The Confused Conor Friedersdorf

Being a liberal means you can publish falsehoods all day long, and, in nearly the same breath, accuse others of the same.

Conor and I had a bit of a tiff yesterday.  Well, he had a tiff.  I was just asking questions. 

He’s a little butthurt today over it and now writes a column to attempt to win what was lost.  But he does so dishonestly.

In order to do a Victory Dance, he contrives an error on my part.

Here’s the “error” I made, according to Conor Friedersdorf:

But the thing is, when people are sending angry tweets, you’re actually just sitting at your desk, or on your living-room sofa. I was writing at a coffee shop that looks out at the ocean. Some pelicans were flying by. A four-year-old was playing in the plants. It didn’t feel like a fight. In one of the dozen windows I had open, Ace of Spades, anonymous blogger, was claiming, erroneously, that I have a “deranged obsession with Palin’s fake-preganacy fat suits and secret passageways at hospitals.”

Of course I didn’t claim that at all; I claimed that about Andrew Sullivan. My question was at what point would Conor denounce his former boss/mentor’s penchant for deranged conspiracism? But don’t trust me; trust the record. Here’s the actual quote in context. Note that Conor had to rim it a bit to get it to say what he claims it said.

It is hard to see how that could possibly be mistaken for a claim that Conor, rather than Sullivan, had a “deranged obsession with Palin’s fake-pregnancy fat suits and secret passageways at hospitals. I have difficulty seeing any other reasonable explanation for his “error” apart from intentional design.

I did make one error in that (which Conor calls out) — I had gotten the timing of Conor’s Stalwart Work for Sullivan wrong. Sullivan had had a cadre of secret, unacknowledged ghost-writers blogging for him for a time. He later called them “underbloggers,” when this came out. Because they’re underbloggers, I guess he reasoned, he didn’t have to inform the public that other people were writing on his blog under the byline “Andrew Sullivan.” He claimed that it was important to preserve a “unitary voice” on the blog, or at least the dishonest illusion of it, and so that justified the practice.

Conor Friedersdorf, however, does not seem to be one of those secret, unacknowledged cobloggers; he came in later.  Here’s me, immediately asking if I got my facts wrong about that:

See, I actually didn’t want to be wrong. So when I was told I was wrong, I asked for clarification — am I wrong? Tell me so. But for some reason he wouldn’t answer.

The reason was, I think, was that he’d decided that he’d use this Huge Error — my unspeakable ignorance about the precise timing of the Friedersdorf/Sullivan alliance — in his column whining about the pestilence of the Gotcha Game. If he had told me I was wrong, I would (as is my wont) immediately apologized and retracted that erroneous claim… but I don’t think he wanted to risk that. It works better as a Gotcha, and Gotcha stuff is, as he tells us today, Everything That’s Wrong With The World.

Even though, of course, this whole thing started with his own Gotcha hit on Michelle Malkin, over an 11-year-old column!* Gotchas for me, but not for thee. Your gotchas are so gauche and declasse. Because I said so.

I have now asked both Conor and the Atlantic Politics twitterer for a correction. The twitterer seems to be an editor, because he pounced on me for a fewer/less grammar error. He immediately corrected me on that. But since I’ve asked him to correct the error in Conor’s piece, he’s gone radio-silent.

Which comes as a particular shock to me, because Conor made such great claims about the difference between Us and Them. They, you see, are very honest and prompt about corrections. They have integrity. We do not. Let me quote him on this point. This point of his Utmost Integrity and Ethics.

But I’m realizing something else about this corner of movement conservatism. Its writers and hangers-on are very adept at trying to exploit, as a weakness, the fact that most of their targets hold themselves to higher standards than the ones to which they themselves adhere.


Tellingly, what angers them more than anything is when someone says, implicitly or explicitly, “Yes, I am more ethical than you,” a statement that is true for the vast majority of working journalists, but that most are reticent to voice, because they aren’t perfect and it makes them a target. Humility is generally good, as is the certain knowledge that we’re all flawed, and that there’s always some peers, from whom we can learn, doing it much better than we are. But it is dangerous to behave as if sites and people that constantly publish falsehoods without correcting them and use the most vile insults in place of argument are somehow no worse than anyone.

You can imagine how flummoxed I am to learn that what separates Conor from myself is his alleged aversion to falsehood, and his alleged ability to own up to his errors.

And yet his site — his precious blog at the Atlantic, the Atlantic, which for years carried Sullivan’s unhinged rantings and conspiracy theories — still carries the error (or, I would argue, clearly deliberate misquote) in order to score a truly trivial point on me, and neither he nor an editor there is willing to correct it.

Because that would be embarrassing, you see. It would be embarrassing to preen so much about getting the facts right and writing with Utmost Integrity and then add the correction: Oh, by the way, I completely misquoted an anonymous blogger in order to score a ridiculous gotcha point on him.

So they’ll just ignore it. They’ll cut themselves some slack. I mean, some errors and some misrepresentations are Useful, and besides, We’re Better, and We’re Entitled to a cut corners a little bit here and there.

Writing’s hard.

We’re Better. We Said So, and so it is. It doesn’t matter that we don’t actually abide by the standards we claim makes us better in the first place. We Were Already Better Even Without Those Standards. We’re Better, We Said So, and Shut Up.

The truth has a liberal bias. Very often, so do falsehoods, apparently.

Pardon the formatting and the weird link-text– the site is doing something strange. It keeps inserting multiple links (to John’s piece) automatically.  I have deleted about six of these inserted links so far but the software keeps adding them back in, often in new and unexpected places!   I give up.  Apparently the software wants these links in there, and it will keep fighting me on this, and it will have the last word.

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