Andrew Sullivan is not the Future of Journalism
With Andrew Sullivan announcing the end of his 15-year blogging career—and with it, his "bold experiment" in transforming journalism into crowd-funded blogging— I figure it's a good time to take one last look at Sullivan's long, poisonous contribution to the decline of American journalism.
The following is a slightly abridged version of an article I wrote almost exactly two years ago for NSFWCORP, on the occasion of Sullivan leaving the Daily Beast to launch his own reader-funded blog.
If Andrew Sullivan Is The Future of Journalism Then Journalism Is Fucked
January 7, 2013
By any standard involving "merit" Andrew Sullivan should have been driven out of the journalism world decades ago, almost as soon as his "meteoric rise" began. In 1991, Marty Peretz apparently grew frustrated with his editors — Hendrik Hertzberg, Michael Kinsley, Morton Kondracke, all Beltway fixtures in the 80s liberal establishment — so he hired an outsider with almost no experience, a 28-year-old Thatcherite named Andrew Sullivan, to run the New Republic and take the nearly century-old liberal institution hard-rightward, and downward.
Almost immediately, Sullivan proudly took credit for running one of the most damaging right-wing hit jobs against genuine investigative journalism of the past few decades: A New Republic cover story fraudulently "debunking" the October Surprise story.
Briefly: In 1991, PBS’ Frontline ran an investigation making a strong case that top Reagan officials cut a secret deal with Ayatollah Khomeini’s agents during the 1980 election campaign, in which the Iranians promised to help Reagan defeat Carter by holding on to the American hostages until after the elections, and in return, the Reagan Administration would arrange secret arms shipments to Khomeini for his war with Iraq. Carter was unable to work out a deal with Iran; Reagan won the election; and the hostages were freed during his inauguration ceremony; and the secret arms shipments to Khomeini became the Iran-Contra Scandal.
By late 1991, the evidence of an October Surprise was so great that a Congressional committee was formed to investigate. That’s when 28-year-old Andrew Sullivan hired Steve Emerson — recently named one of America's five most influential promoters of Islamophobic hate propaganda, cited twice by Anders Breivak in his manifesto — to "debunk" the reporting on the October Surprise with a cover story headlined "What October Surprise?" that relied on invented evidence later exposed as fake and disowned even by Emerson.
Despite the fact that Emerson’s hit piece was later exposed as based on fraud — or, as Emerson claimed, a mistake he blamed on his research assistant — nevertheless, Emerson's hit-piece remained out on the market long enough to succeed in its goal of smearing one of the great journalism scoops of the past few decades, scaring away everyone from Congressmen to journalists from seriously pursuing it any further. As media watchdog FAIR wrote back in 1993:
Sadly, such tactics have had their intended effect on the conventional wisdom. The October Surprise is now a laughable non-story, and a deep chill blows over any press investigation of recent covert history.Washington Monthly editor Jon Meacham summed it up in a recent unrelated story (7-8/93), when he dismissed a persistent media factoid as "like the October Surprise: enduring yet wrong." Ironically, in media circles, it is Steve Emerson's dismissal of the October Surprise that turned out to be enduring--even though much of his evidence turned out to be wrong.The result, as Frontline investigative journalist Bob Parry wrote, "scared the Senate into backing away from a full-scale October Surprise investigation and the House acted as if it would only go through the motions before clearing Reagan and Bush."
And Sullivan was just getting started. In 1992, he blamed the Los Angeles riots on social welfare programs and African-Americans’ "culture of idleness"— parroting the far-right racial eugenics theories Charles Murray:
"If we are to break through this culture of idleness, poverty, illegitimacy, and crime, we have to cut off its lifeline" — welfare, replacing "all payments to the able-bodied poor" with "a government-provided job."But it was in 1994 that Andrew Sullivan’s recklessness and media fraud went berserk. First, he published a devastating three-part series destroying President Clinton’s universal health care legislation, articles that are generally considered the reason why "Hillarycare" failed to pass. The author, a Republican operative from the rightwing Manhattan Institute named Betsy McCaughey, had secretly prepared her articles in cooperation with Philip Morris (much of Hillarycare coverage was to be funded by hiking tobacco taxes). McCaughey's article, "No Exit," won for The New Republic that year’s National Magazine Award. However, her articles were complete frauds; not journalism, but the very opposite of journalism: Tobacco industry propaganda designed to kill off health care for Americans in order to protect big tobacco profits.
