Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Should Journalists and Editors Be Publicly 'Vetted', Too?

The media has taught the Joe the Plumbers of America a lesson: You dared to publicly open your mouth in disagreement with a media darling. Therefore, every detail of your life, no matter how irrelevant to political discourse, is now public domain. And it was a shocking lesson for all of us.

Even a journalist or two shared the collective disgust. Michael Malone of ABC, for example*:

Middle America, even when they didn't agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a presidential candidate. So much for the standing up for the little man. So much for speaking truth to power. So much for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.
But Malone's reaction isn't shared by WSJ's columnist Thomas Frank, who writes:
Now, the second remove: By defending the victims of elitism, Mrs. Palin's supporters maintain, she has herself become . . . a victim of elitism, a walking example of the very persecution of Middle America she has made it her business to deplore. Naturally, Rush Limbaugh says it best. "You're being told by the media propagandists that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be vice president. You're being told she's dumb," the man with the golden microphone said on Oct. 2. Then came the populist turn: "These attacks on Governor Palin are attacks on you and attacks on me. They are attacking every single person outside the Beltway, outside the New York-Washington axis, outside their social circle of elitist friends that represents what's great about this country."

All these attacks on the good people of the trans-Beltway region, and yet no actual, physical attacks to speak of! The need for such a manifestation was clear, and last week a College Republican volunteer in Pennsylvania stepped forward to reveal to the world the stigmata of Middle America's persecution.
(I added the emphasis there. Not that you wouldn't have noticed.) Frank goes on to describe the woman who claimed to be robbed and beaten, and marked with a backward 'B' on her cheek when her attacker discovered she was Republican. Here's his conclusion, having conflated the two events:
Maybe it's more than just one clumsy, apparently self-inflicted beating that's fallen apart here. Maybe, with that grotesque backward B, we have reached the freakish conclusion of the long-running persecution melodrama itself. Outside the theater, things on Main Street are turning ugly. Middle America appears to be heading for the exits. And so the curtain comes down on a movement that once dreamt of permanent majorities, now punching itself forlornly in the face.
I don't know what we're supposed to draw from this. Maybe that Joe's introduction to the world of journalistic free speech was really no big deal, since he wasn't the victim of physical violence. Or perhaps he's implying that Joe's ordeal was self inflicted, a sort of political kabuki dance.

Of course it's nonsensical. My point is this: Most of us know very little about the editors and reporters who saw fit to publicly skewer an ordinary guy for asking his question. Mr. Frank expresses his opinion far more publicly than Joe, and more often. Why is his personal life exempt from public scrutiny? What do we know about him? Has he always paid his taxes, his bills? What about his family? His personal associates? What are their names? What about his kids? What's in his garbage can? Should we not ask, and publish details of the personal life of Thomas Frank? Or Tom Brokaw? Or Katie Couric? Or the countless reporters who rifled through Joe's life? If no one is off limits, why are they? Would the idea of a public "vetting" give them a melodramatic chill?

I think it might.

UPDATE. From the comments: "Ace of spades is working on this". Ace suggested vetting the media (now, does that post sound a little testy, or is it me?) and someone decided to make it happen. (Ace says he had nothing to do with it.) The new site is, at the moment a placeholder until they can get set up. Evidently they're looking for tips, and they're overwhelmed with volunteers.

(Thanks to hometown mccainocrat for the info!)

* I've updated the links to point to Malone's column at instead of ABC. The same column was published in both.


Not Wired said...

Hey, I'm always in for a round of dumpster divin' if it means the shoe winds up on the other foot.(Wink, Wink!!)

Puttin On My Waders!!
Not Wired

hometown mccainocrat said...

Ace of spades is working on this...

Pat said...

Welcome, hometown, and thanks for the heads up! I'll update the post.

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