First they came for Dave Weigel

By Razib Khan | June 25, 2010 12:53 pm

Dave Weigel of The Washington Post has resigned over his juvenile postings on an e-list. Basically the postings allowed for Weigel’s mask to slip, and showed him to be a vulgar and immature young man in some contexts. That’s no different from many of us in the proper context. The e-list is now defunct because of this information break.

Someone like Dave Weigel, a reporter who has to make a public pretense toward objectivity, and a somewhat public person, is atypical. But I think it’s the tip of the iceberg. People who know me in “real life” know that nothing they say to me will ever show up on this blog; it’s private, and my day to day interactions almost never intersect with the topicality here. If I want to introduce an idea or concept that someone else familiarized me with I will ask if I can do so, and credit them if they request. But that’s the nature of this blog, which draws more upon the scientific literature or reader feedback. Other outlets blur the line between private & public more explicitly, and if you meet someone with such an outlet, watch what you say, watch what you do. I’ve been on private e-lists where people say things that in public that could really compromise them. I’ve even gotten into disputes with people who were taking one stand in public which I knew could be easily undercut if I “exposed” what they’d said in private.

In the short term by breaking down barriers to information flow the internet is going to result in people retrenching to the narrowest and most trusted circles to “let their hair down.” In the long term I think we might have to reconceptualize what we think of as private or public. Soon enough a whole host of data on anyone you meet will be available on demand. And your data will also be available to them.

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  • http://twitter.com/HULAgate HULAgate

    Dave Weigel, Stan McChrystal. Stan McChrystal, Dave Weigel.

  • http://www.anamericanlion.com/ Norman Rogers

    Well, none of that is really accurate. One man’s vulgar and immature is another man’s eloquent rambling.

    If you are tailoring your comments for a specific audience, then the vulgar and immature part goes out the window because, in an “anything goes” environment, you’re expected to be a bit vulgar and immature.

    Do people get that you can write one way for a specific audience and still be a mature adult with taste and class, even though you just spent twenty minutes howling about some ninny to your E-mail list bros?

  • http://www.jamesgraham.bz JamesG

    The headline suggests you think Weigel is a victim but the text takes a more prudent view.

    In my opinion the comments he put on that list warrant the firing.

  • tgt

    I expect many more public figures to be taken down this way in the future. Eventually we’ll all learn, but it will take a while. I know I have many career-killing emails from friends, and many friends have similar emails from me. I assume this is true for most of us nowadays.

    What happens when friendships and marriages end badly? Women often seem to lash out against their ex in especially vicious ways. Increasingly the ex-wives and ex-husbands of America will have very damaging emails to reveal if they choose. Ex-friends as well.

    I’ve always assumed that some hackers have been storing every email coming in and out of Harvard and Yale for the past decade. You are guaranteed to get dirt on America’s future political class that way.

  • http://www.jamesgraham.bz JamesG

    Read this article on The Daily Caller:

    http://dailycaller.com/2010/06/25/emails-reveal-post-reporter-savaging-conservatives-rooting-for-democrats/#ixzz0rtW2YekM

    The Post should also fire the person(s?) who thought this guy was capable of reporting on conservatives, who make up more than 40 percent of our population … and potential WaPo readership.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    jamesG, you should actually read posts you’re commenting on. that’s the second link in the first sentence of this post.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    “who make up more than 40 percent of our population … and potential WaPo readership.”
    I bet that illiterates and non-English speakers make up a much larger percentage of the U.S population than potential WaPo readers. We shouldn’t assume proportionate representation of demographic groups in all cases. I think it was already well known that WaPo is liberal with a helping of neoconservative and just plain stupid. I never cared for Weigel even back when he was writing for Reason (why, I have no idea), but for people who are interested in electoral politics he was apparently a good reporter. I guess now his subjects won’t walk to talk to him know that everyone knows about his contempt for them, but he’ll probably find a slot where he’s allowed to be explicitly lib.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/ Uncle Al

    These are works of fiction. There is no attempt made nor desire extant to libel or otherwise cause malicious damage, loss, public contempt, defamation, blasphemy, treason, sedition, or ridicule to persons, cabals, governments, institutions, corporations, or assemblies of inanimate objects, alien lifeforms, microorganisms, clergy, vegetables, animals, or observed spatio-temporal reality.

    If it is found that any extant entity or collection of entities maintains an uncomfortable congruence to the caricatures and ridiculous comedic exaggerations contained herein, the author offers his apologies and condolences…

    …and if you are still pissed off, you are invited to go pound sand up your ass.
    Conciliation has its limits.

