Saturday, November 05, 2005


"Ghost Blogging" redux

Okay, there's been a lot of people in comments trying to argue the "Ghost Blogging" thesis not having read the full series, so I'm going to collect four posts here in one as a sort of FAQ. Never say you don't get full value for money at Malkin(s)watch.

I. Ghost Blogging - by Auguste

(Assisted by and cross-posted at the Liberal Avenger. Written - as is this entire blog - by Auguste. You'll see why I make this disclaimer soon enough.)

We're coming up on the ten-month anniversary of in its current form, and as of the time of this writing she's posted 1975 times, from this one (number 4, for some unexplained reason) to this one. For those of you playing at home, that's an average of 6.6 posts a day. That's a lot of posts. But this isn't a "see what I do for you" post - for one thing, I'm not exactly keeping up: I've only been averaging about 2 a day.

Of course, Malkin does this for a living. But the weird thing is, she keeps it up no matter what. For example, on September 8th, the day she was on her way to speak at Berkeley, she posted four times, including one in-depth post about Eric Muller. She then posted a wrap-up of the talk and a review of her schedule at two am pacific time, before posting again at 9:30 the next morning.

More recently, on Friday night, Malkin posted this at 7:28 pm, updating it afterwards when it turned out her first source was probably mistaken. The same night, she gave a talk in Washington, D.C.

Malkin once explained her prolificacy thus:
From the e-mailbox:
Is that really you posting at ungodly hours of the night?
Actually, ungodly hours of the morning. Yup, it's me. No gold-plated interns here at Malkin Central. Just me and my keyboard and my incurable insomnia. does a blogger good.
I don't think it's that simple.

Michelle's husband, Jesse Malkin, first met Michelle when they were students at Oberlin College. From Goldsea's not-exactly-flattering profile:
Jesse Malkin's first assignment for his new Filipino American reporter was collaborating on an article denouncing Oberlin's affirmative action program. Fellow students found the article offensive and showed their displeasure to Malkin & Company.
Jesse earned his PhD in economic policy analysis from the Rand Graduate School, with most of his study related to the economics of health care. Goldsea:
His PhD thesis was The Postpartum Mandate: Estimated Costs and Benefits. That subject would be reprised in a paper Malkin later co-authored as a RAND consultant with three others titled Postpartum Length of Stay and Newborn Health: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis. Essentially, it finds medical benefit in extended hospital stays for women who had given birth. Another of his co-authored papers is titled How Much Does Global Warming Matter? and subtitled, “What the world's population needs most are more lavatories and better sewage systems.”
Interestingly enough, the one area in which Michelle seems to straddle the line between liberal and conservative is health care. Here she admits that her health-care costs have risen dramatically, and here she actually uses the words "agree with Krugman" - that our health-care system is broken, particularly for the self-employed.
After my husband quit his job earlier this year (to become a full-time stay-at-home dad), we had a choice. We could either buy health insurance from his former employer through a program called COBRA at a cost of more than $1,000 per month(!) or we could go it alone in Maryland's individual market. Given our financial circumstances, that "choice" wasn't much of a choice at all. We had to go on our own.
Very admirable of Jesse to become a stay-at-home dad. But was that the only reason he quit?

James Capozzola from the Rittenhouse Review had a run-in with Jesse in November of 2003, in which Jesse defended his wife against something Jim wrote.
Michelle has nothing against immigrants per se and would be the first to acknowledge that many immigrants make positive contributions to our country. She does, however, think that immigration should occur in a controlled, legal manner--and is particularly concerned that people who enter this country not be known terrorists or criminals. She also believes that tolerance of high levels of illegal immigration depresses wages among poorly-skilled workers and is unfair to those who wait in line to come here legally.
Jesse, apparently, did this without Michelle's knowledge.

