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Hacktacular!
December 19, 2013 7:24 AM   Subscribe

The 2013 edition of Salon's annual Hack List is out, and this year, Salon hackmaster Alex Pareene has stirred the pot of hackery by "channel[ing] each hack's unique voice" and "let[ting] them 'write' their own entries."

2013's Hackiest of the Hacks, according to Pareene:

10. Malcolm Gladwell
"Malcolm Gladwell" on Malcolm Gladwell:

We all agree that good writers are better than bad writers, and it logically follows that good books are better than bad books. It may seem like an author's best bet is a write a good, well-written book that respects its readers' intelligence. After all, isn't that true of most of the most famous and successful books throughout history? We assume that a good writer is more likely to be successful at writing professionally than a bad one. No parents would wish for their children to be bad writers.

Or would they?

What if, sometimes, being repetitive, sloppy and dishonest - and being all of those things repeatedly, as more and more people begin to publicly call you out - is more likely to lead to respect, wealth and success than trying to write honestly and carefully about big and important issues?

What if, sometimes, a bad writer is better than a good writer?

Could writing bad books be better than writing good ones?
9. Thomas Friedman3
"Thomas Friedman" on Thomas Friedman

As I wrote down what he said to use it in my column, it struck me that the world is changing. The world used to be flat. Now, everyone I talk to, everywhere I go, tells me something is bending the world into a new shape. This 4G, 401(k) world is getting rounded. That scares a lot of people. But it doesn't scare Thomas Friedman. Because while some old media dinosaurs are going extinct thanks to the asteroid of globalization and the giant dust plume of hyperconnectivity, Friedman is a cockroach. A cockroach made of stone. A cockroach made of stone that lives in The Cloud.

For a long time, the New York Times was vertical. It was longer top-to-bottom than side-to-side — unless you opened it up. Now, no one opens up the New York Times physically, they open it in their Web browsers. Suddenly, the New York Times is horizontal — until you scroll. That changes everything. Now the New York Times is horizontal and vertical. What does that mean for Thomas Friedman? It means fasten your seatbelt. You're not going anywhere.
8. Peggy Noonan10
"Peggy Noonan" on Peggy Noonan

Ms. Noonan doesn't know how things work. She doesn't know that signs on lawns aren't the same thing as scientific polls. She doesn't understand which side of the political spectrum supports deficit-funded government intervention to create jobs. She looks at Pittsburgh, at its airport, and she says, "Hey, this is a depressing place." She doesn't know that American cities, not Washington and New York but the shorter, more honest cities in the interior, have neighborhoods, and hotels even, that aren't by the airport. It's outside of her experience. She lives in words, in parenthetical clauses within sentences. She says, "America is in line at the airport." America says, most of us only ever fly over the holidays.
7. Henry Blodget
"Henry Blodget" on Henry Blodget

A little while ago, Henry Blodget went to a restaurant to talk with Nick Denton, a man who owns some different websites that are in some ways similar to Business Insider but in other ways different. Henry Blodget went to the bathroom at the restaurant. The restaurant is very expensive, so it is mostly for rich people. This expensive fancy restaurant had an employee whose job was to stay in the bathroom for his entire shift and then help people wash and dry their hands.

This man was paid a little bit of money by the restaurant, but he mostly worked for "tips," which is extra money customers give certain employees who aren't paid very much by their bosses.

The man whose job it was to stand in the bathroom all day made Henry Blodget uncomfortable. He forced Henry Blodget to think about things that maybe Henry Blodget didn't want to think about when he was just trying to eat a very expensive lunch with his friend, who, like Henry Blodget, has a lot of money.

First of all, he had to think about the awkwardness of being in such close proximity to another man, a man whose job it is to serve you, while engaged in the intimate act of urination.

Second, he had to think about the ways in which an economic and social system we call "capitalism" had made people like Henry Blodget so wealthy that there arose both the demand for workers whose jobs it is to dry the hands of people like Henry Blodget and a large number of people willing to take those jobs.

This is how Henry Blodget wrote about it: "First of all, it wastes water. Second, it makes me feel like I'm the kind of guy who dreams of being rich enough to be able to pay someone to turn on the water for me."

Henry Blodget doesn't even know that he is already that rich! There was already a man doing that job!
6. Erick Erickson6
"Erick Erickson" on Erick Erickson

With his soft physique and his inexplicable belief that "blogger" is an appropriate job for a man who has a family to feed and protect, Erickson represents the epitome of the modern beta male. Can you imagine an alpha male in the animal kingdom "working from home"? Erickson is practically made of arugula.

