by Conor Friedersdorf
Strange as it seems to say it, The Atlantic’s move to Washington DC irrevocably changed the course of my life. Were the magazine in Boston, I’d have gone there to intern after graduate school, and today my biography would include different sets of lovers, jobs and friends. Blessed as I am by the way life turned outspecifically for meeting the kinds of people one wouldn’t trade for anythingI’d thrill in departing the nation’s capital tomorrow if I could toil for this magazine and leisure with select company elsewhere. I’d doubtlessly miss certain people. But I wouldn’t miss this city, or the way things work here.
What do I mean by those words?
It’s a bit complicated to explain. There is this idea among movement conservativesespecially the rank-and-filethat Washington DC journalism is populated by a lot of disingenuous, careerist sell outs. These elites write to enrich themselves, to inflate their sense of self-importance, and to garner social capital, invariably measured by invitations to the dread “Georgetown cocktail party.” Thus they are unconcerned with truth, intellectual honesty, or the actual interests of anyone outside the New York to DC corridor.
This narrative is largely true! Anyone who pays close attention to DC journalism can easily spot intellectually dishonest hacks writing stuff they don’t actually believe, whether to advance their careers or to further a political agenda by the most cynical means imaginable. A blogger could write five posts a day fisking political journalism that is either astonishingly ignorant or disingenuous and a Washington DC journalist doesn’t have to attend very many happy hours to hear people basically admit that they are hacks who don’t actually believe significant parts of their oeuvres. What vexes me, having observed this game over the last couple years, is that the people accused of being inside-the-beltway sellouts are often the folks who write exactly what they believe; whereas the kinds of publications that rank-and-file conservatives revere for “never selling out” actually do so all the time.