Journalism doesn’t occupy the sovereign position within the classic (Moldbuggian) NRx analysis of the Cathedral. It is downstream of the academic clerisy, who establish doctrine, and then perform high-level indoctrination, with journalism schools as a relatively subservient node on the conveyor. Only the quantitative propaganda function of the media, as the terminal relay to the masses, produces the impression that it effectively rules. Media apparatchiks have negligible intellectual productivity. They serve the Zeitgeist, by trying to remember what their professors taught them.
Still, as the question goes:
If, when journalists and politicians conflict, the politicians always go down in flames and the journalists always walk away without a scratch, who exactly is wearing the pants in this place?
Disconcerting then, to read this story, in which the pants aren’t at all where they might be expected:
The emails were obtained by Gawker as part of a large Freedom of Information Act request it made back in 2012. They show a 2009 exchange between Marc Ambinder, then-politics editor of The Atlantic, and Philippe Reines, a close assistant and adviser to Clinton during her days as Secretary of State. […] Ambinder asked Reines for an advance copy of a speech Clinton was scheduled to give at the Council on Foreign Relations. Rather than simply say yes or no, Reines cut a deal with Ambinder, turning over the speech provided Ambinder agreed to three conditions:
1) You in your own voice describe [the speech] as “muscular”
2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from [Richard] Holbrooke to [George] Mitchell to [Dennis] Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something
3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!
Number three is especially cynical: Don’t, of course, admit to the truth.
Ambinder does what he’s told. He doesn’t even seem to be trying to pretend otherwise:
“Since I can’t remember the exact exchange I can’t really muster up a defense of the art, and frankly, I don’t really want to,” Ambinder told Gawker.
At times, clearly, the Cathedral concept gives these degenerate propaganda serfs way too much credit. They’ve got it all, and they still cheat.
It would be a mistake to head back to the drawing-board, nevertheless. The Cathedral isn’t dysfunctional because its corrupt, but even — and most dangerously — when it isn’t. Structural feedback pathology is the problem, with semi-criminal hackery as a distraction.
Marx dismissed capitalist cheating — such as adulteration of goods — as an ultimate irrelevance, that only confused the principal line of his critique. NRx should hold to the same approach in its critique of the Cathedral, insofar as it aims for theoretical resilience (rather than anecdotal sniping). It has still to be admitted that the Ambinder-types don’t help.