Commissar Domenech

Ben Domenech is not a journalist. He’s a moderately fluent writer, though prone to plagiarism, but he’s been hired because, like Jonah Goldberg of the LA Times, he’s a loyal and combative Republican operative with excellent connections. (This is how people were hired to reconstruct Iraq, and how Homeland Security and Fema were staffed and led).
Domenech does not work for the Washington Post. He works for the Party. He’ll collect his Post pay for now, but he has every reason to expect that one way or another the Party will take care of him for the rest of his life.
This isn’t completely new. A lot of established journalists earn a substantial part of their income by giving highly-paid speeches to ideological groups. What’s new is Domenech’s complete lack of qualifications. He’s like a Soviet political commissar, or like the gangsters planted in union locals by the national offices of mobbed-up unions.
What we can expect him to do is to keep an eye on the real journalists at the Post. That’s what he’s been doing all along: he trashed Froomkin just a couple of weeks ago. Supposedly he’s been hired to balance Froomkin, but that’s phony. Froomkin is not a Democratic Party operative, and Froomkin, unlike Domenech, is an actual journalist.
When the facts hurt the Republicans, they accuse anyone who reports the facts of being biased. Domenech will be the on-site man to do that at the Post.
The Post didn’t blunder. The Post was responding to organized outside pressures — some of them public in the blogosphere and elsewhere, and some of them from behind the scenes. The Times and the Post have been knuckling under for some time now. Examples include coverage of the Clinton impeachment, coverage of the Gore-Bush race, and coverage of the runup to the Iraq war. There’s no longer any reason to believe that either the Times or the Post will ever resist this pressure, or even to be sure that they really want to.
No one wants to put the heat on Sulzberger or Graham, because jobs at the Times and the Post are still the best in the biz, and no one is willing to burn any bridges. Those two guys wield a powerful carrot.
Increasingly, the Party is the media, and the Party is the State.
P.S. Ezra Klein has objected to my singling him out. In fact, Ezra is not an especially bad case, and this particular instance is not an especially terrible example of what I’m talking about. But in a toxic profession like present-day journalism, “reasonableness” puts you at risk. More in the extended entry.

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For SOME reason I’m starting to study up on con-man techniques. I came across this page of quotes, incuding:
“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most are those who try to tell them the truth.” (H.l, Mencken)
“Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.” (Eric Hoffer)

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New National Newspaper?

I’ve sent the letter below to a few people who sometimes answer my emails. To me it seems like an obviously good idea, though no one has showed much interest so far. Pass it on.

I’ve been flogging the idea of a new national newspaper for well over a year. I even tried to persuade the Guardian to publish a US edition — no luck.
I don’t have much throw weight, and unless someone else picks up the idea it won’t even be talked about.
I strongly doubt that the Times and the Post will reform themselves. I think that Sulzberger and Graham are much more strongly committed to a political agenda (probably neocon) than anyone realizes.
It would take a lot of startup money, but with good management and promotion it could be good business. The money is there, though liberals do seem to be much stingier than conservatives. the new newspaper would be a magnet for new journalists of the non-opportunist sort, and my bet is that some disgruntled major guys would jump from the Times and Post. There are also a lot of people like Seymour Hersh out there, who used to be newspapermen but got blackballed.
I am convinced that the center-right / right bias of the media dooms the Democrats to defeat. The free media are the worst, but the newspapers are also very bad and speak to a more significant demographic. Because of media skew, ambient political opinion — the opinion of independents, moderates, and thoughtless people generally — can usually be swung to the Republicans, and since the Republicans start out with a hard rightwing core representing 30%-35% of the vote, they usually win.
Right now I live in Minnesota. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is a skimpy, average paper, but the editorial policy is liberal. It really makes a difference for your morale to open a newspaper with the reasonable hope of seeing something you agree with, and I believe I notice a difference in the guy reactions of ordinary people around me who otherwise be cynical centrists. Ambient political opinion is a tremendous political force.
Nobody’s going to listen to me, but maybe if someone else picks this up the idea will get a little traction.
John Emerson

Who Is Our Economy For, Anyway?

