« Bush straw man watch | Main | Digg my column! »

September 20, 2006


I thought the way you were comment-slammed on at least one post was deeply unfair, and said so in comments. But I think you might be misreading TAP here. If you look at some of the prior posts of GFR on TAPPED, you'll see that for a few months, she was consistently taking anti-netroot positions, and she was being slammed in the comments with a hell of a lot of vitriol. Yet nobody stopped her from posting, and her anti-netroot posture deepened rather than abated.

Instead, I think this disagreement grows out of your role as a polysci scholar. You want to measure something to know it, but it's hard to measure the effect of language, dependent as it is on various factors that "locate" both the speaker and the listener. So it seems either naive or disingenous to some to indicate that comparisons to Hitler function the same way from the left and the right, especially at this moment. That sounds like what Tomasky was trying to say: "objective" journalism is "balanced" journalism is "he said/she said" journalism and isn't a very good reflection of reality.

Damned blogofascists, demanding accuracy from you.

Turning over rocks to find ways to criticize liberals has lost its magic as a way to win friends and influence people, eh?


At least you have the stones to allow comments on your blog (unlike your pal Andy). Good on ya for that.

Grow up, little boy.

God forbid a progressive publication would want to hire progressive writers. You're not entitled to the job, you know.

Well, at least you got an explanation, documented with examples, unlike Alterman who was booted from MSNBC presumably for being progressive.

You can always bolg on the Corner with the uberboys there. The seem to be on your side, especially Jonah Lucianne.


Of course, your fellow whiny-ass titty babies at Time.com will welcome you with open arms. They're fucking jokes, pal, and so the fuck are you.

Good luck Brendan

What you fail to realize is that the blogsphere did not set the ground rules for the current state of opinion journalism...

No sir FOX NEWS pioneered the US and THEM form of opinion based journalism in the late 90's to much success....

Naturally that dynamic has influenced alot of the bloggers, "journalists" and publications today

Currently there is no room for a fence sitter (I dont mean that in a bad way)like yourself....

Anyway you tried, it didnt work, move on....

Dont completely write off the LW blogsphere...there are some really great bloggers out there with whom you do share some common ground

Shorter Brendan Nyhan: Come bask in my brilliant revelation: people are biased

Check out how fast you can get banned on DailyKos and RedState on the same day. It's not as difficult as you think. It only takes a few minutes and all you have to do is ask a simple question.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/7/15/192318/899>I tried it.

BTW: Who reads Atrios?

Brilliant political commentary there, Dave. My, you've certainly put Brendan Nyhan in his place! You've probably sent him into a corner somewhere, cringing under the full brutal force of your witty repartes. In fact, I've never seen the word "fuck" used in so many fascinatingly different ways.

Seriously, though, you've scored no points for the liberal cause there with your statement, buddy.

As for most of the comments here, it's nice to see that incendiary comments, gross overgeneralizations, and pure unadulterated vitriol are not strictly the domain of the far right.

We'll have to release Mr. Nyhan due to lack of evidence.

One thing missing from this discussion is that Brendan was a known commodity when TAP hired him. He has a long track record of writing and expressing independent views. Presumably, that's why TAP hired him. For TAP to suddenly discover that he is an independent thinker after hiring him is, at a minimum, evidence of incompetence on TAP's part. I suggest that anyone hired to do blogging for anyone insist upon having a contract that specifies some payment in the event they are suddenly discovered to be consisten in their views.

Oh, please. Brendan, you were acting like a schoolmarm in your whiny little concern-troll pieces for TAP and when your employer called you on it, you stomped off like a petulant child. You're not an independent thinker, you're just a prime example of Robert Frost's quip that a liberal is someone so broadminded he won't take his own side in an argument. TAP is better off without you, and the only thing they did wrong was hire you in the first place.