A secret 1994 memo from a Philip Morris executive outlining the tobacco giant's role in crafting McCaughey's articles reveals just how grotesquely corrupt journalism under Andrew Sullivan's editorship had become:
"Worked off-the-record with Manhattan [Institute] and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part expose in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan. The second part, to be published imminently, will focus on the impact the Clinton bill will have on cities. She will explore why medical education will decline, why teaching hospitals will be driven out of business, why regional health alliances will shift the cost of caring for the poor off the federal budget onto the backs of urban workers and their employers, and why discontinuing Medicaid and enrolling the disadvantaged in HMO's will fail. Betsy is also working on a comparison of the other proposals, what an "ideal" bill should include, and what kind of reform Congress is likely to give us."The articles were so full of obvious lies and embarrassing flaws that in 2006, The New Republic publicly recanted. But as with the October Surprise smear, the damage was done — health care reform was dead for another 15 years. When you consider that a recent study estimated 45,000 Americans die every year from lack of health care coverage, and you multiply that by the nearly two decades since Andrew Sullivan helped kill Clinton's health care reform, you start to understand who the real terrorist is.
But that's no sweat off Sully's whiskers: The pattern, set early, proves that no matter how hard he fails, no matter how disastrous the consequences for journalism or his adopted country, Sullivan's career advancement is guaranteed to keep rising. Journalism, schmournalism: He's a proven reliable waterboy for the tobacco lobby and the Republican Right, what value can journalism have that can possibly compete with that?
The same goes for Betsy McCaughey, who reappeared again in 2009 to sabotage any Obama health care reform — it was McCaughey who invented the "death panel" lie, and it almost worked a second time (my old friend Dylan Ratigan helped bring McCaughey down on his show).
Even after his own magazine recanted the article, in 2007, Sullivan, while admitting "I was aware of the piece’s flaws but nonetheless was comfortable running it as a provocation," defended his failure, and the catastrophic consequences to millions of Americans, with all the aggressive conviction of a sociopath:
I think the magazine's refusal to be mau-maued by the Clintons at the time - and Hillary was threatening blue murder against anyone who so much as dared to criticize her - is a feather in the magazine's cap. We weren't "out to get the Clintons." Some of us - well, two of us - were merely worried that America's excellent private healthcare system would be hobbled by too much government regulation. I am glad we helped head off the Clinton-Magaziner behemoth. Proud, actually.That same year, another Manhattan Institute alumnus named Charles Murray published a book "proving" that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior to other races in intelligence. The racial eugenics in The Bell Curve has since been thoroughly debunked as "academic fraud" and worse — as ABC News, FAIR and others reported, a large portion of the evidence used to support The Bell Curve came from research funded by a notorious white supremacist foundation called "The Pioneer Fund." That fund’s first president, Harry Laughlin, helped craft the 1920s laws restricting Jewish immigration, after Laughlin testified before Congress that 83% of Jewish immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were born "feeble-minded."
