It's long been a philosophy of mine that the main purpose of comments pages on newspaper and cable news sites is to justify the inherent feeling of wounded journalistic superiority that seems to peek through every so often. By ensuring that there's a forum which will more likely than not attract someone with a penchant for using the word "nigger" in all caps to describe the subject of your piece (and/or send in a bizarrely-worded death threat involving Hedy Lamarr and a cheese grater), it also ensures that you're constantly validated in your view of yourself as the victim of the constant slings and arrows of your profession, standing up to the onslaught of pissed-off office workers e-mailing you on their morning breaks.
It's like being Edward R. Murrow during the blitz, if the blitz involved sitting in an ergonomic chair and yelling at your assistant to not book you back-to-back on MSNBC without grabbing you a Butterfinger ever again.
Via Media Matters, we get this Dana Milbank online chat, which was an exercise in feedback jury-rigging an ego boost for a man beset by his own incompetence. In case you forgot, Milbank was the genesis of the Obama "symbol" misquote. Rather than own up to his mistake, Milbank decides that the smartest way to fuck up is the puritanical way. "Look at the savagery of those who assail me, dear chaps!" you can almost hear him say behind his charmingly bestickered monitor. "David Ignatius, be a knight in service to the cause and fetch me a brandy. Fire up the phonograph with some of that 'big band' music from the coast, while you're at it, too." Then he pulls out his elephant gun and pretends to hunt snipe in the supply room. One day you'll catch some, Dana. One day.
After ranking various outpourings of anger and disgust on a "Whine Enthusiast" scale, he eventually says the fuck with it when a legitimate complaint makes it through his filter:
Funny, VA: Just a comment...
I always think it is funny that someone will complain that Obama is misquoted or quoted out of context and then, in the same sentence, refer to McCain's "100 years in Iraq" statement.
Can't wait for the commentary on the conventions!
Yes, a good comparison. In both cases, a charitable listener would suspect that the speaker probably, kinda-sorta didn't mean it that way.
(It should be noted, if it hasn't already, that nobody is questioning the accuracy of the Obama quotes, only the context.)
And by "legitimate complaint", we mean "total agreement couched in an attack on Milbank's critics". By the way, if McCain didn't mean "100 years in Iraq" when he said "100 years in Iraq" on video with no further context, then how come Milbank wrote an article saying that Obama meant he was "a symbol" with only an anonymous source and no further context? Or wait, better question: how are you a professional reporter when you don't understand that context is a part of accuracy? It's like going to an auto mechanic who gives you back a perfectly functioning transmission and no tires. You got a car back, didn't you? Whiny bitch.
At the end, after ducking and weaving through cherry-picked criticism, Milbank concludes with the ultimate in self-aggrandizement:
Ok, thanks for tuning in everybody. I hope you will keep reading as I take on politicians of all stripes. And keep those whines fermenting for next week.
You got us, you scamp! I understand that it does have to be frustrating to be so right so often and deal with the imperturbable wrongness of us sweaty, uninformed - except through your words - masses, but really, man, pull the stick out.
Dana Milbank, like the rest of us, is some asshole with a job who fucks up sometimes. Unlike the rest of us, he and those like him have a space in which they can both shape the nature of their acknowledged criticism and control the forum in which they answer it. In any position where you face criticism by negating it, you inevitably gain the hypersensitivity of ego - rather than the thick skin of someone who can take a hit, you're the preening narcissist who invites someone to take a swing and then declares it a cheap shot the second you wake up.