Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that Andrew Breitbart is offering $100,000 for anyone who can offer him the complete archives of Journolist, a private email list serv that’s been in the news. Since I’ve been outed as a member of Journolist, this prompts a few reflections, mainly that I could have made $100,000 if only the universe was a bit different. For me to have the money:
1. I would have had to have had the foresight to make an archive of the list while I was a member.
2. I would have to be the sort of sleazeball who would be willing to sell private, off-the-record information for money (I think the term “Judas” comes to mind).
3. I would have to be the type of vermin that is willing to do business with Andrew Breitbart, who is a poster boy for the descent of the conservative movement into pure, malicious spite and partisan paranoia.
Alas, none of these condiditions applies, so I’m out $100,000.
One of the interesting subplots of the recent drama of David Weigel and Journolist (the private list-serv where Weigel made remarks that led to him parting ways with his employer, The Washington Post) is the revelation of how much certain writers hate Ezra Klein, the founder of Journolist. (See this post by Jeffrey Goldberg as an example). Earlier examples of Klein hatred can be found in the collected prose of Mickey Kaus. Kaus faces is usually twitchy with tics but it becomes especially contorted and grotesque when Klein’s name is mentioned. What’s going on here? Why is Klein so hated in some circles?
Over at the Globe and Mail, I look at the efforts of the Republicans to become a more multi-racial party. I had to cover a lot of ground in 900 words. Those who want to read the earlier, longer version (or “director’s cut”) can do so below:
Historical memory might be on the wane elsewhere but it is very much alive in South Carolina, a state whose expansive cotton fields and stately plantations memorialize the paradox of a genteel civilization built on centuries of slavery and segregation. So the world perked up to the news earlier this week that Tim Scott, an African-American legislator, won the primary to be the Republican candidate in the state’s first district, beating Paul Thurmond, a son of the late Strom Thurmond, the fabled segregationist who represented the state as a Senator from 1956 to 2003.
Dave Weigel is leaving the Washington Post after some creep leaked off-the-record comments he made on a private list-serv. Matthew Yglesias and Adam Serwer have both written superb blog posts that pretty much say everything that needs to said on the matter. But I want to make a few points that need to be stressed in the strongest possible terms.
1. Dave Weigel is a great reporter who has covered a tough and important subject (the conservative movement) with fairness and intelligence. The real losers in all of this are the readers of the Washington Post, who will no longer benefit from his intelligent and informed reporting.
2. Whoever leaded those private emails is a lowlife. The leaked emails were deliberately choosen in a way to make Weigel look bad and hurt his career.
3. In the back of all this controversy was a kind of conservative identity politics. Some conservatives are upset because Weigel is covering the conservative movement but he’s not part of it. Conservatives usually decry the sort of sort of identy politics that requires only blacks to write about blacks or gays to write about gays, but some conservatives have adopted the same ethos.
4. Every good reporter has private communications — letters, emails, conversations — that make them look opinionated. That’s because any good reporter is a lively and engaged human being with a strong point of view. It’s an absurd form of positivism to require reporters to be a blank slate — no such reporter could possibly exist. The merit of a reporter’s writing is to be judged by whether his or her articles are factually accurate, bring new facts and arguments to light, and advance the conversation on a topic in a meaningful way. By that criteria, Weigel is a superb reporter while some of his critics (notably Jeffrey Goldberg) are far inferior. Yglesias is especially good on this point.
I have an essay about G. A. Cohen in the June issue of the Literary Review of Canada. Here’s the opening paragraph:
Gerald Allan Cohen was a product of the lost world of Canadian communism. His working-class parents were Jewish Marxists who toiled in Montreal’s garment trade. In 1945, When Cohen was four years old, they enrolled him in the Morris Winchevsky School. Morning classes were taught in English and covered conventional topics. But in the afternoon the language of instruction switched to Yiddish, and the lessons included the history of class struggle. One day in 1952 Quebec’s Red Squad raided the school, hoping to find communist literature. The political innocence of Cohen and his classmates was preserved by a quick-thinking teacher who put on a happy voice and clapped her hands as the police arrived: “Children, the Board of Health is inspecting the school and you can all go home early.” Cohen and the other delighted students ran outside, unaware they had McCarthyism to thank for their freedom.
What are Canada’s best 100 books? This is a question Stephen Patrick Clare and Trevor Adams are hoping to answer by polling Canadian readers. They plan to sift through the results and publish the list of those that receive the most votes as Canada’s 100 Greatest Books, a kind of sequel to their fun 2009 compilation, Atlantic Canada’s 100 Greatest Books. Readers are asked to email in their top ten favourites. “The criterion is simple,” Clare and Adams write on their Web site. “Only works of fiction and non-fiction written by Canadian authors and that involve Canada in some capacity will be accepted.”
I had some important work to do when I came across the best Canadian books project—so naturally I had to compile my own top ten list on the spot. There are different ways to define best, and in my case, I decided to focus on books I not only considered important, but enjoyed reading. That meant I did not include books like George Grant’s Lament for a Nation, an undeniably significant book on historical grounds, but one that has never really spoken to me on a personal level. Rather than rank my top ten I’ve listed them chronologically. Here are the first five, with the rest to follow. Continue reading →
Over at Vanity Fair, James Wolcott is puzzled by the presence of Peter Worthington at the Frumforum site. Wolcott quotes a Worthington column on the World Cup which includes this observation, “And as a reflection of African ethnicity, well, maybe the vuvuzelas are the apex of cultural achievement.” Wolcott rightly describes Worthington’s column as a “moldy crumb of racial condescension” and doubts that it “will make FrumForum a lot of friends in the African community.”
As a cultural commenter Wolcott is dauntingly erudite. He can write with informed verve about everything ranging from the film noir classics of the 1940s to the novels of Norman Mailer to the peculiar humour of Benny Hill. But even Wolcott can’t be expected to understand the genealogy of Canadian conservative journalists.
Historians of the American South, seeking to give a more nuanced picture of the region’s history, sometimes describe traditional racism as being “paternalistic” in nature. The idea is that that paternalistic ideas that African-Americans needed white guidance mitigated against the racism of the region developing into more extreme forms of race-thinking that were genocidal in nature. There is some truth to the idea of a paternalistic racism but it has be remembered that paternalism wears many face, often the smile of indulgence hides an inner scowl of scorn which is quick to emerge.