Murray’s Bell Curve also acknowledged its debt to a modern-day neo-Nazi eugenicist named Richard Lynn, who has written:
"What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of the 'phasing out' of such peoples...Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent...Who can doubt that the Caucasoids and the Mongoloids are the only two races that have made any significant contributions to civilization?"The notes of The Bell Curve are a house of horrors packed with eugenics freaks like Richard Lynn — you can find more in our SHAME profile on Charles Murray — but the point is this: Thanks to editor Andrew Sullivan’s decision in 1994 to publish an entire reworked chapter of The Bell Curve, 10,000 words of reanimated Nazi race theory, in The New Republic, using the liberal establishment credentials of the magazine to launder and legitimize rancid pre-war racial science used to justify genocide, The Bell Curve entered establishment discourse, making racist quackery respectable again. Seeing that in The New Republic encouraged a saggy old pus-bag like theWashington Post’s Richard Cohen, who some people label a "liberal," to embrace Charles Murray’s Nazi science:
"Murray [and his co-author] have been called racists...Their findings, though, have been accepted by most others in their field, and it would be wrong—both intellectually and politically—to suppress them."As with Betsy McCaughey’s and Steve Emerson’s articles, The Bell Curve has since been thoroughly discredited as intellectual fraud of the rankest sort. Most of Bell Curve's early boosters of the Richard Cohen variety long ago realized that it was the wrong bandwagon to ride on, and probably wished no one remembered how much they'd sung its praises. And yet despite that, Andrew Sullivan proudly stands by Charles Murray's book and racial eugenics.
In 2005, after Sullivan’s much-ballyhooed reversal on Iraq, he still had this to say about The Bell Curve:
One of my proudest moments in journalism was publishing an expanded extract of a chapter from "The Bell Curve" in the New Republic before anyone else dared touch it... The fact of human inequality and the subtle and complex differences between various manifestations of being human - gay, straight, male, female, black, Asian - is a subject worth exploring, period."It’s a theme Sullivan can’t get over — in fact, biological human inequality is pretty much the only thing Andrew Sullivan believes, and his only defense of it seems to be that he’s a principled martyr to liberal Big Brother censorship when he’s denounced for peddling fraudulent Nazi science.
That, by the way, was the same damage-control strategy used by Sullivan's hero, Charles Murray: when ABC News questioned Murray about his reliance on so many neo-Nazi quacks to back up The Bell Curve, Murray "accused [ABC] of being on an intellectual witch hunt that would have a pernicious effect on research."
Indeed. First, they came for the Nazi eugenicists...
It still goes on. As late as November 21, 2011, Sullivan published this blog post that, I have to admit, even now still shocks me. If you ever researched the smelly word of racial eugenics quacks, you’d recognize the name Sullivan proudly drops here:
[The study of intelligence] has been strangled by p.c. egalitarianism. The reason is the resilience of racial differences in IQ in the data, perhaps most definitively proven by UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen... The right response to unsettling data is to probe, experiment and attempt to disprove them - not to run away in racial panic. But the deeper problem is that the racial aspects of IQ have prevented non-racial research into intelligence, and how best to encourage, study and understand it.In other words, Sully’s concerned about that ol’ pernicious effect on racial eugenics again. As for Sullivan’s hero, Arthur Jensen — he received over $1 million in funding grants from the neo-Nazi Pioneer Fund, and he’s not coy at all about his support for practicing actual real Nazi eugenics on "lower" races:
"Eugenics isn't a crime," Jensen has said (Newsday, 11/9/94). "Which is worse, to deprive someone of having a child, or to deprive the child of having a decent set of parents?" Elsewhere, Jensen has worried "that current welfare policies, unaided by genetic foresight, could lead to the genetic enslavement of a substantial portion of our population."
* *Most people in Sullivan’s position would’ve had a hard time following up a performance like his in 1994 — but not Sully.
In 1995, still serving as editor-in-chief of the New Republic, Andrew Sullivan brought in Stephen Glass as an intern, then as his personal assistant. Vanity Fair’s brief description:
After about a year [Glass] became an intern at The New Republic, working as an assistant to Andrew Sullivan, who preceded Michael Kelly as the editor. It was not a particularly stimulating job, involving administrative tasks such as answering the phone, answering correspondence, and an occasional personal errand for Sullivan. Glass did little actual writing under Sullivan, but did complete assignments on disputes over governmental subsidies for cheese and on presidential candidate Bob Dole’s handlers.Sullivan, by the way, also nurtured fellow neocon Michael Kelly’s disastrous rise, paving the way for Kelly to take over as editor-in-chief after Sullivan left. Kelly proved worthy of carrying on the Sullivan tradition of journalistic failure and fraud, but on a level for the history books. It was Michael Kelly whose name is forever associated with Stephen Glass, with Kelly as the dupe who couldn't see a blatant fraud if it screamed "fake" in his face. (A few years later, Michael Kelly became the first American journalist killed in the Iraq invasion.)
