Washington Babylon — June 28, 2010, 7:51 am

The Weigel Affair

I posted an item Friday morning about why I generally don’t enjoy blogs, saying, “Having one’s own opinion validated twenty times a day really isn’t all that stimulating, though that’s the primary role most blogs perform.” I left town a few hours later and when I reached my destination late in the afternoon I went online and discovered that David Weigel had been forced to leave the Washington Post because of remarks he made on the listserv Journolist (among them, that Matt Drudge should “handle his emotional problems more responsibly and set himself on fire.”)

Which leaves me with one less blog to read, because Weigel was a rarity among bloggers: a terrific reporter whose opinions and work don’t merely parrot the party line.

The situation has been widely covered elsewhere, so I won’t go through the whole affair other than to say that the awful Jeffrey Goldberg comes off looking worse than the Washington Post. (Goldberg dismisses criticsm of his comments about Weigel as coming from “the usual suspects,” even though it appears that every colleague of his at The Atlantic disagrees with his position.)

But here are two observations:

First, if every email, text message and barroom conversation were put in the public realm no one in America would hold a job if held the the standards of the Weigel case. This was put best by the American Spectator, which wrote:

Just for a moment, think of the things that you’d say if you were joking or venting anger among friends, and imagine if they became public with context removed. If everything we said privately were public, I wonder how many of us would be able to maintain jobs or friendships. Weigel is being attacked for writing that the world would be better if Matt Drudge could “set himself on fire.” But people make off hand remarks like that all the time without literally wishing bodily harm upon other humans.

Even back in 1984, when I was much younger and dumber, I couldn’t understand the uproar when Ronald Reagan joked, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Second, a number of bloggers have attacked whoever leaked Weigels’ remarks from Journolist. That’s ridiculous. What would journalists do without leakers, whose motives are rarely pure? The problem isn’t that someone leaked the remarks or that they were published — the problem is that the Post was too cowardly to defend its own employee.

Footnote: Journolist has now been shut down. People periodically leaked me threads from it but I never published anything because I never found any of it newsworthy. If I had, I certainly would have published it. The one revealing item I did receive, which several people sent along, showed that Eric Alterman is an egotistical jerk, but everyone who knows him is already aware of that fact so I didn’t bother.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $34.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2014

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quinoa Quarrel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

You Had to Be There

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Study in Sherlock

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“In Thunupa’s footsteps grew a miraculous plant that could withstand drought, cold, and even salt, and still produce a nutritious grain.”
Photograph by Lisa M. Hamilton
Article
A Study in Sherlock·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is central to the pleasure of the Sherlock Holmes stories that they invite play, and that they were never meant to be taken seriously.”
Illustration by Frederic Dorr Steele
Post
My Top 5 Metal Albums and Their Poetic Counterparts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“1. Death, The Sound of Perseverance (Nuclear Blast, 1998)”
Photograph (detail) by Peter Beste
Article
Found Money·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I have spent my entire adult existence in a recession. Like most people I talk to, I assume the forces that control the market are at best random and at worst rigged. The auction shows only confirm that suspicion.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Post
The School of Permanent Revolución·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The University of Venezuela has provided a consistent counterweight to governmental authority, but it has also reliably produced the elite of whatever group replaced the status quo.”
Photograph © Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez

Percentage of non-Christian Americans who say they believe in the resurrection of Christ:

52

A newly translated Coptic text alleged Judas’ kiss to have been necessitated by Jesus’ ability to shape-shift.

Russia reportedly dropped a series of math texts from a list of recommended curricular books because its illustrations featured too many non-Russian characters. “Gnomes, Snow White,” said a Russian education expert, “these are representatives of a foreign-language culture.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST