Who the hell is Julie Bosman?
And why does anyone care what she thinks?
Lambert asks what is up with the latest craptaculence from Julie Bosman's keyboard, and where have all the decent reporters gone? Good questions; there’s a story beneath the story here, and it encapsulates everything that is wrong with what is fraudulently passed off as contemporary “journalism.” Let’s dig down into the muck a bit, shall we?
Can you answer that first question? Do you know anything at all about Julie Bosman? I thought not.
She has a prominent position as a political reporter with the New York Times, one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world and a basic reference source for news outlets across the globe; she is frequently and prominently published there, under a single byline as well as collaboratively, closely following and opining on the presidential primaries while focusing dominantly on the Democrats. She traveled with Edwards, and after him with Clinton; she has been the Times’ inside source reporter, providing the world with a close-up and personal look at the candidates and their campaigns including the piece Lambert cites, backed by the full force and credit of “The Paper Of Record”.
That’s a lot of influence, and you don’t know one damn thing about her.
Julie Bosman is a Badger. No, not literally; she went to the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she actually majored in journalism. She was so successfully badger-like that she clawed her way to the top of the body-pile, becoming editor-in-chief of the student-run Badger Herald newspaper. While in that position she accepted a paid advertisement from arch-reactionary David Horowitz, condemning any examination of the concept of reparations for the descendents of American slavery on the basis that those descendents are actually economic beneficiaries of the suffering of their ancestors.
Surprisingly to Julie, considerable student unrest followed, with calls for Bosman to either issue an apology for publishing the ad or to resign. She refused to do either, claiming freedom of speech; that the ad was a paid statement, rather than a staff or guest analysis or opinion piece, made for her no difference. Nor did she recognize that trading space to advance an onerous agenda for money in a student-run newspaper conferred at a minimum an acceptance on behalf of the student body that the argument advanced was legitimate. In her view, she had the authority to dictate ethical standards for all students and she would not be cowed into submission by condemnation from the students themselves. In recognition of her defiance of decency and common sense, the rigidly reactionary Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship presented her with their "Academic Freedom Award" – which she gladly accepted.
But Julie wasn’t satisfied with small-town Mid-Western journalism, oh no; when she graduated in 2001 she cast her hungry badger eyes eastward, towards bright lights and the big city, where she could trade her journalistic bona fides for fun, fame and profit.
What she landed was a job as a
gofer assistant for the inestimable Maureen Dowd. If there was anyone in all of America that an aspiring young journalist would turn to as a mentor for competence, thoroughness and sophistication in the craft, it would certainly be Dowd. But somehow that didn’t work out. After a while, Julie wanted bigger things, and the senior editors cast around for somewhere that she could be useful. What to do with a young eager beaver badger with far-right sympathies, trained by the Queen of Vapid herself in the art of character assassination? How about the Edwards campaign?
Who better, really? The last thing wanted by The Powers That Be is someone who would focus their reports on matters of substance, on Edwards’ policy proposals for honesty in government and the concept that common citizens should be the primary focus and sole beneficiaries of governmental action. Can’t have that being discussed, someone might pay attention and Edwards could get traction. Best to cut him off at the knees, and Bosman’s right-wing framing would provide the perfect approach; plus, with Dowd’s tutelage, young Julie could be counted on to deliver the kind of airy, cutting defamation that would ensure Edwards was trivialized and rendered into a caricature rather than a legitimate candidate.
And Julie delivered what her masters wanted. Go read her if you must, but the extensive body of work that is her Edwards campaign coverage essentially oscillates between feeling sorry for herself over the rigors of the road (with a corporate credit card in her purse) and the incessant demands on her time (imagine, having to pay attention all day long to someone as boring as John Edwards while he talks about the dangers and opportunities facing America, yawn) while finding just the right tone with which to expound on one meaningless triviality after another while falsely implying that they represent issues of importance.
In one memorable sequence, she first complained that she was having trouble keeping up with Edwards’ “breakneck” schedule; the Edwards people were simply not leaving enough slack in the day for her to get her personal needs met. A week later she had decided to abandon trying to keep pace and leapfrogged ahead, freeing up some time to do her nails or whatever and then wait for Edwards to come to her. Horrifically, however, she sometimes actually did have to wait because Edwards was running late due to his “breakneck” schedule; again, she wrote, no matter what she did the Edwards people were once again wasting her time!
What could a hard-working journalist do, trapped with time on her hands at a venue full of involved, politically aware citizens with an acute interest in the electoral process? Interview them? Well, perhaps; what could it hurt? Finally fed up beyond endurance, Bosman stirred herself enough to speak with one woman who was leaving an event where Edwards was late and got this dramatic quote:
“In Lebanon, N.H., Karen Swanson headed for the exit with a friend after nearly a half-hour. ‘We can’t wait anymore,’ Ms. Swanson said.
