Talk Radio Liberals Watch: Always Right

by Brien Jackson

With the budget coming out and some more substantive things in the hopper, I promise I’m going to scale back these type of posts, but this missive from Jane Hamsher is simply too egregious to let go. The matter in question goes back to the run-up to the fiscal responsiblity summit, when a lot of progressives, notably Hamsher and Digby, were absolutely foaming at the idea that the Obama administration was going to cut social security. Someone in the administration talked to Ezra Klein, and told him that social security was not going to be on the table, and that they were going to explicitly argue that healthcare reform was a much more pressing need than anything related to social security, which, coincidentally, is exactly what happened.

Without sugarcoating things, what Hamsher is doing is straight out of Orwell. Ezra’s source was completely accurate, at multiple points, but Hamsher makes multiple references to Ezra being “lied to.” Karl Rove couldn’t pull off that sort of up-is-downism with a straight face. Moreover, Hamsher references a completely unsourced, even anonymously, throwaway line from a New York Times report about Obama’s relationship with labor as evidence that she is really right, which is, obviously, pretty ironic, but also underscores the real point to Hamsher’s post.

Hamsher is employing an old right-wing trick, in which the writer is always right, no matter what happens. If it turns out that they’re spectacularly wrong, it’s really just proof that they’re right. Digby, I’m sad to say, has been using the exact same slight of hand to avoid facing up to, well, being completely, loudly, wrong. To wit, most people would look at the discrepancy between what Ezra reported and what Digby/Hamsher were screaming about and conclude that Ezra is well sourced, and Digby/Hamsher were somewhere between wildly inaccurate and slightly paranoid. But, to hear Hamsher and Digby tell it, they were never wrong, rather it was their efforts who forced the administration to change course. So, on top of being right all along, they’re also Very Important People. There’s a word for this; delusional. I like Digby as a writer (Hamsher not so much), but she doesn’t have the political influence to push a local state legislative candidate, let alone to move the White House. I mean c’mon.

I don’t really care much about the anonymous source question (and neither does Hamsher, as she lays bare, she ust picked up Greenwald’s critique to take another shot at Ezra because she’s pissed off he was right). I think Greenwald is being a bit flippant, and doesn’t seem to have considered the fact that the sources can always hang up on the reporter if the latter refuses to grant them anonymity. Or maybe Greenwald thinks that’s a preferrable alternative, although I wouldn’t agree. I also tend to agree with Ezra; there’s no reason to burn a source that’s giving you accurate information. If you feel like you have a source who is routinely lying to you, then yes, you should probably burn them, because that’s a story in its own right. But in this case, not only was Ezra’s source not lying, he wasn’t even mistaken. He was exactly right, something that is understandably a foreign concept to Hamsher.  But what really disturbs me is the reaction. Hamsher’s post has nearly 70 responses, mostly uncritical of her ridiculous post (and glaring contradiction). Ezra’s response has 30 responses at the moment, nearly half of which are critical of him. And again, for posterity’s sake, in the initial question Ezra was right, and Hamsher was spectacularly wrong. But at least in the narrow segment of commentors on the matter, opinion seems to have lined up behind Hamsher anyway. And that’s very troublesome, and makes me question whether the progressive movement will crumble on itself even faster than the conservative movement did.

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