Robert Scheer Crosses the Huffington Picket Line

The sorry  spectacle of Arianna Huffington selling her blogging slave ship and ersatz online newspaper The Huffington Post to  AOL for $315 million has drawn cries of outrage and betrayal from critics, columnists and former low-wage HuffPosters, but not from her KCRW pal and Truthdig editor-in-chief Robert Scheer. Amazingly, Scheer, the usually redoubtable muckraker, has climbed the soapbox on his own news site to defend Huffington’s entitlement to a fortune manufactured largely from the freely appropriated content of dying newspapers, self-promoting Hollywood celebrities and desperate, impecunious journalists young and old.

Even Robert Scheer apparently bows to power.

He offers the information that when the brain trust at the Los Angeles Times dumped him for his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, Arianna picked up his column (gratis, of course). OK, nice of her to do so, but also relevant that Scheer could afford such an arrangement as he doesn’t need the money in the way that thousands of journalists without a teaching gig or a backlist of books do. He dodges the issue with the pleading, “I am not an expert on the finances of The Huffington Post.” Convenient, that.

To me, the HuffPo selloff draws a line in the sand, and it’s discomfiting to watch Scheer, the putative knight errant of the Left,  cross it to be with the aristocratic Arianna, that unreliable narrator of Left, Right and Center on KCRW, rather than with his Truthdig colleague Chris Hedges (author of The Death of the Liberal Class) who quickly called Huffington out for who she is: a wealthy opportunist in Progressive disguise. Yet Scheer, in spite of all the truth he has dug up in the past, now shows  us how compromise comes in all political styles and sizes. This must feel to many of Scheer’s followers like a betrayal. It’s a Big Chill moment, maybe a defining moment and one that undermines Scheer’s credibility as an authentic anti-establishment voice.

I wonder if this longtime critic of Wall St., K. St., Capitol Hill and their spin doctors sees the irony in himself becoming a spin doctor for the globe-trotting, caviar class, labor-exploiting media “dahling” Arianna Huffington?  Sadly, this is the way the Left ends, not with a bang but in the bubble — the bubble of privilege wherein “liberal” pundits chat about the death of the middle class while sipping champagne.

About Sean Mitchell

SEAN MITCHELL is a journalist, critic and former staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald Examiner and Dallas Times Herald. His articles and reviews have also appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, USA Today and other publications. He is the recipient of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music and the George Jean Nathan Award for distinguished drama criticism. Born in Bethlehem, Pa., he grew up in Dallas and is a graduate of St. Mark’s School of Texas and Brown University. He lives in Dallas.
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