While Erickson sits around collecting government benefits like the mortgage tax deduction, I work three jobs and actually contribute to society instead of leeching taxpayers dry like so many politicians. And unlike Erickson I don't whine about what "society" or "the GOP" owe me.
5. Richard Cohen1
"Richard Cohen" on Richard Cohen

Where is the politician brave enough to address the widespread fear of black violence? No major public figure ever talks about it, besides Richard Cohen. There is a political correctness omerta around the issue of black people committing crime and being frightening. I wish I had a solution to this problem. I thought Barack Obama would fix it, by making it permissible for Richard Cohen to admit to his racial anxieties without fear of any sort of backlash. But did the former Barry Obama make it OK for Richard Cohen to defend racial profiling? No. Is the solution to put into place a criminal justice system designed to detain and imprison as many people of color as possible? I don't know. Does such a system already exist? I don't know. If it does, is it racist? It's a painfully, achingly, staggeringly complex issue, but I think it is not.
4. David Brooks12,30
"David Brooks" on David Brooks

Ideas, for those who aren't clear on the concept, are simply attention-grabbing assertions. The Columnist is one of a group of people who create these assertions and sell them to rich people. His first book, "I Confirmed All My Biases By Driving to a Strip Mall," is a big hit among people who like to feel superior while reading gentle mocking of people who like to feel superior. "Some Americans enjoy NASCAR," he writes. "Others prefer arugula and are very proud of themselves for this fact." He treats this observation as a bold Idea. He invents a term, to mock (gently!) a very specific social class, and he freely condescends to a larger one. The Columnist will never deny being one of the arugula ones, of course, he will just position himself as that class' foremost chronicler of its little hypocrisies. His satire was once silly, and Perelman-esque. It is now muted, and practically indiscernible.

In fact, you never know when the Columnist is joking, which allows him to get away with quite a lot. He writes patent falsehoods. A young reporter calls him and points them out. The Columnist asks, don't you get jokes? He says, "Is this how you're going to start your career?" A Columnist does not expect to be fact-checked. He interprets it as a threat, from a would-be future Columnist.
3. Benny Johnson
"Benny Johnson" on Benny Johnson

I don’t know! YOLO!!

[wall of GIFs]
2. Mark Halperin1 and John Heilemann
"Mark Halperin and John Heilemann" on Mark Halperin and John Heilemann

Halperin doubled down. What game, in the end, had anyone actually changed in "Game Change"? He won out. But there'd be one final compromise: The book would be called "Double Down: Game Change 2012." They had a name. Now, they just needed to come up with some good nicknames for all the candidates.

***

On a cold, sunless night on December 11, in a booth at an Upper West Side diner, the Game Changers game-planned. The book wouldn't necessarily be harder to write. Heilemann knew that neither of them was much of a prose stylist, and all they really had to do was write down what they'd persuaded people to tell them, not explain what it meant. Heilemann knew also that they wouldn't have much trouble getting people to talk either, because everyone knew if you didn't talk to them, you might end up under the bus alongside the McCain strategists who weren't Steve Schmidt. (If we don't put quotation marks around quotes we can attribute them to people without having to be super careful about getting them right. Works for Woodward.) Heilemann knew all of that, and he knew that if it came down to it they could double down on their best trick, naming the speakers of off-the-record quotes, and playing hardball if they balked. But he also knew that unless there was going to be a surprise recount naming Sarah Palin the write-in winner of the 2012 presidential election, they didn't have a movie.
1. Mike Allen1,9
"Mike Allen" on Mike Allen:

A QUOTE OF A HUGE PORTION OF ANOTHER OUTLET'S ARTICLE PASTED INTO AN EMAIL NEWSLETTER UNDER THE ASSUMPTION THAT READERS WON'T FOLLOW THE LINK AS THEY WILL BE PRETTY SURE THEY GOT THE GIST OF IT: "Now, one possible defense of Allen is that what appears to be simple payola is actually a more sociologically complex phenomenon. Allen, as Wemple reports, has personal friendships with many of his sponsors, uses them as sources, and generally shares their point of view on most issues even while failing to acknowledge he has a point of view at all. This is less a defense than a concession that Allen is so hopelessly embedded within the Establishment that he can't cover it in a remotely fair way.

"...[Jim] VandeHei's final defense verges on parody: Allen, he argues, has "no business interest" in giving favorable treatment to advertisers. There is the fact that advertisers pay him $35,000 a week, or up to $1.8 million a year. If those clients realize that their paid advertisements also buy them favorable coverage in Playbook, that would make them dramatically more interested in paying Allen's exorbitant rates.

