February 08, 2007
It appears that the Marcotte/McEwan/Edwards blog controversy has entered a second day with little letup in the comments coming from both the right and the left.
For those of you just coming around to this story, the John Edwards campaign hired a pair of comically stereotypical feminist bloggers (on who's advice, no one will say), Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister, respectively. Once hired, some conservative and libertarian bloggers began bringing to light some of the previous posts written by these bloggers (focusing on Marcotte in particular), many of which are offensive to those outside of the insular world of far-left political blogging. A right-wing bigot by the name of Bill Donahue began calling for their heads for comments written by these two that he said were anti-Catholic, these comments hit the New York Times, and the brouhaha went mainstream.
By late yesterday afternoon, word leaked out that Marcotte and McEwan had been fired by the Edwards campaign...or not.
There have been a lot of pixels slung around on both sides in the blogosphere over this one, but I've been particularly fascinated at the response thus far from the liberal blogs trying to close ranks around Marcotte and McEwan.
Some are attempting to the "right-wing character assassination machine" for the issue being raised. Others are declaring a "rightwing Swiftboat-style attack" on the two bloggers. Another claims that the "smear train" has been fired up.
My, how the goalposts have changed.
According to Wikipedia, character assassination can be defined as:
Character assassination is an intentional attempt to influence the portrayal or reputation of a particular person, whether living or a historical personage, in such a way as to cause others to develop an extremely negative, unethical or unappealing perception of him or her. By its nature, it involves deliberate exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person...
In practice, character assassination usually consists of the spreading of rumors and deliberate misinformation on topics relating to one's morals, integrity, and reputation.
Also according to Wikipedia, "swiftboating" can be defined as:
Swiftboating is American political jargon for an ad hominem attack against a public figure coordinated by an independent or pseudo-independent group, usually resulting in a benefit to an established political force.
This form of attack is controversial, easily repeatable, and difficult to verify or disprove because it is generally based on personal feelings or recollections...
"Smear train" and other assertions made on the left to describe this conflagration are not so easy to define, so let's focus on whether or not the allegations of "character assassination" and swiftboating" really apply to this case.
Character assassination requires "deliberate exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person," and "usually consists of the spreading of rumors and deliberate misinformation on topics relating to one's morals, integrity, and reputation."
That is clearly not in evidence in this instance; Marcotte has been hoisted on her proverbial petard for her own controversial words, not for the words of others. The only possible claim of manipulation that can be made is that some critics have chosen to publish shorter excerpts of her commentary for the sake of brevity. Her comments, however have not been taken out of context, and a reader disturbed by her excerpted comments will be no less offended if they read the entire post in its entirety. In some instances, the full posts only serves to make Marcott'e comments more appalling to those offended by the excerpts. These comments made by Marcotte reflect her own, true feelings, as written by her own hand. A review of her comments resulted not in character assassination, but character definition. Charges of character assassination are completely false.
What about the charge of "swiftboating?"
The charges against Marcotte and McEwan are neither "difficult to verify or disprove." We have permalinks to what Marcotte haven't erased, and the rest is captured in the Google cache. The greatest damage done, clearly has been from a spotlight being cast on their own freely-given words. These words are, however, clearly based upon their own personal feelings, so one could presumably make the argument that they "swiftboated" themselves.
Other liberal bloggers have complained that Marcotte and McEwan have complained that the rantings on their personal blogs does not indicate in any way how they may perform as part of the Edwards campaign. It is of course true, but that was not the argument they were making when they pilloried Ben Domenech for the plagiarism he commited prior to joining the Washington Post as a blogger.
As a matter of fact, Media Matter's own David Brock stated:
...with each hour bringing new evidence of Domenech's racially charged rhetoric and homophobic bigotry, the time has come for the Post to end its ill-conceived relationship with Domenech. Examples of Domenech's views include:
- In a February 7 post on RedState, Domenech wrote that he believed people should be "pissed" that President Bush attended "the funeral of a Communist" -- referring to the funeral for Coretta Scott King. As you know, labeling the King family "communists" was a favorite tool of the racists who opposed them. In another RedState post, Domenech compared "the Judiciary" unfavorably to the Ku Klux Klan.
