The sad truth is that the Washington Post, in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training. This little episode today is proof of this. But it is also proof that some people at the Post (where I worked, briefly, 20 years ago) still know the difference between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior, and that maybe this episode will lead to the reimposition of some level of standards.
It is important to note a few things. This final paragraph of Goldberg's initial take on the Weigel incident follows several misstatements. First, he says that the comments Weigel made were on a "semi-public forum". No. They were on a private listserve for journalists that was off-the-record (called "Journolist", it was shut down yesterday by Ezra Klein, who decided that since it was no longer safe, it needed to go). In other words, these were private conversations, offered without permission and certainly with no intention for publication. Imagine, if you will, some of your thoughts made either in private conversations, in chat rooms, or on Facebook, suddenly becoming public and landing you in hot water at work.
Second, Goldberg is truly misinformed (giving him the benefit of the doubt) about Weigel's political point of view. He calls Weigel a "liberal". Since I didn't know myself, I discovered yesterday that in fact Weigel previously worked at Reason magazine, and is a self-proclaimed libertarian. It also seems that there are claims that he was supposedly hired as a conservative counter-weight to liberal blogger Ezra Klein, when in fact what he did was cover the conservative movement as a journalist. While not a reader, apparently he did so quite well.
Goldberg's sniffing at dirty bloggers who got righteously smashed by the forces of professionalism got quite a bit of play yesterday. From Atrios and Ballon Juice through Matt Yglesias to yours truly, we all paid attention to what happened because the entire episode is absurd and Goldberg's chest thumping triumphalism was so transparently nonsensical. Touting WAPO as a place where "toilet-trained" "adults" can school a young whipper-snapper with no professionalism is more than ludicrous, considering their current employment, among others, of Bill Kristol, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Kathleen Parker just to name a few. If any of these folks had their private conversations aired, in a just world, they would not only lose their jobs, they would in all likelihood end up in monasteries doing penance (except for Kristol and Krauthammer who are Jewish).
It turns out that Goldberg's history as a "journalist" is in-tune with the folks just mentioned who continue their employment at the Post despite records that would land any other person unemployed for simple lack of integrity, let alone all sorts of dismal failures at their professions. As John Cole wrote yesterday:
. . . [T]he Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who single-handedly wrote the absolutely most factless pieces of propaganda in the run-up to the war in Iraq this side of Judy Miller, and to my knowledge has never corrected the record in detail and atoned for his sins.
Well, he continued to make this entire story about Jeffrey Goldberg, further signaling that every assumption about fatuous, thin-skinned, superficial insider "journalists" is true:
On the other hand, I was repulsed -- really repulsed -- by his invitation to Matt Drudge to kill himself. I despise violent keyboard-cowboyism, and not only because I've received various invitations over the years to kill myself, or let myself be killed, because I'm a supporter of Israel, or because I support the Kurds in their struggle against Saddam, or because I supported the invasion of Iraq (mainly because I'm a supporter of Israel, actually).
In other words, the real victim here is Jeffrey Goldberg, who continues to be employed by The Atlantic and heroically stands up for Israel in the face of all sorts of anti-Semitic onslaughts. Brave, Brave Sir Jeffrey!
The reason I find this particular story interesting enough to write about and even important is simple. Weigel is, by all accounts, a tough but fair journalist. An off-the-record comment - inviting Matt Drudge to set himself on fire - ends up costing him his job at a formerly prestigious daily newspaper. A fellow journalist whose published record can hardly be described as well as Weigel struts and preens about "children" who aren't "toilet trained" when in fact Goldberg shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as Weigel as a journalist with integrity. It seems that, whether it is some nincompoop who blogs only occasionally or a "journalist" who works at a pretty high-profile publication, folks on the right are really and truly horrible human beings.