The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Who Is Charlie Warzel and Why Do I Feel This Urge to Give Him a Brutal Fisking?

Posted on | May 5, 2022 | No Comments

Honestly, this was a rabbit hole I never intended to go down. Like, why should I spend more than an hour scrolling through Google search results to try to assemble a biographical sketch of an obscure journalist? But today I glanced at Memeorandum and spotted this headline:

Why Are the Right Such Sore Winners?
Even when they win, they still play victim.

My first thought was, “What? Somebody’s trying to out-do Amanda Duarte in the ‘Worst Hot Take’ competition?” You see this is Charlie Warzel’s spin on the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that’s caused such an uproar this week that Justice Samuel Alito had to cancel a scheduled appearance at a judicial conference because of death threats.

The obtuseness of Warzel’s spin, we’ll get to in a minute, but first, exactly who is this guy? He is from the suburbs of Philadelphia. In fact, I think Warzel and Jack Posobiec grew up in the same town in Montgomery County, which is kind of weird if you think about it. Like, what are the odds that two people so diametrically opposed would both be from the same suburb of Philly? At any rate, while Posobiec was attending a Catholic school, Warzel attended an elite prep school founded by Quakers. Annual tuition at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr is about $43,000, which strikes me as lunacy. Warzel’s parents paid $160,000+ just for his high school education? My efforts to locate the source of the Warzel family fortune failed, so I don’t know if one Charlie’s ancestors was an Astor, a Fisk or some other 19th-century robber baron, but you’ve got to figure his folks must be loaded to send their kid to such a posh prep school, and his choice of college also screams “Trust Fund Baby.”

Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., is one of those pricey little sub-Ivy liberal arts schools where rich parents send their kids whose SATs weren’t quite good enough for Princeton or Dartmouth. Admission is somewhat selective (18% of applicants are admitted), but only the scions of wealthy families would bother applying, because the annual cost of attending Hamilton is $75,200 including room and board. So having spent more than $40,000 a year to send young Charlie to The Shipley School, the Warzels then spent roughly $300,000 for their boy to get his diploma from Hamilton. Privilege, with a capital “P.”

Damn, I’ll never understand rich liberals. If I had that kind of money, my politics would be somewhere to the right of Pinochet, and yet America’s affluent elite are apparently so burdened with guilt it’s a wonder they haven’t committed mass suicide and willed their fortunes to UNICEF.

Liberalism is like a fashion statement for the wealthy. Think of Lenny Bernstein throwing a soiree for the Panthers at his swanky Upper East Side penthouse. One imagines that not only the Warzel family, but everyone they know in the Montgomery County suburbs of Philly would be scandalized if Charlie had grown up to be a Trump voter.

“It’s simply not done,” they’d scold him. “We didn’t pay to send you to those schools so you could embarrass us like this.”

But Charlie made ’em proud, landing “an internship at NBC News, where he assisted in the production of Meet the Press with David Gregory, ultimately leading to stints with MSNBC’s Morning Joe—co-hosted by Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Willie Geist—and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” A couple years after graduation from Hamilton, Warzel joined Buzzfeed where he was a “senior writer” for six years before scoring a gig at the New York Times, not to mention a book deal, and then joined The Atlantic. Somewhere along the way, he relocated to Missoula, Montana, which I suppose is easy to do if your job is writing about stuff on the Internet and you’re a descendant of Jay Gould or the Rockefellers or whatever. But I digress . . .

Charlie Warzel is plenty miffed at Republicans:

I want to take a moment and share a few observations about the GOP reaction to the leaked draft opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (with the obvious caveat that scope of the decision could still change before it becomes public next month).
I’d like to be very clear up front: The reaction to this opinion and the political jockeying is a second-order story compared to the actual, dire consequences for real people once states begin to criminalize abortion (and this is, in fact, the reason why the right is obsessing over it). And yet this reaction is important to understand as a tool in the broader right-wing culture war. What we’ve seen over the last day or so is a tried-and-true example of their sore-winners complex. . . .

(Notice he begins with the first-person singular “I,” which my teachers taught me to avoid, but perhaps the instructors at The Shipley School taught Charlie otherwise. At any rate, Charlie doesn’t want to talk about the Supreme Court’s decision, nor about the unprecedented leaking of a draft opinion, but rather “the GOP reaction,” which he insists his readers must “understand as a tool in the broader right-wing culture war.” By the way, to any journalism students who might happen to be reading this, permit me to advise avoiding trite phrases like “tried-and-true.”)

It is absolutely no secret that ending Roe has been the right’s political project for decades. As the writer Lyz Lenz said on Monday, “It’s always been the plan. And it’s never been a secret. The plan has been shouted at rallies. Held up on signs. It’s been plotted and spoken of and written about over and over.” The leaked opinion is that plan coming to fruition—the success of a long game of often-shameless political maneuvering. Republican reaction to the leak was, of course, faux outrage. . . .