This is really ugly, and it hands the righties plenty of grist for the "liberals are fascists" mill. I have both Brendan and Atrios on my blogroll. I bought a copy of All the President's Spin the week it came out and still look to it as the bible for understanding how Bush uses hype. Atrios, too, is one of my heroes, but in this case I have trouble defending him because he's sometimes too quick to dole out his "wanker of the day" award to people who simply don't deserve it. What's the point of going after one another - we, on the same side - with spats like this? And Brendan has to take some mild criticism, too, for going on about it instead of making his point and moving on. These festering sores are exactly what the FrontPage crowd prays for, dividing us and making us seem like a hopeless gaggle of bickering babies. And now we've handed it to them on a platter, and Sullivan is broadcasting the story to all sides. How about some priorities for a change, like a unified message for going after Bush as opposed to one another on the left? I know it's a lot to ask, but I can still dream, can't I?

As i suggested at the Horse's Mouth at the times, the most galling thing about the posts in question was the fact that they were completely off-topic. Sean Penn's comments belong on Gawker, not the Horse's Mouth. Penn is neither a political figure nor in the political media. The book about Coulter is metamedia at best, and if one can't appreciate a bit of sarcasm (Brainless/Godless...get it?), no matter how juvenile, then one needs to rapidly get over oneself. I wish Brendan the best, but his stuff didn't belong at that blog. It's a free country, but no one is entitled by right to a place at TAP's table.

Hiring Bryan was a terrible mistake. Firing him was embarassing, but it spared TAP readers a lot of drivel.

Nyhan is a David Broder with dimples -- a one-note Johnny who thinks that America's problem is too much partisanship. What a silly boy.

Before I comment, let me just say that I've always had a lot of admiration for your writing, Brendan, and I'd never even been aware of criticism it may have generated on other blogs. That said, you should recognize a couple things:

1. Misidentifying the author of a statement, when your whole point is to call the author of that statement "vile," is not "a minor factual error." It's a fundamental error, a deep error, one that should make any of us want to crawl into a hole after making it. It can happen, though, so you correct it because that's all you can do. But having made the error, you just don't have a moral high horse to ride.

2. Accusing someone of "politicizing" X or Y has become one of the great weasel words of our time. Republicans accuse Dems of "politicizing" Iraq when they express alternate views. Your claim that the original posts "politicized a suicide" is meaningless -- yes, they mentioned the fact that a suicide had occurred, in the course of making a simple and profound point: many people bore small or large parts in the complex chain of responsibility that led to 9/11. Some of them took their internal sense of that responsibility to an awful extreme, others absolved themselves of all responsibility. And President Bush was surely at that latter extreme. One could state that point without mentioning the suicide, but that fact evokes it powerfully. (Especially after the "politicization" of the series of events at the airport in Path to 9/11.)
3. You say that "no editor at the Prospect ever contacted me" about the Coulter or the Sean Penn post, but then you say that when Rosenfeld contacted you and mentioned problems with the two posts, you "terminated the relationship." So it's not like they didn't mention problems with the posts, and then fired you. They did mention concerns -- after publishing the posts, apparently uncensored -- and you decided to quit, according to your own account. Again, I don't see how you're wronged here -- an editor contacted you and said, in effect, "we're looking for something a little different from you." And you didn't want to do that. So?

3. I've written a lot for the Prospect over the past 3 years, online and in print, and write a column there now. I like to think it's pretty independent (in fact, my latest column is about the culture clash between the moderate center-leftist bloggers and the pure netroots, e.g. Atrios) and I've never encountered a bit of a problem. Ordinary editing, of course, which includes challenges to my interpretation or analysis. But no sense that there are things that cannot be said. Indeed, the thing that makes the magazine and TAPPED great right now is that it is unpredictable, there is debate, lots of things there challenge liberal verities.

Bottom line: You made a big error and got called a "wanker." So what?

Welcome to the highway of truely free speach! One thing Bush was right avout was the concept of the media gatekeeper. Too bad only the lone voices are free to open just about any door they wish. Now if I could only divorce my writing from my internal gatekeeper. I sensor myself too darned much:-)

Brendan writes in TIME:

"Before the rise of online competition, opinion magazines had some freedom to be idiosyncratic and less partisan than their readers."

