I go on the radio and I have something good to say about a Jake Tapper,” Walsh said, “99.9 percent of my listeners will jump on my head. When I tweet something fairly objective or positive about him, I’ll get hammered by my side.” Fox News host Sean Hannity once dubbed him “fake Jake.” Breitbart calls him “Fake Tapper.” And he’s criticized by some on the left, too. Shareblue writer Oliver Willis tweeted last month that Tapper “regularly punches left and elevates near-meaningless nonsense to keep righties off his back,” calling it “silly.”

    Mainstream Conservative Media opinionista – like Hannity, Limbaugh, Levin, et al – routinely define many of the journalists and opinion commentators (like Tapper), who do not meet with their approval, in order to dismiss them.

    Of course there are some on the Left who do this, but it is not in the same scope and manner of the Right, where they have their own media establishment that calls out guys like Tapper for nearly everything he says. By way of contrast, being hassled by the Left is a minor annoyance, being hassled by the Right is the equivalent of being pimp-slapped while a guy like Tucker Carlson mocks “International Womens Day” as he rifles through your wallet.

    I’m of the opinion that the non-Right media is very much cowed and intimidated by the Right, by the Right’s constant complaint that non-Right media members are biased. This is a freebie for the Right – they don’t play nice, they do not believe in an objective reality, and they have a well-oiled media machine that aggressively promotes conservative ideology every day. The non-Right has nothing that compares with this.




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  5. James Joyner says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I’m of the opinion that the non-Right media is very much cowed and intimidated by the Right, by the Right’s constant complaint that non-Right media members are biased. This is a freebie for the Right – they don’t play nice, they do not believe in an objective reality, and they have a well-oiled media machine that aggressively promotes conservative ideology every day. The non-Right has nothing that compares with this.

    I don’t think that’s at all true. Part of the rationale for the rise of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News was that the whole elite media was on the side of the Left. There was a kernel of truth in that, if mostly because of the bicoastal/metropolitan nature of prestige media. For a variety of reasons, the Right-leaning fora became hyperpartisan over time and not true counterparts. And the Left has tried to replicate that with little success.

    In the early days of the blogosphere, the Left was much better at organizing. Daily Kos and the like had no analogs on the Right for years because the Left tended to be more communal while the Right was more individualist. As the momentum shifted to other social platforms, the Left remained better organized. Somehow, that shifted a couple years back with the emergence of a militant “alt-right” movement that showed up to shout down opinions they didn’t like–particularly those coming from women, persons of color, and Jewish people.

    But there are certainly mobs representing the Left as well. Note the reaction against Rod Dreher—a reasonably educated Catholic advocating views that were perfectly mainstream less than a decade ago—on the other thread.




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  6. gVOR08 says:

    That Bari Weiss, one of NYTs affirmative action hires, admires Tapper is another reason to dislike him. Please see Leah Finnegan for an evisceration of Beri Weiss.

    My advice to both Ms. Weiss and Ms. Mangu-Ward, and the conservative snowflakes they represent, is the same. You want respect, do something respectable.




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  7. MarkedMan says:

    Being willing to listen to all sides sounds like a good thing that reasonable people do, but it’s dangerous unless the other side is actually intellectually honest. For instance, I have a sister who believes she is being smart by getting input from all sides and asking them about each others critiques. Sounds reasonable. But she doesn’t differentiate between sources. Say one of her kids has a medical problem. She starts researching. And to her a blog post by some idiot on the web is just as valid as n=2000 double blind study published two years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine. Which is how she ended up as an anti-vaxer (so many people are concerned and they love their kids, so there must be something to it), terrified that Sharia law is going to be imposed in the US (got no clue as to where she got that one) and believes there are a lot more airplane crashes than we know about because the government and airline industries collude with the news media to cover them up (not sure where the inputs for that one came from but her conclusions are no doubt influenced by her terrible fear of flying). But she also thinks Trump is terrible, that big business is out to screw people, and so forth, so it’s not like she’s some programmed Fox News bot.

