How “Write-Throughs” Risk History: Liner Notes (and Air Drumming)

Hey, another new column from me at The Federalist: “The New York Times Stealth-Edited The First Draft Of History On Brett Kavanaugh.” If you’re feeling oversaturated with Kavanaugh stories, note that my larger point (and I almost always have one) is about the long-standing journalistic practice of “write-throughs” — a holdover from the pre-internet era in greater and greater need of re-examination.

This story is somewhat about media bias, but more about how the NYT decided — seemingly at the very top — that it could not afford to be seen as critical of a story in The New Yorker containing allegations against embattled SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, such is the power of the #MeToo mood and the partisan desire to keep Kavanaugh off the court.

It’s that last bit that mostly got glossed over in the column for space considerations. But reporting on a partisan opposition research effort with thin substantiation is an interesting standard of newsworthiness. In contrast, Team Kavanaugh’s feints toward exploring a theory of mistaken identity regarding the allegations made against him was reported on quite negatively. Some of that negative coverage was entirely warranted, notably Kavanaugh backer Ed Whelan’s bizarre and unconvincing internet detective work on Twitter. But mistaken identifications can happen under circumstances where  you would think they would not. Given that several Senators have publicly said Kavanaugh must prove his innocence, it arguably would be incompetent for his team not to consider the possibility. Ironically, given that Kavanaugh’s detractors seem to want him to confess to something, a mistaken identity theory would be a concession of sorts on Kavanaugh’s part that something may have happened to his primary accuser. Anyway, even if you disagree with this analysis — or think it misguided politically — the fact that one side’s dirt-digging campaign gets much better coverage than the other side’s is indicative of what we’ve seen over the past weeks. Insofar as emotions are running high on all sides of the controversy, my column focuses more on the “write-throughs,” a problematic practice that knows no party or ideology.

And on an entirely lighter note, I forgot to note over the weekend that I wrote a short column critiquing Senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke’s air drumming skills. It wasn’t really my idea and didn’t realize my goofing around would turn into a column, but there it is. As noted above, even when I’m trolling a bit, I prefer to have a larger point. Here, the tone is a little satirical, but is making a point of what the political discourse becomes when we rely more on personality and “cool” and less on issues.

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