Between Journalism and Opposition Research

The Washington Free Beacon, the conservative news website helmed by former Weekly Standard scribe Matthew Continetti has run two pieces on Dani Gilbert, the former Debbie Wasserman Schultz staffer who is now working on Jewish outreach for the Democratic National Committee. What Adam Kredo of the WFB uncovered was that, in college, Gilbert, who herself is Jewish took some pictures with (presumably) Jewish friends. Well, I’ll let Adam Kredo describe them:

Gilbert is seen kissing paper currency of undetermined denomination. The caption at the bottom of the photo reads “JEWBAGS.” A comment left on the posting refers to Gilbert and a coterie of female companions as the “Jew cash money team.”

So, here we have a young Jewish woman with what appears to be a long background in fundraising for Jewish causes! More relevantly, these pictures amount to…nothing of substance that impugn the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Gilbert. Ethnic minorities often tend to play with stereotypes about each other for humor! American Jews, with our beautiful history of written and performance comedy, are especially known to this! Of course, no one thinks Gilbert is an anti-semite or that some silly Facebook pictures from college make her any worse at her job, but that does not really matter.

What matters is that after the WFB ran their first story, and a story detailing that Gilbert — who works on dealing with Jewish Democrats — is, herself, the child of two prominent Jewish Democratic fundraisers, and Politico and the BuzzFeed are running stories on the “controversy,” and it is another small addition in the conservative effort to expose (and forge) a rift between Obama and American Jews. It is also evidence of how the Washington Free Beacon, imitating predecessors on the left and right, are using the tools of journalism to do what is essentially opposition research.

As Jonathan Chait observed yesterday, just about anyone who is publicly upset about the Gilbert story is expressing nothing but “pleudo-outrage” that is the required tone for political operatives when dealing with stories like this. Everyone expects, say, spokesmen for political parties and campaigns to say that stuff like Gilbert and her Facebook pictures are at all significant; what we are seeing now, however, with publications like the Washington Free Beacon which are explicitly dedicated to embarrassing and damaging liberal institutions and figures, is how the the tone and content of ideological media organizations and partistan political operations is starting to become almost identical.