But I digress — I was talking about Andrew Sullivan’s big last year, 1995. He not only brought Stephen Glass into The New Republic as a kind of time-delay WMD, but he also was responsible for what would have been The New Republic’s most shameful episode in journalism fraud had Glass not topped her a few years later: Ruth Shalit.
As with Stephen Glass, all the signs that Ruth Shalit had a problem with basic journalism ethics were smeared all over the proverbial wall, Manson-family style. A few months before Shalit’s big career-ending journalism fraud, she was the subject of a handful of curiosity stories, including this one in The Washington Post dated July 18, 1995, headlined "A Writer’s Repetitive Stress; New Republic Admits Phrases Were Copied":
For the second time in less than a year, the New Republic has admitted that one of its most prominent young writers copied material previously printed in another publication. The weekly political magazine said that in both instances, Ruth Shalit confused other writers' material with her own after transferring their stories into her computer.
In an item headlined "Oops" in the July 31 issue of the New Republic, the magazine wrote: "In Ruth Shalit's article on [potential Republican presidential candidate] Steve Forbes, several phrases were inadvertently reproduced from an article by Paul Starobin in the National Journal, June 3."
The apology reprints three sentences from Starobin's piece along with three from Shalit's.
In one, Starobin said Forbes was "an affable optimist in the mold of Kemp and Reagan." Shalit called Forbes "an affable capitalist optimist in the mold of Kemp or Reagan."
"I thought [the apology] was kind of lame," Starobin said Friday. "The 'Oops' thing makes it sound like they slipped on a bar of soap."
Last September, the New Republic published an editor's note saying "some information" in a Shalit story in July had been "drawn from an article by Dan Klaidman that appeared in Legal Times on April 12."
New Republic Editor Andrew Sullivan said Friday, "Inside the magazine, we have taken this very seriously," though he did not say if disciplinary action would be taken. You can probably guess by now how seriously Andrew Sullivan took (and takes) journalism fraud, but I have to admit, what happens next is not just brazen or bold or aggressive, it’s completely psychotic.
Basically, Sullivan decided that the best defense here was a psychotic offense. So he sent Ruth Shalit, his early prototype for the Stephen Glass model, to write a giant lie-packed, fraudulent, easy-to-debunk "exposé" on an alleged civil war brewing inside The Washington Post due to resentments caused by reverse-discrimination and affirmative action. Shalit claimed that African-American hirees were unqualified and resentful, that whites were victims of "post-affirmative action racism" and resentful, and that blacks were essentially inferior and their criminal records ignored or overlooked, even when Shalit had to invent those criminal records out of thin air.
The Post responded to the smear. In a published response, they discovered about 40 factual errors in Shalit’s piece, beyond the countless unsourced and anonymous innuendos and accusations that couldn’t be fact-checked (i.e. "a white editor complained blacks unqualified" / "a black editor charged racism pervasive"). Shalit even plagiarized a passage from a book and put it, word for word, into her article.
But the worst failures were Shalit’s race-baiting inventions. For example, a black WaPo reporter named Nathan McCall had just published a memoir about his path from crime to journalism, including a three year stint in prison. In his memoir, McCall recounted how the first time he tried getting a job with The Washington Post, he was rejected because he’d tried hiding from them the three "missing" years spent in prison. After building up his credentials with a local paper in Atlanta, McCall returned for more follow-up interviews with the Post, no longer trying to hide his prison past. Instead of hiding it, he faced up and spent his efforts on trying to convince the WaPoeditors that he’d genuinely transformed himself, that he was reliable and serious about his commitment to journalism. After a long rigorous process, McCall was finally hired.