    So I don’t feel obligated to “assume good faith” on the part of the Right Wing churn machine. In fact, I believe that mantra is how truly terrible Republican leaders drove the party to their present horrible state, by keeping the average (and decent) Republican voter blindly pulling the “R” lever while telling themselves “well, maybe the optics of what they did were racist / homphobic / antiwoman / antiworker / etc but they tell us they really love everyone and are fair and decent people and, by gosh, absent a straight forward admission of guilt we have to assume they are what they say they are.”

    The main news media have been played for suckers by the Republicans for a couple of generations now. I hope they keep waking up and don’t succumb to the “reasonable people” BS.




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  8. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    Note the reaction against Rod Dreher—a reasonably educated Catholic advocating views that were perfectly mainstream less than a decade ago

    At least for me, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. I read Dreher because he is a reasonable and thoughtful person who usually comes to different conclusions than I. But in the past few years virtually every one of his posts eventually segues into “and we are doomed because we have to sell gay people cakes.” I read him much less often today because his fixation on “the LGBTs” short circuits all of his thought patterns. He reasons things out to a certain point and then “ZAP!” the anti-LGBT thing kicks in.

    Andrew Sullivan, back in his blogging days, would go through cycles of this. Not about gays, but about one thing or another. He’d get on that hobby horse and he just couldn’t get off. But his fixations would last for maybe a week, two at the most, and I learned to ride them out. But Dreher has been getting steadily worse.




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  9. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: That’s fair enough. I don’t read Dreher all that much, so haven’t paid much attention to that trend. Sully got on my nerves with the Trig Palin obsession but I generally found him worth engaging with.




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  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    Right-wingers, for their part, increasingly respond with a churlish “Oh yeah? Hold my beer” and then double down on whatever politically incorrect sentiment brought on the disdain in the first place.

    Popehat’s Rule of Goats applies here. The polite version: if you kiss goats, you are a goat-kisser, even if you’re only doing it ironically.




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  11. James Pearce says:

    Every now and then Jake Tapper will get on his high-horse, though, and start pretending, for instance, that men aren’t disgusting about women or something.

    I understand it. It’s a little bit of wishful thinking and a little bit of rule-enforcing, but not sure I’d call it, you know, journalism.

    @gVOR08:

    Please see Leah Finnegan for an evisceration of Beri Weiss.

    Why is it important to eviscerate Beri Weiss?




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  12. MBunge says:

    Tapper is one of those who look good mainly because everyone else looks so bad. I mean, calling out Democrats over Farrakhan is setting the courage bar awfully low. But it’s better than nothing.

    And if anyone thinks Dreher is bad now, you should have been reading him during the height of the same sex marriage debate.

    Mike




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  13. dazedandconfused says:

    The dynamic of so much of CNN’s content is to have (and pay) “contributors” to take a position on something, either pro or con. The result is everybody, no matter how rank the BS, is giving as much or more airtime as everybody else. Anderson Cooper’s panels are unwatchable now because of this, at least for me.

    This is a situation easy to exploit, and sophistry rules. It apparently appeals to what their sponsors call the “P1” demographic..the “fans” who stay through commercial breaks. This demographic rules content because the sponsors pay a premium for it, and will pay it for a very small percentage of the general population. Addiction is key, which requires drama and/or comedy.

    This seems to me the classic “buggy whip” business mistake..the relentless chase of a shrinking market. I would guess that in time this will correct itself. Perhaps the existence of Tapper indicates they suspect it already. Perhaps the missing ingredient is a large population deeply concerned with facts and can identify them when presented.

    They will hanker for more than political gossip at some point, I hope, and hopefully before desperation.




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  14. FWIW, I don’t think Dreher is Catholic any longer. I believe he converted to Eastern Orthodox a few years back. Not really much of a difference doctrinally, but Orthodox Christians tend to be much more conservative so it isn’t surprising that Dreher drifted in that direction.