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    Is Drudge a characteristic conservative, so that having contempt for him means having contempt for conservatives? I sort of think so too, but I’m a liberal. I’m just sort of surprised that conservatives would agree — though if I think that they’re all like Drudge, why should I be?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    john, i think the issue was that weigel wanted drudge to be set on fire, and some people are taking that literally. but anyway, conservatives aren’t necessarily for his firing. it seems evenly split between those who want to fire, those who want to keep, and those who don’t care much either way. the bigger issue isn’t ideological, but between the older establishment journalists and the younger set.

  • Mike

    Regarding the generational split, I wonder how many Post staffers or how many of Weigel’s conservative critics realize that “die in a fire” is a pretty common Internet slang.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    the main issue for me as someone “on the right” is that i am skeptical that the post is going to hire anyone as knowledgeable as weigel about the right in the future. it’s pretty obvious that no matter how presumptively “objective” mainstream journalists are they don’t have a good understanding of the distinctions and differences among conservatives because they’re not familiar with the culture. consider another post writer who mentioned how “even though person X was a libertarian they supported liberal immigration policies.” this was said in an objective manner, but bespoke a totally retarded ignorance of libertarianism. innocent, but tiresome.

  • amastead

    Dave Weigel did no more or no less than any other Washington Post reporter or any reporter on any given days. He said some things in private no worse than anyone else. The only thing different is that his emails became public– against his will– something that could happen to anyone.

    Weigel was young. He was a blogger. He had a non-traditional background. No matter that he is a great reporter. That is the kind of guy published at the Post.

    Who keeps their job at the Post and other places?

    Those who espoused the WMD lies of the Bush administration.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58127-2004Aug11.html

    Those who have plagiarized.

    http://www.cjr.org/regret_the_error/to_catch_a_plagiarist.php

    And those who have engaged in unethical or sloppy journalism.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/16/AR2006041601027.html

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    Having no future, I can easily endorse the proposal that Drudge be set on fire.

  • http://fountain.blogspot.com Ross

    “Basically the postings allowed for Weigel’s mask to slip, and showed him to be a vulgar and immature young man in some contexts. “

    I don’t think the vulgarity is the big issue for most people (well maybe for the Post I suppose) but the fact that he was privately urging journalists to cover issues in such a manner as to provide a partisan boost for the Democrats, ie his comments on how to view the Massachussetts senate race in such a way as to minimise the national damage to Democrats.

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    Weigel was not a partisan Democrat. He was a libertarian who held his nose and supported the Democrats when the chips were down, instead of supporting the Republicans the way most libertarians do. He may have been wrong in 2008, the way Obama has turned out, but I don’t see how any libertarian could ever have supported Bush or McCain, whose authoritarianism was out there. Obama sneaked past me and a lot of other people, including Weigel.

    Libertarians really have nowhere to go. The Libertarian Party itself got 2/3% by my very rough calculation. It’s fragmented several ways and, tiny as it is, it even had its own financial scandal awhile back. (Harry Browne.)

    Drudge, like Beck, is an embarrassment, and it doesn’t make you a Democrat to say so.

    What this is all about is that conservatives believe that they have a right to some level of representation at the Post, and somehow were led to believe that Weigel would be that. But they wanted someone like Jonah Goldberg or Ross Douthat.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Hey, John, Weigel only recommended a voluntary if painful method of suicide. Someone else setting Drudge on fire is an entirely different matter!

    Ross isn’t complaining about Weigel not supporting Republicans. He’s complaining about him encouraging other journalists to craft their reporting so as to benefit the Democrats. Perhaps he’s not a committed Democrat (he voted for and worked on behalf of Nader in 2000, but voted for Kerry in 2004), although I haven’t seen any evidence he’s a libertarian despite working for Reason (in his first Bloggingheads appearance he indicated the staff there has a very different view of the role of government than his).

    Jonah Goldberg never thought Weigel was a conservative, though on his hire and resignation he wrote that Weigel was a good reporter. I haven’t read any conservative say they thought Weigel was one of them, though some people have alleged that’s what the people who hired him at the Post (on Ezra Klein’s recommendation) believed.

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    The point is that conservatives believe that deserve representation at the post and that they deserve a say in who works there. They don’t. The Post should have told them to fuck off and die.

    At this point nobody likes the Post. They seem to be in a faster death spiral than most newspapers.

    Trivia: the Post is run by the Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth’s niece Katherine. Katherine Weymouth’s mother Lally, a legendary crazy lady and a member of the Graham family, married Tina’s brother after screwing both George Will and Alexander Cockburn, a record which will probably never be broken.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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