Saturday, April 21, 2018

Act of Contrition

Courtesan Confessional by Aurora Maryte/Deviant Art.

Amy Chozick of The New York Times promoting her about-to-appear memoir of life on the Hillary Clinton beat since 2008 (WSJ, and the Times from 2013), Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling, with a book excerpt that includes an unexpected confession:

The Bernie Bros and Mr. Trump’s Twitter trolls had called me a donkey-faced whore and a Hillary shill, but nothing hurt worse than my own colleagues calling me a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence. The worst part was, they were right.
Note the trivial inaccuracy (it was "donkey-faced cunt") and slipped-in bothsiderism (suggesting her reporting must have been fair, since Hillary had some opponents who hated it as much as her supporters did). Still and all, she seems to be the first reporter from the big show to acknowledge playing a role in electing Donald Trump to the presidency through a series of journalistic failures, and that's pretty brave, right?

Nah. The only thing she pleads guilty to is spending too much time writing stories about pirated emails in the Trump-Clinton campaign, in which, as she carefully points out, she was not alone: "Every publication," she says, quoting Eric Lipton, David Sanger, and Scott Shane in the December postmortem, "including The Times, published multiple stories citing the D.N.C. and Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks, becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence." Though her own contribution (six stories and a blog post) to the stampede was not exactly small.

She doesn't talk about the hostility that led her to plead for Joe Biden to enter the race in a "news story" treating a Maureen Dowd column as a story-worthy event in August 2015 (when I was still assuming I'd vote for Sanders in the primary), or the article that December on Clinton's investigative work on an Alabama segregation academy one summer when she was in law school that managed to suggest Clinton had tried to keep this heartwarming story secret (the story of the "couple of days" she spent under actual cover in Alabama was "one she devoted just under 300 words to in her 562-page memoir", that the work was "out of character for the bookish law student", and that it was a failure, since Southern schools are still segregated 40 years later, while failing to mention, or presumably to find out, that Clinton's boss in that early Children's Defense Fund project, the great activist Marion Wright Edelman, was supporting her presidential run (after a long period of estrangement stemming from Bill Clinton's signing of the 1996 welfare bill). But Chozick was scrupulously fair to the segregation academy in question, printing its claim that it wasn't founded as a segregation academy without critical examination.

Or her 25 paragraphs on how Clinton spent August 2016 raising money from rich people, as if no presidential candidate had ever spent an election-year August that way before, and without mentioning that half the money was supposed to go to congressional races, something some self-denominated leftists continued refusing to believe right through Election Day, basing their opposition to Clinton on the false assertion she'd done nothing for the party; or the story of October 2016 (in the middle of the email orgy) complaining with just breathtaking falsity that Clinton had been "virtually silent" in the "national debate about women's rights and sexual harassment".

Chozick is in some respects really not a very good writer, as we see in the current book chapter, where she loses track of her own point of view to comic effect:

Not that I thought Mr. Trump would win. I believed in the data. Yet I couldn’t shake the nagging sensation that no matter how many people I’d met in black churches and union halls and high school gyms around the country who told Hillary Clinton their problems, no matter how many women chanted, “Deal me in!” in unison, she wouldn’t win.
So what did you think?

But the bias, trivial inaccuracy, and lack of followup are still part of Chozick's toolbag as well, as in her dramatic chapter opening attempting to show the Democrats' upper-class cluelessness:

Things were already looking bad when, several people told me, Chelsea Clinton popped the Champagne. It was just after 9 p.m. on election night and she was having her hair and makeup done in the family’s suite at the Peninsula hotel. She stopped to pour what someone said was Veuve Clicquot into everyone’s glasses, figuring that in a couple of hours Donald Trump’s run of early victories in red states (West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama) would end and the map would turn back in her mom’s favor.
Which Chelsea was forced to challenge on the Twitter:

Early in the piece, she introduces a Hillary quote that could be equally spurious, for all I know, or completely authentic, that sounds meant to convey Clinton's monstrous sense of entitlement at the moment it's betrayed:  "I knew this would happen to me... They were never going to let me be president." By the end, she's recognized that that wasn't narcissistic paranoia, in the sense that a "they" existed, and that's a good thing:

They were Facebook algorithms and data breaches. They were Fake News drummed up by Vladimir Putin’s digital army. They were shadowy hackers who stole her campaign chairman’s emails hoping to weaken our democracy with Mr. Podesta’s risotto recipe. And they were The Times and me and all the other journalists who covered those stolen emails.
Not so good that she's anxious to deflect the blame back onto the usual suspects—Clinton's aides are "the same box of broken toys who’d enabled all of her worst instincts since the 1990s", whatever that means, and she even brings up the "why didn't she campaign in Wisconsin" canard (she got the same kind of result in Pennsylvania despite her intensive rally schedule there).

And the weirdest of all is Chozick's understanding of what she and her colleagues ought to have done—she seems to think they shouldn't have covered the Podesta emails at all, or sat on them for a while. Or that it was unethical for the paper to write about it, since the evidence had been stolen. What she feels guilty about is writing them up (though she also blames her editor for that, complaining about the assignment when "I wanted to be on the road"):

I didn’t argue that it appeared the emails were stolen by a hostile foreign government that had staged an attack on our electoral system. I didn’t push to hold off on publishing them until we could have a less harried discussion. I didn’t raise the possibility that we’d become puppets in Vladimir Putin’s master plan. I chose the byline.
It's because she still hasn't learned that Hillary Clinton isn't an evil person, and that if she'd bothered to look analytically at the WikiLeaks dump, risotto recipe and all, she'd have learned, as I did, that they don't provide the kind of evidence WikiLeaks said they did, and the reporting would have done less of the harm it did. What Chozick did, worse than most of the people in the gang in fact, as I said at the time, was to allow the WikiLeaks presentation to determine what the emails meant, as the Russians intended, because her own inveterate hostility to Clinton inclined her that way, and she wasn't interested in trying harder.

So she's going to have to work on that apology, it's not quite ready to eat. Lemieux has some valuable stuff on the political inanity of the piece.

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