Nearly a half-hour? Well now, that is quite a wait. I've stood around longer than that just to get fresh Krispy Kremes, but Bosman found great import in that simple statement; she has a gift for, ah, intuiting. It became the basis for a repeated litany, that Edwards was offending voters and politicians by his tardiness. The “breakneck” schedule construct morphed into implying that he was trying to be too many places at once, and that in turn came to suggest that he was trying to be too many things to different people.
Not true, of course; Edwards was, if anything, consistent to the point of repetitiousness, but what fun would there be to writing about those boring, boring policy issues? Much better to make up claims about how annoying the man was, about how pissed off everybody was getting because of his nasty, awful schedule. Bosman went so far as to claim that politicians were choosing to endorse other candidates because Edwards was too often late for his speaking engagements. If she was offended, surely so was everyone else.
But then the Edwards campaign stuttered and stalled, in no small measure because he couldn’t get his arguments covered by the media; amazing, that. Another feather in the cap of ace protector of free speech and degreed professional journalist Julie. Surely, having taken down the human target to whom she was assigned, she would be brought back to the Home
Swarm Office in triumph – but no. Back on the road she went, this time on the trail of Clinton, her next target. Julie was again not pleased with her life, and again it was all the fault of the horrid, horrid candidate.
Which brings us to now, and this little hit piece; a classic of the genre, in which Bosman once more takes a collection of small and large facts and warps them into slander. Her title alleges that Clinton and her supporters have become “subdued” based upon behavior at precisely three meetings with small groups. One, in rural South Dakota, is described as small and quiet. Newsflash, Julie; most of rural South Dakota – actually, most of the whole state of South Dakota – has a population density of less than 5 people per square mile. More than a handful of unrelated people together in rural South Dakota is a large crowd, and relative to Neeew Yorrrk Cit-eeh the people of South Dakota actually are by nature quiet and reserved. That’s quiet and reserved, like mature adults, Julie; not “subdued” like slaves.
Rather than characterize the meeting as civil and calm, and take the opportunity to discuss the regional variations in American character and what that might mean for the fall campaign, Bosman instead compares it to of all things the bizarre incident when Obama was applauded while blowing his nose. She describes the applause as thunderous – it was no more than scattered – and suggests that this shows a difference between the candidates in voter enthusiasm. One might as easily speculate on what it is about Obama that attracts people with a fetishistic enthusiasm for mucous.
She also cites a living room meeting with six people, described as “a group in which reporters outnumbered supporters by at least 3 to 1.” Let’s hope it was no more than that; 20 people in a living room is enough. Julie nailed the important fact, the reporter count, but said nothing about what those six voters had to say. Perhaps all her time was spent counting to 18 without kicking off her shoes. The third event was Clinton stopping by a campaign phone bank above a store in Salem, Oregon; a small room, with – as the photo shows – volunteers still answering the phones. Why, at any of these, would Clinton have to raise her voice; why would any of the attendees have had to shout? Since when is calm, deliberate and thoughtful equivalent to “subdued”? Only in the mind of the Dowd-trained Bosman.
The fact that Clinton picked up $400K at a couple of whirlwind fundraisers got no more than a mention. That this display of substantial continued financial support might indicate not everyone is buying the “Surrender!” imperative is not discussed, nor is there any reflection on what Clinton’s campaign persistence might say about the relative appeal of herself or her policies. It is all nothing more than a source of annoyance to Julie. Why, she alludes, again and again; WWTSBQ?
While Clinton visited with her admirers, Bosman did find time for one of her trademark quickie interviews, this time with a 29-year-old store clerk named Tim who only stuck his nose in to be able to say he’d seen Clinton in the flesh:
“I don’t really get the point of her carrying on. If it’s done, it’s done.”
Insightful, that; one twenty-something to another, exactly the sort of contemptuous, denigrative, vapid verbal barb that would appeal to dear Julie. Just because she didn’t have time to write anything meaningful about Clinton, or the campaign, I’m sure everyone will give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that her little one-on-one with Tim on top of the feed sacks in the back storeroom (according to an anonymous source* in, ahem, a position to know) was worth the effort.
[Oh, Tim? Tim! TIM! Listen up. That rash is not from the burlap. One word – Penicillin. All’s I’m saying.]
So there you have it. The New.York.Times. deliberately sent a right-wing hack – hell, an Award-Winning right-wing hack – with a graduate degree in MoDo out to tube Edwards’ campaign, and when she finished that she got sicced on Clinton to do the same thing. If Bosman can undermine Obama in the general, she’ll have won the 2008 Destructive Reporter Triple Crown. Sigh. This is what is meant by contemporary “journalism”; it would be sad if it weren’t so disgusting. On the other hand, always instructive to watch a pro do her tricks.
Don’t you feel better, now that you’re informed?
* About the validity of anonymous sources in legitimate journalism.