The Tale of the Pundit Who Was Too Important to Bother with Journalism
November 27, 2007
If you want to know why Time magazine pundit Joe Klein is referred to as “Joke Line” in blogland, just get a load of the way he’s getting plastered by Glenn Greenwald in Salon.
It started when Klein wrote a column smearing the Democrats for their feeble attempts to bring the Bush administration’s electronic surveillance program under even a modicum of oversight. Klein’s core notion (it hardly rises to the level of an argument) that telecoms should essentially do whatever the Sun King tells them to do is, alas, pretty much in line with pundit conventional wisdom, as was his standard-issue warning that Democrats were making themselves look like a bunch of weak-minded hippies on the brawny, manly issues of national security. For Joe Klein, the Sixties are like Jason in the Friday the Thirteenth movies — a monster that must be killed over and over, regardless of what’s actually going on in the real world.
Trouble is, Klein’s facts were not simply wrong, but ridiculously so, and when Greenwald and others called him out on it, his simultaneous attempts to cover his butt while implying that the objections were too trivial to warrant serious attention drew him deeper into the quicksand. Klein’s remark that he has “neither the time nor legal background to figure out who’s right” is a real jaw-dropper. Some of us are old enough to remember a time when a columnist was expected to know what he was talking about before he wrote his column. Klein, who presumably knows how to operate telephones and use e-mail, is apparently too busy being a Big Time Journalist to worry about doing real journalism.
In the mindset of a Big Time Journalist like Joe Klein, the little groundlings of blogland are hardly worth sneering at. Every now and the, as he sees it, he might peer over the railings of Parnassus to sneer at the rabble down there and, if he’s in a whimsical mood, tip out a couple of chamber pots. Well, in this case the journalists are the ones on the ground who’ve actually read the legislation Klein dismissed so cavalierly.
How long will it take, do you think, before Klein amends his column yet again to note that he’s being criticized from the right and the left, so he must be doing something right?