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June 11, 2015

Matt K. Lewis: Don't Let Them Put You In the Conservative Ghetto

Yesterday, having read just an excerpt, and making all sorts of unwarranted assumptions, I castigated Matt K. Lewis for this piece appearing in the Washington Post. (I made my criticisms on Twitter, not here.)

Having read the piece now, I have to to apologize for Criticizing Something Without Actually Reading It. (I read two paragraphs and assumed I knew his argument -- but I didn't.)

Want to really understand the conservative furor over George Stephanopoulosí failure to disclose $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation? It wasnít just because Stephanopoulos grilled "Clinton Cash" author Peter Schweizer without mentioning the obvious conflict of interest. The outrage reflects an even more deep-seated frustration: Stephanopoulos personifies a sort of media selection bias that has been irking conservatives for generations.

He was a paid political operative and Democratic staffer who almost seamlessly segued into nonpartisan journalism. Itís unfathomable to imagine a Republican of equal stature reinventing himself in such a manner...

From where I sit, the truth is itís much easier for a liberal to make this transition. Conservatives tend to get pigeonholed; liberals tend to get second acts....

This double standard isnít exclusive to TV talent ó or even individual reporters who attempt mid-career leaps from politics to journalism. If you ever see a reference to the Huffington Post next to one about "the conservative blog The Daily Caller," you'll know this also applies to entire media outlets. Itís a subtle and pervasive framing that serves as a sort of ďtrigger warningĒ to readers. (And to frustrated conservatives, this need to constantly label us feels like an ideological microaggression).


But the bigger problem isnít how this makes us feel, but rather, how the framing prejudices readersí perceptions. For example, The Washington Postís Jennifer Rubin has a blog called "The Right Turn," while Ezra Klein, who came to the Post as a blogger at the liberal American Prospect, wrote at the philosophically neutral-sounding Wonkblog. This isnít to knock Rubin or Klein, but while there are plenty of very good liberal writers at mainstream outlets, rarely are they assigned a space called "The Left Hook."

This is exactly right. A conservative long ago pointed out that liberals are introduced as experts -- neutral politically, but dripping with the Authority of Science! -- whereas conservatives are introduced as "conservatives" or "pundits."

So the media always sets up this contest: Between cool reason, expertise, and Science! on one side, and animal political impulses on the other.

What claim does Ezra Klein have to be an "expert"? Sean Davis shares my zeal in credentials-shaming: He is merely a BA holder in the notoriously weak and soft major of Political Science. (Poli Sci to get by, we used to say.)

Sarah Kliff, the former Washington Post neutral "health care wonk" who said she wasn't covering Gosnell because it was a "local crime story"? You know her credentials? Another BA holder, in one of those Choose Your Own Adventure mixed degrees in "Philosophy/Neuroscience/Psychology."

Don't be overimpressed. Fake, make-'em-up degrees blending two or three different disciplines tend to be extremely superficial in all of them. Obviously, someone who has an actual major in Chemistry is going to have a deeper level of understanding that someone with a hybrid make-em-up degree in Chemistry/English Literature/Geography.

Meanwhile, David Hogberg is an actual Ph.D., specializing in the healthcare field. He's got a book about Medicare's Victims.

What would the Washington Post call him, though? I'm thinking: Conservative health care critic.

Avik Roy, an expert in the filed who attended Yale Medical School (not sure about his actual degree, though), is likewise a Conservative Critic of Obamacare, not, like BA Poli Sci idiot Ezra Klein, an "expert."

It never stops. They are constantly festooning themselves with Fake Credentials and Made-Up Titles while denigrating their more learned rivals as mere political blowhards.

Even Matt K. Lewis' column protesting this very syndrome is ghettoized and Otherized as just more Hot Talk from a non-expert Political Yahoo: His post appears in a Washington Post ghetto called, get this, The Outrage Machine.

Yes, that's right. Even as Lewis protests the denigration of conservatives by shunting them off in niche areas with Trigger Warnings for Ignorant and Unscientific Claims, they put his protest in a section called The Outrage Machine.

Klein and Kliff, on the other hand, a pair of outrageous and bumbleheaded partisans of the first water (as you can see from their sage work at Vox), were always the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" writer and "Health Care" writer.

But Lewis? He's an Outrage-y Shouty Person Who Is Here to Entertain You With His Silly Religious Archaisms.


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posted by Ace at 04:03 PM

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