Introductions

Hey all, I’m Matthew Zeitlin and I will be occupying Political Animal for the weekend. Ed’s introduction yesterday, has all the important stuff: I’m a senior at Northwestern University and I’ve done some writing for The Daily, The New Republic, and the Atlantic. Yesterday was my 22nd birthday.

But right now we’re concerned about a man who was once an ambitious young journalist, finding his way in Washington.

Eliza Gray has a profile in The New Republic of Matthew Continetti, the editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, that captures the almost-tragic transformation from a  Weekly Standard writer fresh out of Columbia who wanted to be a serious, independent-minded conservative journalist to the political warrior practicing “combat journalism” (his own phrase) who authored a book attacking the political media for going after Sarah Palin and is now the editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon.

I asked if anything had changed his point of view since he graduated from college. “I stopped caring what liberals think about me,” he said. “When you’re young, you want to be friends with everybody. I’d run into people all around and everyone acts nicely. Eventually, you realize you are always going to be a conservative, and therefore flawed if not malevolent in the worldview of liberals. You might as well accept that.”

What’s striking here is not just that Continetti thinks of right-of-center journalism as an opposition project against Think Progress, but also that his conversion story so closely matches how conservatives describe the ideological temptations of Washington. The way it goes is that there are pure conservatives who come to Washington and then are corrupted by the false idols of social acceptance and respectability. They gain a “strange new respect,” from liberal D.C. elites, and before you know it, they’re writing columns for the New York Times. Matthew Continetti, as it happens, wrote some guest columns for Timeswhen he was only 24.

And while it’s true that it’s good to be one of the Times’ house conservatives, there are still only two of them. There are far more opportunities to practice journalism whose primary purpose is to elevate the status of conservatives and Republicans and denigrate liberals and Democrats. Not to mention a cohesive social, political, and cultural network that, after a few decades, can give you a $250,000 Bradley Prize for service to the movement.

And so Continetti, who once wrote a critical, deeply-reported history of Jack Abramoff and the K Street Project, is now helming a news organization whose motto is “Do unto them” and whose lead story this morning concerns itself with a battery on “Obama Way” in Seaside, California. And to do that, it probably helps to think that the primary danger to a conservative journalist’s integrity is a liberal respecting you and taking you seriously.