(True, opposition to abortion — and specifically overturning Roe v. Wade — has been on the conservative agenda “for decades,” in quite the same way that imposing same-sex marriage nationwide was on the liberal agenda “for decades” before the Obergefell decision. However, the leaking of a draft opinion, weeks ahead of when the Supreme Court was expected to issue its ruling on the Mississippi case, was self-evidently calculated to bring pressure on the justices, an attempt to use protest mobs to intimidate the court. It is not unusual for there to be rumors of which way the Supreme Court is leaning on a decision, but this business of leaking a draft opinion is unprecedented, as far as I’m aware. Whatever you say about Republican reaction, their outrage about this leak is certainly not “faux.”)

But the focus on the leak over the substance is telling.
First, it is an act of deflection geared toward minimizing the sweeping and radical nature of this ruling. Not only is a majority of the American public in support of abortion rights and against the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but, as my colleague Adam Serwer argued, “in the U.S., the rights of many marginalized groups are tied to the legal precedents established in the fight for abortion rights. This opinion, if adopted, provides a path to nullifying those rights one by one.” . . .

(Wow, way to line up those dominoes and tip them all over at once. After declaring the draft opinion to be of a “sweeping and radical nature” — hint, not really — Warzel invites his reader to go flying down the slippery slope as all “the rights of many marginalized groups” are wiped out in the blink of an eye. Some of us, who would be to the right of Pinochet if we could afford it, might wish it were so, except that a careful reading of Alito’s draft discloses no such radicalism. All the ruling would do is to return us to the pre-Roe situation, in which laws regulating abortion were decided by state legislatures. The Burger court had no business arrogating to itself the authority to void the laws of 49 states, which is what Roe did, and if it took nearly 50 years to end that usurpation of authority, that’s only because the liberals were so firmly entrenched in the judiciary that even many Republicans didn’t know how they could ever be uprooted. So while we might, in our Pinochet-loving fantasies, dream of the oppression to be inflicted on “marginalized groups” as a consequence of Alito’s ruling, no such result is likely, no matter what that hysterical idiot Adam Serwer says.)

It is in the best interest of the right to obfuscate and downplay the monumental implications of such a ruling — especially until it is officially enshrined by the court. And the best way to do that is by ginning up a political scandal. Leak obsession and speculation happens to be a favorite topic in the political press especially — this is a media story, but it is also a story about power struggles inside a famously opaque institution.
It is, in other words, a story that mainstream news organizations find impossible to resist covering and prioritizing. . . .

(Speaking of obfuscation, notice how easily Warzel slides over that phrase “until it is officially enshrined by the court,” which would seem to be a tacit admission that the purpose of the leak was to prevent such an enshrinement. Such an admission, however, would give away the game — i.e., the outrage over the leak is legitimate, if such was the leaker’s intent — and so Warzel doesn’t want his readers to think too much about this attempt to apply external pressure on the court, but rather to focus on the nefarious tactics of Republicans.)

Second, the sore-winners tactic is also an example of the sheer relentlessness of the far-right’s culture warring. Political wins are celebrated internally, but externally each victory is treated as an opportunity to double down on a victimization narrative and politics of grievance. . . .

(Projection much, Charlie? The entire stock in trade of the liberal movement is about victimhood — everybody’s “oppressed” and deprived of their “rights,” and the only way to remedy this is to vote Democrat! The liberal narrative features a rotating cast of “marginalized” victims — one week, it’s criminals shot by cops, the next week, it’s college graduates who can’t pay back their student loans — and if you want to talk about “sheer relentlessness,” nobody could hope to exceed the LGBTQ movement in inventing new grievances. Anyway, after a lot of blah, blah, blah about Orange Man Bad, Warzel finally reaches his conclusion.)

The sore-winner complex highlights a fundamental asymmetry between the style of culture warring employed by the left and right. The right’s vision is ahistorical and logically confused, but more importantly, it is relentless. There is no appeasing this type of politics. It is a politics that will manage to use its victories to stoke additional fears inside its voters. For the media, there is no amount of evenhanded or both-sides coverage that will get the right to back down from calling the press illegitimate, biased, and corrupt. For non-Republican politicians, there is no amount of bipartisan language or good faith attempts at dialogue or engagement that will inspire bipartisanship, compromise, and a desire for majority rule. For the right, even in victory, there is only grievance and fear

What this prep-school alumnus is actually telling us is that conservatives have learned to play the same game that Democrats have been playing forever. Whose vision is “ahistorical,” Mr. Warzel? You seem to have forgotten all the fear-stoking and grievance-mongering that Democrats have done over the years. How about this one?

“Romney wants to — he said in the first hundred days
he’s going to let the big banks once again
write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street!
They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”

Really? You forgot that one? You know who the “y’all” Biden was referencing during that 2012 campaign speech in Virginia? As if Mitt Romney, of all people, was some kind of closet segregationist? Oh, spare me your lectures about “faux outrage” and imaginary “grievance,” Mr. Wurzel. What really bothers you is that, in the post-Trump era, some Republicans have finally wised up to the way Democrats have been playing this game, and are now playing it even better. Speaking of this leaked draft, by the way, it’s had the unexpected effect of causing some Democrats to declare their enthusiasm for late-term abortion, a stance which isn’t likely to play well in swing states like Ohio. Hit it, J.D.!

Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark. Reckon Democrats can kiss their Senate majority good-bye and it’s only a matter of time before the Republican regime is dropping liberals out of helicopters.

Augusto Pinochet could not be reached for comment.




 

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