The weirdness of the press: If you write about the mainstream press, you will end up sounding crazy.
That's because of the masterful strangeness of our high-end press. If you write about their work, it's hard to avoid wondering if they're secret invaders from some foreign realm.
That makes it seem like you're the nut. We'll cite two recent examples.
The first example comes from the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post. We refer to the strange review of Joe Conason's new book, Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton.
Conason writes about Bill Clinton's activities since leaving the White House. Because he isn't gripped by Clinton Derangement Syndrome, he tends to excite the antipathy of mainstream figures who are.
In this case, that figure is the lofty Carla Anne Robbins, a member of the New York Times editorial board from 2006 through 2012. Robbins didn't like Conason's book at all. Early on, she displayed her displeasure like this:
ROBBINS (10/2/16): The book enthusiastically chronicles Bill’s philanthropic efforts since he left the White House: slashing the cost of AIDS treatments; improving health systems in Africa; getting sugary drinks out of American public schools; rallying the great and the near great at the annual Clinton Global Initiative to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to their own charitable projects. Much of this has been covered in more lively and skeptical reporting in this newspaper and others, and at a time when the Clinton Foundation’s many good works are dismissed as merely pay to play, Conason’s hagiography won’t correct the record.Already, derangement may be showing. That said, another familiar old motive will quickly come into play.
According to Robbins, Conason is "enthusiastic" about philanthropic efforts which slash the cost of AIDS treatments and improve health systems in Africa. In particular, he's said to be enthusiastic about the Clinton Foundation's efforts in these areas.
The Post has covered the topic better, Robbins writes, offering links to no such work. Conason's enthusiam is therefore dismissed as "hagiography."
So far, we have nothing but Robbins' assertions to go on. Is it fair to dismiss Conason's book this way? We've been given no examples of his objectionable work.
Just like that, our second motive appears. As she continues, Robbins pisses and moans about the way Conason treats her own magnificent guild. After the standard tears of rage, we get our first alleged example of his ridiculous work:
ROBBINS (continuing directly): The real contribution comes from watching Conason’s exertions as he tries to justify the Clintons’ more dubious actions. I’m convinced that he must be channeling their denial, injured pride and conviction that the ends not only justify the means, but anyone who questions their means is part of a right-wing conspiracy or, in the case of the news media, a tool of those conspirators.Is it possible that Conason is right? Is it possible that "the news media" did perform poorly in some way in their treatment of the Rich pardon?
In just one such flight, Conason describes Bill Clinton’s “lashing” by his “adversaries in politics and the media” after his parting pardon of financier Marc Rich. “If anything, the compulsion to pursue their old quarry seemed to be swelling, now that he was no longer the leader of the free world but just another defenseless citizen.”
Within the realm from which Robbins types, we're sorry, but no—that simply isn't possible. By definition, any such claim just has to be wrong. The guild will defend the guild, and they'll do so quickly!
We don't mean to commit the offense with which we're charging Robbins. It's always possible that Conason's treatment of this episode really is unfair and unbalanced—that Robbins' perception is right.
That said, we'll show you Robbins' full attempt at explaining what's wrong with Conason's presentation. Conason spends several early chapters of his book on the Rich pardon. But this is all Robbins provides to justify what she has said:
ROBBINS: Consider a few of this book’s arguments/rationalizations:Amazingly, that is Robbins' full analysis of Conason's treatment of the pardon. She starts by snarkily calling his work an "argument / rationalization." She then makes exactly zero attempt to justify her apparent claim that his assessment is wrong.
•The Rich pardon had nothing to do with campaign and library contributions from Rich’s former wife, “all of which she had given months and years before she approached him on behalf of her ex-husband.” Bill was doing a favor for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who had asked him to “consider” the case because of Rich’s service to Israel.
Did Bill Clinton pardon Rich as a favor to Ehud Barak? The claim is hardly new to this book. But is it wrong or right? And how does Conason argue his case?
As you can see from that excerpt, Robbins makes exactly zero attempt to argue the matter one way or the other. Conason has criticized the press. Within the guild, his basic human rights all ceased to exist at that point.
Within the mahoganied world of the guild, the adept must only engage in some snark about such a man, then display an eye roll. The rest of the guild will quickly agree—the offending claim has been sent to the fires of Hell!
As we've noted, Conason's book begins with the Rich pardon; so does Robbins' review. But she makes exactly zero attempt to construct an argument about whatever it is that Conason actually said. Handily proving Conason's point, she doesn't even pretend that she is engaged in journalism.
This is the way the mainstream press reviewed Gene Lyons' 1995 book, Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater. To the extent that it was reviewed at all, the book was reviewed in precisely this way, with snide dismissals that didn't resemble real journalistic work.
In 2000, Lyons and Conason wrote The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton. The New York Times found a different way to review that effort. It discussed the parts of the book which chronicled Republican attacks on the Clintons, ignored the parts which chronicled similar work by the press.
A basic law guides the conduct of life-forms like Robbins. You simply mustn't attack the guild. The guild will always get the last world, and the guild will play it this way.
Tomorrow, our second example: [Hillary] Clinton Derangement Syndrome—Mika on Hillary Clinton