So, opinion magazines like TAP and TNR are now so desperate for links from major bloggers like Kos and Atrios that they have lost the courage of their convictions? If that's the case, then they deserve to be driven out of business, and our democracy will not be any poorer for it.

Misidentifying the name of the poster on Atrios' website is hardly a "big error", especially when compared with the fact that the alleged "suicide" being politicized was based on an urban legend. Atrios has not seen to correct that yet, and it doesn't appear that his shills here will require him to do so.

You could have gone one of two ways here. You could have played the "shackled truth speaker" gambit, or you could have had an actual dialogue with the people you took pot shots at. You fired first, you took the wrong bearings, and you never bothered to convince anyone you were being genuine or in good faith. You didn't ask "could there be any legitimate way to view Avedon Carol's comment, meaning a non-"vile" and non-hyperpartisan reading? Couldn't you see how people might get pissed off when they get described as vile for one little comment, one that was defended extensively in the comments to your post? Of course you couldn't, you were provided with the easy out of "vitriol" which was of course "spewed." That game is old hat, and shows why you have it made as a pundit. Pundits don't engage, they pronounce.

Steve- shilling for Atrios suggests they're getting paid, and whether the comment was based on an urban legend or not is besides the point. Others hypocrisy, errors, what have you don't excuse the stink in your own house. Brendan liked to play contrarian, didn't attempt to engage, didn't attempt to defend his point, just dug the hole deeper. It's really easy to deal with someone calling you a wanker without pulling the civility bullshit. "I don't think I am a wanker because here is my position..." Of course once the idiotic position is restated, 500 people will hit it in comments, 450 of them being stupid, 50 of them being devastatingly correct. Of course, it is so easy to ignore the reason of the minority for the easy spewage of the majority.

Good luck with this enterprise.

Bruce Bartlett's point is correct: Brendan's writing style and modus operandi was well-known before TAP hired him--so they should have known what they were getting into.

That said, Brendan made a tremendous error that he's playing down. He criticized Atrios for writing a post that he didn't actually write--then when Atrios pointed this out to him, Brendan dismissed Atrios' correction. It was the storm of comments on Brendan's post that finally made him realize that he was, in fact, criticizing Atrios for a post he didn't actually write.

To review, in the span of a few hours, in a public forum, Brendan:
1. wrongly accused someone (laziness)
2. dismissed a correction without checking to see that it was, in fact, true (arrogance)
3. finally fixed his mistake after dozens of people harangued him for it, but made the correction grudgingly and attacked everyone who pushed him to do the right thing (hubris)

For you or me--random people posting for free--to make this mistake would be bad. For the person being paid to write, it's awful. And when that person is Brendan Nyhan, self-appointed arbiter of what is fact and what is spin, it's inexcusable and should lead to his termination.

I'm being harsh because the problem could have been solved easily: if he had apologized in the first place for misidentifying Atrios, none of the criticism I write here would stand. I would disagree with the original thrust of his post (the suicide being 'politicized'), but that would be a disagreement among reasonable parties.

Instead, I'm writing to say that Brendan acted dishonorably when he let his confidence in the facts turn into arrogance. In short, Brendan refused to accept the same 'fact-checking' he dishes out to others.

Do you always go around on people's blogs you don't like, insulting them with the debate tactics of a third grader?

I say this because I recognise your...distinctive witticisms from the comment sections on another blog, namely one Anne Althouse, where you accused her of approximating bat feces, lacking sanity, and being sex starved. And those were your kinder comments.

You may think your aggressive, over-the-top language may impress your follow commenters, or it may make you feel more empowered, but I can assure no one is impressed, nor are you winning over anyone with your naked immaturity.

Please, grow up. Otherwise, no one will take you seriously.

I must respectfully disagree with your analysis of the Brendan Nyhan post criticizing Avedon Carol.