- In still another RedState comment, Domenech posted without comment an article stating that "[i]t just happens that killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime" and that "[w]hite racists have reason to be grateful for what is sometimes still called the civil rights leadership" because black leaders "are overwhelmingly in support" of abortion rights.
- In yet another, Domenech wrote that conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, "needs a woman to give him some stability."
Domenech has also been caught at least once apparently fabricating a quote. A June 20, 2002, Spinsanity.org entry demonstrated that Domenech made up a quote he attributed to Tim Russert in order to defend President Bush.
In a post on RedState.com, Domenech once agreed with a commenter who called Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin "an embarrassment to the saner heads at the paper."
It is time for "saner heads" to prevail. Will The Washington Post honor its history as one of America's most respected news organizations -- or will it stand with Ben Domenech, tacitly endorsing his assault on Coretta Scott King, his offensive suggestion that a gay man "needs a woman," and his fabrication of a quote?
America is watching.
David Brock seemed very concerned about the rhetoric and bigotry of Domenech, even moreso than his plagiarism, if his letter can be believed. He and his fellow liberals were quite against what they construed as hate speech then.
Funny how Brock and other liberals don't seem to have a problem with the incendiary rhetoric and the readily apparent bigotry of two of their own, now.
Update: Edwards is not firing Marcotte and McEwan.
I lack the words to fully express just how devilishly amusing this is to me.
Luckily, Jeff G. captures the essence of this debacle perfectly:
But lost on these Marcotte supporters—who are cheering on the power of the “netroots” to cow a politician into keeping on an ugly and hateful liability—is that Edwards just showed up Marcotte and McEwan as frauds and posturing blowhards, writers who have been pulling the wool over their audiences’ eyes by posting vicious “arguments” they never truly believed. To use the loaded language of establishment feminism—he publicly castrated them—and in so doing, he made fools out of their audiences, to boot.
Further, in doing so, he has shown himself to be nothing more than a calculating political opportunist of the worst sort—one who believes the voting public so daft they might actually buy a statement like the one he just released.
As I wrote yesterday, I don’t care one way or the other, personally, about whether or not Marcotte and McEwan are allowed to keep their josb. That’s Edwards’ call. And from a blogging perspective, I suppose Edwards’ decision is good news.
But let’s not confuse the effect with the rationale—which is both risible and insulting. Because were it really never Marcotte’s intent to malign anyone’s faith, she probably wouldn’t have dedicated so many hate-filled blog posts to, you know—maligning anyone’s faith.
Of course it was her intent. Just as it was McEwan’s intent. And worst of all, Edwards knows it. That he has pretended to take the two at their word, in an ostentatious gesture of “trust,” is precisley the kind of staged treacle that makes people doubt the sincerity of politicians; and that both Marcotte and McEwan have assured their own personal Patriarch that they’ll behave, now that he’s promoted them to the grownups’ table, is, to put it bluntly, one of the most pathetic public surrenderings of personal integrity I’ve ever seen.
Seriously. We should feel bad for them.
That is, were we to actually believe they meant any of it. Because how this plays out for the netroots is this way: either they are cheering on an ideological sellout, or they are knowingly and happily embracing an opportunistic liar. So. Congrats to them. Once again, they’ve covered themselves in white hot sticky glory!
There is more, of course, so be sure to read the whole thing.
My take away on this is that Marcotte, McEwan, and Edwards will say or do anything it takes to attempt to preserve their limited relevance. Once the primary season is over, Marcotte's and McEwan's futile efforts will be forgotten, but their willingness to prostitute their principles for a furtive brush with greatness will last far, far longer.
At least Edwards will still have nice hair.