Nothing about this story is shocking in the least. The Journolist scandal simply reveals that the media establishment acts like any other establishment. It has its prejudices, biases, and agendas and it acts accordingly. In this case, the primary goal was the defense and the election of Barack Obama. No thinking person who paid any attention to the media during the 2008 campaign could have been surprised by this. Indeed, this kind of behavior was obvious long before 2008. The Dan Rather scandal strikes me as, in many ways, a far more shocking incident, since it involved actual forgery of evidence rather than spinning events in favor of a particular candidate.
The suggestion that Republicans and conservatives should be slandered as racist is not surprising either, since this is the default position of the liberal establishment in general. It is my belief that, in this, they are probably acting in good faith. Most of these people genuinely believe that all of their opponents are racist (or sexist) and that this is the only possible explanation for their opposition to liberal policies. What this indicates is both a failure of intellectual imagination and a stunning degree of myopia on the part of the establishment. Certainly, this is a symptom of decay, but it cannot be said to be surprising.
Is this modern journalism’s obituary? I doubt it. All establishments exist for a reason, and however corrupted they may become, they survive because the serve a particular need. Like it or not, a large minority of Americans are in sympathy with the ideas expressed at Journolist and because they are mostly wealthy, well-educated, and live in urban areas where the major media outlets are based, they will continue to sympathize with and support the media establishment that both expresses and reinforces their prejudices.
In addition, any establishment interested in preserving its status and power must continuously admit new members and retain a circle of admirers and supporters. The members of Journolist are mostly young and mostly true believers. As such, they are the future of the media establishment. While many of us may see the ideas and opinions expressed by Journolist to be repugnant, and their tactics reprehensible, the establishment will likely see them as proof of their loyalty and value. In the end, ironically, many of those implicated in the scandal will find that it was not the end of their careers but quite the opposite. It will likely prove to be their ticket to permanent membership in the establishment.
Benjamin Kerstein is Senior Writer at The New Ledger and lives in Tel Aviv.