I feel you are mischaracterizing Mr. Nyhan's statements. While he did certainly err in attributing Carol's statements to those of Duncan Black, he did not "attack everyone who pushed him to do the right thing", as you state. In fact, if you re-read Nyhan's post, he only addresses his criticism toward Duncan Black and Carol, hardly the lashing out at "everyone" you state. And he did this despite the statements in the comment section, which contained the largest collection of inane, petty, nasty, and immature statements the left side of Anne Coulter.

As for Nyhan "grudgingly" making the correction, this is somewhat understandable, considering Duncan resorted to hurling petty insults at Nyhan in response to Brendan's post ("wanker of the day"?---how classy). Oddly, your post, makes no mention or critique of Duncan's rash behavior; instead, you choose to hold Nyhan's feet over the fire, even though Nyhan apologized and corrected himself while being insulted by Duncan and his readers!

Also, I must disagree with your stance on the issue that originated the whole debate. The quote from Avendon Carol was at best, poorly written, at worst, a desire that Bush had killed himself for not nabbing Atta instead of the ticket agent who let him through with his ticket. Here is the quote again:

TWO LIBERAL BLOGGERS POLITICIZE A SUICIDE. In a guest post on Eschaton, the blog of Duncan Black (aka Atrios), the blogger Avedon Carol quotes approvingly from a Suburban Guerilla post that uses the tragic suicide of an American Airlines ticket agent to take a swipe at President Bush:

"The American Airlines ticket agent who checked in Mohammed Atta on 9/11 later committed suicide - unlike the man in charge who, being briefed on the potential threat, told his briefer, "Okay, you’ve covered your ass."

The word "committed suicide" is clearly followed by "unlike the man in charge" (aka "George Bush"), who is further depicted by Carol as uncaring and cold. It certainly seemed to me when I read it that Carol wished Bush had killed himself from guilt instead of the ticket agent. However, even if we were to infer that Carol actually did not intend to mean Bush should commit suicide for 9/11, one could hardly fault Mr. Nyhan for reading that intent in Carol's piece, as it was poorly worded in that case. How am I, or any casual reader of the statement, supposed to magically know what Carol really meant, given the word choice used?

First off, let me say, I think TAP's actions were indefensible. It isn't as if you were some stealth conservative lurking behind the cloak of a straight-up-and-down liberal.

But let me get to my point, as it shouted out at me as soon as I saw the quote. I'm a long-time reader of Powerline. And as a long-time Powerline reader, I can say you're treatment of them is quite unfair. And, no, it isn't just a matter of the incomplete quote. It was the quote as some example of what you regularly get from Powerline. I know what they write. I read it most days. And that didn't sound anything like what I read there on a regular basis. They're conservative and unabashed about it. But that quote didn't ring true at all. You would have left readers with the impression that Powerline was Bush Love, 24/7. Not merely because the quote was both misleading and incomplete (I presume unintentionally so), but because it was hardly representative.

Powerline is certainly an admirer of President Bush, but your point (that the quote was supposed to provide foundation for) was supposed to be about how Powerline was this "highly partisan" blog. A "sample quote" should be representative. Your out-of-context selection wasn't even close. Nor was it apropo.

Now, the below might be fawning over former President Clinton:

Vieira asked Clinton where he thinks Osama bin Laden is hiding. When Clinton emphasized that "I have no intelligence," Viera giggled "You have lots of intelligence."

but you can't exactly characterize it as "highly partisan." And though it may be suggestive as to Vieira's politics (no one said the Powerline guys aren't both conservatives and Republicans), it wouldn't belong as an example of how media outlets are intolerant of dissent. Liking your guys doesn't mean hating (or being intolerant of) the other guys.

If you were looking for an example of an intolerant and dogmatically partisan blog on the web...you should have kept looking. Powerline has done nothing (and you've certainly failed to produce anything) such that they should be equated with TAP and their behavior towards you.

I would stop beating the Powerline dead horse.

