Kagan, the 'JournoList,' Media Matters and the Meaning Of Transparency

The word of the week is “transparency.” No, this isn’t the vapid hopey-changey wordage that the Obama campaign and administration has been using for the past two years, rather the transparency I’m speaking of here involves the literal process of revealing truths, exposing potentially negative material and providing a fair playground on which lovers of rational thought can explore and determine reality for themselves. At the end of the day, transparency is all about providing access to information and ideas, while shifting power to the people to subsequently formulate conclusions. This week, two transparency medals of honor should be given out – one to the Sunlight Foundation and the other to Andrew Breitbart (naturally).

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First and foremost, in a bid to once again outdo itself in the categories of “way too cool” and “ultra useful,” The Sunlight Foundation has created a timely democracy tool that offers the American public a first-hand look into the opinions and past work of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The new project, called “Elena’s Inbox” takes Kagan’s public e-mails from her Clinton administration years and organizes them in an easy-to-view format, thus providing unprecedented access and perspective. In an e-blast from Sunlight yesterday afternoon, Jake Brewer wrote,

All of the emails sent and received by Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan during her time in the Clinton White House were recently put online… [We] built a site to take Elena Kagan’s emails and make them readable…While we’re in the middle of Kagan’s hearing for the Supreme Court, it’s fascinating to get a sense of her through her public emails.

In the past, I’ve voiced concern over Kagan’s take on the first amendment, so I personally plan to sift through her e-mails to gain a better sense of her worldview and how she’ll function on the Supreme Court. This website couldn’t have come at a better time, as the American public (and Congress) learns about the woman who might very well partially shape American law for decades to come.

In another fit of transparency, Andrew Breitbart’s ready to open his wallet. A few days after his generous offer, no one has claimed the coveted $100,000 prize. Come on, people. There were 399 journalists (in addition to David Weigel) on Ezra Klein’s JournoList. No one is hungry enough to turn over the archives? I’m frankly surprised, considering the rapidity at which members of the mainstream media turned on Hillary Clinton and jumped on the Obama bandwagon during the 2008 campaign.; switching sides seems to be second nature to most of them.

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But in all seriousness, it shouldn’t take $100,000 to sway someone to expose the contents of the JournoList (even if you believe these materials are better kept private, why not at least release the members’ names?). If there’s nothing else to hide and if the list was and is as innocuous as Media Matters claims, why not release it? What’s holding greedy left-wing journalists back from making an easy buck? Go ahead progressive journalists: prove Breitbart wrong, take his money and laugh your way to the bank.

Interestingly, no one is stepping up to the plate. Something to hide? So it seems. Remember, these were (and are) 400 American journalists – individuals who regularly frame and shape information for the public. Now that the existence of the list has been made public, for transparency’s sake the people have the right to know what was contained in the discussion and who formulated, framed and moderated the “debate.” According to Breitbart,

The American people, at least half of whom are the objects of scorn of this group of 400, deserve to know who was colluding against them so that in the future they can better understand how the once-objective media has come to be so corrupted and despised. We want the list of journalists that comprised the 400 members of the “JournoList” and we want the contents of the listserv. Why should Weigel be the only person exposed and humiliated?

Most rational Americans are confident that the JournoList contains a litany of commentary from liberal ideologues spouting unintelligible blabbery and lamenting the conservative values they claim to cover so objectively. If this is an unfair assessment, prove us wrong. Newsflash to Eric Boehlert: One must actually use intelligent analysis and valid arguments to make viable headway in the public square. Admitting the list’s overall leftist tilt on the ideological catastrophe that is MediaMatters.org does little to contradict the notion that the JournoList was anything but a left-wing ideological brothel of sorts. Nice work, Boehlert.

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