"...[POLITICO'S] strategy of pretending the payola allegations don't exist has worked brilliantly, from a business perspective. Given the reality that Politico has suffered little to no reputation damage from the scandal, it seems like selling favorable coverage, whatever the ethical merits, is in fact a brilliant business strategy." http://goo.gl/lyRfdO

PLAYBOOK FACTS OF LIFE: An intern could do this job. (If you plan to hire an intern to do this job, please pay them, though you needn't pay them as much as POLITICO pays Mike Allen.) One randomly selected edition of POLITICO PLAYBOOK is nearly 3,400 words long. Fewer than 500 of its words were actually written by Mike Allen. The rest is lengthy quotes of other journalists' articles, press releases and ads. There's nothing special about this one in particular; PLAYBOOK often features even less original Allen writing. http://goo.gl/W6sX0c
(Superscripts denote a prior year's Hack List placement. Previous Hack Lists for 2012, 2011, and 2010.)
posted by tonycpsu (69 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whatever you do don't start with Benny Johnson. It's dead on, but unreadably barftastic.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:27 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am anxiously awaiting the day when the superficiality of my children's schoolwork no longer exceeds that of Thomas Friedman. And I don't think I have much longer to wait.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:32 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


How has Gladwell not been on previous iterations of this list?

Also: The 2012 list is just Salon calling every other news and journalistic operation hacks. Physician, heal thyself!
posted by absalom at 7:33 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hadn't heard of Benny Johnson until I read Pareene's list entry. I like all of these but especially Peggy Noonan and David Brooks.
posted by Eyebeams at 7:34 AM on December 19, 2013


Metafilter: a big hit among people who like to feel superior while reading gentle mocking of people who like to feel superior.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:35 AM on December 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Benny Johnson" on Benny Johnson

Buzzfeed Articles Without GIFs
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:35 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


His David Brooks is a thing of beauty.
posted by troika at 7:42 AM on December 19, 2013


Also: The 2012 list is just Salon calling every other news and journalistic operation hacks. Physician, heal thyself!

As true today as it was sixteen years ago: Salon.com has no business ascribing hackery to others.
posted by psoas at 7:45 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


His David Brooks is a thing of beauty.

So, too his Friedman. Good god, but that guy is a tool.

But you know, whenever I am having a bad day at work - forgetting simple things, making dumb mistakes - and I feel like I would, in a perfect world, be fired for such idiocy, I think of Little Tommy Friedman, and I feel better. Because on my worst day, I am not nearly the colossal fuckup dipshit he is, and hey, he's still employed.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:46 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dear god the Benny Johnson one is a masterpiece.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:48 AM on December 19, 2013


Salon.com has no business ascribing hackery to others.

Well, are they wrong?
posted by kenko at 7:56 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


psoas: " As true today as it was sixteen years ago: Salon.com has no business ascribing hackery to others."

Say what you will about Salon as a media outlet (I happen to think it's nothing like it was in the late 90s), but Pareene's doing God's work demonstrating how ethically and morally bankrupt our modern media superstars are. Take a look at this clip of him on CNBC discussing JP Morgan's unethical activities while the Wall Street cheerleaders cite the company's profits as evidence that the allegations are somehow illegitimate, and tell me we don't need more of this kind of criticism to balance out the circle-jerkiness of the modern media ecosystem.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:56 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


You're not wrong, Walter Salon, you're just an asshole.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:01 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait a second. Benny Johnson tweeted about making chicken and waffles on MLK Day and...still has a job?
posted by oneironaut at 8:08 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Been loving these all week. The Friedman and Noonan ones especially. And Salon is pretty bad 75% of the time these days but Pareene has been doing some great work there.
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The box, I immediately thought, was America."

I love it.
posted by blucevalo at 8:20 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The college where I work has an annual fall lecture by some sort-of-famous luminary; after the event, the luminary gets a big headshot poster on a prominent wall. Because of this, I have to walk past giant mug shots of Brooks and Friedman every goddamned morning.

I've recently noticed that someone has carved horns into the glass over Brooks' forehead, and I swear to god I saw the dried remnants of a loogie on Friedman's mustache.

So I guess my point is that there's some hope for the youth of america.
posted by COBRA! at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2013


Meh. These are getting predictable. It'd be kind of cool if he went after progressive and liberal hacks like Matt Yglesias and the currently-ascendant tribe of "i'm cooler AND more progressive than you" writers at Gawker and Jezebel and whatever. But, you know, Pareene's probably friends with those people, so.
posted by downing street memo at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2013


psoas: As true today as it was sixteen years ago

Oh, how I miss Suck, but I am glad it is still online, 12.5 years after they stopped updating the site.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:37 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


this goes well with America's Best Hate-Reads, 2013
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait a second. Benny Johnson tweeted about making chicken and waffles on MLK Day and...still has a job?

