Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rushing to Judgment and Intimidating Opponents

There are three excellent posts I want to bring to your attention. The first is this one by Bwana, at Renaissance Ruminations. Bwana gives an excellent analysis of a post done back in April by Alton Foley of I’m Not Emeril on the Virginia Tech Tragedy.

Foley, who read an inflammatory opinion by radio host Neil Boortz, questioned why the Virginia Tech students and faculty just lined up like sheep to be executed by Seung Lee Cho. Like Boortz, he asked if it was because they had been so indoctrinated by liberal political correctness they could no longer take simple self-defense measures in a deadly situation with an armed gunman.

As Bwana points out, Boortz was wrong. And therefore so was Foley. Boortz ran with sheer speculation before anybody had the facts. But it suited the “liberals are to blame for every ill in the world” meme and so Foley never bothered to check his source or to check any of the other facts. He simply took it uncritically at face value because it confirmed his own prejudices and he printed it.

But worse, as Bwana also shows, when the facts emerged and proved both Boortz and Foley and all the others who wrote in a similar “blame the victim” mode wrong, nobody retracted. Nobody took down their posts. Nobody admitted they had been mistaken. That’s’ what Bwana faults Foley for.

The whole argument given by those like Foley and Boortz was built on a fragile house of cards: liberal indoctrination rendered the students and faculty unable to defend themselves against a deadly assault.

But when the truth came out that both students and faculty had, in fact, done just that, often sacrificing their own lives so their students or classmates might live, that house of cards collapsed. And the Foleys of the blogosphere never said a simple, “hey, I was wrong.”

Real journalists correct errors and retract false stories all the time. Every newspaper has a page where those retractions are printed routinely. To err is human. To retract is to be a professional reporter.

Then, in this post, on the Richmond Democrat, J.C. Wilmore lays to rest once and for all the myth that students and faculty members were cowards. Indeed, he shows, with numerous instances, that many were in fact genuine heroes, not only fighting back, but also often giving their own lives so that others would survive. It’s a must read because he cites specific examples.

Finally, Wilmore has another great piece on the tactics of some members of the ODBA and how they hounded not just Joe Stanley but also fellow Republicans. He contends that their actions amounted to cyber-stalking. A small cabal of ODBAers (and I’m convinced it’s not all their members either) used tactics of intimidation to slander the campaign manager for Emmett Hanger, Andrew Clem, in his race with Scott Sayer. This particular crew does seem to use scorch the earth tactics even against other members of their own party.

We should all be afraid of that mentality. When intimidating campaign staff and volunteers becomes standard operating procedure, it’s an attack on democracy itself. It’s un-American to create an atmosphere where ordinary citizens fear participating in the election process because they are afraid their good names will be slandered on blogs and they will be stalked by crazy extremists. This is behavior that has its roots in a darker period of human history and must not be tolerated in a modern representative democratic republic. When anybody, Democrat or Republican, is intimidated and threatened, we all become less free.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, AIAW. You have replaced the Daily Whackjob on my favorites list.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thank you.

Lowell said...

This post is a perfect example of why you are the best writer in the Virginia blogosphere.

David Mastio said...

As an old media guy, before I was a new media guy, I agree with much of what you say here. The problem is that laments of "cyber-stalking" and "tactics of intimidation" should not only be directed at ODBA.

I seem to recall that elements of the left of the blogosphere had a great deal of fun unmasking and then hounding a teenage blogger. There was also an earlier instance where left-leaning bloggers went after the employment of a teacher whose blog posting they didn't like. In my own case NLS tried this out when he disagreed with me and went to my employer.

Your most powerful point is this: "It’s un-American to create an atmosphere where ordinary citizens fear participating in the election process because they are afraid their good names will be slandered on blogs and they will be stalked by crazy extremists."

Amen. Let's expand that a bit. Creating such an atmosphere in the blogosphere would be a disaster as well. When the regular people are driven out, all that will be left are the professionals and extremists of each political bent.

The only way to prevent that is for bloggers of the left to call out their side when they step over the line and bloggers of the right to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Mastio=Liar. Good for NLS for going to the Pilot. YOU ARE A F***ING DISGRACE!!!!! If I remember correctly from his post you were asked to stop syndicating his material. Yes, the Pilot should know that you are stealing stuff, and for a newspaper man, especially when you are stealing words.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

anonymous, that is uncalled for. One more attack on David Mastio, and I will delete it and enable blogger moderation.

You can do that to me, but not my guests. If you have issues with Mr. Mastio, you can respond in a civil way and describe them in a logical manner. Don't pull your punches as long as you are sticking to facts.

But I won't allow personal insults on David, Ben, or anybody else who posts here. They will be deleted.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

David, you too have some good points. Overall, those of us who want civility should act in a civil manner and call those who don't for it.

I hope you see the significance that my very first link in this post was to a conservative blogger, who is a member of the OBDA, who called one of his own about that blogger's take on the VT tragedy. Bwana, who pointed out Alton Foley's failure to retract did exactly what we all should do.

But I noticed several prominent members of ODBA who have kept a mile away from all of this. They were not involved in any of the finger pointing nor the disavowals.

It is their right to ignore it. Likewise, some very well respected Democratic bloggers also stayed away.

It could be that in their judgment there were issues, like actual campaigns and current events, that were more important than blog wars. That is their right too.

Nobody has been appointed ombudsman to the whole Virginia blogosphere. And anybody who even attempted to take on that role would have my utmost sympathy.

I think bloggers on both sides who have good will can get past this and do a better job of policing themselves. But I am loathe to heap either collective responsibility or collective guilt on an entire blogosphere.

My one wish, though, is that both sides begin to paint with a finer, thinner brush rather than the broad strokes we sometimes use. And even I've been guilty of it.

Democrats are not "Democrat(ick) and Republicans are not rethuglicans. Both are childish epithets. Just refraining from that might be a start. Even for me, because I too was guilty of it.

Anonymous said...

Richmond Democrat has a great response to Dave Mastio. See http://richmonddemocrat.blogspot.com/2007/08/setting-record-straight-about.html

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thanks, I caught it and I'm about to put up a post about it. JC had a great answer. Context is everything.

And JC gave exactly the kind of polite, respectful answer I'm looking for. Stick to the fact and don't do personal attacks or name calling.

Again, thanks for pointing it out.