Mark Leibovich's This Town, released tomorrow, is a chronicle of Washington, D.C.'s political-media class's unparalleled insideriness. Perhaps nothing proves the author's point more than the chatter surrounding the publication of the book. Well before This Town hit shelves, the book's title had become a metonym for the city's particular coziness and self-importance, applied to observations which have nothing to do with the book itself. But this conversation is happening only among insiders who have been following coverage of the book obsessively. The kind who are the target of the book.
On Twitter, #ThisTown has been jokily applied by reporters and politicos tweeting the kind of thing they know (or imagine) a person like Leibovitch might easily skewer. "It's very #ThisTown to muse about Senate decorum and how Reid and McConnell do or don't get along," mused Democratic strategist Greg Pinelo. "Somewhere in #ThisTown, a political columnist is rushing to inject nuance where it's not welcome and doesn't belong. Congress is not a gang," tweeted consultant Robert Caruso. "Want to get some lunch but @DaveWeigel isn’t answering my gchats. #ThisTown," said Slate's Matt Yglesias, who loves the joke. "Ran into @jameshohmann and @JakeSherman as they stocked up for a Phish show. #ThisTown," tweeted Weigel, perhaps referencing an article about a small, insidery listserv of D.C. journalists who love Phish, published on this very D.C.-based site you are now reading. (To be clear, The New Republic's writers are not above #ThisTowning.) Perhaps the clearest example is an article published on The Atlantic's website last week, with a headline and subhead reading "Meanwhile, in the Beltway Bubble: D.C. Is Out of Step With America on Snowden: The former NSA contractor set This Town's teeth on edge, but most Americans think he exposed something worth exposing." A condemnation of Beltway groupthink aimed at an audience of groupthinkers (much like This Town).
The gambit is a self-aware, good-natured one, meant to telegraph we have heard and acknowledge the truth of your accusations. We are not uptight enough to be offended. And yet, in its very self-awareness, it grates. But maybe I just say that because I live in that town, far enough to sneer at this kind of thing but not far enough to escape participating in the meta-awareness of the meta-awareness of the meta-awareness myself. Not far enough away, in other words, to escape the giant sinkhole that must be forming from the northeast corridor's media coverage collapsing in on itself.