The Mirror

Slate’s Weigel dings Vox Media, sparking a Juiceboxer civil war?

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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Slate‘s Dave Weigel may be getting a case of ‘Why not me?’ fever. Or else, he really dislikes the choice of his best journalism pals Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, now over at Vox Media. Most recently, Klein was at The Washington Post and Yglesias was at Slate. All are members of the Juicebox Mafia, a term reportedly coined by The Daily Beast‘s Eli Lake to describe their youth and pack mentality. I have described them as Boy Banders, only because I see more of a Justin Timberlake quality to Klein.

In a morning tweet, Weigel revealed his strong support of a story in Slate slamming the new hire of Brandon Ambrosino by Vox Media. Does this indicate warfare among the Juiceboxers? A sort of internal Juiceboxer rebellion?

Let’s examine. Weigel, longtime close friend to both Klein and Yglesias and who palled around with the pair ever since their JournoList days, has come out bashing the hiring operation that has yet to even debut for what he deems “clickbait trolling.” A phrase born of modern Internet idiocy — we all love that stuff, right? This would seem to indicate that: a) Weigel absolutely never trolls online and b) that he doesn’t think Slate also lowers itself to the sins of clickbait.

Even the headline itself whiffs of clickbait: “Ezra Klein Made a Big Mistake Hiring This Reckless Homophobic Apologist to Write for Vox.” Or, “Help! My Husband Has Fallen in Love With our 16-year-old Exchange Student.” Or, by Weigel, “Koch Washing: The Hot New Campaign Finance Trend.”

Quick question: Is Weigel really this lacking in self-awareness?

He doesn’t think so. In a response to questions from The Mirror, Weigel replied, saying:

“It’s an honest disagreement between friends, and I think that’s true for a lot of criticism of the hire — look at Gabe Arana’s piece about this in The Prospect, which Ezra used to work for. Is the theory that we never disagree with each other because we are pals? I don’t know any group of humans who behave that way. Twitter is public, despite whatever has been said in that odd debate (on Twitter) today, so I expressed my ‘stance’ that way. It would actually be strange if, in my position at a rival news outlet, I pressured Ezra in private about who he should hire. Far be it for me to say who should be hired at someone else’s magazine. Generally, though, on this burning topic, I align myself with Arana. Ambrosino has written a bunch of buzzy columns that were more heat than logic, and there are many writers around his age who do better stuff. I do like Ezra’s call for ‘ideological diversity’ and would love to see him raid the Examiner or Free Beacon — ah, but I’m saying who should be hired at someone else’s mag…”

The Slate story to which Weigel has directed his followers dissing the new Vox Media hire is by Mark Joseph Stern and doesn’t confuse with its sentiment: “Vox’s Unbelievably Terrible New Hire.”

Whoa! Is Ambrosino some sort of monster?

Stern writes that Vox hired Ambrosino to presumably cover the LGBTQ beat. “Ambrosino’s ideas are not brash, unconventional, exciting, or avant-garde,” he insists. “They are reckless, retrograde, and vapid—and hiring Ambrosino reflects startlingly bad, potentially catastrophic judgment by Vox.” He says Ambrosino pleases conservatives in that he’s a gay writer who “dares to assert his own equality” with a “preposterous” view that “gays oppress straight people.” Stern goes on to say that Ambrosino’s worldview is as follows: “Ambrosino’s worldview, so far as he has one, is primarily comprised of crass opportunism and toxic narcissism.”

And my personal favorite insult: “Ambrosino ignores the basic principles of journalism and simply spews free-form argle-bargle, as though he’s swinging a bat at a piñata that’s hanging from a different tree.”

Stern claims Ambrosino’s admirers include Breitbart News, Townhall and Glenn Beck. He says Ezra and company have abandoned their original view: to explain the news.

Perhaps this is a simple case of supposed adults like Weigel, Klein and Yglesias having a difference of opinion. After all, just last month in a Facebook post, Weigel praised “my friend Ezra Klein” for his insights on journalism. He said his friend kept a “light touch” on JournoList which is how he says the enemy got in. He discussed what JournoList really was, and not from the point of view of what he calls “the idiotsphere.” In Weigel’s mind, JournoList was a place where academics and journalists could share ideas. In Weigel’s idiotsphere, however, it’s a “dark conspiracy by liberals to control the media, silence conservatives and elect Barack Obama.” Actually, it was seen as a place where liberal journalists united in their theories and then presented them on their various websites, a place where Weigel felt free enough to declare that he wanted Matt Drudge set on fire.

Oh, if only Vox hired someone like Weigel, or swiped more journalists from a clickbait-free site like Slate or Media Matters, which is also damning the hire of Ambrosino.