Skip to main content

This dairy is far from a callout of Richard Cranium, who has presented a strong piece in support of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan entitled We are all Melissa and Amanda.  I don't believe in beating a dead horse, and have considered and rejected the idea of posting a diary on this subject a couple times since the story broke.  But I've got PLENTY to say, almost none of it in agreement with Cranium's assessment... So please watch your step as you cross the fold...

First of all, when you've been blogging, you've got a record, visible to anyone who cares to look, sitting right out there on the internet; if you're going to take on a paid gig for a high-profile candidate, you better be prepared to stand strongly behind everything you've written, or you better be prepared to issue strong, unequivocal apologies for stuff that you wrote on a day when you weren't at your best.  If you apologize, you put your campaign job in the hands of your candidate... if he/she ask you to step down, you do so without question; if they ask you to stay, you thank them for their support, you dig your heels in, you brace yourself for a bumpy ride, and you tough it out.

Okay, so let's say it's me... let's say that Bill Richardson hires me on to work on his campaign.  Then, just days after I'm hired, some limelight-seeking character assassin scours my comments and comes up with this comment I made shortly after joining, where I applied a sexist label to a Republican Congresswoman:

The only person with a shorter career? (10+ / 0-)

Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who I saw sworn into the House today on CSPAN... she started gushing about how she was so anxious to get to know people, get down to work, get a lot accomplished... so I was thinking, "this can't possibly be the same b*tch that lost Delay's old seat, can it?" One and the same. To hear her talk you'd think she'd won a lifetime appointment instead of 2 weeks in the lame duck session of the worst congress ever and a one way ticket back to Texas...

by skymutt on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 02:58:46 AM EDT

Suddenly this comment is all over the press and my candidate must address the issue.  I have a choice: stand by the sexist comment, or apologize.  I choose to apologize:

I wish to sincerely apologize to Mrs. Sekula-Gibbs and her family for my use of an ugly and sexist slur that doesn't reflect me at my best.  I do not know Mrs. Sekula-Gibbs personally and I hold no ill will towards her.   I hope she will accept my apology for any unwanted publicity she has received as a result of my thoughtless comment.

In addition, I wish to apologize to everyone else who has been offended by my sexist remark.  I have not used this slur since and it is does not reflect me or my normal vocabulary.

I have already apologized to Governor Richardson for my unprofessional past comment.  He has accepted my apology and refused my offer to resign, for which I am grateful.  I intend to continue to offer Governor Richardson my best efforts in his campaign for the presidency.

Notice that my apology is unequivocal-- no half apology, no dig at the the character assassin, no mention of the character assassin at all.  No forward-looking or confident statement at the end.  This is strictly an apology-- nothing more, nothing less.

Of course, this is not the end of the matter, far from it!  The right wing character assassination machine is smelling blood-- apologies mean nothing to them.  Worse, the really nutty (perhaps dangerous) fringe right wing wackos are in a frenzy.  I'm getting hate mail, hateful phone calls, people are picketing the office where I work... a real mess. Do I quit?

NO. I owe it to my candidate to work through the situation to the best of my ability.  My candidate has shown a great deal of support for me by accepting my apology. Whatever hit he's going to take for keeping me on staff, he's already accepted by not immediately firing me.  I therefore have to trust his judgment in the matter and try to make things right by showing my character in a tough moment.

The phone calls don't stop.  I get a death threat.  Do I quit?

NO.  What I am going to do is to call the police and let them handle it.  Hopefully, they can track the idiots down and I would be more than willing to press charges; maybe a little prison time will give them a chance to think things over.  Death threats are serious stuff, and I'd probably be extremely upset, and more than a little scared.  But I need to do what I can to make sure that those cowards who are issuing death threats don't win-- and if I quit, they win.  They'll be right there to issue death threats to the next person.

Remember, we are talking about electing a President here... could the stakes be much higher?  We have a war going on, and a whole host of other critical issues facing us.  Your candidate is going to be putting out all kinds of fires for two years-- if your candidate can't handle a controversy like this, maybe he/she is not the right person for the job.  Stuff like this represent OPPORTUNITIES for the candidate to DEFINE THEIR CHARACTER UNDER FIRE.  A particularly strong defense of a staffer who has delivered an unequivocal apology may earn your candidate votes, not lose them.  By resigning after he/she has already accepted your apology, you may just as well be depriving your candidate of an opportunity.  At any rate, it's their campaign, LET THEM DECIDE.

How do you beat a bully?  You stand up to the bully.  But you stand up to the bully on your grounds-- not by standing by an indefensible statement, not by returning fire by engaging the character assassin in public mud-flinging, but by standing strong in your position.  You will have plenty of surrogates (in places like DailyKos, for instance!) who will be more than willing to point out what hypocrites the character assassins are.

