July 26, 2010

"On Sept. 8, 2008, five days after Palin’s national debut, some members of the group discussed producing coordinated propaganda designed to wound Palin and boost Obama."

Writes Jonathan Strong in The Daily Caller:
Ryan Avent, then a freelance blogger for the Economist, now an editor there, complained that Obama’s supporters were missing a chance to attack. “If we were the GOP, we’d be taking this opportunity to shout long and loud how unprepared Palin is—‘She doesn’t even know what Fannie and Freddie are…in the middle of a housing crisis!’….That’s the difference in the game as played by us and by them.”

Michael Tomasky responded: “So why aren’t Dems doing that? Just wundrin’.”

Luke Mitchell, then a senior editor at Harper’s magazine, asked Tomasky if his paper would be able to help: “Michael – Isn’t this something that can be fanned a bit by, say, the Guardian?”...

“... [I]t seems to me that a concerted effort on the part of the left partisan press could be useful. Why geld ourselves? A lot of the people on this list work for organizations that are far more influential than, say, the Washington Times.
“Open question: Would it be a good use of this list to co-ordinate a message of the week along the lines of the GOP? Or is that too loathsome? It certainly sounds loathsome. But so does losing!”

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, the founder of Journolist, quickly jumped in: “Nope, no message coordination. I’m not even sure that would be legal. This is a discussion list, though, and I want it to retain that character,” he wrote.
So we see the suggestion of propaganda/message coordination, presented as probably too loathsome to do and then immediately nixed by the list founder, Ezra Klein. The headline of Strong's article is "Journolist debates making its coordination with Obama explicit," suggesting that they were coordinating, but this was just the point where they openly talked about what they were doing... except they only talked about doing it in the future.

66 comments:

New York said...

The headline of Strong's article is "Journolist debates making its coordination with Obama explicit," suggesting that they were coordinating, but this was just the point where they openly talked about what they were doing... except they only talked about doing it in the future.

It's pretty clear that they were debating coordinating as they were doing it.

It may actually be that what was envisioned was "explicit" coordination (eg. "first we'll run this in MoJo, then next week you mention the other point in the Guardian"). But clearly the point of this and the other discussions is to hatch tactical pro-Obama or anti-Palin messages for promotion in the liberal media.

From Inwood said...

If someone told me this without any proof or if The Onion had published a satire including this, I'd have thought him paranoid & The Onion a step to far.

PatCA said...

Yeah, they stopped coordinating at the exact moment they needed to so they could deny coordinating.

Watching a chat show yesterday and the panelists answering every question germane to Shirley Sherrod with a "aren't they racists" and then comparing it to the Journolist tactic of getting the tea party all tied up in knots denying allegations of racism...it was not pretty. Does anyone outside of the blogosphere realize this is happening?

El Pollo Real said...

From the linked article:

Ryan Avent, then a freelance blogger for the Economist, now an editor there, complained that Obama’s supporters were missing a chance to attack. “If we were the GOP, we’d be taking this opportunity to shout long and loud how unprepared Palin is—‘She doesn’t even know what Fannie and Freddie are…in the middle of a housing crisis!’….That’s the difference in the game as played by us and by them.

That's the part I found most disturbing. I complained more than once around here that The Economist's US coverage had gone downhill somewhere around the latter stages of the Bush term and became rather partisan. I may be exaggerating someone's importance there, but at least now I think I know why something was happening there.

Scott said...

Leftish strategy: If you shout a lie long enough, it eventually becomes an unassailable truth.

Corrolary: If you ignore facts long enough, they eventually go away.

We're seeing both strategies at play in the Journolist discussions. This is repugnant, particularly because it's been normed on the left.

These are really dark times for the United States.

Lincolntf said...

I doubt that formal "message coordination" is even needed in a group that identifies itself as part of the partisan Leftist press. The message is already coordinated. They're just trying to spread the word. The quick nixing of the idea is kind of funny when you consider all the bald faced examples of message coordination that came in the ensuing months.

As to the hatred and vitriol directed at Palin in the first days after her national public debut, that was fascinating to watch. Showed what kind of people we're up against.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It only confirms what we have known all along.

