Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Nation Touched His 'Junk'

Having lost control of the House of Representatives in a landslide, and with their president struggling against the enormity of the job and with his popularity remaining below 50%, it's not terribly uncommon to see the left go after Barack Obama.

But the day before Thanksgiving, the solidly leftist Salon launched a scathing attack on the lion of liberal opinion journals — The Nation magazine — over a piece it had published on John Tyner, the rebellious software engineer who famously told groping TSA officials in San Diego, "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested!"

Salon writer Glenn Greenwald called The Nation piece on Tyner "a shoddy, fact-free, and reckless hit piece." And I'd say that a pretty accurate assessment. It's a disturbing example of journalism (if that's what you want to call it) that's long on accusatory whispering but short on fairness and objectivity. My guess is even a hard-left prof in a J school would give it a failing grade. Indeed, the piece was so bad that its authors felt compelled to respond to criticisms of it and have even backed off a little from their free use of conjecture and innuendo.

But here's the strange thing about Greenwald's attack on The Nation. As if to prove his progressive bona fides upfront, he begins his piece with the usual tantrums about conservatives:
One long-standing — and justifiable — progressive grievance is that whenever ordinary Americans allow their personal plight to enter the public sphere in a way that advances a liberal political goal, they are gratuitously probed and personally smeared by the Right.
Having set the stage by telling us that conservatives have cornered the market on smear campaigns, Greenwald then launches into his assault on The Nation. But there's only one problem. In his 3,500-word polemic, Greenwald never acknowledges that The Nation is one of the oldest liberal publications in the country. Could it be that, as one of my Facebook friends suggested, "His audience [already] knows this and the audience for Salon tends toward the left?" Perhaps. Yet presumably they already know that Michelle Malkin is a conservative, too, but Greenwald didn't hesitate to identify her as part of the right-wing attack machine.

And hey, why didn't Greenwald ask the simple question: "Where was Katrina vanden Heuvel when you needed her?" Well, I guess she was busy crafting an apology.

Anytime a liberal publication attacks one of its brethren, it's good news for conservatives. And I commend Greenwald for his willingness to go after a liberal icon — on the pages of Salon, no less. But is it too much to ask for a little intellectual honesty?

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