Members of the right-wing blogosphere have found a shiny new object to distract themselves with in recent days, and that shiny object is, of all things, a now-defunct listserv created by blogger Ezra Klein. It was a place where, over the last four years, a few hundred journalists exchanged off-the-record emails.
But trust me, Journolist, as it was called, was sooooo much more than that, at least according to the breathless descriptions that have been cooked up by ever-imaginative far-right bloggers.
Just ask Ann Althouse [emphasis added]:
Remember the liberal meme that George Bush was "incurious"? But aren't these liberal journalists incurious? They had this email list that was designed — apparently — to figure out how to structure the various news stories to serve the interests of their party. The Journolist was a self-herding device. They wanted to be good cogs in a machine that would generate power for the Democratic Party, didn't they? For career and social rewards? That's my hypothesis. As an intellectual, I would like to study how that worked. I'll write a book about it if someone will send me the raw material I need — the complete archive of the Journolist. I need a Deep Throat. I promise not to regard you as disgusting.
That was just one of many, many blog posts Althouse has written in recent days about Journolist, including her indignant demand that the listserv's entire archive be made public. Althouse continues to post item after item about Journolist, despite the fact that, based on the erroneous paragraph quoted above, Althouse has no idea what Journolist was.
But hey Ann, keep blogging away. (i.e. I don't think being in the dark about a given topic has ever stopped Althouse before.)
Meanwhile, this was the other jewel from Althouse's recent Jounrolist genre, in which she again demanded that private emails form a listserv be made public. Why? Because Journolist members might have been writing mean things about Ann Althouse in their off-the-record emails!
Don't I have a right to know what a gang of 400 journalists are saying about me, as they endeavor to shape my reputation, decide that all the good people must avoid linking to me, or whatever it is they do?
If I were to bring a defamation suit based on Ezra Klein's lie "Ann Althouse sure has a lot of anti-semitic commenters," I would seek access to the Journolist archive, and I believe I would get it. There is no privilege that would shield this information from discovery. Lawyers, argue with me if you think I'm wrong.
I'm not the litigating type — though when I practiced law, I worked in the litigation department — and I am not threatening to sue. I am saying this to make one more argument for why the Journolist archive needs to be made public.
Althouse, a law school prof and very public blogger, was thinking out loud about suing the owner of Journolist to find out if any of the 400 journalists on the listserv ever wrote anything nasty about her in their private emails. (Ego much?)
Thankfully, one of Althouse's readers nicely summed up the obvious absurdity of her argument:
I would think a law professor might have a better grasp of this. But on what grounds would you seek the archives? To borrow a popular argument of the right, where in the Constitution does it say you have the right to know what others are saying about you, especially when you have no proof they are saying anything defamatory about you.