Before I get started, let me clarify something. Groupthink, mob behavior, panic, etc. have a powerful capacity to make smart people dumb. This is the moral of every witch-hunt story and is about as well documented as any phenomena in human history. As Tommy Lee Jones says in Men in Black, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals, and you know it.”
I mention this up front to acknowledge that many of the people I am appalled by are, individually, smart and decent professionals. But, as a group, they are making fools of themselves and their profession, and making the country’s problems worse.
I’ve spent much of the last couple of years decrying the increasing partisan tribalism of our politics. I’ve earned some strange new respect from liberals (and at times regrettable new enmity from some conservatives) because I’ve been willing to call out my team. A case in point: I don’t like President Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric about the “fake news.” I don’t think it’s true or helpful or presidential. “Enemy of the people” is a totalitarian and authoritarian term of art unfit for our country or our president, and employing it gives license to the press to indulge its worst instincts.
Which brings us to the current moment. Democratic senators who announced they would never vote for Kavanaugh under any circumstance keep getting asked if the FBI investigation they demanded will be “enough for them.” Enough for what? To still vote no? I’m not criticizing the Democrats themselves — though I obviously could — I’m criticizing the people who interview these senators. Time and again, these journalists interview the Democrats as if they were open-minded about this investigation when in every breath they insist that the investigation will be illegitimate if it doesn’t prove what they want it to prove.
I listened to an MSNBC host this morning sound almost panicked about how the FBI might not be able to confirm Julie Swetnick’s — absolutely ludicrous — charges against Kavanaugh even as she reported that NBC couldn’t confirm any of it. The urgency wasn’t that the media let Michael Avenatti play them all for suckers, but that it might be just too difficult to prove allegations Swetnick herself walked back almost entirely. In other words the fear, palpable in many quarters, is that the charges might unravel prematurely, and so the press must start raveling them.
Or, in other cases they must spin new ones.
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