John Armor

Eason Jordan-gate: Confessions of a 'Salivating Moron'
Posted by John Armor on Feb 27, 2005 - 7:51:00 PM


   I did not realize I was a “salivating moron” until Steve Lovelady, Managing Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, informed me of that fact.  His full quote was even harsher.  Regarding the abrupt resignation of Eason Jordan, chief news executive for CNN, Lovelady wrote about us bloggers, “The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail.” 

I think he meant to write “prevailed.”  His statement has become the signature quote in many publications from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal on l’affaire Jordan.  However inaccurate, that quote does embody the attitudes of the MSM (“mainstream media”) toward the “new media,” known as the blogosphere.

I sent a remarkably polite note to the Editor of the Review pointing out that I have 1.5 doctorates and a long and successful career in such areas as writing and practicing in the US Supreme Court.  I suggested that Steve was an “incompetent journalist” for attacking an entire group without doing any homework on the people in that group - like me, for instance.

Back came a reply from Steve that acknowledged and defended his “slavering morons” quote.  (He prefers the “slavering” version, as do I.  Evokes the classical mastiff-on-a-chain image.  But I digress.)  He said he didn’t mean me.  He wrote, “...believe me, for every one of you, there are 100 of them out there yammering away with mob-like glee.”  I do not so easily abandon my colleagues to gain the praise of a MSM journalist.

As with all movements, the blogosphere has its distinctions between those who think through and lead the efforts, and those who either join in later or cheer from the sidelines.  The difference is much the same as between English footballers, who can be sent off for minor infractions, and their fans, who can be head-cracking hooligans.  Separating one from the other is a matter of research on bloggers.

Although tens of thousands, if not more, participate actively, the leaders of the blogosphere number no more than a couple hundred.  My experience with these people is that they are much like me.  Most have graduate degrees and are professionals.  There are lawyers, engineers, teachers, doctors and reporters – among other professions.  I have listed those in roughly the numbers they appear, and yes, there are reporters and editors who are members of the blogosphere.

It may be galling to Steve that some of his own have “gone over to the dark side.”  But the reason is that some reporters still remember the purpose of their profession.  The long version, which Steve has apparently forgotten, is: who, what, when, where, why and how.  The short version is: get the facts right, first.

Are there “crazies” on the Internet?  Absolutely.  They come in hard right and hard left varieties, and we veterans refer to them collectively as the “tin foil hats.”  But those people are like the football fans.  We are the players.  And we are not “slavering morons.”

Let’s touch on Steve’s “lynch mob” comment.  We did not necessarily want Eason Jordan fired.  It would have been far better for him, for his profession and for CNN if he had recognized his error in accusing US soldiers of targeting journalists, apologized and reformed his ways.  But as long as Jordan thinks that is a proper remark (and remember, he’s the same guy who slanted the news from Iraq so Hussein would let CNN keep its Baghdad bureau), Jordan does not belong in journalism.

The very use of the phrase “lynch mob” implies that we “killed” Jordan and that he might have been innocent.  The available facts indicate that Jordan was guilty.  He apparently agreed, because he “resigned” to avoid “embarrassment” to CNN.  And by the way, we still want to see the tape from Davos so everyone will know exactly what Jordan said.  Unlike the MSM, we are in the truth business; Jordangate isn’t finished yet. 

How sad that the Review, the voice of Columbia and purported voice of the journalism profession, does not think the pursuit of the truth is basic to reporting.

Steve’s last e-mail to me explained where I could post an objection to his quote, and ended with “See you around the quad.”  Well, Steve, I see no reason to visit your quadrangle, among journalists who view themselves as the high priests, guarding the mysteries from the hoi polloi.  Instead, welcome to my quad, where all are welcome, and truth is the highest goal.  I think you’ll find it strange at first, but try to adjust.

About the Writer: John Armor is a First Amendment lawyer and writer who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina