Kellergate Rumbles On

Watching the furor over Jon Keller‘s failure to include footnotes in his book The Bluest State has been fascinating. Not because the scandal is that interesting, or Keller’s omission even that unusual, but because of the way people have reacted to it. Here’s a breakdown of the most compelling aspects of Kellergate:

1. This town has self-styled more media critics than any I’ve ever seen. Just read the comments on Dan Kennedy‘s and Adam Reilly‘s blogs, piously holding forth on the falling standards and general befoulment of capital-J Journalism.

Never have I encountered so many non-journalists who so readily pull the “you call yourself a Journalist?!” card, as though the Journalism Tradition is something they deeply revere. Talk to anyone in media around town, and they’ll tell you that this card is most often played, not when some mistake or ethical lapse occurs, but when a journalist writes something someone disagrees with. The reader’s ire at this triggers the “you call yourself a Journalist?!” response, which itself suggests a sort of Good Ol’ Days, when all journalists where ethical and true (malarkey). Often, this little fart of sentimentality is followed by the word “pathetic.” This is a shaming mechanism with roots in fascism.

2. Then there’s the belief that the only reason Keller has come under scrutiny is because he is supposedly conservative and that a liberal conspiracy is at play. Here’s a Herald commenter [many sics implied]:

“This is typical ‘if you can’t rebut the content, attack the format or some other BS pretext to bash the truth.’ Here in this People’s Republik, one party state, books like Keller’s excellent expose are intollerable… destroy, discredit at any cost. I’m surprised the liberals haven’t had a book burning yet on Boston Common visa vis the Nazis.”

This response is predictable because you can’t so much as change your socks in this town without being accused of trying to erode someone else’s First Amendment rights. Plus, saying this is a liberal conspiracy is a way for local conservatives to feel that they’re continually victimized by shadowy forces, which delivers some kind of righteous thrill that I’ve never been able to figure out.

Unfortunately, all this liberal conspiracy talk sort of falls apart in the face of the love note to Ted Kennedy that Keller blogged last week. My understanding was always that Ted Kennedy was quietly behind ALL liberal conspiracies.

Of course, just because the initial story wasn’t partisan in nature, doesn’t mean far-lefties like Keller, either, and there’s certainly a good deal of glee being expressed from that side of the fence. In fact, the one thing the far right and far left seem to have in common in all this is a belief that Keller is much more conservative than he actually is. For both sides, assuming that Keller is a staunch conservative just because he criticized Massachusetts liberals is, again, zero-sum fascist bullshit, and you all should be ashamed.

3. Speaking of conspiracies, I liked this one, too. A commenter on Kennedy’s blog dropped the following knowledge yesterday after Kennedy agreed with Reilly’s take on the flap:

Oh, and why am I not surprised you and Reilly agree on this? You forgot to disclose that you and Reilly go back aways at the Phoenix, that you used to write the “Don’t Quote Me” column, and that you are still a contributing writer to the Phoenix. But all readers everywhere are just supposed to know that, right?

This accusation that Kennedy must only agree with Reilly because he used to write the column Reilly now writes, came on the heels of several other commenters suggesting that the only reason Kennedy wasn’t sufficiently nailing Keller to the boards was because they’re friends. In this view there are no honest disagreements, only competing secret agendas. See: Fascism.

Also, on the vast media conspiracy angle, all I can say is, you people seem to think we’re a hell of a lot more organized than we actually are. But then again, I’m friendly with Keller, Kennedy and Reilly, (and as my collegue Gonz has pointed out, Keller is a contributing editor at this mag, as well as a writer for the Herald) so dispatch the black helicopters.

4. Blue Mass Group, citing a dearth of reviews, has advised people to go review Keller’s book on Amazon.

The Bluest State is selling pretty well on Amazon: #7,044 in Books, #2 in Books > Nonfiction > Government > State & Local Government, and #13 in Books > Nonfiction > Politics > Political Parties, with a four-star rating on average. Sadly, however, it only has 11 reviews, which seems a rather thin sample. If you’d like to share your thoughts, just click here (you can also read the first few pages there for free). If you have time, I imagine a quick cut and paste of your review into the comments here would make interesting reading… If this is the work of a journalist, one can only imagine what a non-journalist might have produced.

Two things here. One, why not just come out and say “go trash the book.” BMG obviously can’t stand Keller, so the coy suggestion that readers simply go weigh in as a “public service” is disingenuous. This is a call to attack the book. And that’s completely fine, as long as you’ve read it. Two: But then you come to the line about how you can read the first few pages for free, which seems to be an invitation to trash a book that you haven’t actually read, for purposes of spite.

Is this the kind of world we want to live in, BMG?

Is this the kind of world we want to live in, any of you?