Is there something there I'm not getting? I didn't read anything racial into it, I read "I have the day off and am celebrating with booze and junk food for brunch and for some reason I think the whole rest of the planet needs to know about this," which is ridiculous, but not, like, reason not to employ somebody.
posted by Sequence at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2013


It's a decade old, and only looked at reporters on the election beat, but Matt Taibbi's "Wimblehack" was a series of similar beauty and vitriol.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:44 AM on December 19, 2013


relevant:

David Brooks says:
We are in the middle of…a dangerous level of family breakdown.


David Brooks says:
It’s wrong to describe an America in which the salt of the earth common people are preyed upon by this or that nefarious elite. It’s wrong to tell the familiar underdog morality tale in which the problems of the masses are caused by the elites. The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids. Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.


David Brooks says:
I’d say today’s meritocratic elites achieve and preserve their status not mainly by being corrupt but mainly by being ambitious and disciplined. They raise their kids in organized families.


David Brooks says:
It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies. The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities. This requires bourgeois paternalism: Building organizations and structures that induce people to behave responsibly rather than irresponsibly and, yes, sometimes using government to do so.


David Brooks is getting divorced.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:44 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's nothing at all inconsistent about believing marriage and family to be a good thing in general, and personally getting divorced. I find the glee about Brooks' divorce to be very, very offputting.
posted by downing street memo at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait a second. Benny Johnson tweeted about making chicken and waffles on MLK Day and...still has a job?

Is there something there I'm not getting? I didn't read anything racial into it, I read "I have the day off and am celebrating with booze and junk food for brunch and for some reason I think the whole rest of the planet needs to know about this," which is ridiculous, but not, like, reason not to employ somebody.


I agree that it's not reason to fire him, but it is patently racial (not racist, but close). Chicken and waffles is a common stereotype of African-American cuisine, a relatively recent update of "fried chicken and watermelon." It is generally cited derisively by people who haven't realized that it is fucking awesome.
posted by Etrigan at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The guy made a career out of saying that bourgeoisie are better people in part because they don't get divorced as much as the proles, and here he is.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:54 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hacktastic!

BTW I think bloggers like Atrios and Digby deserve some credit for putting words like Hacktastic and (Peggy) Nooner into the vocabulary. Well, the vocabulary of liberals, I suppose. Some of it is a bit dense and it takes a while to pick up on the context and the word, but it keeps up week after week, and that's part of the gag, the shit never stops flowing, and they hammer on these catchphrases month after month, for years. But you can totally reframe the political dialogue, focusing on the hacks who try to shape the dialogue. It's amazing how well a codeword or a phrase can capture the essence of a hack. Let's look at some examples, even from today.

Think Of The Children
Translation. And Exegesis
The Worst Person In The World
Lucky Duckies
Dirty Fucking Hippies
MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
Funemployment
The Mustache of Understanding
Preznit Giv Me Turkeee
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:00 AM on December 19, 2013


Santorum
posted by COBRA! at 9:02 AM on December 19, 2013


> The guy made a career out of saying that bourgeoisie are better people in part because they don't get divorced as much as the proles, and here he is.

Ah, but you see, he has now made it to "rich", and we have no business criticizing the rich for their squalid lives. Because the rich are better than we are. How do we know? Because they are rich. Q.E.D.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2013


The Balloon-Juice Lexicon has a pretty big list of running jokes from liberal blogs.
posted by octothorpe at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2013


These are all pretty good, but the Friedman, Noonan, and Brooks parodies were the best. Especially the Brooks, it's deliciously cruel.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2013


The Balloon-Juice Lexicon has a pretty big list of running jokes from liberal blogs.

This phenomenon is incredibly useful, political operatives on all sides helpfully sticking a sign on their forehead that tells normal people they have little of worth to say.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:26 AM on December 19, 2013


Meh. These are getting predictable. It'd be kind of cool if he went after progressive and liberal hacks like Matt Yglesias and the currently-ascendant tribe of "i'm cooler AND more progressive than you" writers at Gawker and Jezebel and whatever. But, you know, Pareene's probably friends with those people, so.