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  15. Thomas Hilton says:

    They value in-group solidarity, deference to authority, and the protection of purity in mind and body. To liberals, those sincerely held values can look a lot like, in Dr. Haidt’s words, “xenophobia, authoritarianism and Puritanism.”

    Um…yeah. That isn’t just what they look like; it’s what they fucking are.

    Also, the whole “purity in mind and body” thing? Thing One, in practice it has always been entirely about controlling women; and Thing Two, they don’t even pretend to apply it to authority figures in their tribe (Trump, Moore).

    Sorry, but there’s just no honest way to pretend that conservatives’ values are anything but completely shitty.




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  16. Thomas Hilton says:

    @MBunge:

    I mean, calling out Democrats over Farrakhan is setting the courage bar awfully low. But it’s better than nothing.

    I would be more impressed with this if Tapper had also scolded the people who are sanctifying the guy whose anti-Semitic comments Farrakhan quoted. I mean, I understand that in a world where Franklin Graham exists it can be easy to forget how bad Billy was, but still…




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  17. Kathy says:

    One big problem is when a side (guess which one) believes you shouldn’t have the same rights they do, or any rights at all, and that therefore mistreating you is A OK and even necessary and desirable, then granting them any respect is not only stupid, but self-destructive.

    Overall the right judges people more for what they are than what they do. On the left it’s the other way around.




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  18. Gustopher says:

    @MBunge:

    Tapper is one of those who look good mainly because everyone else looks so bad. I mean, calling out Democrats over Farrakhan is setting the courage bar awfully low.

    It Farrakhan actually relevant to anyone? Is he still alive? Don’t you people have any better bogey men?

    I mean, Lou Reed called him out in the late 1980s, on the album “New York,” for christ’s sake. And even then, he was old news. Actually, he calls out Jesse Jackson for associating with Farrakhan, since even in 1988, Farrakhan was a stain upon the reputations of everyone who knew him.

    That’s who you’re worked up about?

    Yes, Louis Farrakhan is a creepy little anti-Semite. It’s not commonly mentioned because it doesn’t need to be mentioned. It’s like “don’t have sex with animals” –people don’t need to be told that, because people know that.




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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce:

    Why is it important to eviscerate Beri Weiss?

    It isn’t important, it’s just a blog comment. It is, however, appropriate. In context, to explain my comment that her endorsement of Tapper is a negative for Tapper. In general because the column in question is lazy and dishonest. In a global way to understand why this whole RW meme about suppression of speech on campuses is mostly mountains out of molehills and self contradictory (free speech for me, but not for thee).




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  20. Kylopod says:

    @Thomas Hilton:

    Um…yeah. That isn’t just what they look like; it’s what they fvcking are.

    Yup. It’s amazing that people can engage in this kind of both-sidesism in the age of Trump, a time when even some conservatives have admitted that Trump’s rise has confirmed some of the worst stereotypes liberals had of the GOP. It’s particularly notable that the example being raised of left-wing lunacy is Louis Farrakhan, who throughout 2016 was in fact lavishing praise on Trump (mostly because he believed Trump was standing up to Jewish power in America). Hannity, who had spent years castigating Obama for a nonexistent relationship with Farrakhan, suddenly began gushing over him, declaring that apart from the racism and anti-Semitism he’s a really swell guy.

    The fact of the matter is, if you look at his actual views Farrakhan is basically a right-winger–just with black nationalism substituted for white nationalism. But in our political culture the right-left axis has long been implicitly racialized. What we call the right wing is really the white wing. Minority groups who adopt an essentially far-right perspective, whether it be the NOI or Al Qaeda, become honorary lefties because the far right’s too exclusive a club to include them as an ally.




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  21. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Actually, I vaguely remember that.




