"... A few months after Obama left the White House, people are starting to realize there was some strange stuff happening the last few years on Pennsylvania Avenue. The things that seemed to make sense last year—like exchanging Iranian crooks and spies for ordinary American citizens—now look ridiculous. And it’s clear why the deliberate urgency with which the administration messaged its Iran policy had the feel of an advertising campaign—because it was an advertising campaign, crafted to convince consumers that something you think is bad for you is actually good for you.
"To sell something that superficial, the Obama White House needed help from a generation of blogging young guns who were effectively parasitic on the professional reporters who remained in the D.C. press corps. These were the Explainers. Smart, well-read, and glibly cynical in the fashion of recent liberal-arts college graduates, the Explainers had no experience or training in basic journalistic arts, like reporting or interviewing. Because there was no one around to teach this cadre its trade, their role models weren’t war correspondents like John Burns and C.J. Chivers, or dedicated diggers and investigators like David Sanger and Jay Solomon. Nor were they columnists like William Safire, who had high-level experience and dozens or hundreds of high-level sources inside the federal government.
"No, the Explainers competed for the angle—who could frame a subject in the most vitally counterintuitive way that would leave their buddies on Twitter speechless. X reports from the capital of Y that this is happening, and here’s what that really means, bro.
"It wasn’t that long ago, of course, when reporters used to recoil from the idea of rewriting press releases faxed to them by some PR shop, even—or especially—if it was centered in the White House. That’s partly because they were cynical bastards who distrusted authority—also, they resented the PR guys, who were getting paid a lot more than they were. Except now, what reporters and editors who were still around from the old days saw in front of them was a catastrophe that no one could have imagined even five years earlier. Newspapers were closing around the country, and even those papers that managed to survive couldn’t afford the kinds of departments that are central to a free press—like investigative teams, and national and foreign bureaus.
"The new generation of opiners gladly stepped into the cost-cutting breach. Their model was Malcolm Gladwell, a hugely talented and even more hugely successful writer for The New Yorker who became famous by finding the angle on all other angles: Everything you think you know about the world is wrong."