Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A PROMINENT LIBERTARIAN JOURNALIST ON HER PROFESSION. Megan McArdle returns from wherever, and spectacularly relieves her Youth Brigade of thumb-up-the-ass detail with a three-part self-embarrassment:

It starts with Glenn Greenwald's observation that our media would rather report Barack Obama's bowling performance than the John Yoo memos which essentially declared President Bush above Constitutional law as regards torture and extraordinary renditions. McArdle says of course, silly -- Obama is more famous than John Yoo! "Readers buy more papers with headlines about Jamie Lynn Spears than they do with headlines about Alphonso Jackson or John Yoo," she explains, and as Obama is also a celebrity, there's no market reason (that is, no reason at all) why newspapers shouldn't cover him the way they cover a popstar's relatives, nor why they should cut into this frothy coverage with icky torture news.

Greenwald, making the fatal mistake of assuming McArdle to be educable, tries in a follow-up to explain that Yoo's memos "legalizing government torture, declaring presidential omnipotence, and suspending the Fourth Amendment inside the U.S." are important news, because they "became the official position of the entire Executive Branch of the U.S. Government." McArdle responds that "Mr Greenwald's anger at the establishment power structure seems to be rapidly transmuting into anger at the non-Glenn-Greenwald power structure." While readers are puzzling that one out, she describes her own difficulty in getting her stories printed:
Now, some of my readers are arguing that we journalists have a duty to give the public what they don't particularly want. Okay, well, you really should know how to calculate a bond duration...
So why should the suspension of the Fourth Amendment get more play than selections from McArdle's economic primer? "The public doesn't know because it doesn't care," says McArdle, "not because the journalists don't want to tell them." If this doesn't convince, McArdle also calls Greenwald's assertions "bizarre, even lunatic," compares him to the Ron Paul "rEVOLution," etc.

As word gets around about her dazzling logical display, McArdle returns for an encore:
Almost every journalist in Washington came here wanting to cover the kinds of things Glenn Greenwald wants written about; almost every editor here was one of those reporters, and assumed their current job hoping to break these kinds of stories. They are simply limited by the tastes of their readers.
Apparently Washington is the new Hollywood -- a place where fresh-faced writers go full of big dreams, only to be worn down by the demands of the marketplace, eventually (with some bitterness, perhaps, but also with some consoling paychecks) churning out stories about Bush's flight suit, happy new homeowners, unstoppable economic growth, and other feel-good stories. I would credit McArdle for a fresh insight here, but she seems to think that this is the way things are supposed to work in journalism -- no doubt because, as a libertarian, she must endorse whatever dollars endorse in any situation.

It's a good thing she hasn't got a job better suited to her talents, such as coal-mining: were the canary in her mine to drop dead, she'd probably just complain that she missed its singing and ask for a heartier one to be sent down.

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