Or maybe it's because the people on his list have influence, often outsize to their intellect or grasp of the real world, within the power structures in our country. Several of these people have had significant positions in administrations, powerful Congressional offices, and/or campaigns. Others represent the kind of id that has taken control of the conservative and "centrist" movements here, and can easily be seen repeated (in spirit if not actual quotes) by many powerbrokers of those groups. The Gawker media empire--whose output has improved greatly in the last couple years--just isn't animating the left or providing the simultaneously ridiculous and eerily accurate caricatures of who's running things. Which is why it's not coincidence that the whole "the left is just as bad/does the same thing" argument is one of the kinds of hurfdurf that he's mocking in the first place.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:27 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


This phenomenon is incredibly useful, political operatives on all sides helpfully sticking a sign on their forehead that tells normal people they have little of worth to say.

Comparing Balloon Juice, a lefty blog intended to be a little over-the-top, with people who are passing themselves off as Very Serious Thinkers is missing the entire point.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:30 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there something there I'm not getting? I didn't read anything racial into it, I read "I have the day off and am celebrating with booze and junk food for brunch and for some reason I think the whole rest of the planet needs to know about this," which is ridiculous, but not, like, reason not to employ somebody.

Reminds me of the mayor, who, when asked what he was doing for his Latino constituents, said "Eating tacos for dinner tonight."
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:37 AM on December 19, 2013


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "You're not wrong, Walter Salon, you're just an asshole."

This sort of gets us back to the snark vs. smarm conversation, but I don't know how you can fight back against these assholes without being somewhat of an asshole yourself. Politely pointing out that Politico is fellating advertisers in the body of their articles without disclosing their conflicts of interest doesn't have any impact unless you're already an established media powerhouse, such as... Politico. At least the snarky / "laugh so you won't cry" aspect of this piece gives it a good chance of getting shared more widely outside of Salon's normal readership than a more by-the-book journalistic piece would.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:38 AM on December 19, 2013


MisantropicPainforest: "The guy made a career out of saying that bourgeoisie are better people in part because they don't get divorced as much as the proles, and here he is."

Pretty much.
How about the organized families part? Is the Brooks family breakdown consigning them to misery? Does he need a good dose of bourgeois paternalism from the rest of us? Or does he recognize now that money is really useful in papering over lots of different kinds of problems, and maybe working class kids would be better off if they and their parents had more of it?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:46 AM on December 19, 2013


The Balloon-Juice Lexicon has a pretty big list of running jokes from liberal blogs.

Nice, but it doesn't have any of my favorites. However, it did have one Atrios-ism that I had forgotten:

Puke Funnel- Coined by Atrios, this phrase references the ramarkable ability of discredited rightwing organizations (e.g., the Drudge Report, NRO) to influence reporting by ‘mainstream’ news outlets. Ridiculous stories frequently benefit when journalists can use repeated links at RedState and Michelle Malkin to report a fabricated issue (see ‘United Pastry Jihad’) with the explanation that ‘people’ are ‘talking about it’.

I suppose all this wordplay goes back to The Horse. I decided to scan through the Wayback Machine, which is sadly incomplete due to their robots.txt exclusion. But I was surprised that the first thing I pulled up successfully included the gag "Preznit." Another scan, and I found "Librul Media." Oh man I am going to have to scan through those archives in detail, somewhere in there is a Letter To The Horse that I wrote.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:47 AM on December 19, 2013


I don't know how you can fight back against these assholes without being somewhat of an asshole yourself.

The thing is, I don't think anyone necessarily sees Alex Pareene as an asshole. And these bloviators he's calling out deserve to be mocked. It's just that for a number of people who've been around the webz for a good long time, Salon dirtied its brand early on by being painfully, unrelentingly navelgazing and myopic and it's hard to get out from under that association. If they've improved lately (by hiring people like Pareene), good for them I guess but it's hard for me to keep my own knee from jerking here.
posted by psoas at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2013


I know it's irritating to come into a thread and proudly proclaim your ignorance, but I'm doing it anyways: I can never for the life of me differentiate between Thomas Friedman, Richard Cohen, and David Brooks, and I'm pretty happy with that situation.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


psoas: "If they've improved lately (by hiring people like Pareene), good for them I guess but it's hard for me to keep my own knee from jerking here."

Well, they had Glenn Greenwald for several years before it was cool to have Glenn Greenwald. That's got to count for something.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:22 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've never really understood the Salon hate1 — I think most of the things that people say about Salon actually apply to Slate.

[1]: Well, okay, I understood the Salon hate back when they were frequently running vapidly "contrarian" columns from Camille Paglia et al. But they more or less knocked that off like a decade ago.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It may be that the brand was a bigger name than any of its authors. The hacks listed here are bigger than their bylines, but the house style (used to) subsume anyone's individual voice at Salon.
posted by psoas at 10:37 AM on December 19, 2013


Wasn't Balloon Juice originally a pro-Iraq War blog?
posted by Chrysostom at 11:28 AM on December 19, 2013


It was. Cole had what amounts to a religious conversion a year or two afterward. I'm not a fan of the writing there anymore, but an ideological conservative realizing what the Republican Party was actually doing was quite a thing to see happen in real time.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:34 AM on December 19, 2013


> It is generally cited derisively by people who haven't realized that it is fucking awesome.

