Monday, February 12, 2007

The real trouble with Amanda

In blog-time, the story is supposed to be over, but local blogger Jay Bullock still thinks he's fisking Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Patrick McIlheran over the l'affaire Amanda. I think the story is interesting because of what it says about our political culture, John Edwards and blogging.

Much of the defense of Amanda Marcotte revolves around criticism of Bill Donohue, a prominent Marcotte critic who accuses her of being "anti-Catholic" in particular and who is himself often intemperate, although not in the un-hinged way that was a staple of Marcotte's work on Pandagon. Folks also point out that John McCain has hired a blogger named Patrick Hynes who has posted some juvenile things about the physical appearance of certain Democrats and who is supposed to have written some equally offensive things about other peoples religions, although, again, they are just not Marcottean.

I think Donohue is fair game for criticism - not the least because he buys into the victimization game played on the left. He has no problem with political correctness - he just wants it to include Catholics. I don't think I am a fan of Patrick Hynes but I've yet to see anything that allows me to conclude that he has dumped the kind of bile that Marcotte has.

In that connection, it is important to understand what the problem with Amanda really is. It is not that she uses profanity. I don't do it here, but people who know me could tell you that the "f-word" does pass my lips (although generally not as adjective attached to another person). That contributes to the heat of her posts, but that - in and of itself - is not the problem.

It's not that she is particularly anti-Catholic. That's Bill Donohue's trip. She can't stand any form of orthodox Christianity.

It is not that she is "critical" of Christians and conservatives - or even that she makes fun of them. It is that one cannot help but conclude that she hates - really hates - these people. That this animosity finds a large audience that mistakes it for wit and erudition does say something about our political culture - at least in the blogosphere. (I am sure there are examples on the right.)Amanda Marcotte is someone who built a reputation and got hired by a national presidential campaign for throwing overwrought (and occasionally clever) temper tantrums in public. This is, I think, consistent with an increased cultural tendency to see anger as admirable.

Jay and conservative blogger Sean Hackbarth suggest that this is ok (although I'm fairly certain that neither would do it) in the blogosphere. Sean writes that "[o]ur behavior changes when we are in a professional environment versus the safer confines of friends and family." But, of course, the blogosphere is not limited to one's friends and family and acting like it is contributes to the mainstream media disdain for bloggers that Sean object to. More fundamentally, for Amanda Marcotte, the blogosphere was her professional environment. If you want to use blogging to get a new gig, then you have to accept responsibility for how you blog.

And John Edwards has to accept responsibility for who he hires. There is really no way to deny that had Marcotte launched that type of vitriol against groups that are favored on the left, there would be a huge clamor for her head. (If you don't believe me, imagine her delightful little post about Rick Santorum's alleged "frustration" and his supposed desire for his senate desk morphed into a comparably crude attack on Barney Frank.) It would not be dismissed as "satire."

The leftroots thrives on the expression of anger at - and hatred for - the political right. This feeds a sense of moral and political superiority. Although I think this tendency is far more pronounced on the left (at least while the Republicans have the White House), I don't deny it exists on the right as well. But John Edwards has reached out and hired - for a very public position - someone (actually two someones) whose sole qualification is the capacity to stoke it. He wants to be President of the United States. He doesn't get a free pass on that.


Jay Bullock said...

Question: Who is worse, someone who dislikes (hates, even) religious people but is willing to stop writing about it to focus on policy for her candidate; or, someone who has no particular problem with religious people but is willing to slander them under the employ of--or even at the direction of--his candidate?

My problem with McIlheran is not that he dislikes what Amdanda and Melissa McEwan wrote--I'm not their biggest fans, either--but rather that he joyfully forgives in his partisan fellows faults he criticizes in the opposing side. That strays beyond the bounds of journalistic ethics (even for an op-edist) and into propaganda. The professional media should not be subsidizing that.

Further, when the editorial board on which he sits okayed Dale Reich's childish and spiteful attack on atheism in the state's largest daily paper, and he let it go without a word, he lost his standing to complain about childish and spiteful attacks on Catholicism. That's what gets me.

Dad29 said...

Logic 101 failure-mode present here.

Rick Esenberg said...

First of all, unless you are aware of something that I am not aware of and that you did not link to, Hynes didn't slander religious people and nothing that he wrote rises to the level of the unreflective and hateful hysteria that was, not an isolated, but a regular feature of Marcotte's work. Making fun of Henry Waxman's looks and suggesting that evangelicals may be reluctant to support a Mormon candidate is not the equivalent of suggesting that the Pope decides on doctrine for the purpose of the oppressing women, that Rick Santorum wants to screw his desk, that the Bush administration "wanted" to get rid of New Orleans, etc. The equivalence that you posit is not there and, even if it was, the topic here is Amanda Marcotte. If you all want to go after John McCain for hiring Patrick Hynes, go at it. Maybe you can make a case, although I sure haven't seen it yet.

As far as Dale's piece goes, I am unaware that McIlheran had anything to do with the community columnist pieces. Back when I was doing them, we submitted to Mabel Wong and copied Ricardo Pimentel. If it should have been spiked (and I don't think it should have been), I think it would have been their call; I doubt the whole editorial board read our pieces (or I hope so, for their sakes).

Dale was trying to raise a fairly old issue of the source of morality in the absence of God and, in my view, did a very poor job of it. I haven't gone back and read it, but I do not recall that it was hateful. Marcotte's work is.

Question: What kind of candidate selects a person, not to focus on policy, but to blog and whose chops as a blogger are based upon uninformed rants that rile up the radical (not merely liberal) left?
I think the answer is: one who thinks he can benefit from that type of bile and wants to court the type of people who think it passes for discourse. That's absolutely John Edwards' right, but there really is nothing unprofessional or unfair about calling him on it.

Timbercake said...

Great post! I agree that the leftroots have morphed into something that they originally condemned. They (Daily Kos and MyDD in particular) have become the cocky elitists that they once detested.