It is true that you could probably find any number of things where they were over the top in their praise for Bush, the right, but it's obvious in that case that they were saying something so over the top, so completely counter to accepted wisdom, as a rhetorical device. It's so completely accepted that Bush is a dolt with no strategy-- by people who haven't thought a single thing through-- that taking the extreme opposite as a given is quite arresting, and a good setup for a rational look at the case for both Bush's vision and tactics, such as they are.

Of course, they would have been better off responding to you in 25 words, not 250, too.

Why are you trying to make it sound like they fired you when you quit? Why do you say you made a 'minor factual error' when you actually made a major error of attribution? Why do you point fingers at Atrios' commenters when plenty of independent readers were complaining about your posts as well?

You built a readership based on poking holes in these sorts of lies; I do not think you will maintain it, now, by trying to defend yourself with them. But never fear; your love of false equivalency and eagerness to damn both parties, regardless of the facts, will ensure you lasting success in the mainstream media, even if you aren't commercially viable.

As for Nyhan "grudgingly" making the correction, this is somewhat understandable, considering Duncan resorted to hurling petty insults at Nyhan in response to Brendan's post

Can we get Brendan, Patron Saint of Acceptable Discourse, to weigh in on this? Is it OK to persist in knowingly lying about somebody if the person you're lying about gets mad and uses naughty language? What if he uses _partisan_ naughty language?

I no longer read Atrios or Instapundit; the postings on both are short, vile and nasty, with little in the way of analysis. With Kos and Sullivan, at least, you get people who at least think out their positions.

The argument that Nyhan's "pox on both your houses" is somehow inadequate misses the point. I have voted against George Bush twice; I think he's made a mess of things in Iraq and that his domestic record is one of pandering over principle (unconservative subsidies to farmers, unconservative spending increases, etc.). That said, criticism of the president should go directly toward the substance of his policies, not toward a a tendentious (not to mention snide) attempt to link the tragic death of one man to 9/11. It's cheap, it's mean, and it does nothing to advance the case against the Republicans. You can point a finger at the other side and say "Well, they started it," but a cheapened political discourse prevents us from grappling with the issues ahead. And I'm glad Nyhan is cutting through the extremist bullshit.

Actually, the post and the column say very clearly that I quit, not that I was fired. And I never "persisted in knowingly lying about somebody"; I corrected the post the second I realized it was wrong and posted an explicit disclosure that I had done so. My record of factual accuracy on Spinsanity and this blog is excellent, but I regret every error. As for Neil's question, "naughty language" by one's opponent is never an excuse for anything.


A little off-topic, but Brendan -- the photo?

Are you TRYING to look smug and pretentious in it, or does this just come naturally to you?


Blame the messengers Brendan! Way to go!

(wait but what if you're trying to be a messenger?)

You were treated shabbily, Brendan, no question. TAP knew who you were, and knew how you wrote before they hired you.

It's also ironic that the whole mess concerns a suicide story that, as a few have pointed, appears wholly ficticious.

A reply from my wife on Monkey Faced Liberal's comment above: "the latter, right?" Apparently my quest for a less weaselly picture has failed...

Actually, the post and the column say very clearly that I quit, not that I was fired.

Very clearly? Is that what you think? I really do think you've become unable to recognize spin when you see it, or at least, when you type it. For one thing, titling the work 'the Death Of Opinion Journalism' strongly implies that you were silenced. Then you blame the popularity of 'partisan blogs.' And before you mention that you quit, you go on at length about the people who were calling for you to be fired. Why would youeven include that in the article, if you were being "very clear" about the fact that you made the decision to quit? I'm sorry, 'terminating the relationship,' which is of course the very clearest way to say that you quit. And then finally, you say that 'no editor at the Prospect ever contacted me about the posts', just a paragraph after saying you quit after the senior editor contacted you, 'specifically,' about the posts!

But don't take my word for it, you can go on a number of blogs and find people who didn't read your article closely enough assuming that you were fired. (Many of them are sympathetic.) I find it hard to believe that they weren't responding appropriately to the tone of your piece, though. Again, I hold you to a higher standard because of your long history of being a 'watchdog of online spin.'

