Check yo’self, son

This afternoon, Dave Weigel of The Washington Independent ran with an explosive story, asserting that Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake was working with teabaggers on an eleventh-hour effort to sink the health care reform effort. Key paragraph:

I’m in contact with folks on the progressive side,” said Serkes. “They’re saying right now that Pelosi’s almost there with the votes. What they’re saying is that there’s some serious arm-twisting — their words were ‘union thuggery.’ One progressive source told me that there was serious union thuggery this weekend, targeting Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.).” 

The source, she said, was Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, a liberal blog…

(emphasis added)

I was stunned to read this, as were others. I mean, “union thuggery” is bog-standard right-wing messaging, and Jane is generally regarded as a progressive champion; FDL even has a blog dedicated to labor issues. Hence my surprise and skepticism that she’d say something like that. 

This caused Jane to respond emphatically

Dave Weigel isn’t a journalist, he’s a smear-monger that makes things up and projects his own fantasies onto his stories:

[quote of Dave’s entire story]

I know Katherine, we were on MSNBC together and we’ve spoken about working on the pot legalization measure in California in the future. She tells me that when Weigel approached her and asked her who her “source” was, she didn’t say. He said “It’s Jane Hamsher, isn’t it…I’ve been around.” According to Katherine, she didn’t respond.

Weigel decided to print his own suspicions as fact, and didn’t bother to contact me for confirmation. It’s a pattern with him.

Weigel goes on to accuse me of using the words “union thuggery,” in quotes.  He completely put words in my mouth.  That is a totally fabricated quote.

In short, Jane was calling Dave a liar. 

I was following the back and forth over Twitter, and it soon came out that Dave had audio of his original interview. I was one of many people telling him to post the audio, since Jane was calling his professional credibility as a reporter into question. Furthermore, as a journalism student, I pay extra attention to this sort of thing, as a kind of real-world classroom.

I’m still waiting for the audio recording; that said, Dave has posted the transcript, along with a stinging response. The transcript:

SERKES: They’re saying that there’s some serious arm-twisting, and their words were union thuggery.

ME: Who’s the they?

SERKES: The progressive side. A progressive source told me that there was serious union thuggery going on this weekend.

ME: Is this the Firedoglake folks?

SERKES: It’s Jane. You’re figured it out.

ME: I’m not new at this.

SERKES: She said they were after Altmire this weekend. Yeah, because Jane and I last talked Saturday.

(emphasis added)

It turns out that Dave did contact Jane for a response to Serkes’ claim:

(courtesy Washington Independent)

Key statement: “Is that a paraphrase or is that how you’d describe the effort?” Note that that’s not how Jane responds – she first claims that Dave didn’t contact her, despite proof to the contrary, dubs him a “professional fantasist”, then says this:

She tells me that when Weigel approached her and asked her who her “source” was, she didn’t say. He said “It’s Jane Hamsher, isn’t it…I’ve been around.” According to Katherine, she didn’t respond.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this reads like Serkes lied throughout, possibly to Dave Weigel, defintely to Jane Hamsher. If anyone truly came off looking like a galactically epic jackass, it was Kathryn Serkes.

That said, there’s a broader point I want to make. I said I was stunned at Jane possibly using the words “union thuggery”; what I wasn’t stunned, or even surprised by, was the allegation that she’d be working with teabagger groups in order to sink the health care reform bill before Congress.

That saddens me to no small end. Jane, in her response to Dave Weigel, says that “I’m not working with the tea partiers on health care”. I believe her. I think that some folks, in the heat of this battle, have chosen to maximize their current differences with Jane Hamsher and other folks at FDL to the detriment of once and future alliances. 

It’s easy to see why – Jane has allied herself with some truly odious folks, like Grover Norquist, in order to advance other issues of interest to her. Not only that, but she has consistently and scathingly criticized the health care reform effort from the left, even now – something that probably drives more than a few people up the wall. 

You know what? That’s OK. There’s nothing that says that I have to agree with my allies 100% of the time. My old boss at SEIU, Michael Whitney, and I disagree on the health care bill – he abhors it and wants it tabled in favor of something better, I abhor it and want it passed so that we can work on improving it (by expanding Medicare to everyone, like Rep. Alan Grayson wants to do in his bill, for example).

That doesn’t make Michael and Jane Enemies of Teh Progressive Movement™ . It makes them people who disagree with me. We’re not going to convince each other on this, but I’m not going to question their progressive bona-fides. 

I’m especially not going to question their progressive bona-fides because they have professional or, hell, even personal relationships with conservatives. 

Seriously – we’re gonna go there? Really, folks? ‘Cause if we are, I have a feeling that a metric shit-ton of y’all are going to be spending Thanksgiving/Christmas/insert traditional family-gathering time all alone. Before you cast aspersions on Jane for hanging out with Grover Norquist, you better consign your Uncle Larry to the nth circle of oblivion. In other words, check yo’self, son, before you check on others.

Yeah, I thought so.

I may not agree with Jane Hamsher right now – but she was my ally once, and she’ll be my ally again, on other things, as we advance onward and upward.


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