What is this adding up to? Well, let's add one more piece of evidence: The royal we. Here:
You remember the West Seattle High School anti-war
student assembly we blogged about last week.
No, we're not turning into Wonkette, but our friend
Spokane Spokesman-Review columnist Dave Oliviera has
an exclusive blog post...
Don't miss this hatchet job on our friends at
powerline by Jim Boyd...
Once is a typo, twice is a figure of speech, three times - plus all the other evidence - makes me ready to state my conclusions for the records:

Malkin not only has a "gold-plated intern", it's her husband. Or to put it another way, Jesse Malkin has a great deal of influence on Michelle's writing, even to the point of posting on her blog, probably on a regular basis. I think it's very possible that the books were cowritten as well; In Defense of Internment was written over a period of sixteen months, the last six (or so) of which Jesse was at home.

Don't misunderstand; Michelle is clearly very capable - she wouldn't be able to handle the media as well as she does if she weren't - and certainly is responsible for much of what is written in her name. But it seems clear that her husband is more deeply involved in her career than expected.

This is important because, for me, it calls into question Malkin's motivation. If her husband is a partner in punditry, where do Michelle's opinions end and Jesse's begin? And, in today's personality-driven politics, would even right-wingers be as willing to swallow this kind of thing from a white male PhD as from a photogenic minority woman?

II. You Mean it Takes the Labor of Two People to Generate That Kind of Crap? - The Liberal Avenger

"You mean it takes the labor of two people to generate that kind of crap?" This was the question Pepper asked in the comments for Auguste's Ghost Blogging post here. Pepper was, of course, talking about Michelle and Jesse Malkin's talking-point turd-polisher of a blog.*

The answer is, apparently, yes. Yes, according to the independent sources Auguste had in his Rolodex before "Ghost Blogging" was posted and yes again, according to the new sources who have come forward since.

According to one source:
Jesse Malkin is the driving force behind Michelle. He is a control freak. Michelle is no innocent victim either. She chose to be with the guy, and apparently they have been successful as this wingnut juggernaut. She needs him as much as he needs her.

It's a match made in heaven, perhaps. Or at Oberlin.

*As opposed to my talking-point turd-polisher of a blog.

III. So What Does it Matter? - Auguste

The most common question asked of me following this post goes a little something like this:
Okay, let's say you're right. What difference does it make?
That's a good question. First of all, as noted in this post by LA, I am right, as has been confirmed by sources who have come forward since the original post. I was cagy about some of the evidence I had for multiple reasons, none of which I'll go into here.

Second, I am not attempting to destroy Michelle's career, nor am I foolish or crazy enough to believe that I could even if I wanted to. Worse has been done than anything I'm suggesting of Michelle by many people. That said, I'd like to suggest a few reasons why this might matter, if only a little.

Disclosure: The Liberal Avenger and I had many discussions about this story prior to its publication, and some of these ideas more likely belong to him - he's already written about some of them in his comments section, as well.

  1. It's the lying.

  2. As I noted in my initial post, Michelle has gone out of her way to promote the idea that she is the sole proprieter of her blog. Perhaps her resolve slipped in recent days, for as LBC noted, the new Immigration Blog lists simply "Malkin" as a byline. It just seems that she's guilty of protesting too much in, without prompting, taking full credit for "her" output. Maybe it's just another right-wing lie, or maybe it's more significant.

  3. It's the scandal.

  4. Michelle has always been very hot on the idea that blogs are home to better reporting than the mainstream media. Well, one of Rick Bragg's biggest transgressions was allowing others to write stories under his byline. If Michelle were to admit that "Michelle Malkin" is a generic byline for both herself and Jesse, then fine. Except, of course...

  5. It's the persona.

  6. A quick glance through Technorati reveals, if one didn't know already, that Michelle is something of a right-wing darling. She's not the only one, on either side, either - this is the age of celebrity journalism. She's bright, photogenic, and talented, and, in my opinion, finds a much more forgiving audience because of it. While, as I noted in my original post and continue to state, I have no doubt that she is responsible for much of what appears under her name, the introduction of Jesse into the equation does tend to confuse the issue.