But this is probably naïve of me. Even reading between the lines of your article, I can see that there were much more serious issues at play than your lack of sufficient partisan zeal -- issues which you either fail to acknowledge (drawing false equivalencies) or seriously distort (an error of attribution is called a 'minor factual error'). It seems like you're going all out to spin your readers on this one.

I've followed you since Spinsanity and always found you fair. It seems like many of the commentors on TAP made points like, "Well, the other side does it worse!", which to me sounds like they don't hate Karl Rove for what he does...they hate him for being better at it than they are. I also note your error is being called major...and I know I've seen similiar corrections on Atrios's site. Was an equivalent amount of invective launched then?

And the pic...well, honestly, it reminds me of Sean from Boy Meets World.

Here's the email I just sent to Sullivan. Figured I'd share it here since I think it relevant:

Nyhan makes some good points about the influence that partisan liberal blogs can have on the American Prospect. But we shouldn't lose sight of the facts in this whole drama. Nyhan's two posts he linked to are really poor and stand as perfect evidence of his own bias toward false equivalence that he undoubtedly picked up when he ran Spinsanity (of which I was a fan). There is little doubt, that not unlike the pressure exerted on the Prospect to be partisan, there was enormous pressure on Nyhan and his colleagues to show equivalent spin on both sides. But, just as liberal spin can't always be correct, both sides of the political spectrum can't be equally irresponsible in their spin. In these two cases, Nyhan went looking for liberal boogymen and his arguments failed. It would be just as bad for Rosenfeld and Tomansky to let that stand as it would for them to crumble to the pressure exerted by partisan bloggers. In my estimation false equivalence is as dangerous as pure partisan spin.

Just to back up Neil a bit. I sent the above email to Sullivan and he wrote back "you don't fire someone for that."

I wrote back I thought that he quit but was suddenly unsure of myself. I wonder how he got the impression that you were fired?

"...whether the comment was based on an urban legend or not is besides the point"

Ah, the old "fake but accurate" claim...a false and misleading post, based on an untrue claim that a ticket counter had committed suicide, is "besides the point"? It is low and dishonest for Atrios to continue to claim that he's not responsible for what other people publish on his website. As soon as he chose not to retract the post, he became as responsible for it as ABC was responsible for the lies in The Path to 9/11.

I'm sorry if people misinterpreted the column, but I was as clear as I could possibly be: "I refused and terminated the relationship." Let me repeat: "I... terminated the relationship." There is no other pronoun in that sentence. I don't write the titles, but I think anyone who actually read the piece would see that it refers to the threat to the quality and independence of opinion journalism.

And then finally, you say that 'no editor at the Prospect ever contacted me about the posts', just a paragraph after saying you quit after the senior editor contacted you, 'specifically,' about the posts!

My point was that ever contacted me about their substance (Rosenfeld's email contained nothing about it other than to note vague objections).

It seems to me that everyone is missing the point of your column. It was about economics, not politics. The American Prospect and The New Republic need their websites/blogs to help support a lot of overhead that Kos, Atrios, MyDD, etc. don't have to worry about. This makes the magazines and their sites uniquely vulnerable to being blacklisted, blackballed or ignored by the websites that their ideological soulmates write. And that, apparently, is what caused the TAPPED editor to try to dissuade you from posting contrarian views.

The effect is the same: Heterodoxy silenced. And I think ultimately you want to know: what will happen to the free flow of ideas if this tendency isn't reversed?

Brendan Nyhan once told me that he really enjoys looking at the children's underwear section of his Sunday shopping circular, and that he thinks David Duke has been unfairly maligned by the partisan blogosphere.

Oh, wait, he didn't say those "vile" things at all? Sorry, Brendan, just a "minor factual error."

Brendan, if that was "as clear as you could possibly be" then you are in the wrong line of work, full stop. For one thing, "I quit" is far, far clearer than "I refused and terminated the relationship." For another thing, you buried the admission that you jumped at the end of four paragraphs implying that you were pushed.

