Internet Brawls 101

If you read the same blogs/papers/commentary I do (namely, leftish, except I don’t make a habit of reading Daily Kos or Open Left on a daily basis) you may have read about Jeff Rosen’s hatchet job on Supreme Court-could be, Sonia Sotomayer.

If you’re unfamiliar with this, Glenn Greenwald gives the best roundup, links, rebuttal, and followup that are currently available.  It’s worth reading his piece, if nothing else, to get an idea for how the Washington establishment media comes up with its talking points.

Greenwald’s latest update is about what Jeff Rosen’s personal reasons might be for writing a sloppy, poorly reported piece on Sonia Sotomayer: apparently Rosen’s brother-in-law is Deputy SG.  If Sotomayer goes down and Obama picks current SG Elena Kagan, Deputy SG most likely become the SG.  That’s speculation, obviously — but a VERY important fact to diclose, I would think, when you are writing about a potential nominee for the court.

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan, declining to comment on the actual matter (because, he wrote, he is friends with both Greenwald and Rosen) wrote the following about how Rosen’s New Republic piece made the rounds on the Internet and cause so much comment:

So I will merely note how interesting it is as a media phenomenon. Washington’s old journalistic guard is not yet fully aware that the pool they operate in now is much larger than it was, and the cozy familiarity of it all – the sustenance of reputation, the quiet hierarchy of the Northwest quadrant – is now history. What might have been sent into the ether as a small provocation, summing up a coterie’s assumptions, will no longer be given credence because of its provenance. It will have to make its case in a brutally frank environment. Or fail to.

I suppose what else is really fascinating to me is how Rosen has not yet written anything in reply.  The web is a fast moving, fast hitting place. When National Review alum Byron York wrote last week in the Washington Examiner that Obama’s support is “actually” less than it seems because his support among black Americans is substantially higher than white Americans, he caught a lot of flack.  And he responded.  He wrote a long, thoughtful response — he may have not said all of the right things his critics were asking for, of course, but then that would be asking too much.

The important thing, I think, is that people who write for the Internet understand that they will be expected to account for their writing — to respond to comments, to speak to potential errors, to stand by what they wrote, whatever the case may be.  It’s time for Rosen to speak to his critics about his piece.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall spoke to Rosen today, who said that he was not trying to torpedo a potential Sotomayer nomination because of his brother-in-law (I think — that particular point didn’t come across, but read it for yourself) and let Marshall know that he’s writing a rebuttal to his critics to be posted to the TNR website sometime soon.  Stay tuned.


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