The media is no longer a watch dog on the government; nor is it reporting unbiased news. Instead the media had turned itself into a partisan, propoganda arm of the leftist's socialistic agenda.

They have been lying and distorting the news for years and years and years. Now they are no longer even trying to hide that they have an agenda.

Why anyone would purchase a newspaper or watch any of the network news programs is beyond me.

They are a dying industry, with the advent of the internet.

This means that the government/Obama will try to shut down the only free communication source that we have. It is already happening and Congress just gave Obama the power.

MadisonMan said...

I don't think message coordination of any type is needed, for either the right or the left side of the press room.

In the incestuous bubble that is DC, thoughts will quickly coalesce onto what is perceived to be the most effective argument, without the help of an email list. This way, lazy journalists can write what they have to write without necessarily having to think up something original. That shortens the time spent before heading to the bar.

traditionalguy said...

I see that Oliver Stone has been coordinating his comments with C-4 this morning. Great minds are controlled alike. This stuff is really helping the Palinista's meme of coming to the defense of the shamefully attacked Lady Sarah. But like nudity, a slight cover up of bias is more interesting than stark naked bias.

AllenS said...

In the future. That's tomorrow and the day after.

garage mahal said...

It only confirms what we have known all along.

A few members discussed doing something they thought the GOP was already doing, [right or wrong] and that idea was quickly nixed by Ezra Klein. What was this confirming to you?

For all the talk about message coordination, I've yet to see any evidence of that in their day jobs.

Scott said...

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow, you're only a day away. --LOA

Scott said...

"For all the talk about message coordination, I've yet to see any evidence of that in their day jobs."

If you ignore facts long enough, they eventually go away.

AJ Lynch said...

Garage:

Didn't the Journolisters, epsecially little Ezra, do a lot of back and forth in their "day jobs" about the Dem strategy to try "Deem and Pass" on Obamacare bill?

I will be interested to see what Carlson find in the listserve about that topic.

virgil xenophon said...

Kate over at her blog *smalldeadanimals*
has a daily heading of the latest examples of leftist outrages which perfectly fits these disclosures. It's titled: "But Glen Beck is The Crazy One" LOL.

John said...

Again it just shows what boring idiots they are. And is further evidence why no one reads or pays attention to the big media anymore.

Remember they were effectively working with the Obama Campaign. People on the journolist were in government and the campaign. They also reffered to themselves as the "un-official campaign". Rightwing organizations to my knowledge have never referred to themselves as "the unofficial campaign."

This goes beyond just normal opinion journalism. It is a large group of people from a hugely diverse set of publications specifically coordinating their message and setting out to influence their employers coverage to help Obama. That is way beyond anything I have ever seen.

Basically the e-mails show that there was nothing that could be called "journalism" in the traditional meaning of the word being done in 2008 with regard to the Obama campaign.

Just all the more reason to shut the mainstream media off. They are nothing but an arm of the Democratic Party.

garage mahal said...


If you ignore facts long enough, they eventually go away.


Well, fire away.

Paddy O said...

Seems that's a pretty important "though" added to Klein's response.

"We're not coordinating but we do encourage 'discussion'."

Also suggests he was entirely aware how non-private the list might be.

edutcher said...

I'm surprised he was worried about legalities and whether it was 'loathsome' . It's never stopped these people before.

Scott said...

Leftish strategy: If you shout a lie long enough, it eventually becomes an unassailable truth.

Corrolary: If you ignore facts long enough, they eventually go away.

We're seeing both strategies at play in the Journolist discussions. This is repugnant, particularly because it's been normed on the left.

These are really dark times for the United States.


The strategy goes back to Dr. Goebbels, but you are 1000% correct in your point.

garage mahal said...

It only confirms what we have known all along.

A few members discussed doing something they thought the GOP was already doing, [right or wrong] and that idea was quickly nixed by Ezra Klein. What was this confirming to you?

For all the talk about message coordination, I've yet to see any evidence of that in their day jobs.


"There are none so blind...", the old saying goes.

Lincolntf said...

