I don't know if any of you damn kids remember, but there was a time when both the White House and the media, no matter how partisan, worried about the mere appearance of anyone trying to chill public speech, particularly that of the press. Even the administration of the guy who brazenly violated a chubby intern with a cigar in the Oval Office worried about it:
After days of measured statements of grief and outrage over the Oklahoma City bombing, Mr. Clinton edged today into a new discussion of the civic and political climate that might have encouraged it. As soon as he finished speaking, senior White House aides became concerned that his remarks would be interpreted as an attack on radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and rushed to insist that the President had only been urging Americans to protect free speech by speaking out against hatred.
From some time in the '80s until some time after, oh…I dunno…January of 2009, you couldn't sit through a news program, national or local, without hearing the phrase "chilling effect" uttered ominously by one talking hair-do or another. Viewers were always left with the unambiguous impression that "chilling" speech was a BFD. Remember when the press went apeshit over the Bush 43 administration telling a "scientist" employed by the federal government that he shouldn't go around spewing out policy demands based on his own specious research? That episode looks like a quaint anachronism now.
If the White House War on Fox News wasn't enough of a warning, the treatment Sharyl Attkison received when she tried to ask some questions about Fast & Furious should have been:
Well the DOJ woman was just yelling at me. The guy from the White House on Friday night literally screamed at me and cussed at me. [Laura: Who was the person? Who was the person at Justice screaming?] Eric Schultz. Oh, the person screaming was [DOJ spokeswoman] Tracy Schmaler, she was yelling not screaming. And the person who screamed at me was Eric Schultz at the White House.
But, oh no, we've got Bob Woodward, the heroic Dean of Leftist journalists — the Watergate Warrior and Truth-to-Poweringest reporter of them all — threatened by the White House and even now they're not only ignoring the "chilling effect" aspect of the story, they're spinning their little wheels as fast as they can to defend the White House. Here's a sample of headlines:
- The Meaning Of 'Regret': Journalist Bob Woodward, White House Disagree — NPR
- Oh, Please, The White House Didn't 'Threaten' Bob Woodward — Business Insider
- From Legend to Laughing Stock: Bob Woodward Cites Bogus 'Threat,' Calls Obama 'Nixonian' — The Nation
- Bob Woodward, Obama Aide Spar, Causing Confusion Over Definition Of 'Regret' — HuffPo
- Not news: White House threatens journalist — The Week
The JuiceBoxers have been all a-Twitter, trying to make that "regret" a reality for Woodward and assuring us that it's all no BFD. David Weigel, as you might expect, is being particular obnoxious, managing to call Woodward an old crank and preen about his own "access" at the same time. He along with others are reassuring us that they get yelled at and threatened "all the time" by WH "flacks". See? They talk to WH flacks all the time, aren't you impressed? The worst of it may be that Weigel is trying to be funny in the process, which I think Kübler-Ross would classify as a part of "denial".
And then there's smug little shit Matt Yglesias:
First they subjected journalists they disagreed with to mild criticism, and I said nothing because I’d been mildly criticized…
— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 28, 2013
No, lil Mattie, it goes: "First they came for FoxNews and I sat back sipping my juice box and giggling like a twelve-year-old because I was not a member of the unclean political tribe…" If they're willing to try to take down a major news organization like FNC, if they yell at and threaten Woodward, and they scream at and threaten you JournoListers "all the time", what do you think they'd be willing to do to you if some day you decide to grow some balls and stray off the plantation? I don't think you'd be giggling anymore.
I have no great love for Woodward — he's not "suddenly a hero" to me — but "chilling" speech is, in fact, always a danger and if fighting against that is no longer the current crop of journalist's most basic concern, then they need to hang it up and leave that job to someone else.
See also: Making Woodward Regret
And BTW, some day someone really needs to tell Chuck Todd to wash that shit off his face.