Yet here is how Ruth Shalit rewrote that same story about the hiring of Nathan McCall in her 13,000 word smear for Andrew Sullivan and The New Republic:
Nathan McCall, author of the 1994 autobiography Makes Me Wanna Holler, is a Post reporter currently on leave from the paper.
In 1987, when the Post tried to hire McCall from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, editors at the paper inquired about a three-year gap in his resume. He told them he had spent the time traveling and "finding himself."
In fact, he'd been serving a prison sentence for holding up a McDonald's at gunpoint. Post editors upbraided him for being less than honest but hired him anyway.
Despite this kid-glove treatment, McCall, too, claims his career at the Post has been marred by racism. "Because of the myths, I could never seem to settle down and relax and write with flair the way I knew I could under normal circumstances," he wrote. "Nobody makes allowances for black folks anywhere." One commenter pointed out that, to understand just how vile and misleading Shalit's smear was, in 1978, when McCall was in prison, only 4 percent of reporters were black; in 1993, a year before his book was published, just 4.3 percent of reporters were black. The backlash Shalit hyped and Sullivan promoted as fact was nothing but literary fraud, James Frey under the guise of mainstream journalism in the liberal institution, The New Republic.
To prove that "racial sensitivity" was ruining the Post’s reporting, Shalit claimed that the Post intentionally censored news that a black "crony" of Mayor Marion Barry named Roy Littlejohn had "served time for corruption."
Subsequently, Sullivan had to issue a correction:
Ruth Shalit's October 2 article, "Race in the Newsroom," erroneously reported that Marion Barry supporter Roy Littlejohn "served time for ... corruption." Mr. Littlejohn was neither indicted nor imprisoned. The New Republic regrets the error and apologizes to Mr. Littlejohn.Publishing lies like these didn’t take balls, nor was it mere eccentric contrarianism — this is just hate, a weird, bug-like sociopathic hate.
I looked up Ruth Shalit— I want to know, who are these hissing 28 Days Later freaks who ransacked America’s media, and left the whole fucking industry in ruins — in the sorry state I found American journalism in back in the summer of 2008, after the Kremlin ran me out of Russia?
Turns out Ruth Shalit, like Betsy McCaughey, like Charles Murray, and like Andrew Sullivan, was another right-wing movement mole. An article called "The Sisters Shalit" published in Forward described both sisters as radical-right Jews whose father, Sol Shalit, emigrated from Israel to study economics at the University of Chicago, home to Milton Friedman and the birthplace of libertarian/neoliberal economics. Ruth’s sister, Wendy Shalit, led a crusade against her college’s co-ed bathrooms, and against women who wear skirts above their knees, and against the student campus Passover celebration, which she complained had been "bastardized to celebrate lesbianism." Sister Wendy spent her college summers interning for Bill Kristol (back when Kristol was known as "Quayle’s Brain"), and Dinesh D’Souza.
Ruth worked for the Bush-Quayle campaign in 1988, and graduated cum laude from Princeton. She was put out to pasture after the WaPo debacle, writing book reviews and the like (Sullivan either left on his own or was pushed out). A couple of years later, in 1998, when the Stephen Glass delayed-fuse WMD finally exploded in The New Republic newsroom, Shalit was canned. And just like that, Shalit was back on her feet in a new profession, working at an advertising agency called Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
* *No account of Andrew Sullivan’s journalism record can be complete without recalling his role as one of the most vicious and cowardly henchmen policing critics of Bush’s wars after September 11, at the peak of the terror hysteria, beginning in late 2001, through the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. When it counted most, and when baiting critics had a frightening, deadly power to it, Andrew Sullivan took advantage of that weapon like no one in the blogosphere. It was only later, after the Iraq invasion and after the damage had worked its way through the domestic cultural veins, and after tens of thousands of lives were gone — and more importantly for Sully’s calculations, after the Bush wars started going bad, and his ability to plausibly persecute "decadent left" critics vanished, replaced by a desperate need to defend the war cause rather than offend its critics — that the new, libertarian Andrew Sullivan war critic emerged.
I want to give some examples here, for the permanent record.
