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Sunday, February 09, 2014

 
The junkies and the partisans

by digby

Jay Rosen has an excellent piece up explaining the tension between the insider Village scribes and actual humans who follow politics because ... they are civic minded and care about government policies:
... [T]he cult of the savvy, my term for the ideology and political style that journalists like Chris Cillizza and Mark Halperin spread through their work. The savvy severs any lingering solidarity between journalists as the providers of information, and voters as decision-makers in need of it. The savvy sets up — so it can speak to and cultivate — a third group between these two: close followers of the game. The most common term for them is “political junkies.” The site that Cillizza runs was created by that term. It’s called The Fix because that’s what political junkies need: their fix of inside-the-game news.

Junkies are not normal, but they accept their deformed status because it comes with compensations. They get to feel superior to ordinary voters, who are the objects of technique and of the savvy analyst’s smart read on what is likely to work in the next election. For while the junkies can hope to understand the game and how it operates, the voters are merely operated on. Not only does the savvy sever any solidarity between political journalists and the public they were once supposed to inform, it also draws a portion of the attentive public into emotional alliance with the ad makers, poll takers, claim fakers and buck rakers within the political class— the people who, as Max Weber put it in his famous essay “Politics as a Vocation,” live off politics.

But we’re not done. The savvy sets up a fifth group. (The first four: savvy journalists, political junkies, masters of the game, and an abstraction, The Voters.) These are the people who, as Weber put it, live for politics. They are involved as determined participants, not just occasional voters. Whereas the junkies can hope for admission to the secrets of the game (by taking cues from Chris Cillizza and Mark Halperin and the guys at Politico) the activists are hopelessly deluded, always placing their own ideology before the cold hard facts.

If you follow the Twitter feeds of Ron Fournier of National Journal and Chuck Todd of NBC News you routinely see a category they call “partisans” described as silly, insane, overheated, unreasonable, absurd. Click here for Fournier doing it and here for Todd. Somewhere in their dinosaur brains those who “live off” politics understand that the people who live for it could steal their constituency and turn the savvy into the absurd creatures. Thus the constant ridicule of partisans. Thus the self-description on Ron Fournier’s Twitter bio. Political affiliation: Agnostic.

So this is what the savvy in the press do. Cultivate the political junkies. Dismiss and ridicule the activists, the “partisans.” Assess the tactics by which the masters of the game struggle to win. Turn the voters into an object, the behavior of which is subject to a kind of law that savvy journalists feel entitled to write.

I would just add my own little twist to Rosen's thesis which is that the Villagers themselves --- including the savvy political junkies --- not only ridicule activists, they insist on the absurd construct that they more perfectly represent Real Americans. (Think millionaire TV host David Gregory talking about his mom being afraid to lose her job or Mrs Alan Greenspan Andrea Mitchell saying "we're all going to have to sacrifice".) It's a neat trick to be both a savvy celebrity insider and "an average middle class American voter", but they seem to have internalized that illogic and present it to the public without any sense of irony.

Anyway, it's a great piece spurred on by the ongoing journalistic malpractice in reporting this week's CBO report on Obamacare. Read the whole thing.

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