Of all the racist bullshit I don't understand, the fried chicken thing is truly the most confounding. Unless you're a vegetarian, I'd almost consider it an insult to infer that you *don't* like fried chicken.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:42 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Card Cheat. Please do not in any way let my comment imply that I think fried chicken, as well as fried chicken and waffles, are anything other than fucking awesome. I just think a white person celebrating MLK Day with them is in extremely poor, unfunny taste. I mean, what, he didn't have watermelon because it was out of season?
posted by oneironaut at 11:46 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yet again Joan Walsh is left off the list.
posted by humanfont at 1:33 PM on December 19, 2013


Ah, schadenfreude. This is fun.
posted by zardoz at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2013


humanfont: "Yet again Joan Walsh is left off the list."

Perhaps you could share some of her hackery with those of us who might be unaware that she merits inclusion in the list?

I mean, I get that she works at Salon, so it's unlikely she'd end up as a "hack" on a list published at Salon, but if she worked somewhere else, what did she do this year to earn a reputation as a hack?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:06 PM on December 19, 2013


Or maybe it's because the people on his list have influence, often outsize to their intellect or grasp of the real world, within the power structures in our country.

This is silly. I see no meaningful way in which Gawker writers have less "influence" than, say, Benny Johnson, Erick Erickson, and Henry Blodget. I'm willing to bet in terms of actual influence - i.e. influence on the way important, powerful people think - the only people who qualify as truly influential on this list are David Brooks, Tom Friedman, and Gladwell.

The impotent lefty schtick has to stop. Millions of people read Gawker, and it's tone, affect, and content dominate online political discussion for anyone even remotely right of monarchist. I'm willing to bet more people read Tom Scocca than read William Safire at his most popular, and if not, I bet it's close.

Which is why it's not coincidence that the whole "the left is just as bad/does the same thing" argument is one of the kinds of hurfdurf that he's mocking in the first place.

A hack is a hack, dude. He's basically criticizing these writers for flattering the opinions of their audiences (instead of being bold truth-tellers, or whatever). Gawker is a pageview engine devoted to continually flattering the opinions of young lefties. It absolutely qualifies.
posted by downing street memo at 3:36 PM on December 19, 2013


The hack list is just an arbitrary collection of pundits. There is no rubric behind it. Her publication puts out a this listical every year to drum up page views from the liberal echo chamber. At least buzzfeed would have Gifs.
posted by humanfont at 3:53 PM on December 19, 2013


This is silly. I see no meaningful way in which Gawker writers have less "influence" than, say, Benny Johnson, Erick Erickson, and Henry Blodget. I'm willing to bet in terms of actual influence - i.e. influence on the way important, powerful people think - the only people who qualify as truly influential on this list are David Brooks, Tom Friedman, and Gladwell.

Most of the GOP, especially those in the House, parrot Erickson all the damn time. Peggy Noonan worked for several GOP campaigns and administrations. Richard Cohen's rants about race are indistinguishable from many supposedly "moderate" Republicans. Halperin's reporting, as well as Allen's, is treated as gospel on Capitol Hill, as the shutdown brouhaha showed.

The impotent lefty schtick has to stop. Millions of people read Gawker, and it's tone, affect, and content dominate online political discussion for anyone even remotely right of monarchist. I'm willing to bet more people read Tom Scocca than read William Safire at his most popular, and if not, I bet it's close.

Tell me when the last time a Gawker article was even mentioned by several important politicians on the left. When was the last time a contingent of House Democrats sat down with Tom Scocca and came out of a meeting spouting lines taken from a blog post of his? If Gawker et al were even a fraction as influential as you're claiming, how come the Democrats in power are ideologically closer to Reagan than Debs? Obamacare had sops to the financial sector and anti-choice groups. We've barely been able to pass one or two pieces of legislation protecting domestic violence victims, and anything related to gays has been DOA. We're at a low point in support for American workers and the poor. If more people are reading Gawker, it sure as hell isn't showing up at the polling places.

A hack is a hack, dude. He's basically criticizing these writers for flattering the opinions of their audiences (instead of being bold truth-tellers, or whatever). Gawker is a pageview engine devoted to continually flattering the opinions of young lefties. It absolutely qualifies.

