Conor Friedersdorf, a young conservative writer of considerable talent, posts from Washington on The Atlantic’s blog and commits the serious sin of candid truth-telling:
…. There is this idea among movement conservatives—especially the rank-and-file—that Washington DC journalism is populated by a lot of disingenuous, careerist sellouts. These elites write to enrich themselves, to inflate their sense of self-importance, and to garner social capital, invariably measured by invitations to the dread “Georgetown cocktail party.” Thus they are unconcerned with truth, intellectual honesty, or the actual interests of anyone outside the New York to DC corridor.
This narrative is largely true! Anyone who pays close attention to DC journalism can easily spot intellectually dishonest hacks writing stuff they don’t actually believe, whether to advance their careers or to further a political agenda by the most cynical means imaginable. A blogger could write five posts a day fisking political journalism that is either astonishingly ignorant or disingenuous – and a Washington DC journalist doesn’t have to attend very many happy hours to hear people basically admit that they are hacks who don’t actually believe significant parts of their oeuvres.
What vexes me, having observed this game over the last couple years, is that the people accused of being inside-the-beltway sellouts are often the folks who write exactly what they believe; whereas the kinds of publications that rank-and-file conservatives revere for “never selling out” actually do so all the time….
Though I don’t plan to make my life in Washington DC, I wish the right-leaning critics of its journalistic culture would come visit before I leave, make themselves flies on the walls at various social gatherings, and observe who it really is that stays true to themselves in their writing — and who views their work as a political writer in the most cynical, careerist terms imaginable. They’d realize that they’ve got everything exactly right, and exactly backward, at the same time. It is merely another example of a need for the right to better identify its elites, and demand better ones.
I’d agree with all that, but with one important caveat. A lot of people on the left look at the Washington media establishment in much the same way, and they too are correct.
The days since 9/11 have taught me a lot about our country, about people in general and about my business, not all of it good. But the sycophantic and even cowardly behavior of media bigwigs in Washington during the run-up to the Iraq war and in the early years of the occupation appalled me. A lot of those people knew better and pretended otherwise in order to keep their place in the Washington pecking order, and their silence harmed this country.
Yes, it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.