Hey, remember how the Washington Post took down a president thirty-five years ago? They’re still riding on that little laurelmobile, and yet their current policy, Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, is to censor themselves based on the likelihood of an argument from the administration. The merit of that argument is never even considered. Cameron W. Barr:
“After the use of the term ‘torture’ became contentious, we decided that we wouldn’t use it in our voice to describe waterboarding.”
Coates says these are the compromises one makes for a marriage. He’s right, and there was a shotgun-equivalent at the wedding, namely the threat of access withheld. Even Coates’s own house is a bit glassy in this regard, with Atlantic Political Editor Marc Ambinder bouncing around in castles with the Bidens. (Yes, castles. I’m not sure these people know what symbolism is.)
Among the biggest exposés of the past year was Matt Hastings’ infamous McChrystal article, published in Rolling Stone, of all places. Hastings is a freelance reporter whose highest-profile work was in covering the Iraq war for Newsweek, yet his piece ended up in Rolling Stone, which has spent the past decade sucking heartily on anything you have available.
The loudest media reaction to that article was not “oh hey, there’s dissension in the highest ranks of our government about the running of the longest war in American history,” it was “how could he risk losing his access?” When our military actually murders journalists, the people who tell us about it get arrested; meanwhile, news outlets are astonished at the use of journalistic currency to actually do it for a change.
This is the junkie’s mindset–I can’t do anything they wouldn’t like with it, or they might take it away! Access generates pageviews, and pageviews sell ads, and ad sales are an addiction as hard to kick as heroin or oil. This is what I was trying to say in my post about comments last month: a race for the bottom is a race we lose.