Is Tucker Carlson Undermining Left-Wing Journalists—Or Just Himself?

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Tucker Carlson's conservative news site The Daily Caller has published more e-mails of liberal journalists saying highly partisan things on the now-defunct left-wing private listserv, JournoList. On Tuesday, The Caller exposed e-mails of journalists discouraging one another from covering the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story during the 2008 election. Today, the site cherry-picks quotes from journalists and academics venting their frustrations about Fox News and the influence it wields. At one point, Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA writes "I hate to open this can of worms, but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”

While some believe the Caller's series on JournoList raises valid criticisms about media group-think on the left, others say The Caller misleadingly turns a few off-hand remarks by liberal thinkers into a vast liberal media conspiracy. Is Carlson's new series undermining left-wing pundits or his own credibility as a journalist?

  • Tuckerson's Being Incredibly Dishonest, writes liberal Ezra Klein, the organizer of JournoList: "The Daily Caller's story is wrong. "Journalists" did not suggest shutting Fox News down. A law professor wondered whether the FCC could do it. The journalists in the thread ignored or opposed the idea (which is of course proper; it's absurd to think that the FCC would, or should, pull the plug on Fox), and then there was a long conversation over whether Fox was a news organization or an activist organization."

  • Criticisms of JournoList Are Valid, writes Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic: "There was a cozy, self-satisfied network of writers, bloggers, and journalists who shared a broad progressive position and supported the Democratic party (but often disagreed as well). The valid criticism is not that this is a conspiracy, but a clique, a clique that at times (but not always) fostered the notion of coordination, media management, and even petitions. That's what the neocon right does; and what the theocon right does. I think it's helped kill off conservative thinking and fostered groupthink, ideological policing, and media manipulation. I can see why some liberals wanted to fight fire with fire. But what's burning is the polity and free discourse."

  • Carlson Isn't Creating Good Journalism Here, writes libertarian Matt Welch at Reason: "Right-of-center investigative journalism is going to have to tie up its loose ends a helluva lot tighter than this (and that) if it aims to persuade anyone from outside its camp. The real spade-work on the JournoList trove is not just fishing for a single chunk of Drudge-bait, but tying an off-the-record listserv conversation with a coordinated flurry of on-the-record commentary. Locker-room trash-talk can be fun to spy in on (in a train-wreck kind of way), but if there's a real opinion-journalism scandal underneath any of this it will lie in attempts, concscious or unconscious, to foist political message discipline on disparate and unsuspecting audiences. This ain't that."

  • This Is Important Stuff, writes conservative Mary Katharine Ham at The Weekly Standard: "Today we learn more about mainstream players at national outlets, which is the more interesting part of the JournoList. Among the ideas that raise less objection than they should— wishing in graphic detail to witness the death of Rush Limbaugh and using the federal government to shut down a cable news network one doesn't like. To his credit, Michael Sherer of Time magazine argues against the idea of the federal government yanking broadcast rights of Fox News, but everyone seems pretty much agreed that more government regulation of media should be used to deal with the Fox problem."

  • There's No Conspiracy Here, writes the left-leaning Jonathan Chait at The New Republic: "This conspiratorial analysis of Journolist utterly misses the nature of the thing. It was like a bar you could go to and talk, or argue, with a bunch of people with whom you had something in common. But the group as a whole did not jointly participate. Almost every discussion was limited to a small percentage of the group that was interested in the topic. Most people ignored most of the topics. To pick out some quote and say that nobody disagreed, and thus to imply that everybody agreed, is very much like quoting something somebody said in a bar and implying that everybody else in the bar must have thought the same thing."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.