Beltway Zen: has the Washington Post ever met a liar it won’t publish?

At WashPo, the narrative is more important than the facts…

Earlier today a friend forwarded me, via e-mail, the text of an opinion piece that was ostensibly about the “new reality” on the right. It began well enough.

Following the recent tea party Tet Offensive — tactically disastrous but symbolically important — the Republican establishment has commenced counterinsurgency operations. Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — both facing primary challenges from the right — are responding more forcefully to their populist opponents. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has cut ties with a Republican advertising firm employed by tea party challengers. “We’re not going to do business,” says a spokesman, “with people who profit off of attacking Republicans. Purity for profit is a disease that threatens the Republican Party.”

Okay. We’ve noted the civil war in the GOP here at S&R and find the subject interesting. The writer continued.

This vivid turn of phrase — “purity for profit” — captures the main reason Republican leaders are edging away from a strategy of accommodation. The Obama era has unleashed a great deal of genuine populist and libertarian energy. But a good portion of it is being channeled into business and fundraising models that depend on stoking resentment against the GOP itself (at least as currently constituted).

Kinda giggling at this point, because the country club right cobbled together a monster out of every ignorant, corrupt and cynical constituency it could find, and now the monster has turned on its masters. So far, so good.

But then, at the top of the third graf, there was this:

The result is a paradox. Over the past few decades, Republican members of Congress have become more reliably conservative (as their Democratic colleagues, to a lesser extent, have become more liberal).

Aaaaannnnd, we’re done. Stopped reading right there. This kind of shamelessly counter-factual nonsense, which slots nicely into your standard FOX News talking points, is so at odds with the truth of the matter that anyone who spouts it should be…well, as Hunter Thompson once put it, “These swine should be fucked, broken, and driven across the land.”

As I said, this came via e-mail, and I dove straight into the text. Didn’t notice who wrote it or published it. But at this point I doubled back to check.

Ah. Michael Gerson. And the Washington Post. That explains it. If you don’t know Gerson, here’s a brief snip from his Wikipedia page:

He served as President George W. Bush‘s chief speechwriter from 2001 until June 2006, as a senior policy advisor from 2000 through June 2006, and was a member of the White House Iraq Group.

The Washington Post, of course, is the house rag of the DC apparatchik establishment, the institution most critically charged with maintenance and propagation of America’s corporatist ideology. Their official motto is “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” Beltway Zen, if you will.

I believe in free speech. I believe in hearing what people have to say, even if I disagree, because a lot of times I’ll learn something important. I may even wind up amending my opinion or changing my mind altogether if you make a compelling case.

I’ll read you right up to the point where you prove to me that you’re a moron or a liar. Then we’re through, perhaps forever, because if you lied to me once I can’t trust you to shoot straight thereafter. And if you’re a moron, well, you’re not likely to grow an extra 50 IQ points are you, now?

Earlier today that happened early in the third paragraph.


  • You said yourself it was op-ed! An opinion piece has no responsibility to be factual, or even accurate. It’s just as valid even if it’s entirely, intentionally made up stuff! The only duty an op-ed writer has is to sufficiently entertain the attention of a reader. If he couldn’t get you to read to the end, he failed, but it never mattered at all if he was right, or if he agreed with your perception of the truth. Op-ed is all about style, not substance. It’s not peer-reviewed research.

    • Everyone has the right to speak and say what they like and lie until the cows come home. But when you provide them with the forum, you sacrifice your own credibility. There are responsible conservatives out there who don’t have to make shit up to convey a valid point.

    • Frank Balsinger

      With all due respect, I disagree vehemently. It’s one thing to lie to one’s friends around the water cooler about things that don’t matter, and even then it may speak poorly of one’s character. It’s another thing entirely for someone to attempt to manipulate public opinion on the basis of lies and distortions. Maybe it’s a silly belief, but I think individuals have the responsibility to be factual in their communications when the communication is about facts.

      Outside the realms of fiction, comedy and “no, that dress doesn’t make your ass look too big,” would you share an example of a lie you would gladly be told?

      • I really can’t help it if you have no historical perspective on newspaper columnists, or an inadequate education on the difference between news and editorial writing. There’s more than two hundred years of tradition in American journalism, from Franklin to Twain to Don Marquis to Benchley to Donald Kaul to Dave Barry and on, of the function of op-ed writing being purely FOR ENTERTAINMENT, and owing nothing to truth or fact.

        I’ll take any lie that amuses, gladly. I can tell the difference by the byline, or by what section the article is printed in.

      • Mikey,

        three members of this staff, including myself, earned PhDs from a prominent school of journalism and mass comm. Whether you agree with me or not, and you’re under no obligation to do so, a lack of historical perspective about the proper and productive role of journalism in America is not the problem. I’m happy you enjoy being amused by news outlets that lie to you – truly, this is a wonderful time to be alive for people who think that way – but if you’re looking for a place where you can feel superior and talk down to folks on the subject you may have walked in the wrong door. Please, a little less attitude?

  • I cant find it, but I recently saw a graphic on WaPo’s The Fix that showed the political orientation of members of congress over time and shows the number of those in the middle (centrists) declining. This graphic is prob what Gerson is talking about, but you’re right, the moron doesnt notice that the number disappearing from the center is all Republican.

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