How Does Narrative Emerge?
By Arnold Kling
Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”
…Kevin Drum, then of Washington Monthly, also disagreed with Ackerman’s strategy. “I think it’s worth keeping in mind that Obama is trying (or says he’s trying) to run a campaign that avoids precisely the kind of thing Spencer is talking about, and turning this into a gutter brawl would probably hurt the Obama brand pretty strongly. After all, why vote for him if it turns out he’s not going change the way politics works?”
It appears, based on these leaked emails from a private discussion list, that Ackerman and Drum disagreed about whether it was a good idea to deal with the Jeremiah Wright controversy by accusing prominent conservatives of being racists. However, both Ackerman and Drum agreed implicitly that their concern was “the Obama brand.”
This raises questions in my mind about how the narrative emerges.
(a) it emerges out of the efforts of journalists to be objective, however imperfectly they may perform that function based on unconscious biases.
(b) it emerges out of open conflict among biased commentators
(c) it is shaped by the conscious, co-ordinated strategies of biased journalists
These emails suggest something closer to (c). Reading them is like seeing the transcript of a meeting where stock traders plan to manipulate the price of a firm’s shares or where a corporation plots how to cover up some wrong it has done to consumers.
Based on these analogies, I have difficulty working up sympathy for the privacy violation involved in publishing these emails. But perhaps the analogies are inappropriate.
It seems to me that some ethical boundaries that I thought existed, or should have existed, have been violated, by those who participated in this mailing list.