Inflamatory Rhetoric Watch

I've been watching the Edwards blogger flap (Edwards Learns Campaign Blogs Can Cut 2 Ways) with great interest, but haven't blogged it because I had nothing interesting to say.

It seems the Edwards staff hired to hard-charging feminist bloggers to help the campaign (which has a big blog operation of its own), but didn't vet them as well as it should have. As bloggers sometimes do, they'd each said a bunch of dumb stuff. There were not only rude words but intemperate opinions.

Edwards himself had no role in the hiring and had never even met them — the campaign staff is already that big? — until the flap was well under way. At that point he found himself caught between the right-wing spin machine which was seeking scalps, and a very strong push from his early supporters and from the liberal side of the blogging community which wanted him to condemn this piece of what they somewhat mistakenly called Swift Boating (it was somewhat mistaken because while exaggerated, the charges against the bloggers had some more truth at their core than did the Swift Boat smears of Kerry). At least one of the new staffers had quit her job and moved hundred of miles to join the campaign, so any firing had a real human cost.

Edwards waited 36 hours before deciding, apparently so he could meet the people before making a decision — which could be spun as slow, unprepared, and indecisive, or as a resolute and patient commitment to doing the right thing on his own time.

And in the end, Edwards did something right: condemning the sins, but not the sinners.

You could say this is a sign that the blogs are flexing their muscles. Or that Edwards caved in to the left wing. Or that the right wing's Mighty Wurlitzer (where smears start on the fringe and work their way into the mainstream) is losing its power to mesmerize Democrats. Or that Edwards is a thoughtful guy who wanted to look the two staff people in the eye, and hear them out personally, before trashing their lives and possibly careers.

But here's why I mention it now: I couldn't help but wonder, what if it were me? Not that I have any plans or desires to leave academe, but suppose someone were mad enough to appoint me to the modern equivalent of the Board of Tea Experts (now defunct). What, I wonder, is the most incendiary thing that I've blogged (or published elsewhere) that could be quoted in or out of context to make me look bad (fairly or unfairly)?

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11 Responses to Inflamatory Rhetoric Watch

  1. quimba says:

    If considered for a position in or around the administration, I’m pretty sure that you would be accused of being an extremist, based not on any particular opinion but on your reiterated use in this blog of the word “lie” in connection with Bush and several of his officers. Please note that I don’t think that calling a lie a lie is extremist, nor do I believe that you have ever used the word falsely or recklessly, but its the kind of thing that I’m afraid that US official politics considers taboo nowadays.

  2. LACJ says:

    Yes. It has nothing to do with what the bloggers wrote, they smear anyone they want to for anything, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Just look at the accuser…

    And it ties in well with their victimization complex, as well as the holier-than-thou complex.

    Michael I have not read the offending passages but I do not particularly like your perhaps pejorative characterization. The issue here should not be the rightness or wrongness of their ideas or expressions at all, and any mild agreement with the idea that they could be blamed, in some small way, for what they wrote just makes it harder to push back. The focus should not be on the content of their writings at all, but on the absolutely repulsive hypocrisy of the right wing moralists who raise and propagate this noise.

  3. Michael says:

    I actually don’t have a problem with the idea that people should be held to account for what they say and write, assuming it’s done fairly and in context. (I also tend to give credit for people’s explanations and retractions since (1) I understand full well how easy it is to give an unintended impression, (2) retractions are a healthy part of scholarly and political debate — if one person persuades another, that’s often progress.)

    In fact, I’m uncomfortable with the “free pass” idea that people (be it Limbaugh or Malkin or Chomsky) ) can say any horrible thing they like and no one should hold them to account for it. So I don’t, in the abstract, see a problem with holding bloggers (and others) up for critique — and asking for explanations (or even apologies) for what they say or have said.

  4. Marcotte and McEwan are much ado about nothing. What is something raises questions of ethics. Politicians hiring bloggers to promote them with no disclosure of the relationship.

  5. Michael says:

    Since they were on staff, and they announced the hiring, as did the campaign, when it happened, there is no ethical issue of that sort … for the Edwards campaign.

    I think you have the Edwards staffers confused with Patrick Hynes who was secretly on McCain’s payroll while blogging about him.

  6. paperwight says:

    I think you have the Edwards staffers confused with Patrick Hynes who was secretly on McCain’s payroll while blogging about him.

    Or maybe the South Dakota Republoggers who Republican Senate Candidate John Thune paid, so they would praise him and attack the local media without disclosing their relationship?