I remember the cries of "racist" directed at every single critic of Obama, which is exactly the message that the JournoListers were trying to coordinate. Coincidence?
Their "day jobs" have been devoted to serving the Democrat Party for years. Pretending otherwise is just more willful ignorance.

Scott said...

@Paddy O, who wrote:

"Also suggests he was entirely aware how non-private the list might be."

Also suggests that he's aware the emails, email list, and Klein's email correspondence relating to membership can be subpoenaed.

Also suggests that Klein knew that they were dancing on the edge of illegality.

Brian said...

@garage:
There are pages of comments from the journolist on how to broach Palin's Trig pregnancy. Speculation that she was covering something up, Trig may not be her baby, etc. Sullivan wasn't the only one obsessed with it, apparently. Ezra Klein sensed how far it had gone, and that attacking Palin on her pregnancy could backfire, better to go after her lack of experience, etc. Others saw it as a legitimate story to discredit Palin's judgement for boarding a plane after her water broke.

Kind of weird, I guess. It also shows just how obsessed they were with Sarah's bodily functions. Some of the female journalists were defending Sarah's choices, while others said the story was legitimate to debunk the pro-life myth. Some saw an opportunity to raise the question of Bristol being coerced to carry her baby to term.

Jim_J said...

It turns out that Palin was right after all. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have so far cost the taxpayers $145 billion.

Hoosier Daddy said...

The message coordination wasn't such a big deal for me. I was more appalled at the spittle-flecked hate and vitriol coming from people who like to call themselves progressive and tolerant.

Paul Zrimsek said...

The nasty thing about Journolist isn't how much deliberate message coordination was practiced; it's how little deliberate message coodination was necessary.

Lance said...

Groupthink is rarely intentional. No one fires up their email client thinking "I'm gonna do my part to contribute to groupthink." But it's clear that the Journolist group was in fact coordinating their thoughts, if not their message.

GMay said...

garage mahal offered:

"A few members discussed doing something they thought the GOP was already doing, [right or wrong] and that idea was quickly nixed by Ezra Klein. What was this confirming to you?

For all the talk about message coordination, I've yet to see any evidence of that in their day jobs."


Golly gee, considering that the Journolisters were talking about doing exactly what ended up happening with both Palin and those eeeevil racist teabaggers, doncha think there's a little co-inky-dink there buddy?

(I know it's wrong of me to ask you to "think", but do try once in awhile.)

master cylinder said...

still wanking this?

GMay said...

Even in the alternate universe where this evidence doesn't amount to collusion, we have prominent journalists individually espousing a severely biased approach to "reporting" the news.

While this is clearly a blatant breach of journalistic ethics (try not to laugh), I don't expect their employers to bat an eye.

GMay said...

"still wanking this?"

Spencer Ackerman tell you to write that?

Brian said...

This kind of reminds me of the law of conspiracy: It does not require - and in fact rarely exhibits - explicit, formal agreement, e.g.:

"So it is agreed, in exchange for the consideration of a future supply of guns, plus a non-trivial percentage of proceeds from the sale of controlled substances, we will murder said individuals."

A "nod and a wink" will do, as the prosecutors say.

And the Journo-dweebs were nodding and winking all over the place.

HDHouse said...

must not have worked. i'm shocked to read that Palin has only been around on the national scene for so little time. seems like forever.

garage mahal said...

Golly gee, considering that the Journolisters were talking about doing exactly what ended up happening with both Palin and those eeeevil racist teabaggers, doncha think there's a little co-inky-dink there buddy?

Specifically, the topics jlisters who were allegedly colluding together matched to the columns they wrote about on it.

MadisonMan said...

Nope, no message coordination. I’m not even sure that would be legal

Why would it not be legal? (IANAL)

SMGalbraith said...

Petty and shallow, anyone?

The Algonquin Round Table it ain't.

Or wasn't.

Sofa King said...

"Why would it not be legal? (IANAL)"

If any of the listers were part of the Obama campaign staff, then the coordination conceivably turns any political advocacy into an in-kind candidate contribution, subject to all of the applicable rules and regulations.