Regular Seeing the Forest readers know that we regularly ask the question, “Who is our economy for, anyway?” Today several bloggers are asking this question in different ways. In an earlier post here, John Emerson wrote,

DeLong said once that the Clinton free trade policy was Part One of a two part policy. Part Two would have been compensation and retraining for displaced workers, but it never happened. … Basically Clinton tried to get his bipartisan program through with Republican votes while defying the Democrats in Congress, and then was shocked to find that the Republicans refused to support the Democratic part of the package.

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly and Atrios are talking about trade. Keven wrote,

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Liberal Hawks Plan Democratic Party Takeover

Ari Melber of the miserable Kerry campaign has published an op-ed in the right-wing New York Post saying that the Democrats can win only by becoming more hawkish and defying their dovish wing with a “Sister Souljah” moment. Sample line:

“Democrats must come together and proudly view their party as the party of national security — before anyone else will.”

The piece is bad enough to make you wonder whether Melber is deliberately trying to wreck the party. He knows perfectly well that much of the Democratic Party rank and file is dovish, but he is asking for a candidate who will insult them.
Here’s my (slightly edited) response:

It will be a cold day in Hell before I pay attention to anyone who had anything to do with the Kerry campaign. You guys were worthless. The response to the SBV’s was wretched.
The Democrats can’t run against their base. The problem with the Democrats is that they’re so dominated by Ivy League policy wonks such as yourself that they are completely incapable of communicating to the American people.
Your silly plan would almost certainly split the Democrats, and even so, I seriously doubt that the Dems will ever be able to out-hawk the Commander in Chief’s party — even when the CinC is fucking up as bad as Bush is.
The Democrats learned nothing from the 2000 election, and you’ve made it your job to make sure that they’ll learn the wrong things from the 2004 election. Go to hell.
Most sincerely yours,
John Emerson

Pope of Convenience, R.I.P.

Politically, our late Pope was a mixed bag — in American terms, liberal on some issues and conservative on others. American conservatives, Catholic and otherwise, followed him when convenient and ignored him otherwise. The Pope’s strong opposition to the Iraq invasion had no influence on them, whereas his strong opposition to abortion recently allowed the egregious Wolf Blitzer to joke that the Democrat Paul Begala might not be a very good Catholic. (Bill O’Reilly’s opinion during the Iraq war was that the Pope was senile, though he denies that now.)
In the extended entry I’ve put an exchange I had with a local rightwing Catholic journalist who had just published a string of fulsome tributes to John Paul II. I’ve deleted his name, partly for legal reasons, partly because the guy isn’t the worst of the lot, and partly because I no longer have the energy for big pissing matches.
You’ll find that he supported the Pope only when he already agreed with him, and only on the questions on which the Pope spoke authoritatively (ex cathedra).
On questions about which the Pope’s opinion was not binding, our Catholic friend just ignored it. His respect for John Paul’s own personal opinion was nil; he was only interested in the man in his offical role as the head of the Catholic church.
I ended my part of the exchange by hoping for his sake that the next Pope would be more congenial to him. He didn’t think that that was funny.

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We need our own media

Atrios has just published a request for donations to John Aravosis, who did most of the heavy lifting on the Gannon-Guckert story but who has also done a lot of other good work. Aravosis wants to be able to work full time on political stuff, and he’s shown that he’s good at it. I endorse this drive, and let me throw in Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla. Susie has a media background and is job-hunting, and she should be doing political writing for pay.
This brings up my pet theme: Democrats need their own media. Amateurism and voluntarism are fine, but you don’t want to be in a position of depending on it. If someone’s doing valuable work, they should be paid for it. People with jobs and families (who also want to have lives) should not be expected to make enormous sacrifices forever for their political cause.

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