Like a lot of imbeciles, Andrew Sullivan reacted to September 11 as if it was a test of Andrew Sullivan's mettle, starring Andrew Sullivan as the protagonist in an epic battle between good and evil, with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance: Red Dawn meets Revelations by way of [NAME OF TOM CLANCY BOOK POPULAR AMONG BELTWAY WAFFENDWEEBS]... Lots of pompous cliches, and flapping flags in the wind... Writing in The New York Times (his new home after he lay waste to The New Republic), just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Sullivan declared:
This coming conflict is indeed as momentous and as grave as the last major conflicts against Nazism and Communism...The difference is that this conflict is against a more formidable enemy than Nazism or Communism.Over the next couple of years, between the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Sullivan filled op-ed pages with screeds denouncing leftists as traitors:
"The middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush—is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead—and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column." "...the enemy within the West itself—a paralyzing, pseudo-clever, morally nihilist fifth column that will surely ramp up its hatred in the days and months ahead."Sullivan took so much glee in attacking war critics, he invented a neologism in the blogger world, "fisking," which describes what happens when a pro-war pundit savages a feeble liberal critic of war, to commemorate what happened when Sullivan savaged leftwing war correspondent Robert Fisk.
As mob leader, Sullivan found ripe targets everywhere. He attacked Susan Sontag and Salon.com founder David Talbot for not showing sufficient enthusiasm for Dubya’s stuttering speeches:
"These pampered journalists who have never seen a moment of real censorship in their lives, and who have marginalized conservative voices for their entire careers in their own organs and field of influence, take the occasion of the massacre of thousands of their fellow citizens to worry about themselves — and preen self-righteously at the same time."I assume by "real censorship" Sullivan is referring to the liberals’ failure to warmly embrace the Nazi eugenics science that he peddles to this day... and by "marginalized conservative voices" he must be referring to the tragic struggles of an Oxford Tory like Sully, forced to wait till he was all of 28 before being handed an American media institution, The New Republic...or the other unfair marginalization that happened after his umpteenth plagiarism scandal destroyed his magazine, forcing this persecuted conservative maverick into the lonely margins of The New York Times magazine ghetto, a ghetto he was banished to after leaving Michael Kelly and Stephen Glass to man what remained of The New Republic after Sullivan was through with it...
And here we are in 2013, more than two decades after Andrew Sullivan burrowed into this country's journalism world, or what's left of it anyway. Today, 22 years after Sullivan was handed the keys to his first car, what's left of my profession has one collective groveling question for him: "Is Andrew Sullivan the future of journalism?"
Look, Sullivan’s been the future of this ruined profession for more years than anyone can remember anymore. Nothing seems to change; the same stagnation and rot, the same names, the same failures. How long can this scam run?
I have a whole list of Andrew Sullivan’s forgotten attacks on liberals "complicit" in Saddam’s "evil" and a series of infuriating quotes of his. I think they're worth remembering, and storing here in a corner of the permanent record. In case anyone should give a shit. Too many people seem determined to forget. Read these sample Sully gems, you'll see what I mean –
- "We will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I have no doubt about that. I initially supported this war for hard-nosed geopolitical reasons, and I stick with that judgement...The removal of that evil was a good in itself, worth some damage to our alliances, worth even some destabilization in an already unstable region."
- "[Al Gore]'ll say whatever he thinks will get him power or attention or votes. How else to explain his sudden U-turn on Iraq? Two years ago, he was demanding that Saddam must go. Seven months ago, he was calling for a 'final reckoning' with Iraq, a state that was a 'virulent threat in a class by itself.' Now, with Saddam far closer to weapons of mass destruction, Gore is happy to see Saddam stay in place."
- "there are few judgment calls I’m prouder of than having picked Bush over Gore two years ago."
- "The allied campaign was a model of restraint and liberation, the most precise invasion in world history"
- "So deal with this: The antiwar movement wittingly and uwittingly played a central part in extending Saddam’s regime"
- "Saddam is claiming that the U.S. is a tool of Zionist forces that are trying to take over the whole world! This isn't like Hitler. It is Hitler. When a figure like this simply echoes Nazi language, why isn't there universal shock and derision?"