    Or maybe some of the talking heads on TV who don’t disclose their relationships to political figures. E.G. Tucker Carlson, whose dad is on the advisory board of the Scooter Libby defense fund.

    Whoopsie!

  7. Mark R. says:

    The real problem is the ill-advised and totally useless hiring of any blogger by a presidential (or any) campaign in the first instance. What benefit does Edwards derive from having obviously biased flacks posting nifty, glowing soundbites on his own website, just so that people with names like “HopefulOkie” and “ThunderHawk” can ramble and misspell their way through their own incoherent musings on unrelated topics? Are these people even voters? In the U.S.? Nobody knows….

    No matter what arguments can be made for the merits of official campaign blogs, we now certainly know the dangers.

  8. “If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him.” – Cardinal Richelieu

    Michael, I’m fairly sure that if the smear machine pored through your blog, they could find something with which to label you a “terrorist sympathizer”. Then the pundit rules of moral equivalence would be invoked, and you’d see “moderate” articles along the lines like “Although Froomkin has been at times too sympathetic to terrorists, the charges of treason are out of place”.

    Lani Guinier’s work on voting getting her Swift-Boated as a “quota queen” springs to mind.

    Here, I just grabbed a popular post:

    http://www.discourse.net/archives/2004/06/apologia_pro_tormento_analyzing_the_first_56_pages_of_the_walker_working_group_report_aka_the_torture_memo.html

    “If anyone in the higher levels of government acted in reliance on this advice, those persons should be impeached. If they authorized torture, it may be that they have committed, and should be tried for, war crimes. And, as we learned at Nuremberg, “I was just following orders” is NOT (and should not be) a defense.”

    Frookin compared the Bush adminstration to the Nazis and called for their trial as war criminals!

  9. “If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him.” – Cardinal Richelieu

    Michael, I’m fairly sure that if the smear machine pored through your blog, they could find something with which to label you a “terrorist sympathizer”. Then the pundit rules of moral equivalence would be invoked, and you’d see “moderate” articles along the lines like “Although Froomkin has been at times too sympathetic to terrorists, the charges of treason are out of place”.

    Lani Guinier’s work on voting getting her Swift-Boated as a “quota queen” springs to mind.

    Here, I just grabbed a popular post:

    http://www.discourse.net/archives/2004/06/apologia_pro_tormento_analyzing_the_first_56_pages_of_the_walker_working_group_report_aka_the_torture_memo.html

    “If anyone in the higher levels of government acted in reliance on this advice, those persons should be impeached. If they authorized torture, it may be that they have committed, and should be tried for, war crimes. And, as we learned at Nuremberg, “I was just following orders” is NOT (and should not be) a defense.”

    Frookin compared the Bush adminstration to the Nazis and called for their trial as war criminals!

  10. Michael says:

    Well, I did use the word if. And as far as I know, we have yet to find the smoking gun for any of these possibilities — Rumsfeld perhaps excepted.

  11. Faux News exclusive: “As the controversial nominee Froomkin lamely tried to back away from his own explosive alleged terrorist sympathy writings – “Well, I did use the word if“, he offered as a defense – more evidence emerged as to his radical extremism. His blog contains articles with titles such as “Alberto Gonzales Memo: Paving the Way for War Crimes?” and “Further Evidence Rumsfeld Implicated in War Crimes”. One article approvingly features a poster “Wanted: George W. Bush – For Crimes Against Humanity And The Planet”. Some of his writings bristle with wild accusations bordering on incitement to overthrow the US government (“How many fraud stories leaning the same way, in how many states, does it take before the validity of this election is so much in doubt that we need to ask if we still have a democracy in the real sense of the word? And if we should conclude that we have failed Benjamin Franklin’s test — a Republic, if you can keep it — then what do we do?”). Perhaps that sort of fringe frothing is par for the course in the ivory towers of academe, and freedom protects even those who hate America – but a tenured radical like him has no right to the position he now seeks!”

    References:

    http://www.discourse.net/archives/2006/04/further_evidence_rumsfeld_implicated_in_war_crimes.html

    http://www.discourse.net/archives/2004/05/alberto_gonzales_memo_paving_the_way_for_war_crimes.html

    http://www.discourse.net/archives/2005/01/war_crimes_trials_a_cloud_on_the_horizon.html

    http://www.discourse.net/archives/2004/10/what_if_the_real_polls_dont_matter.html

    [Umm, disclaimer just in case – this is humor. Of a sort. Funny because it’s true. And remember, I’m not even an expert in Swift-Boating. I’m sure the people who do this for a living could do a much better job.]

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