Keynes and Germany

by Henry Farrell on July 22, 2010

A “bloggingheads”: with Dan Drezner, where we discuss in passing the recent dust-up between Tyler Cowen and Paul Krugman on Keynesian demand-stimulation strategies and Germany (see “here”:, “here”: “here”:, “here”: I’m mostly on Krugman’s side of this argument, but not entirely – a few points.

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by Henry Farrell on July 22, 2010

I’ve been hesitating today over whether to write a post responding to the Daily Caller’s publication of a message I wrote on Journolist, talking about how I got emotional on the day that Obama was elected, when I saw African-Americans talking about what this meant to them. Perhaps a bit embarrassing, given that Obama has been in many ways a disappointing president – but as I said in a blogpost on the day, the fact that an African-American with a foreign-sounding name became President was important in itself, regardless of what disappointments came later. My personal feeling about this earth-shattering fact being made public is the kind of mild annoyance felt by Saki’s “Ms. Scrawen”: – even if one’s private conduct has not been especially embarrassing, one doesn’t necessarily want it to be revealed to all and sundry without one’s permission.

Still, I do think that this tells us something about the whole Journolist-in-the-media saga. That a middling obscure and openly left wing university professor gets teary when an African-American is elected president can be described in many ways, some of which, depending on your point of view, might be uncomplimentary. But what it _cannot_ be described as is breaking news. And that the Daily Caller makes this part of its top front page story, with a headline festooned with exclamation marks, tells us something about the newsworthiness of the material that they have. Without sympathizing with them at all, I can sort-of understand their position. If you believe that there is a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy ranged against conservatism, it must be very exciting to finally get your hands on the Top Sekrit archives of the shadowy network that you think Controls It All. And it must be extremely disappointing to discover that those archives in actuality consist of journalistic gossip, heated political arguments between people who disagree over an enormous range of topics, endless (and to me extremely tedious) threads about baseball and the like. This doesn’t justify the Daily Caller’s demonstrably dishonest efforts to dress mutton as lamb, and pretend that they have smoking gun evidence of coordinated plots against the right. But it does help explain them.

Update: Since Jim Lindgren has been “getting”: “very”: “excited”: about the possibility that Journolist organized multiple campaigns against this or that obscure conservative figure, coordinated its message with the Obama campaign, and maybe was behind that guy who cut him off when he was on the way into work the other day, he may want to look at this “most recent post”: by Ezra Klein.

bq. If this series now rests on Tucker’s credibility, then let’s talk about something else he doesn’t mention: I tried to add him to the list. I tried to give him access to the archives. Voluntarily. Because though I believed it was important for the conversation to be off-the-record, I didn’t believe there was anything to hide. … At the time, I didn’t know Carlson was working on a story about Journolist. And I’d long thought that the membership rules that had made sense in the beginning had begun to feed conspiracy theories on the right and cramp conversation inside the list. … then wrote this e-mail to Journolist:

As folks know, there are a couple of rules for J List membership. One is that you can’t be working for the government. Another is that you’re center to left of center, as that was something various people wanted back in the day. I’ve gotten a couple of recent requests from conservatives who want to be added (and who are people I think this list might benefit from), however, and so it seems worth asking people whether they’d like to see the list opened up. Back in the day, I’d probably have let this lie, but given that Journolist now leaks like a sieve, it seems worth revisiting some of the decisions made when it was meant to be a more protected space.

As I see it, the pro of this is that it could make for more fun conversations. The con of it is that it becomes hard to decide who to add and who to leave off (I don’t want to have to make subjective judgments, but I’m also not going to let Michelle Malkin hop onto the list), and it also could create even more possible leaks — and now, they’d be leaks with more of an agenda, which could be much more destructive to trust on the list.

bq. I want to be very clear about what I was suggesting: Adding someone to the list meant giving them access to the entirety of the archives. That didn’t bother me very much. Sure, you could comb through tens of thousands of e-mails and pull intemperate moments and inartful wording out of context to embarrass people, but so long as you weren’t there with an eye towards malice, you’d recognize it for what it was: A wonkish, fun, political yelling match. If it had been an international media conspiracy, I’d have never considered opening it up. … When I e-mailed him to ask about some of these omissions, his response was admission mixed with misdirection. … Journolist has taken the Daily Caller from about 50,000 hits a day to more than 200,000. There are a lot more answers in those numbers, I fear, than in his editor’s note.

Carlson clearly has access to the list – so if Ezra were not telling the truth about this, he could give him the lie. But Ezra is telling the truth, so he can’t. A political conspiracy led by someone who wants to invite his ideological enemies to come in and take a look is a decidedly peculiar class of conspiracy. I look forward to seeing how Lindgren (and others taking the same line) explain this.