Proof By Mention

There’s a big buzz on conservative sites this morning about an “expose” the Daily Caller has published on Media Matters and its founder, David Brock.

I was thinking about reading the “expose” this morning, but then the first three or four descriptions of it I ran across compared it to the Daily Caller‘s 2010 “expose” of the JournoList, and I thought: “Why bother?” Said “expose,” which involved a carefully cherry-picked and ripped-from-context series of quotes from a casual off-the-record listserve (including a couple of my own that completely inverted their meaning), was a joke from any serious journalistic perspective. But with a few honorable exceptions, members of the conservative chattering class accepted it as proof positive that 2008 MSM news coverage was being wired by the Obama campaign via overt message coordination (particularly interesting since most JournoList discussion threads involved arguments, not coordination, and most of us couldn’t have gotten a phone call returned from the Obama campaign if we’d claimed to have definitive evidence John McCain was a North Korean mole). In the wilder corners of the conservative blogosphere, FBI-style posters were published with the supposed images of known JournoListers (which may have created some puzzlement for people with the same or similar names, like my google-ganger, Buffalo sportscaster Ed Kilgore) as people to be hunted down as threats to human liberty.

In any event, I’ve seen this movie, and have no more interest presently in reading the details of what the Daily Caller piece has to say about Media Matters than those who are already trumpeting its revelations. For this kind of “journalism,” the proof is in the mentioning; assertion is invincible; and the implications are entrusted to the faithful heralds of calumny who will henceforth supply a link to the Caller as definitive documentation for Media Matters’ perfidy. It’s really, really sad.

UPDATE: Yeah, I figured someone would make the objection offered by commenter Steve–why write about your decision not to read a stupid article?–and should have explicitly anticipated it. My job here as I understand it is to navigate the day’s political news–not necessarily as defined by my own assessment of legitimate and illegitimate stories–and offer some informed analysis as I can. Sometimes that involves reading stupid stuff so you won’t have to. Sometimes that involves explaining why a “story” is “news” to particular audiences but not to others. In this case, the “story” is strictly in the headline and lede and in the soon-to-be-repeated assertions about an ideological enemy–worse yet, an apostate to the True Cause–of a very dubious publisher’s audience. Nobody much is reading the “story” with any deep interest in its accuracy. So I won’t, either. But is it worth mentioning? Sure it is, precisely because it is big “news” to a significant number of opinion-leaders on the Right, and will immediately become the established set of “facts” that will be trotted out any time Media Matters appears on the landscape.

It’s like birtherism: we don’t really need to sort through all of the bizarre claims being made about the president’s background to know it’s all a crock. But it’s a crock that matters enormously to a shocking number of folk, so in a blog that tries to convey an understanding of many people with whom I do not agree, it is worth taking notice, if only in passing.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.