Posted on | September 14, 2012 | 29 Comments
Did I ever mention that I’m a professional journalist who’s been at this business since 1986? I think I did.
And probably I’ve also mentioned a time or two that I started out at $4.50 an hour for a 6,000-circulation weekly in Austell, Georgia, working my way up from there by ceaseless toil.
It ain’t bragging if you can do it, and yet there are still punks out there who think they can come rolling in on me with threats and expect me to run away scared. They’re wrong.
Most of the time, I ignore crap like this, because there’s no point callng attention to the gnats hovering around the elephant’s ass.
Every so often, however, I’ll swat the hell out of one, just to provide an example for the rest. So it was with a certain graduate student and occasional HuffPo contributor who decided that it would be a smart move to jump into somebody else’s blog war in an attempt to blow it up into the Scandal of the Century.
This Alex Brant-Zawadzki spent a day or two on Twitter hyping up his Shocking Exposé of Ali Akbar, produced in cooperation with a notorious bullshit artist named Matt Osborne and a couple of trolls named Bill Schmalfeldt and Melissa Brewer. When they finally pushed it out — thud.
So I went on Twitter and remarked to Alex B-Z that this was all a long run for a short slide — an old baseball analogy — and he got all snarktastic in his response to that, with his troll friends jumping in to provide a chorus of insulting noise.
When such clustered Twitter noise is being directed at you, it’s possible to mistake it for something meaningful, unless you’re smart enough to realize that trolls lack what the social-networking gurus call “reach.” Most of them don’t have 1/100th my number of followers, because they never Tweet anything worth reading, but instead produce feeds that are nonstop chattering negativity about nothing. Nevertheless, there are people who freak out over the troll-swarm, and start getting into arguments with the trolls, thereby directing their own readers toward these pests who might otherwise be easily ignored.
Well, what to do? Unlike his troll fanboys, Alex has a publicly available e-mail address and some prospect of an actual career, so I felt it might be helpful to offer him some advice.
The first piece of advice I’d offer anyone like this is to leave me the hell alone, because if I decide to answer your insults, the answer is likely to be memorable enough to deserve publication (OBLIGATORY STRONG LANGUAGE WARNING):
Fri, September 14, 2012 7:58:17 AM
Re: Alex B-Z, I presume?
From: Robert McCain
To: Alex Brant-Zawadzki
Yeah, I was going to write you last night just to explain your “long run for a short slide” problem.
Nobody. Fucking. Cares.
This kind of discount-store Media Matters knockoff “investigative” reporting?
Nobody. Fucking. Cares.
A minor piss-ant nobody like Schmalfeldt with nothing better to do with his useless life can afford to waste time “exposing” the evils of people nobody ever heard of, and so what? Becoming a second-banana wing man for Neal Rauhauser is actually a step up for a talentless loser like that.
You, on the other hand, seem to be an aspiring journalist of some ability and should not permit yourself to be dragged into this ridiculous wild goose chase of “exposing” what I assure you will ultimately prove to be a non-crime and which only seems scandalous to people who are naive about how political consultants operate.
Ali is an ambitious young GOP operative who, in attempting to find a niche, got involved in ALA, a start-up non-profit that didn’t work out. Period. Sometimes this stuff happens, and I’ve never known quite what to make of Erick Erickson’s denunciation of Eric Odom. There were a lot of people in 2009-2010 trying to find a way to hitch their wagons to the Tea Party “brand,” and there have been bitter recriminations among several them. Once the Big Dogs stepped in — AFP, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express — various other small operators got squeezed out. I figure that was what happened to Odom’s operation: He wanted to build an organization, got started, couldn’t find enough space within the political landscape, folded it up and moved on.
Not a crime. Not a scandal. Happens all the time.
If somebody gets sued or arrested, it would be a minor story, or maybe one part of a bigger story about a general trend, but I doubt that anything like that will happen. Even if it did, however, this connect-the-dots stuff where you’ve compiled a bunch of disparate data points and then cast it as something sinister — the Tip of an Iceberg, a mini-Watergate that might be the Secret Key to exploding the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy — is idiotic nonsense and a waste of time.
Me, I’m just a freelance reporter trying to make a living, and nobody’s offered me big bucks to tell the Shocking! True! Story! of all that, so why should I even care about it? If there were any demand for that story, it would have already been covered by a major news organization long ago, and not posted on a left-wing blog more than two years after ALA went defunct.
Based on past experience with would-be investigative journalists, I’ll expect you to disregard what I’m telling you, at least in the near term. But if you are smart — as I think you are — and continue in the world of political journalism, you’ll eventually look back at this episode and say to yourself, “What the fuck was I thinking, huh?”
You have succumbed to an Internet-era illusion, which involves the clustering of micro-readerships — sort of online cults — with obsessive interests that have no “reach” beyond that narrow niche. Within the larger world of politics, your story of Ali Akbar, Evil Right-Winger, isn’t relevant to anything, and even inside the smaller but still semi-mainstream world of Crooks & Liars, only a minor fraction of readers care anything about the shenanigans and hijinks of campaign staffers, consultants, bloggers, etc.
Watergate, it ain’t, and so after all your breathless build-up — the long run — you published the thing and (short slide) the story flopped.
Nobody. Fucking. Cares.
Used to be, we had people called “editors,” and if some reporter came up with one of these nothingburger ideas for an “investigative” story, the top editor would take a look at it and maybe tell the desk editor to cut it down to 600 words and put it on Page Four. Or maybe the editor would spike it altogether and give the reporter an earful about wasting time chasing nothingburgers. But if a reporter made a habit of these time-wasting nothingburgers, pretty soon that reporter would be out of a job.
Knew a guy like that once. George Archibald was once a fine investigative reporter, but he had some personal problems and stopped being productive and lost his job. Then he drank himself into disgrace and, attempting to avenge himself against those he blamed for his own failures, decided to accuse me of anti-Semitism — a damnable lie, easily disproven — and to accuse my bosses of various evils of which they were similarly innocent.
Don’t know what ever happened to George, but I’m still working as a journalist and some people seem to think I’m important enough to merit “exposing” as an arch-villain of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. It’s kind of flattering in a way, but I try not to believe the hype.
Nobody. Fucking. Cares.
Have a nice life, Alex, and don’t ever say I didn’t try to help you.
Well, why waste my time writing him? Because I’d already explained all this once, but these mule-headed punks refused to pay attention, and if I have to tell them twice, by God, I’m going to get my money’s worth out of that time.
Remember: I write for money, and the Five Most Important Words in the English Language are hit the freakin tip jar!