There they go again

There they go again -- the madmen in the Wall Street Journal attic launch another attack on Salon

Published June 22, 1998 7:52PM (EDT)

Our excitable friends over at the Wall Street Journal editorial page are at it again. They have dug up some explosive information about Salon -- and it's much more revealing than their last editorial about us.

Readers will recall that in April, the Journal editorialists fumed about our investigations into key Whitewater witness David Hale, who was the recipient of anti-Clinton payoffs. In trying to touch up the bedraggled reputation of Hale and his patrons, the editorial pointed out that Salon's paid circulation is "zip" -- a piece of information as damaging, in Web terms, as uncovering the fact that NBC's paid viewership is "zip."

But this time, the Journalistas are onto much bigger game. Following hard on the heels of such illustrious Salon critics as the Moonie-owned Washington Times, the far-right Landmark Legal Foundation and the litigation-mad Larry Klayman, the man who once sued his own mother, the Wall Street Journal lashes us for having among our investors a fund formerly chaired by William Hambrecht, the pioneering Silicon Valley venture capitalist. It seems that Hambrecht, who has bankrolled such high-tech institutions as Adobe, Apple, Genentech and Sybase, once hosted a party for Bill Clinton and has donated money to Democratic candidates. This is proof positive, we gather, that we're dancing on the puppet strings of the president and his vast left-wing conspiracy.

These sorts of deterministic, connect-the-dots theories can be fun. We remember our days in college, when Marxist sociology students would spend hours in the campus library, poring over interlocking corporate directorates and spinning out theories of Who Owns America. The trouble, as these angry young scholars learned upon graduation, is that reality is not so neat. And so it is with Salon and its corporate directorate.

The truth is that while Bill Hambrecht once genially shook the hand of this editor, he has had nothing more to do with Salon's management than that. He does not sit on our board. He does not, alas, invite us to his parties. And he most certainly does not use Salon to carry out his political vendettas the way Richard Mellon Scaife used the Wall Street Journal editorial czars' beloved American Spectator magazine.

In fact, Salon's board is a hodgepodge of political affiliations, from Libertarian to Democrat to Republican to Independent. Their only common passion is money, and the fervent hope that Salon makes lots of it.

The Wall Street Journal's extreme-right editorial board, on the other hand, is driven by more ideological passions. This is why little Salon, paid circulation zip, continues to rouse its mighty ire. Our investigative reporting has drawn blood. Because of our stories on Hale, a former Justice Department watchdog has been appointed to investigate Whitewater's star witness. Provoked by coverage in Salon and Steven Brill's new gadfly magazine, Content, the spotlight is at last beginning to fall on Starr's permanent inquisition.

Now that some of the right questions are finally being asked about Starr and his chums in the media, it's time to return to a question we asked when the Journal editorial page first declared war on Salon. How is it that the nation's leading business news publication has allowed its editorial pages to be usurped by such crackpots as Robert Bartley and John Fund, men who have steered the paper resolutely away from the mainstream of business thinking into the misty shores of anti-Clinton lunacy? It's as if the New York Times had handed over its religious coverage to Marshall Applewhite of Heaven's Gate or the Economist had named Ted Kaczynski its business and technology editor. Has the Journal decided that combining its sober reporting with a madman-in-the-attic editorial perspective makes for a compelling circulation strategy? Or is a Marxist study group led by Noam Chomsky stealthily boring from within at the Journal, preparing for the revolution in the most unlikely of places?

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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