The Meek Have Already Inherited the Earth?

September 11, 2008

Today it seems that hostilities have finally been called off in the recent war between Yglesias, Ambinder, and Greenwald over the responsibilities of the press. A rough recap:

Ambinder: The public doesn’t seem to care that McCain is lying about Palin and the bridge.
Yglesias: That’s because you and your buddies in the media aren’t doing your duty and calling him on it, jerk!
Ambinder: Talking about ‘the duty of the press’ is for pretentious people like Greenwald.
Greenwald: Oh no you didn’t! [a bunch of pretentious rambling].
Yglesias: Worrying about the press’s duties is beneath someone who is a member of the press? Really?

This immediately got me thinking of analogies. At first, it seemed clear to me that Greenwald was Wyclef, senselessly drawn into beef by Cannibus (Ambinder) who in turn had been attacked without real provocation by LL Cool J (Yglesias). Once I read through Greenwald’s predictable attempt to broaden the issue into overall ethical theories, I couldn’t help but look at it in that light: Greenwald set himself up as a Kantian, pegging Ambinder as a hedonist and Yglesias as a somewhat more sophisticated egoist, and did his best (which wasn’t really all that great) to show why those positions are untenable.

A quick scoring of the fight: Yglesias is right that journalists should tell the truth and point out when the people they report on are lying, but Ambinder is right that having long discussions about whether journalists have some special set of moral obligations to their public is tedious, and best left to Greenwald. After all, it’s much more important to actually behave ethically, than to have a neat theory on what constitutes ethical behavior. Greenwald is right that he can produce very lengthy posts.

More interesting than any of that, though, is this from Yglesias:

So where’s the narrative about how McCain’s key strategy introducing Sarah Palin to the public and turning his campaign around is based on putting lies at the heart of the presentation? There are a few dozen people, of whom Marc is one, in a position to create this narrative. They’ve chosen not to do so, but that’s a decision they’ve made not a fact about “the way consumers process news.”

Now, I have nothing but respect for Ambinder. He’s a great source of information. But he is, at the end of the day, a fat nerd in front of a computer. It might be nice for Yglesias, as a fat nerd in front of a computer, to imagine that other fat nerds in front of computers are deciding who becomes our next president, but I see no evidence that this is the case. Ambinder doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. While he might be a source and an advisor for a lot of people who are important in the media, that is no reason to think that he has any influence whatsoever on how they choose to present their stories.

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One Response to “The Meek Have Already Inherited the Earth?”


  1. […] the Media Turning on McCain? As has already been discussed at the despot, there has been a lot of grumbling in the liberal blogosphere about the media failing […]


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