Perhaps (I think that's debatable), but that wasn't your original point.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:59 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd never argue that Gawker and most of its associated sites (IO9 mostly exepted) aren't annoying hacky click-bate but I've never noticed anything liberal or political about it.
posted by octothorpe at 4:26 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


humanfont: "The hack list is just an arbitrary collection of pundits. There is no rubric behind it. Her publication puts out a this listical every year to drum up page views from the liberal echo chamber. At least buzzfeed would have Gifs."

Of course it's got a lot to do with page views, and I'll even concede that there's a lefty circle jerk aspect to it, but the journalistic malfeasance documented in each hack's profile are real, verifiable instances of stupidity, tortured logic, and ethical lapses that would embarrass anyone who cared about informing their readers. Mike Allen is whoring himself out for advertisers. The "Game Change" twins openly blab off-the-record tales in order to sell their books. And on and on.

I asked you for what Joan Walsh did to deserve being on the list, and you have no answer, because she isn't making the kind of stupid arguments these other assholes are. If there are other hacks that belong on the list, then by all means, bring their names to the table, and show us the hackery. Otherwise, you're just whining about an ideological perspective you don't share, which doesn't really add anything to the conversation.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:52 PM on December 19, 2013


Simply mentioning the writing someone doesn't necessarily signify "influence". Erick Erickson parrots what House Republicans already think. If they weren't quoting him, they'd quote someone else.

On the other hand, for some reason, David Brooks seems to have meaningful influence on the President's thoughts about things. Like, the president thinks different things after reading David Brooks, than he had thought before. Tom Friedman is required reading among the managerial set and I know for a fact that the things managers read in his books are news to them; they're not mere bias-confirming.

I think it's actually a very interesting topic of discussion; why do lefty perspectives dominate internet political discourse - to the point that even lots of non-lefties (Josh Barro, etc.) copy the affect of liberal political writing and allow their own agenda to mostly be set by whatever the lefty commentariat collectively decides is important? Why doesn't that dominance translate into (formal, electoral) power? I don't know the answer to that.
posted by downing street memo at 6:21 PM on December 19, 2013


"why do lefty perspectives dominate internet political discourse"

Huh? Seriously, huh?
posted by Chitownfats at 6:25 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's actually a very interesting topic of discussion; why do lefty perspectives dominate internet political discourse - to the point that even lots of non-lefties (Josh Barro, etc.) copy the affect of liberal political writing and allow their own agenda to mostly be set by whatever the lefty commentariat collectively decides is important? Why doesn't that dominance translate into (formal, electoral) power? I don't know the answer to that.

The answer is because that dominance doesn't exist. See also: every single warning about reading comments on news sites.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:43 AM on December 20, 2013


I will say this: the GOP has owned political talk radio and cable TV news for basically as long as those things have existed, while the Democrats did get an early jump on using the Internet for political activism that the GOP has had a hard time catching up with. MoveOn.org was one of the big early movers, but generally speaking, lefty blogs have always gotten better traffic numbers than their right-wing counterparts. (I haven't checked the numbers in a year or two, but I doubt this has changed significantly.)

If you think about it, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. American Conservatism has traditionally been a top-down ideology where the one-way interaction of TV and radio works for disseminating the party's message, whereas five Democrats in a room generally means six opinions on any issue, so a more interactive, two-way communication medium works best. Early lefty blogs saw this power and harnessed it with active comment sections, while early right wing outlets such as The Drudge Report and National Review Online chose to port the one-way model to the Internet rather than embrace the interactivity of online media.

The left's advantage has significantly eroded over time as GOP-leaning outlets like RedState came online, and certainly the Tea Party has changed the landscape to some extent, but it's accurate to point out that the left has more influence online than it does anywhere else. I do think saying that lefty perspectives "dominate internet political discourse" is a significant overstatement, and, frankly, citing the fact that a Josh Barro sometimes responds to a point made by an Ezra Klein as proof of left-wing dominance is just ridiculous, but to the extent that there is anywhere that lefty perspectives get a fair hearing, it's on the Internet.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:10 AM on December 20, 2013


why do lefty perspectives dominate internet political discourse

You are on a different planet. Drudge still drives many MSM stories
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:18 AM on December 20, 2013


I know it's irritating to come into a thread and proudly proclaim your ignorance, but I'm doing it anyways: I can never for the life of me differentiate between Thomas Friedman, Richard Cohen, and David Brooks, and I'm pretty happy with that situation.

That's the beauty of what Pareene did here: His parodies of each man's style are distinct, so you can easily tell one from the others. Richard Cohen waffles around his racism, Thomas Friedman fails to grasp reality or metaphor, and David Brooks writes observational comedy without observation or comedy.

