February 07, 2007


The blogger dust-up over John Edwards choice of campaign bloggers has hit the mainstream media, as at least one radio station in Raleigh has pounced upon the foul language and anti-Catholic rants of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, of liberal blogs Pandagon and Shakespeare's Sister, respectively.

John M. Broder of the NY Times is on the case as well:

Two bloggers hired by John Edwards to reach out to liberals in the online world have landed his presidential campaign in hot water for doing what bloggers do — expressing their opinions in provocative and often crude language.

The Catholic League, a conservative religious group, is demanding that Mr. Edwards dismiss the two, Amanda Marcotte of the Pandagon blog site and Melissa McEwan, who writes on her blog, Shakespeare’s Sister, for expressing anti-Catholic opinions.

Mr. Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, is among the leading Democratic presidential candidates.

That last sentence is sure to elicit a giggle here in North Carolina, where Edwards is widely reviled by many. But I digress.

Why are these two bloggers under fire? In Marcotte's case specifically, it is for her stupifyingly ignorant and inflammatory remarks about the lacrosse rape case in particular, along with a general predisposition towards profanity-laced, intolerant rants on various subjects. For McEwan, it seems directed at her profanity-laced intolerant rants in general.

The Times article again, talking about Marcotte:

The two women brought to the Edwards campaign long cyber trails in the incendiary language of the blogosphere. Other campaigns are likely to face similar controversies as they try to court voters using the latest techniques of online communication.

Ms. Marcotte wrote in December that the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to the use of contraception forced women "to bear more tithing Catholics." In another posting last year, she used vulgar language to describe the church doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

She has also written sarcastically about the news media coverage of the three Duke lacrosse players accused of sexual assault, saying: "Can't a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair."

Of course, the Times has chosen to present only her cleanest language: much of what Marcotte typically writes cannot be aired among civil and polite people. Her actual comment about the Immaculate Conception was this (h/t Patterico):

Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?

A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.

Nice. McEwan, as I noted earlier, is cut from much the same cloth:

Ms. McEwan referred in her blog to President Bush's "wingnut Christofascist base" and repeatedly used profanity in demanding that religious conservatives stop meddling with women's reproductive and sexual rights. Multiple postings use explicit and inflammatory language on a variety of issues.

I don't think you need to see any direct quotes from her blog to get the point.

Depending on their differing perspectives, bloggers on the right and left are approaching the story quite differently.

Michelle Malkin has thus far "vented" on Marcotte not once, but twice. Hanging Marcotte with her own words is not only sport, it's easy sport, and Michelle is by no means the only blogger on the right taking issue with Edward's blogger; libertarians and conservatives alike have pounded her in a decidedly non-procreative way.

Liberal bloggers seem to be approaching this story as a tempest in a teapot. In general, they seem to be taking the position that a compliant media is doing the will of the conservative and libertarian blogosphere ("swiftboating", a term the left uses to disparage those who dare look at someone's track record of past performance), that the profanity issued forth on Pandagon, Shakespeare's Sister, and other liberal blogs is the main issue and really, no big deal; it isn't like those christofascist fringe right fundamentalists that consider women brood animals would vote for Edwards anyway.

In my completely humble opinion, they just don't get it.

Boiled down to its purest form, national politics is a popularity contest where something less than have of the population is going to dislike a candidate for simply belonging to particular party, while something less than the other half is going to accept the candidate for the same reason. Whether that candidate goes to Washington or end up in the Old Politician's Home depends largely on attracting the significant minority in the middle who have either not made up their minds, have an open mind, or can be persuaded to change their minds to support a certain candidate.

William Donahue and the Catholic League are bomb-throwers in their own right, as several of the liberal bloggers commenting on this story rightly observe, but that is also completely irrelevant. Bill Donahue is not trying to win anyone's nomination to be a candidate for President. John Edwards is, and he hired a pair of bloggers that are "easy pickings."

Is it fair to judge Marcotte and McEwan for their past comments? Shouldn't people instead just focus on their current work for the Edwards campaign? Oh, it would be nice in an ideal world if our track records weren't used to judge our future performances, but out here in the real world, where people hire you based upon the premise that past performance indicates your future successes (or failures), that simply isn't the case.

The Edwards campaign should have been cognizant of the liabilities of hiring these two particular bloggers, as they are indeed perfect examples of a very popular subset of liberal bloggers that have produced a body of work that will offend many of those potential voters who have not made up their minds, have an open mind, or can be persuaded to change their minds to vote for Edwards in the Democratic primaries. That the "wingnut Christofascist base"—liberal code for Republican conservatives—are not going to be voting in the Democratic primaries is completely irrelevant.

Democrats, many of whom are conservatives, and a majority of which are Christians and "breeders", are going to be choosing the Democratic Presidential candidates. Most of them don't read blogs, but many do read the newspapers, and they are likely to be offended that Edwards hired a pair of bloggers that mock their core values with the strongest possible language.