Same reason why PACs have to be extremely careful about communications with campaigns.

GMay said...

"Why would it not be legal?"

I'm wondering that myself.

Unethical? Sure.

Richard Dolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

HDHouse said...

must not have worked. i'm shocked to read that Palin has only been around on the national scene for so little time. seems like forever.

It's gonna be a lot longer, seeing how she well she pushes the Lefties' buttons.

Richard Dolan said...

There seems to be a strong desire on this thread and those generated by Ann's earlier posts about Journolist to dismiss these Lefties as idiots with evil intentions (of the let's-brainwash-the-unwashed sort). What comes through instead is how ordinary, almost banal, the Journolist discussions were. Even the over-the-top rhetoric (wanting to see Rush die, shoving conservatives through plate glass windows, concocting charges of racism against random folks) had a juvenile sound to it, proving that the Journolist gang couldn't have pulled any of it off if that had been their intention.

There may once have been a time, and technology may once have provided an opportunity, to manage the news or coordinate a story for political effect. But, if so, the time has past and, as the internet has come to replace dead-tree media, the window of opportunity has closed.

There's just not much there there in the Journolist 'manage the news' conspiracy. The List turns out to be a lot of like-thinking lefties who occasionally forgot that what you post on the internet is there forever, and will eventually find its way onto the internet's equivalent of the front page. I think Jay Cost's post (at RCP), suggesting that the 'in-crowd' secrecy about Journolist was its biggest weakest, is on the money. The List ended up sounding like some high-school geek thing that, unfortunately, was playing out in a larger, less forgiving and much more out-for-blood environment. Embarassing (for the bad taste and banality of it all) but not much more than that.

buster said...

In 1974, in the wake of Watergate, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave a speech in which he said that the freedom of the press clause of the First Amendment had the effect of establishing the news media as a fourth branch of government whose job is to expose to public view the inner workings of the other three. I remember giggling to myself as I heard this. (Maybe the religion clauses establish churches as a fifth branch!!) But this nonsense was taken seriously by the MSM for a long time, and still is to a large extent. JournoListersseem to have a much less grandiose and more decadent idea of what journalism is about.

bagoh20 said...

It's kind of like the judge in a criminal case hanging out with the prosecutors and expressing agreement with them, but then adding "Of course I'll be fair to both sides in court." You have to assume they will right?

bagoh20 said...

Real journalists could have these discussions if they also had a similar volume of comment in the opposite direction. Real journalists would be a cool thing to have.

Lance said...

@Richard Dolan

It's the groupthink that's the problem. One of the j-listers defended the list by arguing that they didn't want conservatives to participate, because they didn't want to have to argue first principles every time. They wanted to bypass all that stuff conservatives think is important.

I personally believe the groupthink has been there all along--I don't think it started with Klein's invitation-only list. But Journolist provides the first really clear example of left/liberal/progressive/Democrat groupthink that we can hold up and examine. These people have walled themselves off from competing ideas. I'm not sure why they've done it, whether they just want to "win" politically, or they're intellectually lazy, or whatever.

And yes, it's clear the right has the same problem (hello all you Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck fans!).

bagoh20 said...

"What comes through instead is how ordinary, almost banal, the Journolist discussions were. "

This was my first impression too. The comments even without bias do not inspire one to go to these people for information. Reminds me of a high school clique.

rcocean said...

Yes, the "No coordination" thing is a joke.

Discuss yes, coordinate *privately* between J-L members, discuss strategy on J-L about "how someone needs to write X" and "attack Y", toss out ideas.

Just don't *explicitly* call it 'co-ordination' - 'cause that might be "illegal".

bagoh20 said...

they didn't want conservatives to participate, because they didn't want to have to argue first principles every time. "

Well, I can't blame them for that. The truth would be a big problem with those discussions.

Hoosier Daddy said...

hdhouse said.... i'm shocked to read...

I'm shocked you can read.

edutcher said...

In the "Just when you thought it was safe..." category, we have a new list via Insta.

The bad guys have always networked. This is how, over the years, they always showed up with pre-printed signs to meet the busloads of useful idiots that were willing to march.

(Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean...)