My point was that ever contacted me about their substance (Rosenfeld's email contained nothing about it other than to note vague objections).

I think again you're trying to have it both ways. Rosenfeld sent you an email, "specifically" referring to two posts, which you objected to and immediately quit. But you still complain that nobody contacted you about the substance of your posts. Talking out of both sides of your mouth in this manner doesn't befit a writer like you.

By the way, since Andrew Sullivan read your column and believes you were fired, perhaps it would be honest to pull his 'comments' which are clearly misinformed? Or at least give him a chance to revise them knowing the truth.

Vail Beach wrote:
"It seems to me that everyone is missing the point of your column. It was about economics, not politics."

No, I think you are missing the point. Nyhan makes a solid point about the economic need for big blogs to send traffic to the American Prospect. But the problem with Nyhan's two posts that got him in trouble were not that he choose to pick a fight with big liberal blogs, even though that is what he would like you to believe; but rather that they were poorly reasoned and inaccurate. In other words it was a quality problem. I read the Prospect daily online and I read the two posts when they popped up. I thought they were bad posts and I'm sure Nyhan's bosses agreed.

With the hoopla that Nyhan started by quitting, he is deflecting attention away from that fact. Look at the posts and you should be able to see what I mean. I still can't figure out how he made the logical jump he did in regard to the Sean Penn quote. And if you don't know what I'm referring to when I say the "Sean Penn quote", then you are too uninformed to offer an opinion on this subject.

Come off it, Vail Beach. Nyhan is a generic nonpartisan centrist, no more heterodox than the average grandmother. TAP very wisely tries to stay away from his particular schtick. The mysterey is why they were so silly as to hire him at all, because yes, he is and was a known quantity.

Time / Wonkette has rewarded him for his bold apostacy, and they're much heavier hitters than TAP is, so I'd say he made out like a bandit during this particular episode.

Okay, kjd, I went back and read the Sean Penn quote, and you're right. That post was awful. He could have picked from thousands of occasions in which Bush has been equated to Hitler by his political foes. This wasn't one of them.

Nyhan still has a valid point, given what he was directed to do before deciding to quit.

We never get to see what Rosenfeld wrote to Nyhan but here is what Nyhan said Tomasky stated:

Why was I asked to slant my work to the liberal party line? In an email statement, TAP editor Michael Tomasky said that "[t]he Prospect is hardly averse to criticizing liberal verities" and that the magazine had no problem with my initial posts criticizing liberals, but "there were a few posts in succession that struck us as either inaccurate or an effort to draw equivalencies where none existed. The Prospect has always opposed a 'pox on both houses' posture, and that's what we came to believe you were doing."

He was directed to avoid the "pox on both houses posture" and false equivalencies and I would say that is solid advice for reasons I stated above. It was clear that Nyhan was falling into the false equivalency trap that has always been his weakness. Nyhan also relates indirectly that Rosenfeld told him to "focus ... on conservative targets" and if the email did say that, perhaps Nyhan has a smidgen of a point. But, call me crazy, I think a Progressive magazine should focus on conservative targets and when a writer target a liberal, it better be a strong and important point, not something as poorly written as the two posts Nyhan refers to. Talk about spin.

The irony for me here is that Nyhan makes a strong point about the influence of big blogs on magazines. The Prospect should watch out for that, but Nyhan seems to have stumbled onto that conclusion rather than have been a victim of it.

Do we know the big blogs have really made a difference, though? I'm sure all those nasty comments had Brendan smarting, but I'm not so sure that Rosenfeld, quaking in terror, wrote that email to try to mollify the great and powerful Atrios. Occam's razor suggests that TAP's management just agreed that those columns stunk and warned Brendan to improve the quality of his work.

One change that big blogs have imposed on opinion journalism is that ten years ago, no writer would ever believe he has a right to have a magazine publish whatever he writes without having it go through an editor first.

The comments to this entry are closed.