Jim Rutenberg’s New York Times profile of Michael Goldfarb casts its subject, quite deservedly, as a conscienceless smear artist. But it oddly ends on a note of grace, quoting BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith semi-apologizing for Goldfarb thusly: “There’s something to be said for stabbing people in the front in a town where everybody goes around all day stabbing each other in the back.”
As a dedicated chest-stabber myself, I applaud the general sentiment but protest its application to Goldfarb, who operates behind shadowy front groups and behind-the-scenes leaks.
For an example of Goldfarb refusing to stab his target in the front, one need look only as far as his quote in the same profile about his absurd Washington Free Beacon report accusing New Republic owner Chris Hughes of purging Jews from the magazine’s staff. (I wrote about the story at the time, though I didn’t name Goldfarb as the author, as he kept his or any byline off the story, which is another thing a front-stabber wouldn’t do.) Goldfarb tells the Times the story “was tongue-in-cheek” and reflected his “sense of humor.”
That’s his defense? It was a joke? Maybe some sort of inscrutable pun?
Now, maybe it was a kind of internal joke among the Free Beacon’s editors, in the same sense that Glenn Beck may be playing a grand joke on an audience stupid enough to take him seriously. But there’s literally nothing in the text of the piece to suggest a raised eyebrow, intentional exaggeration, satire, irony, or anything other than a straightforward accusation of anti-Semitism.
Goldfarb is known in Washington as somebody who craves more respectability than his work would permit, so he places a kind of quotation marks around his lies, to show he’s more clever than all that. I suppose you could debate the relative merits of a dupe versus a grinning smear artist, but in either case, brave is one thing Goldfarb most definitely isn’t.