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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    Sully got on my nerves with the Trig Palin obsession

    God, I forgot about that one. Yep. As much as I like to think that I’m nothing like those people that believe crazy conspiracy theories, things like that makes me realize that sometimes the line between obsessive reworking of scant facts and full blown Alex Jones lunacy is fainter than I would like.




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  23. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: I spend a lot of time commenting over at Dreher’s blog (say what you want about him, the man is unbelievably prolific.) He has a tendency to find some lunatic statement from some loudmouth on the left (or even worse, a rightist misstatement of something on the left), then goes into a tizzy about how This Is Bad And Western Civilization Is Doomed.

    He also knows nothing about law or science, which is why it is incredibly annoying when he tries to comment on legal or scientific matters–everything boils down to a “moral interpretation” (a.k.a. the righteousness of the universe as interpreted by Rod Dreher.) He definitely fails to understand the legal mind and how it does analysis, ditto for the scientific mind. And he sees anti-Christianity under every rock.

    On the other hand, if we’re able to provide him with direct evidence that the story he’s getting into a tizzy about is much more nuanced/different, he will admit he’s wrong. It’s just extremely aggravating to watch someone who used to be a journalist fall into the same trap over and over again–wouldn’t you think that after you discovered you had a tendency to be gullible and fall for slanted stories that you would start double-checking reported events? But Rod does it, over and over again.




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  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Specifically, Russian Orthodox. His story is a harsh but understandable one. Once a devout Catholic, he covered the child molestation scandal as a reporter for a number of years and he found he just couldn’t remain with the church. He recognizes that the Russian Orthodox Church has its own problems but has chosen not to focus on them, although he doesn’t ignore them or pretend that they don’t exist. I’m not religious myself, but I empathize with his dilemma and it seems he has reached a solution he can live with.




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  25. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: Farakhan’s Nation of Islam is still very relevant in the Black Community. Like a lot of religions, it does some very good works, even if its leaders are delusional racists.




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  26. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist: I think you’ve nailed Dreher’s shortcomings pretty well. But he has some serious positives too, which is why I stuck with him so long. One of them is his genuine empathy. He is one of the rare (but not unique) individuals I’ve met who are passionate members of an authoritarian religion who can put themselves in the shoes of people he disagrees with, or who have made bad life choices. All too often religion is little more than permission to say “Let me tell you what I really think of you, because Jesus”. Dreher is much more than that.




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  27. Barry says:

    @MBunge: “I mean, calling out Democrats over Farrakhan is setting the courage bar awfully low. But it’s better than nothing.”

    Farra-who now? How many decades has it been since he was relevant?




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  28. Barry says:

    If you want ‘smug’, look at the people who support Trump. They gleefully violate every stated principle, and then demand respect.

    As for ‘both sides do it’, by now that should be filed right alongside Godwin’s Law. Anybody invoking is wrong until proven otherwise.




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  29. rachel says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Anderson Cooper’s panels are unwatchable now because of this, at least for me.

    Yes! And it’s not just his show. I like Anderson Cooper, but sometime back in 2016, I decided that I couldn’t take any more of these CNN bickerfests. I watch news to get information, not to see people yelling at each other and talking over each other. (That last is why I can’t stand Chris Matthews.)




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  30. Hal_10000 says:

    @Gustopher:

    It Farrakhan actually relevant to anyone? Is he still alive? Don’t you people have any better bogey men?

    Farrahan is a leader of a large political religious movement, has met with powerful politicians (including Obama) and makes frequent appearances and speeches at ostensibly left-wing events. If a Right-Wing idiot with a tenth of his influence were saying such things, you wouldn’t be asking why it’s important.

    In context, to explain my comment that her endorsement of Tapper is a negative for Tapper.

    This is the laziest trope on the internet. “Person X is bad. Person X likes Person Y. Therefore Person Y is bad.” You can do that with pretty much anyone you want at will. And that’s assuming Bari Weiss is bad, which I don’t accept.

