Yesterday I noticed the rather alarming spectacle of a journalist offering $100,000 to procure emails of other journalists on a list-serv in order to expose and embarrass them by publishing comments that they assumed were off-the-record. If private emails are now grist for ideological warfare, it seems to me we are in over-drive in the partisan warfare that gets Breitbart up in the morning.
I seem to have touched a nerve, since Breitbart exploded with a charge of hypocrisy. When you read the charge, it is obviously not hypocrisy (a word that has apparently lost whatever meaning it once had). I have never offered anyone any money to procure and then publish anyone's private emails, and then gone on to criticize someone else for so doing. Moreover, I have never published a private email that might have come my way that might advance my own political arguments or interests. To give a rather fresh example, I was forwarded a rather staggering private email from an AIPAC official recently that said a huge amount, in my view, about what they're about. I did not publish it. All reader emails on the Dish, as Breitbart knows, are anonymous, in order to facilitate the widest airing of views. I have never violated that trust, and never will.
Breitbart then pivots - as did Hot Air - to my relentless examination of the lies, deceptions and shenanigans of a farcical vice-presidential candidate who is currently one of a handful of leaders in the radical Poujadist movement that once went by the name of conservative. The first thing to say is that, in my view, a public official who has held public office, who has come close to being vice-president of the US and who is now running for the highest office in the land should be subject to greater press accountability than, say, a blogger for the Washington Post. Call me crazy, but my view is that the fundamental role of the press is to hold those in public office accountable.
Should other institutions also be accountable? Sure - and this blog constantly criticizes the media as well. But the confidential emails between journalists venting and kibbitzing about the issues and their jobs seems to me pretty low down the totem poll of priorities and bordering on malice, blackmail and intimidation. Even if one were to receive such emails unsolicited - as I did that AIPAC email - I would not publish them. But to offer a $100,000 reward for such a thing? No wonder Breitbart is touchy. He has crossed yet another line of dubious ethics, and his only goal, as is evident from his post, is political war against his paranoid notion of a liberal conspiracy.
The e-mails were shown to The Washington Post by a former public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, who was fired by Palin in July. Monegan has given copies of the e-mails to state ethics investigators to support his contention that he was dismissed for failing to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, who at the time was feuding with Palin's family.
So these emails were directly connected to abuse of power by a governor who is currently the GOP leader. They were part of an ethics investigation - and were already in the public domain. And Palin deliberately used a private email account to keep her use of public office to pursue family vendettas out of the public sphere. It seems to me that commenting on emails that have become part of an ethics investigation of a governor is not the same as offering $100,000 to get some embarrassing off-the-record kibbitzing from a blogger on a list-serv. The second "gotcha" was about emails conducted under state business retrieved from a FOIA request and already in the public domain. Again: no comparison. The third was an email exchange published in the Anchorage Daily News in which the editor was trying to get some minimal documentation for Palin's fifth pregnancy-to-term. It revealed Palin's continued refusal to provide any evidence. Again, I broke no news and published nothing that wasn't already in the public domain. The fourth alleged violation of Palin's "privacy" is an email she published in full in her own memoir.
When all else fails, as all else plainly has, the rightist crazies simply assert that questioning Palin's bizarre account of her fifth child is "ransacking" her privacy. Really? As I said the other day,
If she had had a child under odd circumstances and insisted that it was private and kept the child away from cameras and ensured that he had all the care and privacy that such a child obviously needs, no one, including me, would have inquired further. But when you advance a political campaign using a child, it is imperative that the media investigate and probe the story.
Palin held her new-born infant up at the RNC Convention like some scene from the Lion King; she told the crazy story of her wild ride to the Anchorage Daily News long before she was picked by a Google search to be the back up for the leader of the free world. She has written a book full of extremely private details - the nature of her contractions, for example - and made a fortune off it. She is the one who first mentioned "amniotic fluid leaking" and "water-breaking", not me. She has made speech after speech citing her infant son - just as her teenage daughter has been pushed into every public arena imaginable. There is nothing private about Palin's story about her child with Down Syndrome. Nothing. To examine the details of a story already told in such detail in the public sphere as a core campaign platform is violating no one's privacy. It is asking relevant questions of a narrative plainly and publicly provided by Palin herself. I have used no facts except those already in the public domain. I have learned a lot from of-the-record chats and none of it - none - has appeared in this blog.
So there is neither a shred of hypocrisy nor an iota of inconsistency in my record on this. But for Breitbart, merely asking questions of farcical public figures like Palin is out of bounds, while offering money to publish private emails from journalists he wants fired is fine and dandy. Yes, he's that dedicated to the cause. Even a libertarian like Weigel loses his job for insufficient private conformity to the madness that is now the American "right." And yes, Breitbart appears to have no ethics that might compete with the advancement of the war he feels he must wage. Maybe he is simply embarrassed to defend a farce like Palin, since he is an intelligent man and having to defend the delusions and derangement of the Tea Party might test anyone's nerves. But really, he should calm down before he launches fact-free tirades like his most recent one.
Oh, and by the way, that "no-man's land" in which many former members of the center right now find themselves: it's called independent judgment and sanity. You may indeed disagree. But to me, what matters is not how big my "tribe" is, or who is on my "side" or any of the other sad things that Breitbart cares about. It is about integrity and honesty. One day, Breitbart might see that there are other values in this world apart from power and money and resentment and rage.