PS There was some give-and-take over who and what Charles Sherrod was (no, I don't want to get it going again, either), but, also via Insta, here is the man in his own words. For those, like me, who found what was on the Web a little ambiguous.

LarsPorsena said...

"t's the groupthink that's the problem. One of the j-listers defended the list by arguing that they didn't want conservatives to participate, because they didn't want to have to argue first principles ...."

Principles? Principles? We don't need no stinking principles.

Scott said...

Group think? It goes a little beyond that.

Apart from the legal issue (thanks Sofa King), people who write for newspapers and broadcast outlets have an obligation to defend the reputations of their employers as reliable brokers of fact. Yet Ezra Klein's Journolist listserv was created so these writers and their policy pimp sources could clustercopulate. Journalist participation in this kind of secret forum is unethical because it exposes their employers to charges of message coordination and the appearance of writers and sources identifying with a common cause (co-option). It denigrates the independence of their news organizations, and devalues the perceived quality of their content.

The most shocking thing is that Ezra Klein still works for the Washington Post. It tells me that they really don't care much about defending their reputation.

John Stodder said...

"Would it be a good use of this list to co-ordinate a message of the week along the lines of the GOP? Or is that too loathsome?"

Classic in-group tendency: To assume the worst about your enemy, and then use that as a rationalization for engaging in the same presumed behavior. It's "good" to be "loathsome."

I wish people would drop the partisan screen through which the story is being, uh, narrated. It is far more interesting as an examination of how the Web is such a powerful medium of collaboration that, even without necessarily intending to do so, participants in a demarcated group start collaborating.

Conservatives pundits look at this story and say, in effect, "we don't have anything like this on our side. We're just too independent-minded." But that's just because no one had thought of it yet. If Fred Barnes and Tucker Carlson were on a listserv of 100 smart conservatives from journalism, academia and political strategery, inevitably they would eventually start telling each other how to "frame" things and suggesting strategies "we" can pursue.

And, over time, heretical writings from members of that group would become harder to sustain, out of fear of being called out.

It's not a disease of liberals. It's a disease of humans, even humans who think of themselves as lone wolves; and the Web is facilitating it.

Sofa King said...

JS -

Interesting comments, but I disagree in one regard. I don't see the conservative response to be "we don't have anything like this on our side. We're just too independent-minded." Rather, it's more like, "we don't have anything like this on our side - because the media, as we have always said, is almost entirely biased Democratic."

Freeman Hunt said...

Ha ha.

"We need to push this."
"Yeah, for reals."
"I know. Totally."
"That one paper should do it."
"For sure."
"Heh. This is so awesome. We're coordinating the news. Naughty, naughty us."
"No no no! That's not what we're doing! You can't call it that."
"Yeah, that's illegal mebbe."
"Haven't you heard of 'plausible deniability' on Criminal Intent?"
"Oh."
"Yeah, no 'coordination.'"
"OK. In that case, this DISCUSSION rocks!"
"Yeah!"
"For sure!"

Pogo said...

Awesome, Freeman.

The Journolisters and Obama campaign just got caught making out in the bushes, and are trying to say it only looks like fornication.

Jeremy said...

The "Daily Caller" is your reference?

What...Karl Rove and Glenn Beck too busy?

Ridiculous.

c3 said...

I was actually heartened by today's installment of the The Days our Jornolisters. Specifically these comments on Palin convention speech:

“This speech is gangbusters,“Her tone is pitch perfect.” “Palin is golden.”

Now my opinion of ex-Gov Palin has dropped significantly since '08 but from the get-go I've been appalled by the left's severe case of Palin Derangement Syndrome. These quotes encourage me to see that not everyone on the left was in full "get Palin mode" from the get go.

The "raw" dialogue regarding the "Trig" angle was disturbing. How ironic that Andrew Sullivan has been one of the few left of center voices to be disturbed by the Jornolist revelations when his Palin claim to fame ITS NOT HER BABY !!!, was an area the Jornolisters shied away from.

Jeremy said...

All one has to do to "wound" Princess Sarah is for her to open her mouth and speak.