- "How big a leap is it from decrying allied warfare as terrorism to actually actively supporting the Baghdad regime against U.S. troops?"
- "At this point, I find myself oscillating between hoping for a peaceful outcome while knowing that any peaceful but phony outcome now will only make a future war bloodier and more terrifying. So I’m hoping – yes, hoping – for war soon."
The thing is that now, Andrew Sullivan’s fate is in your hands — you, the supposed people, the supposed actors in the supposed marketplace. If you have any power at all, you now decide Andrew Sullivan’s worth to our culture. You decide if fraud, journalistic malpractice, racial eugenics, traitor-baiting, race-baiting, lying and scumbaggery are rewarded. We’ve been assured that the only reason why these same media elites always fail their way up and remain unaccountable for their colossal failures and crimes, is that the elites protect their own.
So the question is: Now that Andrew Sullivan is putting his fate in the hands of the people rather than the elites, are we going to reward him and keep his career rolling? Or are we going to drive the smug, tantrum-throwing freak into the ocean and out of our lives once and for all?
UPDATE: Readers and commenters have pointed out a laundry list of even more examples of Andrew Sullivan’s journalism malpractice and fraud that didn’t make it into my piece, which focused overwhelmingly on Sullivan’s pre-“conversion” phase of his career.
For example, NYU’s Jay Rosen called my piece “(Almost) every stupid thing Andrew Sullivan has done as an editor and blogger, in one hit piece!” before wondering why I didn’t include Sullivan’s obsession with pushing the Trig Palin conspiracy theory. Even after Sully’s Trig-birther conspiracy was thoroughly debunked by Salon.com, Sullivan not only failed to recant but, as is his pattern, he shamelessly doubled down on his fraudulent story.
That said, I don’t agree with Simon Owens of US News & World Report who called Sullivan’s Trig birtherism “Sullivan's worst offense in terms of journalism malpractice.” I wouldn’t call Trig-birtherism “worse” than Sullivan’s rabid war-mongering, his McCarthyist persecution of liberal critics of Bush’s wars, his promotion of Stephen Glass’ career, his role legitimizing vile racial eugenics...
Wondering who’d suggest such a thing, I looked up Simon Owens — his resume shows he’s worked for some of the worst PR firms in the industry, including DC lobby outfit LawMedia Group, which was caught by the Washington Post placing fake op-eds in respectable media on behalf of credit card companies, and was described elsewhere as “a shadowy DC lobby firm specializing in ghost-written op-eds to benefit clients including Comcast and Microsoft”.
The Columbia Journalism Review and ProPublica published an important exposé last year about the frightening degree to which the PR industry has burrowed its way into journalism on behalf of its corporate clients — citing Robert McChesney and John Nichols’ discovery that the ratio of PR flaks to journalists has gone from about 1:1 in 1980, to today’s ratio of 3 PR flaks for every 1 journalist.
I don’t know Simon Owens, but I do know what PR has done to journalism, so I’m with Bill Hicks on what PR flaks should do to themselves. Seriously.
Others asked me why I didn’t dig into Sullivan’s controversies regarding his bizarre moralistic attacks on gays; his appalling claim in 1996 that the AIDS plague was over, despite the millions of poor around the world who would go on to die from the disease in the years since; and others recalled his recent shameful manic-depressive temper tantrums on Obama’s behalf in the lead-up to the presidential elections. (Obama is Andrew Sullivan's biggest fan, telling Rolling Stone he reads Sullivan's blog regularly and values its "thoughtful analysis." In case you needed more proof of just how rotten things are on the fake-left.)
All true — and there’s plenty more. As I said, I tried to focus on recovering the Andrew Sullivan history of his journalism malpractice before his alleged “conversion” — the Andrew Sullivan that the new Andrew Sullivan wants his centrist-libertarian-Obamabot coalition to forget.