The Self-Martyrdom of John Harwood
I probably spend too much time on Twitter.
That’s an admission I would have never envisioned myself making about three years ago, when I had absolutely no interest in the popular social media service. I didn’t get its appeal, I didn’t understand the point of using it, and I was honestly kind of irritated by its repeated mention on practically every news and entertainment show I watched.
When my first book was in the process of being published, however, my publisher emphasized to me the importance of self-branding and public engagement. They explained that if I wasn’t on Twitter, I was ignoring an important marketing tool. So, I gave it a whirl.
It took me a while to get used to the culture. I didn’t like it very much. A lot of what I read was either self-congratulatory drivel or angry rants about trivial topics. Eventually, I figured out which accounts were worth following and which ones weren’t, and I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy the daily banter ever since.
With my obvious interest in politics, I’ve found myself drawn to the thoughts of national reporters and commentators, who are often more candid, outspoken, and entertaining on Twitter than they are on-air and in their columns. They’re also more likely to react to public criticism of their job performance in a 140-character tweet than in a prepared statement.
So, following the widespread criticism of the CNBC moderators in Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, I was curious if John Harwood (the snarkiest one of the bunch) would comment on his conduct on Twitter. The next morning, he did just that. Well, kind of:
“Moderating GOP debate in 2015 enriched my understanding of challenges @SpeakerBoehner has faced and @RepPaulRyan will face.”
In other words: I did nothing wrong. Those mindless, irrational conservatives are skewering me for simply doing my job.
And in case I somehow misinterpreted Harwood’s meaning, he solidified his sentiment with this retweet:
“RNC can bash moderators all they want. The real problem with these debates is there are too many damn people on stage.“
You see, it’s not Harwood’s fault for lacing debate questions with insulting personal commentary, interrupting candidates mid-sentence, and heckling their responses. The problem was with the sheer number of candidates that had to deal with it.
Media bias is everywhere. It’s nothing new, but the problem has grown far worse over the years. You would think that at a time in our country’s history when the news media is respected even less than our politicians, there would be a conscious attempt by old-school journalists like Harwood to exercise a little self-discipline ― especially when it comes to something as important as a nationally-televised presidential debate.
I suppose it all goes back to an analogy for media bias that Bernie Goldberg often uses: Journalists don’t look at themselves as being biased, just like fish don’t look at themselves as being wet. A fish doesn’t have the frame of reference to recognize what “wet” is. Neither does someone like Harwood, apparently.
Amazingly, Harwood even took it a step further in a later tweet regarding the GOP debate:
“Last night reminded me of ’88 Indiana trip when Bush campaign put our press avail w/Quayle on loudspeakers so hometown crowd could boo us.”
Oh John… you brave, self-sacrificing soldier for your profession. The things you must endure. Talk about a martyr complex!
A man named David Burge, who responded to the tweet, perhaps summed it up best:
“Every man is the hero of his own story; it takes someone special to be Jesus of his own Passion Play.”
UPDATE: A couple of hours after this column was posted, Mr. Harwood responded to the below tweet directed at him:
“Who seriously imagines John Harwood is not a straight-down-the-middle interviewer, moderator?”
“A lot of people on Twitter, evidently! (but they’re wrong)”
You can’t make it up, folks! Enjoy your Halloween weekend!