Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Obscenity of Spencer Ackerman

Not all left-wing bloggers have given up profanity in their blogging, which was an issue in debate at Netroots Nation.

This morning
, in response to Katie Couric's story on Barack Obama's Iraq surge controversy, Spencer Ackerman exclaimed:

Dear press corps,

Please recognize that
this is completely f**king wrong.
I'm still amazed at this kind of language among top-level bloggers, especially as Ackerman's directing his appeal to the Washington press corps, which abjures profanity in reporting as completely inappropriate.

Recall, though, for
postmodern citizen journalists, explicity crude language is a way to add power to their attacks on the "enablers" of the mainstream press.

as I noted previously, "It's not as if the bloggers profiled have advanced their journalistic or political careers by deploying gutter language," with the main example being Amanda Marcotte.

I could be wrong about that, however. Maybe profanity, in the world of radical media reporting, is indeed an asset. Ackerman's case might support the conclusion, for while he was fired from the New Republic for inappropriate language and unprofessional behavior, he was immediately hired by
extreme leftist Harold Meyerson at the American Prospect.

According to
Clint Hendler:

In October 2006, Spencer Ackerman was a twenty-six-year-old associate editor at the New Republic. He had joined the magazine four years earlier and, since then, had reported from Iraq, been twice promoted, and co-written the story that may land Lewis “Scooter” Libby in prison....

Less than a year later, his boss Franklin Foer called and asked him to come in for a talk. Ackerman was working from home that day, maintaining the magazine’s baseball playoffs blog and posting a bit on
Too Hot for TNR, his personal blog which he had just set up that weekend.

Ackerman says his relationship with Foer had begun to deteriorate eight months before, in March of 2006, when Foer, who was thirty-one at the time, was given the magazine’s top job by Martin Peretz, TNR’s then owner andeditor-in-chief.

“As I was on the bus on the way down, I thought, ‘This is it. I’m probably going to be fired.’ I’d thought that before, but this felt different,” says Ackerman.

This was different. Foer sat Ackerman down and told him that his behavior—both in the office and on his blog—had been unacceptable.
His career at the magazine was over....

Over the years TNR has taken pride in being preternaturally iconoclastic, claiming to be the keeper of the liberal flame while thumbing its nose at progressive stances on health care, affirmative action, and the rulings of the Warren Court. But for the four years that Ackerman worked at the magazine, TNR was defined by its [pro-invasion] position on the Iraq war, the all-consuming debate of the era....

The magazine had become an ideologically difficult place for [Ackerman] ... to be. But, he says, the biggest difficulties came after Foer was promoted. “Frank and I used to be friends. Or I at least I thought we were,” Ackerman says. “Frank is not particularly interested in national security. I am. We had struggled to find an equilibrium.”

This led to what Ackerman diplomatically calls “a couple of heated editorial disputes.” The most notorious of these occurred after U.S. bombs killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June of 2006. At an editorial meeting, Ackerman warned the assembled staff that Zarqawi’s martyrdom might actually make things worse in Iraq. He was accused of being soft on the dead al Qaeda operative. So he demonstrated his hatred of Zarqawi by offering to “skullf**k” the corpse.

“The magazine is not filled with shrinking violets,” says Ackerman, recounting the incident. “I stand by it, damn it. I would skullf**k the guy if I could!”

There were other disagreements. Ackerman thought that his posts to the magazine’s group blog—The Plank, started six months after Iraq’d was shuttered—were getting undue editorial scrutiny. And he was disappointed that he was not invited to participate in a major Iraq roundtable to be published November 2006.

But by then Ackerman would be gone...

Ackerman was quickly hired by Meyerson, in a show of hard-left solidarity:

That night Ackerman went to the movies to see Fearless, a Jet Li film, with some friends. By the time the credits rolled, he had a message on his cell phone from Harold Meyerson, acting executive editor of the liberal—and more consistently antiwar—American Prospect, offering Ackerman a writing contract.

“It was an easy fit,” says Meyerson. “He’d fought the good fight at TNR on national security and the war, which isn’t an easy place to fight the good fight. . . . And if I was going to offer him this, I thought I should do it when it would cheer him up.”
It'd be hard to verify whether Ackerman would indeed perform necrophilia on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's corpse, although his casual use of such language and imagery at a New Republic staff meeting indicates a substantial mien of postmodernism probity for Ackerman, and his immediate employment at the American Prospect comes off as a sound endorsement of his practices.

Interestingly, not only is Ackerman rude and crude, he's also regularly and spectacularly wrong, especially in
his false claim that the Anbar Awakening proceeded the surge.

Maybe the "f-bomb" isn't so compelling after all.

See also, SourceWatch, "Spencer Ackerman."