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That Obama had held Wright as an inspiration for his own writing and career, and that Wright seemed to share some mentor relationship with then-candidate Obama, was of no matter. The reaction to Wright’s statement that the U.S. had helped create the AIDs virus ranged from merely ignoring the story, as suggested by Chris Hayes of The Nation, to a more apoplectic response: Spencer Ackerman submitted the idea of a JournoList effort to flag politician Karl Rove or writer Fred Barnes as racist in an effort to deflect heat off Obama.
“If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us,” Ackerman wrote. “Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”
Such hate was spat regularly at conservatives. Sarah Spitz of National Public Radio declared she would “laugh manically” if she was in the presence of Rush Limbaugh and he was having a heart attack. After her daydream was revealed, she soon offered a public apology.
That such thoughts are common among journalists is no major revelation to anyone with common sense, but the list confirms two major criticisms the Right has had of the beltway media in general.
First, some members of objective outlets and other places regularly coordinate with political activists in maintaining a narrative. Rush Limbaugh often aired audio of a wide-range of network talking heads using the same terms and arguments repeatedly in different cable airings. The most infamous of which was the excoriation of George W. Bush and his lack of “gravitas,” which became the most over-used word in the country during the 2000 presidential election. Before that, CNN executives were regular overnight guests at the Clinton White House. Then-presidential candidate John Kerry was reported to have held a clandestine hotel meeting during his campaign with executives at several mainstream outlets.
The other is the use of race as a weapon. Ackerman showed little regret in using race as a way to slander two innocent people in the name of political advantage. This is also no surprise to those who have followed racial politics over the last 20 years, but such reprehensible actions should surely lead to firings.
Unfortunately, it won’t. National media outlets are decidedly insular and inbred. The fired Weigel found another high-profile job within days. Meanwhile, such corroboration will continue. Jeffery Goldberg at The Atlantic confirmed the existence of a new list called Cabalist, which began soon after the closing of JournoList. This smaller listserve will no doubt be more exclusive and less open to public scrutiny.
Meanwhile, a public that is already disinterested in mainstream news has more reason not to believe what they see, hear, or read.
B.J. Bethel is a journalist living in the Midwest. He has written about sports, government, and film for the last decade.
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