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Hullabaloo


Saturday, April 28, 2007

 
Think Outside The Rolodex

by digby

Atrios is writing some interesting things today about the blogosphere. I'll just add this:

PETER BEINART: I don't think that I presented myself as a Middle East expert per se. I was a political journalist. I was a-- a columnist writing about all kinds of things. Someone in my-- in my position is not a Middle East expert in the way that somebody who studies this at a university is, or even at a think tank. But I consumed that stuff.

I was relying on people who did that kind of reporting and people who had been in the government who had-- who had access to classified material for their assessment.

BILL MOYERS: And you would talk to them and they would, in effect, brief you, the background on what they knew?

PETER BEINART: Sometimes, but--

BILL MOYERS: I'm trying to help the audience understand. How does-- you described yourself as a political-- a reporter of political opinion, or a journalist--

PETER BEINART: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: --political opinion. How do you-- how do you get the information that enables you to reach the conclusion that you draw as a political journalist?

PETER BEINART: Well, I was doing mostly, for a large part it was reading, reading the statements and the things that people said. I was not a beat reporter. I was editing a magazine and writing a column. So I was not doing a lot of primary reporting. But what I was doing was a lot of reading of other people's reporting and reading of what officials were saying.


Can someone explain to me exactly how this is different from what most bloggers do? I realize we are all pathetically compromised DFH's of the highest order, but even so, there are many, many people in the world who can read, analyze and then write about their conclusions. Beinert is a clear writer, but not a great one, such as (gasp) Christopher Hitchins or Andrew Sullivan whose gifts for language might be a selling point even if they are wrong most of the time. All he really has going for him is his allegedly sharp analytical ability. And yet in the greatest test so far of his generation, he failed to see what many of us out in the country saw using exactly the same methods. We read everything (including, btw, Knight Ridder and Scott Ritter and Carnegie Institute for Peace and old PNAC manifestos) and concluded that Bush was following some bizarre middle eastern quest that had been pre-ordained by a bunch of nutty neocons for a variety of ridiculous reasons, none of which added up to a decent rationale for an Iraq invasion. When I read some anonymous source quoted in TIME magazine say that the administration was throwing reasons at the wall to see what stuck, I recognized that for the truth. The evidence certainly supported it. I assume that Beinert read most of the same things I did, probably more, and yet he backed the president and argued for war. The only difference I can see then between Beinert and me was that I was far away from the corridors of power and was making my conclusions based on nothing more than what my own eyes, ears and mind were telling me. He was living in the GOP establishment bubble and had lost the ability to see beyond it.

Although there are many great bloggers who live in DC and float around the periphery of the establishment, for the most part they are not part of the power structure and function either as ambassadors and liasons for the netroots movement or operate as activists rather than power brokers. Considering how decadent and self-serving the politico-media establishment has become over the past few years, this may be the single most important thing that bloggers bring to the table. Certainly, as it concerns punditry, that's the case.

I suppose it could also be argued that the DC pundits are just not as smart as the rest of us but I doubt it. They aren't stupid or uninformed. Still, results are results and there must be a reason why so many members of the political media have been so wrong so often for the past decade and a half. Out here in the hinterlands, a whole bunch of us have been able to see through what was going on, while it was going on. It's not just partisanship and it's not just a fluke. From the silly travel office flap in 1993 until David Broder's heinous little screed yesterday, there is a long continuum of establishment petulance, confusion, triviality and error. If it isn't their proximity to those who are spinning them, I can only assume that they are either dumb, craven or Republican. It's got to be something.


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