    I see that this post has provoked the usual anti-bothsidesdoitism. But if you read the comments on any left-wing enclave, you will see what Mangu-Ward is talking about. The most popular and upvoted comments are smug, condescending denunciations of even the most reasonable conservative commentary. Even for those who denounce Trump, it’s never enough.

    Is it as bad as the current Right Wing hysteria? No. And the Left is out of power, which makes it a little less alarming. But it ain’t healthy.




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  31. steve says:

    “Dreher is much more than that.”

    Have been reading him for years, but no longer comment and am reading less. He is now totally committed to finding people on the left I have never heard of, he especially likes college students, and using them to prove people on the left are awful. I despise this. He used to try to deal with the better arguments made by the better people on the left. No more. He is looking for the disturbed 19 y/o to prove his points. On the plus side of him, that approach does seem to generate a lot of blog traffic.

    Steve




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  32. James Pearce says:

    @gVOR08:

    In a global way to understand why this whole RW meme about suppression of speech on campuses is mostly mountains out of molehills and self contradictory

    I dunno. Isn’t this also a mountain out of a molehill?

    Why should you care about Bari Weiss? On Monday….Bari Weiss tweeted about Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu’s historic triple axel.

    She made a dumb quip on Twitter? Don’t care.




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  33. teve tory says:

    @steve: Nut-picking, that’s called.




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  34. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I believe the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church also contributed to Dreher’s leaving.

    ETA: I see others have beat me to it.




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  35. Modulo Myself says:

    Smug people making an industry out of calling other people ‘smug’ is a sign that there’s nothing else to call them. That Mangu-Ward article sets it up pretty clearly. On one hand, Chapo Trap House. On the other, the alt-right. I think Chapo is kind of annoying, but nobody is going to mistake the cache of one side with the cache of another. What’s the outrage of the day? Christine Hoff Summers? Well, it’s not that she’s a fascist or an anti-semite–it’s that she ends up doing interviews with anti-semitic podcast types because nobody else wants her. It’s like Spinal Tap being cancelled in Boston because it’s not a big college town and ending up doing an Air Force base.




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  36. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Tapper is pretty good in what he does. He can make opinions in the air without sounding insufferable and he can make good questions during an interview(And it’s a little difficult to do that in American television, you can end without any guests on your show if you are too aggressive).

    He also knows how to use Twitter, and he could be easily anchoring ABC World News or ABC This Week.




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  37. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Gustopher: He’s relevant to me…. The NOIs message of sobriety, self-respect, and black pride convinced my father to stop shoving a heroin needle in his arm. That relevant enough for you? The NOI saved hundreds of thousands of black men that had tuned out the traditional black church and taught them that entrepreneurship and value of families was the only hope for the Community–not waiting on white guilt to translate into some scraps which where supposed to make up for 400 years of Slavery and Jim Crow. Are they perfect? Of course not–but can you tell me any other organization that vested itself in broken communities to change them for the better?

    Integration brought on a brain drain from the black community writ large–which was then left to fend for itself after black professionals and skilled workers who could compete with their white counterparts left to live in white communities. Who do you think became the champion for these people in the ensuing carnage in many communities? Frankly, white people made it easy for Farakahn to operate with an black nationalist message. I guess you think the white nationalist declared defeat and when home after the civil rights act– no they waged economic war to further punish these communities who now had no professional, legal, and medical class among them to protect them. This war still continues–which is how you have 12 percent of the population making up almost 60% of the prison population. So yes, almost anyone that has a message that includes”screw whitey” is going to get airplay in the community–less so now days than the 60s but still a significant amount.

