Free Beacon is the worst. Take a minute to read Jonathan Chait’s latest column at New York Magazine, “Hitler Alive and Well, Owning Liberal Magazine.” While relaunching The New Republic, Chris Hughes removed 12 contributing editors from the masthead. Five of them were jewish. None of them had written anything at TNR in years. Free Beacon decided that this merited an article titled “Hughes Drops Jews” and called it “a move that may signal the publication’s continued drift away from a staunchly pro-Israel standpoint.”
Chait appropriately demolishes the article, so I don’t have a lot more to add on this particular incident of drive-by hackery. It isn’t the first from the Free Beacon, and it surely won’t be the last. But I think it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider just how awful the Beacon’s self-described devotion to “combat journalism” is for American politics. Editor-in-chief Matthew Continetti describes this “new approach” thusly:
Andrew Breitbart pioneered the new approach. His websites were dedicated, impassioned, and broke news. Glenn Beck exposed White House czar Van Jones’s radical, 9/11-Truth past. Guerilla journalist James O’Keefe performed sting operations that led to ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and NPR having very bad days. Tucker Carlson’s website, The Daily Caller, published excerpts from the Journolist, which showed liberal writers coordinating their party line.
The inclusion of Carlson is particularly instructive, because he’s been called to task for “hurting America” before. Tucker and his bowtie were the centerpiece of Crossfire, CNN’s arguing-talking-heads program that represented the final reductio ad absurdum of kneejerk “objective” news. He has since lost the bowtie and launched a more opinionated online outlet, but he’s no less of an embarrassment.
To Continetti and his staff, Carlson is revered instead of ridiculed. “Combat journalism” combines the worst features of Gotcha journalism with the worst features of the partisan echo chamber. O’Keefe’s selective misrepresentation of ACORN is a feature of this “new approach,” rather than a bug. Every opportunity to frame liberals or the mainstream media as threatening enemies should be exploited, regardless of whether the sentence-level blame holds up at the scale of a paragraph.
Bravo to Chait for ridiculing these dangerous jokers. They deserve our scorn. Their readers deserve our admonishment. Their advertisers deserve our angry e-mails. The health of our media system can be judged as inversely proportional to the health of media organizations like this one. The Free Beacon only succeeds in a dangerously polarized, informationally unhealthy America.
We can do better than this. And self-respecting conservatives ought to be demanding better as well.