I liked this better than previous Hack Lists because invective alone, however justified, gets repetitive. This is actually fun to read.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:43 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know what planet you're on, but I'm on the one where there's nearly no serious engagement beyond mockery between the commentariat and Limbaugh or Drudge-style echo chambers.

We could go round and round on this and there's no way of proving anyone right or wrong. But if you're not crazy, and seriously interested in politics and policy, snark factories like Gawker have a massive influence on what you read. I think twitter circle-jerking makes the web of influence 100% clear, but I'm not sure how much you guys read twitter.

And that's not even mentioning the juicebox set. Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias talk to the president at somewhat-regular intervals, for Christ's sake. This isn't 2005, and lefty bloggers aren't in the back of the campaign bus anymore.
posted by downing street memo at 7:57 AM on December 20, 2013


Why Didn't Salon Call One of Its Own Writers a Hack, and Other Burning Rhetorical Questions
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:18 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will say this: the GOP has owned political talk radio and cable TV news for basically as long as those things have existed

A lot of that is just generational. Conservatives tend to be older and grew up in a time when TV and radio dominated the media. Most millennials that I know have never listened to radio and grew up with the internet as the primary source for news.

That said, there's still a whole lot of right-wing traffic on the internets. Just look at memeorandum.com* at any time and see how conservatives can dominate the discussion of issues.

*You should really install waxpancake's memeorandum colors to get the full effect.
posted by octothorpe at 8:56 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias talk to the president at somewhat-regular intervals, for Christ's sake.

So do right-wing columnists:
President Obama met Tuesday afternoon with a small group of conservative reporters, columnists and commentators for an off-the-record discussion.

The group, according to a source familiar with the meeting, included Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot, National Review Washington editor Robert Costa, Washington Examiner columnist Byron York, syndicated columnists Kathleen Parker and Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer.
posted by octothorpe at 8:59 AM on December 20, 2013


I don't know what planet you're on, but I'm on the one where there's nearly no serious engagement beyond mockery between the commentariat and Limbaugh or Drudge-style echo chambers...Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias talk to the president at somewhat-regular intervals, for Christ's sake. This isn't 2005, and lefty bloggers aren't in the back of the campaign bus anymore.

Pareene addresses this as well as reiterating what I said earlier about access to powerbrokers:

The Presidential Hack List: Ranking Barack Obama’s favorite columnists
The list has a point beyond making fun of silly, overpaid people with inflated egos (though I concede that that is a big part of the point). Columnists and pundits can seem inconsequential, especially in an era of media fragmentation. We can plainly see that the Internet has “democratized” the “conversation” to some degree, and our struggling newspapers have less influence, nationally and locally, than ever in American history. A tiny portion of Americans care about Mike Allen’s daily email newsletter. Thomas Friedman, perhaps the single most influential newspaper columnist on the planet, reaches an audience of a few million people in a nation of 300 million.

But as a Politico editor could tell you, it’s not how many you reach, it’s who. Among Friedman’s readers: much of the nation’s executive class. Among Allen’s? Nearly everyone who works in any capacity for every member of Congress. That’s why it’s necessary to criticize them. They really do “drive the conversation,” to use a particularly odious Politico-ism. Both what is considered politically possible and politically desirable in this country depend in large part on what a handful of mainly older, mainly white and overwhelmingly male columnists and pundits say. Who is let into that conversation and who is left out of it has consequences for all Americans. That was made clear 10 years ago, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, which the nation’s premier political opinion makers (what we once called “Thought Leaders”) almost universally supported. The Bush administration was aware of this, too, and devoted more efforts to convincing them than to trying to win over what we vaguely call “the people.”
And yes, Ezra Klein is on the list:
Klein is already an institution, and the cutesy “wonk” tendency to imagine that the right charts will eventually lead to the right policy is a dangerous fantasy, but Klein is at least a better influence on Washington policymakers than the various pundits who are constitutionally opposed to empiricism and data.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:45 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eugene Robinson? This exercise in trolling by Salon goes to far.
posted by humanfont at 9:30 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I see what Pareene was going for with that list, but it seems like he just worked backwards from his premise that anyone the President reads must be a hack. What, was he expecting the President of the United States to approvingly cite Chris Hayes and Charlie Pierce?
posted by tonycpsu at 10:25 AM on December 23, 2013


More end-of-the-year awards:

The Winners Of The 2013 Golden Duke Awards!

Media Matters Misinformer of The Year: CBS News
posted by tonycpsu at 6:03 PM on December 26, 2013


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