    When I see all the comments about how gullible conservatives supposedly are and I also see comments from liberals about Farakahn—by people that have never heard anything he’s preached outside of sound bites and news interviews with white journalists–it further underscores the fact that both conservatives and liberals are indeed the same side. You are the same essence that came to different conclusions….a simple cake recipe where half of it was microwaved and the other half was baked. It still cake–just went through a different finishing process. Both of you certainly like to speak definitively about things you only have TV knowledge up. While helpful, its frankly the shallowest knowledge you can have–these days its only slightly better than having no knowledge at all




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  38. EddieInCA says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    (which I’d love to see expanded to two hours and take an hour away from Wolf Blitzer, who has become been insufferable of late forever.)

    Fixed that for you.




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  39. dazedandconfused says:

    @rachel:

    CNN is clearly far more interested in ratings than news. It’s the pitfall of for profit media, I suppose. When Ted Turner sold it the story is he got a billion. The people that own it now owe money.

    I imagine they tried to make a profit with journalism for a period…and then…and with apologies to “Trainspotting”…they made a considered, informed, democratic decision to self-lobotomize.

    The sort of content they now provide is why we have Don Trump as POTUS. During the campaign somebody claimed he had evidence they gave more air-time to podiums awaiting the arrival of the highly entertaining Donster than they gave to Hillary. They are a huge part of creating the circus in which for the most part only clowns wish to participate. We can’t get enough of our best and brightest interested in public office.

    If there is a silver lining it’s the mind-bending depth of Don’s dishonesty and incoherence might change that.




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  40. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    As the momentum shifted to other social platforms, the Left remained better organized.

    I am trying (and failing) to imagine a universe in which the Left in America was once better-organized than the Right. Which makes the rest of your comment seem even more surreal, James.




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  41. george says:

    @gVOR08:

    That Bari Weiss, one of NYTs affirmative action hires, admires Tapper is another reason to dislike him. Please see Leah Finnegan for an evisceration of Beri Weiss.

    You base your opinions on someone not on what they say, but on another person feels about some who respects them? Seriously?

    So if Barry Weis decided Einstein was correct about say general relativity, you’d conclude that proves Einstein was wrong?




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  42. JohnMcC says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Good on ya’! You could also mention the NOI role in black organizing in prisons.




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  43. george says:

    @Gustopher:

    Given that Farrakhan is fairly irrelevant (though some say he’s still important in parts of the black community). That implies that Tapper wasted some column space – why would anyone but his publisher care about that? If for instance Tapper instead wrote a column about the 2nd string 3rd baseman of the Yankees (to randomly choose another irrelevant figure), would people be complaining about it?

    Which makes me think Farrakhan is still relevant enough that people are going out of their way to say he’s irrelevant.

    If someone publishes a true but irrelevant scientific study in a journal, scientist don’t make a fuss about why the study was made, they simply ignore it and move on to relevant articles. The ones that create debate are the ones that have some relevancy.




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  44. Barry says:

    @steve: “He is now totally committed to finding people on the left I have never heard of, he especially likes college students, and using them to prove people on the left are awful.”

    To be more accurate, he’s totally committed to finding anonymous people who write him letters about some outrage. He’s one step away from ‘I have a list of 57…’.




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  45. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “She made a dumb quip on Twitter? Don’t care.”

    The reason that she matters (somewhat) is that she’s another WSJ editorial troll hired by the ‘liberal’ NYT. Her tweet about the figure skater basically looked at a woman of Asian ancestry and assumed that she must be an immigrant. Her column about Evil Librulz suppressing speech on campus was purest BS.




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  46. James Pearce says:

    @Barry:

    The reason that she matters (somewhat) is that she’s another WSJ editorial troll hired by the ‘liberal’ NYT.

    Yeah, I’m sensing a lot of anger towards the NYT for having the temerity to hire some conservative columnists in an age when the conservative party controls all three branches of government and most statehouses. Like….why would the Times do that? Don’t they know that millions of new subscribers are relying on their op-ed section to take down Trump?

    I’m being facetious, of course, but the “liberal New York Times” is bullshit RWNJ came up with to feel better about allowing themselves to be mind-raped by Moonies and Murdochs. Don’t buy into it.