    This is not to say that opinions are more or less valid coming from a minority female than a white male, or vice versa, although I am sure that is what I will be accused of saying. Rather, it is a statement of fact that the public, en masse, often reacts this way. It seems more than possible that Jesse Malkin, a white male, producing anti-immigrant, racially focused writings, would only ever be a face in the crowd.

  7. It's the questions it raises.

  8. As LA notes:
    Has "Michelle" ever blogged or written about topics related to what Jesse was working on for the government at the think tank while Jesse was still connected with the think tank in any way?
  9. It's none of the above.

  10. At the bottom of all of this is, honestly, "I report - you decide." As I noted on LA's comments thread:
    I chose a topic for a blog...My topic happens to be one particular writer.

    Then I realized my topic is actually two particular writers, so I wrote that.
    Michelle/Jesse love, love, love the idea of bloggers replacing the MSM as the source of investigative reporting. This is just playing by their rules.

IV. Me,me,me - Auguste (8/05 semi-followup)

Far-right affirmative action hire who is so bigoted she'd arrest herself for trying to cross a border. Famously published a book praising internment of Japanese-Americans that was (a) incoherent and (b) probably not written by her. If she didn't have tits, she'd be stuck writing at
Hoo-doggie. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Mithras didn't quite expect the backlash he got from this post (not to say he's upset by it.) Interestingly, it wasn't until just this minute that I even realized that his original post was from a week ago today. Funny how, in a supposedly instantaneous medium such as the Internet, things can take as long as they sometimes do to get rolling.

Case in point: The Liberal Avenger and I wrote our little "ghost blogging" series just over four months ago, and, as an indirect result of Mithras' "probably not written by her", it's just now starting to get the notice of indignant righties. Like some others, I'm not altogether happy with some of his verbiage. Regular readers (thanks guys!) know that I have gone on record as being against the all-too-common ad hominem attacks, not just because they're wrong but because they give the righties permission to be outraged rather than to respond. (I even got in trouble with Atriots/Eschatonians over it, which nobody enjoys.)

"Ghost Blogging" was not an ad hominem attack. It was a confidentially sourced series written by nonjournalists (me, and the Liberal Avenger) reporting facts. It was not embarked upon because she is a woman, or a minority, or a minority woman, as some commenters at Volokh, Alas, a Blog, and probably others, would have it. It is true that I remarked upon the ramifications of a minority woman serving as at least a partial front for xenophobic opinions held by her white husband. But I also said "Don't misunderstand; Michelle is clearly very capable - she wouldn't be able to handle the media as well as she does if she weren't - and certainly is responsible for much of what is written in her name."

Here's a reprint of a comment I wrote defending myself at Volokh:
Well, I didn't come here to get into a rehash of a 4-month-old short post series, but perhaps I misspoke if I led you to believe I was talking about 'secret information.' What I really meant was sources who prefer not to be identified who informed me about, for example, her post of Sept. 8th which was posted while she was on a plane to Berkeley for a speech; pointed out that she posted within minutes of another talk; that "Michelle's" most in-depth posts are often about health care, Jesse's particular area of professional experience; that Jesse has at least once defended something "Michelle" wrote by writing a defensive e-mail to a critic - without her knowledge; that, yes, the royal we has been problematic; that her output is amazing for someone who has repeatedly claimed that she has no help whatsoever; what the topic of her next book would be four months before it was announced; that "Jesse Malkin is the driving force behind Michelle. He is a control freak. Michelle is no innocent victim either. She chose to be with the guy, and apparently they have been successful as this wingnut juggernaut. She needs him as much as he needs her"...all of which were mentioned in my posts - and the Liberal Avenger's - of the time.

This surely sounds defensive, and it probably is. But whatever. Unlike (the) Malkin(s), I don't generally consider myself part of some "new media." I also am not trained, nor do I plan to be, in the proper crediting and/or protocol regarding confidential sources.

That's okay, though, because I'm pretty sure I could open my entire e-mail account for examination and it still wouldn't end this discussion. Hope you all come and visit my blog again.


There. If we're going to reargue this in comments, that's fine, but let's have a realistic starting point.