Monday, October 20, 2008

Slate = Fail

My original plan was to quietly take Slate online magazine off of my Blog list 'o links. Slate has long been a guilty favorite of mine. Many of their regular contributors (Fred Kaplan, Jacob Weisberg, John Dickerson, and Daniel Gross) share their founder's (Michael Kinsley) unfortunate penchant for partisan hackery. The usual article from any one of them for the past 8 years has had the same basic same formula: Choose any problem currently getting press, presume that the current presidential administration is evil, stupid, always wrong, and all the all-powerful cause of all that's wrong in the world, from that premise prove the current presidential administration is wrong and that they caused the problem in question through their mendacity, stupidity, and persistent wrongness.

Slate makes no pretense of ideological balance. No Fox News-like claims of fairness or balance. The editors seem to get a special kick out of crafting inflammatory and misleading headlines to get you to click on stories that are only marginally about what's promised (advertizing $$$). The Fray (their message board, like ALL internet message boards) is an utter waste of electrons (they, of course devote a regular column to tracking it). Bruce Reed seems to have some sort of horrible learning disability that makes everything he writes come out as pointless, shallow, and ugly.

Yet there are several features and writers I generally enjoy. Dahlia Lithwick, Witold Rybczynski, Chris Hitchens, Emily Yoffe, The Explainer, The Green Lantern, and Anne Applebaum come to mind. I may agree or disagree, but they are at least often worth reading. Slate also introduced me to some I follow despite their moving on: TMQ and David Edelstein for instance.

But as presidential/congressional race polling data begins to trend toward inevitability, I am beginning to sense emanations of liberal entitlement and pomposity from Slate writers (similar to Rush Limbaugh is 1994), particularly the less talented ones listed in my first paragraph. Seemingly, as a result, the dumb articles are getting dumber. To my eye anyway, as the masturbatory back patting grows more frenetic within their partisan bubble, the idea that thought, evidence, or even the occasional clever turn of phrase might be necessary (or even desirable) in political writing has been jettisoned in an avalanche of pent up hubris, nastiness, and schadenfreude.

Anyway, finally came along the article that was so stupid, shallow, wishful, and mindless, that I had to remove the tacit Sarcastic Weasel endorsement that comes from being linked on my blog:

Libertarianism is Dead, by Jacob Weisberg

Not that Slate benefits from my 3 readers.

Not that I wanted to make a big deal about it.

Not that I even planned a post.

I really don’t have time to put together my own refutation... something about 3 journal papers and one month to write them.

But the article was really ridiculous. And I don't seem to be the only one to find it to be an especially regrettable example of diminishing standards.

But, since Brink Lindsey (Cato@Liberty) took the time, I’ll point you over to his post.
If you want the quick version:
-Economic meltdown causes and effects still unknown.
-Most likely though:
-Public policy failed to stop the problem
-Private actors failed to stop the problem
-Public policy exacerbated the problem
-Private actors exacerbated the problem
-Weisberg = idiot


ish said...

My general love for Slate stems from how consistently different their perspective is. While its true that they slant strongly liberal, they rarely slant right onto the party line or the MSM story of the day, which allows me to get news and opinion that exists outside of the traditional bubble. The articles on Slate always had a different take on any given issue than what I read or saw in the normal NewsMedia (TM).

The thing is, I didn't necessarily agree with that perspective. I just valued it for being different. And I still see Slate as filling that niche.

I'd argue with your including Gross in the company above. I've also seen Kaplan write columns praising Bush Administration policy in the past. I think in their case that reflexive blaming of the current administration stems from the administration behaving in a genuinely stupid way on many issues.

I agree that the tone has become much more cheerleading in the past few months, but given the fact that there is an election going on (you might not have noticed, its been pretty quiet) and given that it IS an opinion magazine, that's to be understood.

But really I think you'll find after the election that the story will change. I fully expect regular criticism of the Obama administration from Kaplan, Dickerson, and Gross (probably not Weisberg, but you never know). Bruce Reed will remain a Hack (that's why he's there). But I do expect the existing independent columnists and more fair-minded ones to do their share to keep it from being a lovefest.

I also found Weisberg's article to be willfully stupid. But it wouldn't surprise me to see a refutation appear on Slate's own pages in the coming week. It fits their pattern. Even if biased personally, they always seem willing to allow contrary voices.

There will always be hacks. (If you think the writers on Slate are bad, spend 5 minutes over at Salon and try to avoid punching yourself in the face. I dare you.) But slate has consistently allowed them to be called on their prejudices. That's really as much as I expect.

Weisberg calls Bill Clinton A chump in 2001 over his pardon of Mark Rich

Also examine the chatterbox column between 96 and 2000 in which Tim Noah, Walter Shapiro, and even Mickey Kaus consistently savage Clinton. True, this was during the Lewinsky scandal, but (as expected) Kaus was especially unapologetic in his attacks.

The Really Sarcastic Weasel said...

Holy crap! There's an election coming up? WTF! In that case, it seems like the ideal time to look outside one's ideological bubble and make one's political opinion pieces as compelling and broadly convincing as possible.

Well, it's not like I'm going to stop reading it... well, if I have some time in the near future.

Wait until I do have a little spare time and try to justify my (real) decision not to similarly ban my link based on this:

As a fun exercise, try to construct the arguement yourself at home. Hint: 70% pathos, 25% logos, 5% ethos.

ish said...

Christ, I banned anything from Card that wasn't fiction years ago.

Of course it is his homepage and not the horrible hate-filled willfully ignorant blog (on which there are NO opinions worth reading). But still, it seems like a slam-dunk compared to slate.

But as usual, I think you have way over-reacted and predicted certain doom, while I'm making excuses and assuming the best. So at least that remains consistent.

The Really Sarcastic Weasel said...

Hey, I'm perfectly willing to believe in the possibility that Slate will eventually turn on the forthcoming Obama administration in a BBC-esque show of trenchant antiestablishmentarianism.

Unfortunately, proof of such a shift will take at least two, probably three years to manifest itself. And I want to complain about stuff NOW.

Note: this comment includes my first ever attempts to type the words "antiestablishtarianism", "BBC-esque", and "Obama". My spell-checker is having a fit.