    The NYT publishes a lot of stuff, some of it quite dumb, very little of it “liberal.”

    Her tweet about the figure skater basically looked at a woman of Asian ancestry and assumed that she must be an immigrant.

    How about a little fairness here? Her quip was “Immigrants, they get it done.”

    Is it really so unforgivably offensive to “assume” that someone with the very Japanese name of Mirai Nagasu might be an immigrant, or at the very least, the product of immigrants? Is it so unforgivably offensive to complement someone, even if the complement might sound a little tone-deaf to some woke-ass ears?

    And I guess the most pertinent question is whether it’s so unforgivably offensive to be a conservative columnist for the NYT. If the answer to any of these question is “yes,” you should rethink your political philosophy.




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  47. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “Yeah, I’m sensing a lot of anger towards the NYT for having the temerity to hire some conservative columnists in an age ”

    If you read the criticism, it’s almost entirely about their dishonesty, not their political views.




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  48. Barry says:

    “Is it really so unforgivably offensive to “assume” that someone with the very Japanese name of Mirai Nagasu might be an immigrant, or at the very least, the product of immigrants? Is it so unforgivably offensive to complement someone, even if the complement might sound a little tone-deaf to some woke-ass ears?”

    That’s odd – where I come from, the ‘product of immigrants’ is called ‘American’.




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  49. al-Ameda says:

    @Barry:

    @MBunge: “I mean, calling out Democrats over Farrakhan is setting the courage bar awfully low. But it’s better than nothing.”

    Farra-who now? How many decades has it been since he was relevant?

    The Right loves to reach into the closet and occasionally pull out the Saul Alinsky Doll to both motivate and scare the crap out of their base.

    The fact is, if you asked the average guy on the street, “Do you know who Saul Alinsky is?” I’m guessing that most would say, “Executive Producer of “Desperate Housewives of Orange County.”




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  50. James Pearce says:

    @Barry:

    If you read the criticism, it’s almost entirely about their dishonesty, not their political views.

    Yeah, and Gamergate was about ethics in journalism…

    where I come from, the ‘product of immigrants’ is called ‘American’.

    Look, where I come from we call people who are not from Africa “African-Americans.” We call people who are not from Asia “Asians.” I’ve been called an “Anglo” even though my people originated in Germany.

    Maybe Beri Weiss should have tweeted out “Nisei get it done,” but something tells me that might have been considered even more offensive.




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  51. george says:

    @Kylopod:

    Yup. It’s amazing that people can engage in this kind of both-sidesism in the age of Trump, a time when even some conservatives have admitted that Trump’s rise has confirmed some of the worst stereotypes liberals had of the GOP.

    The GOP is certainly unique horrible in a lot of the things they do. However that doesn’t mean D’s should be called out when they do things against what they preach. In fact it should be incentive to really going after everyone who does any kind of hate speech, because we know the majority of those caught will be conservatives.

    The point of ‘whataboutism’ is exactly that – just because someone else is doing what you’re doing, even if its in a worse way, doesn’t give you a license to do it yourself. Farrakhan said some hateful things, and should be called on it. Nothing about pointing out what he said lessens how awful the things Trump has said, so lets make the net really wide, and catch everyone – most of the catch will be conservatives. And because people can smell hypocrites a thousand miles away.

    People who say their failures shouldn’t be mentioned because of someone else’s failings are hypocrites, and lose all credibility. Think about all the family value conservatives who get caught doing decidedly unfamily oriented things – most people find it hilarious (even conservatives I know think its disgusting), and no one cares if other people are doing it too; if you speak out against something, and then do it yourself, your credibility is rightfully toast.




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  52. Gustopher says:

    @george: I think it’s people more baffled about the Far Right’s obsession with Farrakhan than desperately trying to change the subject.

    I get it — Farrakhan is a scary black man, the man they all claimed Obama was.

