A Note to Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post

karen Tumulty of the Washington Post, via C-SPAN; undated.

To: Karen Tumulty

re: Spockbama

What a difference a year makes, madam. You won the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting for 2013. Congratulations. Except it’s now 2014, and mere months later, you’re embarrassing the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University by demonstrating just how badly they screwed up.

It’s not that I don’t like you, or think your work is excrement. But I just don’t get this whole thing where reporters both want to take sides, participating in the stories they cover, and be looked upon by the world at large as part of the noble Fourth Estate.

The Fourth Estate is dying because of people like you.

We, the People who are the alleged beneficiaries of the tireless work performed by the Fourth Estate, are not pleased at the prospect of its suicide. Once upon a time, we needed the media as Fourth Estate. In concept, we still do. But in practice? We’d be better off if you all took up basket weaving, or prostitution.

Better yet, why don’t the (ahem!) “journalists” just give up the pretense and run for office?

Karen Tumulty, of the Washington Post.Actually, that last isn’t quite fair. Any objective observer can comprehend why you don’t run for office. Journalists have a sweet gig, these days. Celebrity status, influence in the public discourse, and the only sort of responsibilities you appear to have are to not get busted for plagiarism, and not get the paper sued for libel in any way that the aggrieved might actually win. It’s kind of like being a cop in Seattle: You can murder with impunity, but if you do so in a manner so clumsy as to give us an otherwise incurable headache, well, we might fire you.

Sure, you’re not killing people … directly. The underlying device, however—the mechanics of your ill-conceived, viciously-intended misbehavior—is virtually the same. That it isn’t a mortal threat, but merely a tiny component of a societal existential threat, does not acquit you. Indeed, it is a greater indictment for having the potential to harm far more people than, say, picking a fight with someone and then shooting them to death because you’re about to lose.

The Washington Post is allegedly one of our nation’s most respected and respectable newspapers. This allegation is false, and you, Ms. Tumulty, are an excellent example of why that paper is known more for humiliating itself these days than any just humility.

In the first place, Dr. Spock? Really? If I might be so daring: What the hell does that even mean? Most people take you as referring to Mr. Spock, a Captain (retired) in the Starfleet of the fictitious Federation of Planets. And while this makes a bit more sense, it is a vile reminder of just how low you and the Fourth Estate have sunk.

It is easy enough to pass off glib remarks, such as your abysmal tweet. But given your career as a political reporter, some might wonder what ever happened to the idea of journalists not being idiots. Watch the television news, or listen to the legions of pundits out there, and it is rather quite shocking just how stupid they think their audiences are. Every once in a while, a reporter will ask a question, and we’re left wondering if she really doesn’t know, or just thinks her audience is a menagerie of idiots.

I’m sorry, did I say every once in a while? I meant, far too often. To wit, there is a reason Mr. Gregory is leaving Meet the Press in disgrace.

As to you? Well, perhaps it isn’t part of a reporter’s job to recall history, but in the shadow of what happened and is happening in Ferguson, I’ve noticed that even the days of the Trayvon Martin debacle are, apparently, forgotten in much of the press. Even the distinguished Marc Lamont Hill, disclaiming that he “didn’t have any unrealistic expectations for Obama”, seems to ignore history in order to complain that the president is somehow blind to “black anger”. In his CNN opinion piece, the Morehouse College professor seems to have forgotten the facts that (A) Mr. Obama is a politician, (B) Mr. Obama is a politician who holds an extraordinarily important and controversial office, and (C) the fact of Mr. Obama’s ethnic heritage effectively requires that he downplay “black anger”.

And let me be clear: “Black anger” would appear to be wholly appropriate; the question is whether Dr. Hill prefers quick gratification or real progress. Right or wrong, the fact is that justice for Americans with dark skin is still a long time coming; the trend is to respond to “black anger” by punishing black people. Dr. Hill’s desire for a cheap quickie apparently takes precedent over real progress.

Or does that seem harsh?

Even so, it is at least somewhat accurate. That is to say that while politicians might rush to empathize with victims of crime and other tragedy, a black president saying the same thing about a dead teenager that a lot of us might say in other situations about, say, a white teenager who died, became a controversy about racism—how dare a black president sympathize with the challenges facing the black community!

And to that end, if we are to pretend that you, Ms. Tumulty, are somehow ignorant of or apathetic toward that recent, visceral history in our United States, then we must also ask you to resign and never again publish as a journalist. A dime novelist? Sure, whatever. A hack comedian? Hell, that seems right up your alley. But journalism? No. I’m sorry, Ms. Tumulty, but your credibility is officially revoked.

Seriously, set aside whatever you think about your audience. Set aside whatever presumptions about their stupidity you might entertain. Setting aside the fact that your tweet, as written, makes absolutely no sense, and accepting the alternate version people are reading into it, well, what the hell? Are you a reporter, Ms. Tumulty? Or are you an editorial writer?

Perhaps if you demonstrated even the slightest comprehension of why President Obama draws a Spock comparison, your offense would be somewhat lesser; you know, merely ignorance instead of a wilful contribution to racism.

This president is not allowed to speak his passions because he is black. There was nothing controversial about the idea that, Trayvon Martin could have been his son, but Mr. Obama is black, and therefore such a remark can only mean he hates white people.

As Arit John put it for The Wire, “People Who Don’t Think Race Matters In Ferguson Think Obama’s Remarks Are Racist”.

And your “Spock” note, Ms. Tumulty? I don’t give a damn how charming or witty you thought you were being. You backed the racists yesterday. You wilfully contributed to their cause.

Washington Post logoTo the other, that wilful contribution to hatred and injustice doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

Oh, wait ….

Never mind. The point being that there is, in fact, a way for you to make things right again: Apologize for your contribution to the empowerment of racism in America, resign your positions as a journalist, and never again attempt to work in the journalistic field.

Yes, madam. You screwed up that badly. Resign. You have no credibility, and are a detriment to any allegedly “journalistic” institution you work for.


Tumulty, karen. “Obama seems to be channeling Dr. Spock”. Twitter. 18 August 2014.

Hill, Marc Lamont. “Obama, can’t you see black anger in Ferguson?” CNN. 15 August 2014.

John, Arit. “People Who Don’t Think Race Matters In Ferguson Think Obama’s Remarks Are Racist”. The Wire. 18 August, 2014.

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