The woman is an absolute dolt...taking the right wing and the tea baggers for a very profitable ride.

Seven Machos said...

This all explains why Palin became such an incredible lightning rod. Otherwise, it was ridiculously strange.

Randy said...

Why am I reminded of the Nixon Watergate tapes, wherein Nixon said something to the effect that "We could do that, but it'd be wrong" and then they promptly went and did that?

AC245 said...

My, how far we've come since the mindless shills were pushing the transparent lie that all the Journolisters did was coordinate happy hour gatherings and discuss sporting events.

virgil xenophon said...

Forgetting for the moment the more pathetic aspects of these individuals thought processes and fine-line debates about whether group-think bled over into active "conspiracies" of whatever degree; I for one feel this reveals--if it already wasn't intuitively obvious to those who take the time to ponder/reflect on the implications of the cultural trends in society--the sort of source for a lot of the constant 24/7/365 leftist drumbeat--background radiation, if you will--that gets picked up and fills every nook and cranny of our culture from the news media to Hollywood to Redbook. Yes Redbook--and H & G and all the rest. I don't care what the topic is: Retirement planning, home decor--you name it, the leftist gloss is always there. The views that we find expressed on journolist seep into every facet of life by an almost imperceptible osmotic process.

Classic example: Circa 2007/8 the NBC Today show did an entire show devoted to the "Irish Miracle"--the fact that at the time Ireland was the fastest growing economy in Europe. They sent the ENTIRE CAST (Save Anne Curry who must have drawn the short straw) The logistics of all this required no little detailed advanced planning not to mention being exceedingly expensive to move the entire production to Ireland. And yet when viewed, among ALL the varied aspects of this "Irish Miracle" which they drooled, marveled over, what was the ONE thing NEVER mentioned or even alluded to? Why exactly how it ALL CAME ABOUT, that's all. In short, the "Irish Miracle" was thought so important, so remarkable, that it was felt by NBC worthy of moving the cast and crew of the Today Show across the Atlantic and devote an entire three-hour show to spotlighting this wonder for its American audience yet omitting to explain how it all came about!

And of course we know the story, don't we? LOWER TAXES!!--both personal and corporate. VASTLY lower. All one has to do is Google "Irish Miracle" and this fact is
easily ascertained. But of course this doesn't fit the MSMs template/meme, so mention of this explanation to a wider general audience is strictly verbotten. Down the memory hole.

So seen by this example these sorts of people and the attitudes/state of mind they spread are far more dangerous than Richard Dolan believes. They decide which part of the unthinking national vocab/discourse, is to used or omitted as a base starting point/gloss for discussions about almost ANY subject.

Although the journolist people may be, in the main, second-tier "journalists," they are no less dangerous than the big hitters. Don't underestimate the damage they can do over the drip, drip,drip accretion of time. They subtly serve to color the entire media discourse about EVERYTHING in terms of framing social issues and what is important to think about and the nature of acceptable social attitudes.

SFC B said...

"Why would it not be legal?"

IANAL either, but I think the legality question is in election law.

I don't think it would be legal for a group of people who publish to a mass medium to coordinate a message with a political campaign without registering with the FEC.

Scott said...

@virgil: I wish I could post what you wrote on my blog. You nailed it.

@Jeremy: You're a twat.

Gabriel Hanna said...

If Journolist HAD included conservatives, and then had and enforced a rule about arguing "first principles", then Journolist might really have been what Ezra Klein claimed it was intended to be: a place for journalists to talk about their trade.

Since they limited it to one side of the ideological spectrum, everyone got comfortable, and it became a place were everyone got together and decided what they were going to write and how they would write about it.

jamboree said...

Why do I need to read this boring bullshit when I was around to *feel it* as it was happening. A swarm of piranhas - the frothing - Palin was like hydrogen peroxide being poured down a hooker's throat - salt on a snail- I've never seen anything like it.

I was one of the few that had been paying attention beforehand to the odd spasm of love that was heaped on Palin when it was thought she was safely too pregnant to run or be tapped, and how that all changed in an instant the minute she cast a shadow on the path of the Mass Dem Man Crush.