    But Farrakhan is also irrelevant to national policy. His antisemetism isn’t shaping Democratic policy on anything. He’s so irrelevant outside of his community that the rest of us forget he exists.




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  53. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce: And there’s this, Sweet Jesus, Will the NYT’s Conservatives Ever Write About Anything but the “Intolerant Left” Ever Again? with a list of eleven of these ‘students are the real fascists’ pieces from NYT and ending,

    So I’d like to say this, formally, on behalf of Times readers: Thank you for introducing the invigorating diversity of opinions about left/campus speech held by affluent Pennsylvania native and Columbia graduate Bari Weiss, affluent Pennsylvania native/University of Chicago graduate/Yale fellow David Brooks, Yale graduate James Bennet, and University of Chicago graduate Bret Stephens into our bubbles. Our bubbles have been popped. Now can we move on?




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  54. James Pearce says:

    @gVOR08: Yeah, saw that already. Reading that convinced me the complaint was “conservative columnists in our paper” rather than some more enlightened point. Supplant Weis, Brooks et al with their progressive counterparts and the only difference would be a fixation on other topics.




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  55. george says:

    @Gustopher:

    I get it — Farrakhan is a scary black man, the man they all claimed Obama was.

    Actually the point about Farrakhan is that he isn’t scary at all, he’s a target they desperately need and they’re extremely glad he’s around. What keeps a lot of the conservative media in the money is searching out left wingers with extreme positions – usually they have to go to universities and find a few young folks with too much time on their hands willing to say ridiculous things, but it plays better when they can find an adult saying the same thing.

    If it weren’t for the radical fringe of colleges and the occasional gift of hate from someone like Farrakhan the right wing media would have almost nothing to gather eyeballs with, because the Democrats simply don’t put many left wing radicals into office.

    You can see the relief in right wing coverage of Farrakhan; they’re grateful that they have an example of a left winger who isn’t a university kid spouting hate speech. The relief is even obvious in the comments – its like when the opposing team takes a pointless penalty, they got a break and are thankful. I half suspect if Farrakhan got seriously ill the readership of Breitbart would raise money to get him the best medical care possible, hoping to keep him alive as long as possible.

    Its easy to see why they’re grateful Most people aren’t interested in politics (to the extent where 45% of potential voters couldn’t be bothered to vote in the last election, or the election before that, or the one before that …). However, hypocrisy always has a great human interest element, and the right wing media lives on that. That’s what the bit about Farrakhan is about, its why they spend so much time showing clips of fringe campus radicals.




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  56. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “s it really so unforgivably offensive to “assume” that someone with the very Japanese name of Mirai Nagasu might be an immigrant, or at the very least, the product of immigrants? ”

    This woman is being paid tens of thousands of dollars by the biggest and one could say most important newspaper in the country to do nothing but spin out a single column every few days, and she can’t be bothered to take the fraction of a minute to make sure the facts behind her opinions are correct? Yes, I’d say that’s unforgivably offensive, whether she’s on the left or the right.

    And by the way, looking at a person whose skin is other than white and immediately assuming she’s an immigrant? That’s saying that to the viewer, American citizen=white. So yeah, that’s basically racism even if it’s not meant with malice.




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  57. gVOR08 says:

    @george:
    Umhh, you quoted me saying “another reason”, not “the reason.

    So if Barry (sic) Weis decided Einstein was correct about say general relativity, you’d conclude that proves Einstein was wrong?

    If Bari Weiss said it, I’d likely never hear about it unless someone else referenced it. And then, no. Now if Bill Kristol said Einstein was right I might think about it for a few minutes before realizing Kristol must have misspoken.

    FYI, Bill Kristol was an early NYT affirmative action conservative hire. He was caught lying so many times NYT had to fire him, and replace him with a new EEOC conservative, Ross Douthat. I don’t think the current op-ed page editor, James Bennet, would have fired Kristol.




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