The kind of derisive language Marcotte, McEwan and her fellow travelers is widely accepted in their reality-based online community, but it is shocking enough to the supermajority of Americans that have never read a liberal blog, that even an ABC News blog questioned whether or not Marcotte's comments qualify as hate speech, and whether or not hiring Marcotte and McEwan means Edwards condones such speech. Fair or not, many people formerly in that potential pool of Edwards voters are going to make the judgement that Marcotte's and McEwan's comments are condoned by Edwards because he hired them. At least some of those people are now probably lost to the Edwards campaign, as judged by comments like these at the ABC blog:

Hate speech is hate speech, whether from a democrat or a republican. You learn a lot about a person by watching the people they associate with. Marcotte's comments say something about her, and a lot about Edwards.

Posted by: Leonard | Feb 6, 2007 7:34:32 PM

* * *

Of course she has a right to say this juvenile stuff, but the question is, does it show good judgement on the part of the Edwards campaign to hire someone like this?
Believe me, I'm hoping he keeps these bloggers on the payroll. This can and be used against him now and further into the campaign.

Posted by: Brian | Feb 7, 2007 10:50:28 AM

* * *
...Look, I am not easily offended. I love South Park, don't have any problem with their irreverent Jesus parody (and I am a Christian). But this person's description of the immaculate conception is just WAY over the line. There is irreverent and then there is crude disrespect.
Does she have the right to write it? Of course, this is the internet. Will I be contributing to Edwards' campaign, as I did in '04? No way. Not if this is the type of person he chooses to surround himself with.

Posted by: Ron C | Feb 7, 2007 11:36:40 AM

At best, a campaign blog can moderately help a candidate. At worst, it can be a debilitating side issue detracting from overall message discipline, and making people focus on rhetorical garbage and hatred that the candidate (rightly or wrongly) seems to condone.

Edwards made a bad choice in hiring McEwan and Marcotte, and is now reaping a media firestorm for not properly vetting his potential blogging staff. There are certainly articulate, thoughtful bloggers bloggers on the left far better qualified to hold these positions. Dave Johnson, I think, at Seeing the Forest may fit the bill for this kind of position, and I'm sure there is at least one other liberal blogger out there capable of holding a position without harboring such hate in their hearts.

Let me know when they find 'em.

Update: Godbags successful in crushing those speaking truth to power.

Truth be told, I'm kind of sad to see this happen. The Edwards campaign obviously didn't vet these two before offering them jobs. Firing them because of the the campaign's sloppiness in vetting their employees seems somewhat unfair. I'm not sure if McEwan has much lost over this, but Marcotte apparently moved across the country for this, and this will end up costing her real money.

Anyone know where she can find a good lawyer?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at February 7, 2007 12:28 PM

You can take the measure of someone by the company they keep.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at February 7, 2007 02:27 PM

Their reputation on the blogs wouldn't be an issue if they were hired for something like assistant schedule keeper. But they were hired for their writing abilities, for the skills they have as bloggers, so their reputations as bloggers is going to be very pertinant.

That's the way the world works.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at February 7, 2007 03:36 PM

and this will end up costing her real money.

Too bad. "Free speech" does not mean free from consequences. That's a hard lesson for some people to learn.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at February 7, 2007 04:43 PM

Purple Avenger, thanks you beat me to it. Lesson learned by adults: THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO YOUR ACTIONS AND WORDS! if you haven't yet learned that lesson you are either immature or extremely lucky. Regardless, learning this lesson can be painful. Later in life the pain can be extreme.

She can pay her own way.

Posted by: CoRev at February 7, 2007 08:40 PM

Doncha think that just maybe she got some major severance money? Moved across the country? I'm betting you can safely call it an all-expense-paid luxury class vacation and a huge payday (not counting future talkshow honoraria and free publicity) in exchange for an interview or two.

Will Edwards at some point have to disclose what if anything his campaigned paid Marcotte and the other one? Is there a separate category for "hush money"? Or what kind of non-disclosure statements might she have signed ahead of time?

Posted by: Police Commissioner Hakim Hussein at February 7, 2007 09:06 PM

Man, I have been taking a dumpster dive around the leftosphere, and they should look up Mark Twain's saying about that river in Egypt. They really just do not get, or, do not want to get, what the issue is about. We on the right would not approve of some rightosphere blogger who wrote like those at pendagon, and would rightly call out the candidate who hired them.

With the leftards, it is a badge of honor to write like that.

Posted by: William Teach at February 7, 2007 09:23 PM

Ditto, CY. Donohue is a bomb thrower alright. Something tells me he would have no problem throwing a bomb in a black church, or a gay night club for that matter.

"Catholic League president Bill Donohue said lesbians were 'something I'd expect to see in an asylum, frankly' when he spoke to Justice Sunday, a gathering of far-right evangelical Christian activists."

Nothing but racists and homophobes. Nothing but.

Posted by: mkultra at February 7, 2007 11:41 PM

The KKK were the church burners. There's still one in the senate I'm told.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at February 8, 2007 12:00 AM

Hey Bob, when you say "libertarians and conservatives alike have pounded her in a decidedly non-procreative way," are you saying that Marcotte has been gang-sodomized by your crew? Why, I declare, how rude, sir! Such tawdry language!

I expect a full post deriding McCain's choice of a blogger. Oh,, I don't.

Posted by: Taste the Cheesesteak at February 8, 2007 12:15 AM

Donohue thinks it would be best to lock lesbians up in asylums.

Who cares? That ain't gonna happen. If he wants to bark at the moon, that's OK by me.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at February 8, 2007 02:50 AM