The most innocuous tweet can bring out the crazy if the circumstances and barometric pressure are just right. Politico‘s Ben White is well aware.
On Wednesday White tweeted to his 8,500 followers, “Yesterday the right screamed at me. Today it’s the left. Must be doing it right.”
White tells FishbowlDC that he was referring to criticism he received after pointing out flaws in both President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “The ‘doing something right’ comment was just a throw-away joke,” he said, “like if everyone is mad I must be performing the unbiased media role of pointing out the flaws and shortcomings inherent in all politicians.”
Many people would read White’s message and carry on. Not the Guardian‘s perpetually self-serious Glenn Greenwald. “Here’s the motto for journalistic vapidity,” he wrote, linking to White’s tweet for his near 100K followers to have a look at. The floodgates opened.
“Or maybe you are a useless ‘centrist’ both-sides-are-equally-at-fault DC pundit, of which we have plenty,” user meemeemoomoo told White. “I could see both sides of that,” White reasoned, retweeting the comment.
“Or you’re just really bad at your job,” said joshumar. White retweeted it.
One user called White a “dipshit.” he responded, “thanks whore!” (the user’s name is “The Whore of Mensa.”) On and on it went.
“Thinking about quitting Twitter till Nov 7. Who is down?” a seemingly exasperated White tweeted.
In a sassy email, Greenwald told FBDC we didn’t understand the point he was trying to make. “There is nothing wrong with criticizing both left and right. I do that all the time.” He continued, “The problem is journalists who believe that receiving criticisms from both sides is proof that they are doing something right- as though centrism is the inherently superior position. It isn’t. Sometimes one is criticized by both sides because the centrist view is wrong, or becaude [sic] both sides recognize your error.”
Asked if he thinks the journalists at Politico are all “vapid,” Greenwald said, “I have no idea if everyone at politico thinks this way. I know Ben does because he said it, and it is a common journalistic conceit often seen.”
White said he doesn’t believe he’s guilty of perpetuating “false equivalency,” as Greenwald and his followers suggested. “But I do take pride in being unbiased and non-partisan and interested in facts and sharp analysis,” he said.