Imagine Republicans holding a hearing where they called prominent journalists by the term, "so-called journalists," mocked them for working in a "threesome" and tried to get them to reveal their sources.
Only it wasn’t Republicans making those attacks. It was the Democrats on the House Judiciary subcommittee impugning the integrity of journalist witnesses, while Republicans defended a free press. Honest liberals must have had their heads spinning. (Yes, there are honest liberals. Read on!)
In one especially putrid moment, Ranking Member Del. Stacey Plaskett slammed the two journalists testifying in a way almost hard to imagine. "Mr. Chairman, I am not exaggerating when I say that you have called before you two witnesses who pose a direct threat to people who oppose them."
She wasn’t talking about Jeffrey Dahmer or Henry Lee Lucas, she was talking about two people who report news. The only threat the two journalists, Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger, pose is that they are revealing the corrupt censorship committed by people in power. That’s what Plaskett was terrified about.
MATT TAIBBI CALLS OUT ‘CENSORSHIP-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX’ IN LATEST TWITTER FILES
Taibbi got the better of her criticism of his credentials. "Ranking member Plaskett," he responded, "I’m not a so-called journalist. I’ve won the National Magazine Award, the I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and I’ve written 10 books including four New York Times bestsellers." If she had any self respect, she would have had to send staffers to CVS to get aloe for that burn.
Like I said, if.
Florida Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was nearly as awful. Mediaite described her assault as she, "Trashes Matt Taibbi as Profiteering Tool Of Elon Musk in Explosive Twitter Hearing." She even complained about him "being a Republican witness," which would then discredit all witnesses of both parties in Congress. Not good with the long view.
Unsurprisingly, the press didn’t exactly join with Republicans defending … the press. Because suddenly journalism was being used to expose government censorship against the right, not exactly the favorite sport inside the Beltway. Especially for legacy news outlets that mostly have a "D" after their names.
Even before the hearing started, MSNBC Opinion Writer/Editor Hayes Brown declared the subcommittee toast. "The House GOP’s ‘weaponization’ subcommittee is already imploding," he wrote. Apparently, his crystal ball skipped today’s hearing. Because what imploded was a mix of Democrat and liberal media credibility.
Leftist press stalwarts blasted the hearing and, especially, Taibbi. Keith Olbermann was quick to chime in. Olbermann, who used to cover sports but now does a podcast after a bunch of job, um … changes, said of another poster, "he's mocking Taibbi, not a journalist." Daily Beast contributor Cliff Schecter blasted the journalist testifying as "smarmy, Putin-colon dweller, traitor Taibbi."
Molly Jong-Fast, who describes herself as a podcaster and Vanity Fair "special correspondent," criticized Taibbi for his testimony. "Matt Taibbi should make Elon buy him a horse after todays testimony," she tweeted. Jong-Fast is also listed as "a contributor" to the theoretically conservative site The Bulwark, which is funded extensively by the left and is Never Trump and may be working on Never DeSantis.
Liberals didn’t just bash Taibbi. Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce flayed subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, "Jim Jordan reloaded his 155mm Howitzer of Stupid on Thursday." He followed with another barrage: "I appreciate that Jordan was born a colossal jerk and can't do anything about that, but nobody forced him to refine the character so thoroughly, either."
One wonders if Pierce is acquainted with mirror technology.
Some on the left, commendably defended journalism and the journalists who testified. Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief at The Intercept, called out Plaskett. "For a member of Congress to say they ‘represent a direct threat to those who oppose them’ is beyond the pale and should be roundly condemned. This isn’t a close call."
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He’s right, but that sentiment wasn’t common anywhere but on the right.
HuffPost knocked Taibbi in a headline, "Matt Taibbi Smirks Through House Committee Grilling About 'Twitter Files.'" But its senior politics reporter Daniel Marans was more fair. He tweeted, "I don't think House Democrats pressing Taibbi to reveal his source for the Twitter files, or for that matter, ‘exposing’ him for earning a living from his trade, is the ‘own’ that they think it is. Journalists don't reveal anonymous sources," he tweeted.
If the purpose of journalism is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, the hearing did a good bit of both. And Taibbi and Shellenberger deserve credit, especially given all the attacks that are sure to follow.