In his thirty-year career as an essayist for The Atlantic, James Fallows has proved a dedicated purveyor of inside-Washington liberal-establishment accepted-wisdom decrepitudinousness. His advertisements for himself are a sorry little pottage of elitism (Harvard, Oxford); égoïsme pathétique—“instrument-rated private pilot” (okay, cool), “program designer at Microsoft” (could be cool, depending on what it means, but probably not), “finalist for the National Magazine Award five times” (something maybe not to put in your liner notes?), “spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter” (something way, way not to put in your liner notes, ever, but while we’re there, were you responsible for “malaise?”)—and knee-jerk epiphanizing. His prose stylings are straight out of the NPR handbook, and can be as stilted and conventional as ever any of Tom Friedman’s have been; he’s even managed to turn the deliciously rotten Gawker into a bore.
But never mind the stultifying stuff he likes to call his “real work.” His short shots at the Atlantic’s blog are another story: The other day he took out after Jennifer Rubin in a vicious little rage somebody in editorial ought to have been embarrassed enough to delete before it ever got posted. But the truth is, the blog is the place where Mr. Fallows’s bigoted intolerance for any but his own kind routinely collides with his civil-discoursy affectations and routinely wins. And in this he’s perfectly in tune with his racist colleague Steve Clemons and the unhinged, Sarah-Palin-obsessed Andrew Sullivan, who spent three years there examining Mrs. Palin’s every spore before scuttling off, speculum in hand, to The Daily Beast.
Nastiness itself is nothing shocking in a blog—this blogger certainly embraces it. It’s the fantastic hypocrisy of the civility’s-for-me-not-for-thee congregation at the Atlantic blog that’s so distasteful. Mr. Fallows and his friends are “progressives”; they just don’t know they’re not liberals.