So let me review where Melissa and/or Amanda went wrong:

  1. The unnecessary name-calling in their posting was a mistake to begin with.  I did believe that they merited apology, rather than explanation.  I think that the use of terms like Christofascist by McEwan was a particular mistake.  By using this type of name-calling and labeling, you end up offending a larger group than the intended target.  Let the right wing use "clever" labels like Islamofascist.  These are nothing but the freshly minted slurs of a bigot.  There are plenty of ways of pointing out the hypocrisy of people or groups without offending anyone but the intended target.  Be smart and targeted when on the attack.  
  1. I agreed with Edwards' decision that the blog posts merited apologies but not firing.  But the apologies were not strong apologies. For instance, Amanda's "I'm sorry if anyone was personally offended" was the classic half-apology.  Either apologize, or stand behind what you wrote.  A half-apology neither defends your statements, nor does it diffuse the attack of your opponents.  A strong apology puts the ball back into your opponent's court.  It's tough for your opponents to look fair if they continue to pile on after you've issued a strong apology.  Usually in the case of a relatively minor offense like these bloggers committed, the issue will turn to the record of the attacker after a period of time, and that doesn't serve the purposes of the limelight-seeking character assassins.
  1. As I have already said, if the candidate stands behind you, you owe it to them to tough it out.  You are doing them no service by resigning AFTER they have already taken the responsibility for your statements by keeping you on.  (I take both of the bloggers at their word that they were not pushed out by Edwards.)

One more note to you, my fellow bloggers: WE can be friends, WE can support each other by reading each others' work and commenting, WE can be a community that supports many common causes and candidates; but as far as I'm concerned, there is no "WE" in terms of me having to back you up on the particular things you write, and that goes double if you take a paying job for a campaign.  The only statements I will promise to stand behind are mine.  So if, for example, you choose to use terms like Christofascist to describe the religious right, that's on you.    

Originally posted to skymutt on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 10:08 PM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks, and I agree totally. (7+ / 0-)

    I made the same point, although a lot more indirectly earlier today. The point is that if someone quits here because of a troll outing them, the troll wins. So, if someone quits over Donohue or Rove smearing them, Donohue wins, because he knows that it will work next time.

  •  What will you do when you get death threats? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, skymutt

    The wingnuts have made numerous death threats and rape threats to Amanda and Melissa. The "mainstream media" of course deletes this fact from their reports.

    Those threats are a direct assault on free speech.  Theirs, mine, yours, and everyone else's.  If you want evildoers like Bill Donohue to take away your free speech, and you want to meekly accept that... then, no offense intended, but if that's the way you feel, then you are 100% wrong.

    So this is how liberty dies -- with thunderous applause.

    by MJB on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 10:17:46 PM PST

  •  See, I'm of the mind (6+ / 0-)

    that they shouldn't have apologized in the first place. It's pretty easy to say "when I was writing on my site in the past, I was talking for myself, and I stand behind those words. Now that I am writing for a campaign, I represent that campaign, and my use of language will reflect that." They wrote nothing that warranted an apology to anyone, least of all that Donohue asshole. (I think it's pretty clear that I'm not concerned that any politician is going to want to hire me.)

    And I also think Christofascist is a perfectly acceptable term in this debate, though I prefer the term theocon myself--I think it's snappier.

    I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

    by incertus on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 10:18:32 PM PST

    •  I don't like Christofascist... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jhutson, jayden, Rippen Kitten

      But that's a matter that we could debate all night.  If what you say is correct, and they shouldn't have apologized, then obviously they still made a mistake.  The half-apology just doesn't work well.

      And if you have no ambitions of working on a paid job for a campaign, then I suppose you can choose to walk on the edge of acceptability a little bit more.  I have no such ambitions either, but I still don't like the broad-brush labels.

  •  Wonkette Called Her "Dracula C__t" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, skymutt

    yow!

    "Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote." -- Lord Chesterfield

    by Fatherflot on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 10:18:41 PM PST

  •  As Tim Grieve pointed out on Salon.com (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hail Ripley, Geekesque, jayden, skymutt

    Donohue didn't exactly force the two Edwards campaign bloggers to resign; they did so voluntarily.

    However, as Grieve wrote for Salon's WarRoom, Donohue must be feeling that he's gone two-for-two tonight. And I don't see how this affair is a net positive for the Edwards campaign.

    Have the resignations "emboldened" merchants of hate? I fear that is the case.

  •  yep (11+ / 0-)

    on virtually every count. I'm not going to spring automatically to the defense of bloggers who make hyperbolic or insulting posts. If they want to use their blogging as a springboard into politics, then they've got to be able to defend their blogging. No big surprise there.

    •  I think our politics (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynneK, skymutt

      could do with a bit more insult and a little less deference on the floor of the Congress. What I wouldn't give to see a Congress critter call another a fucking liar on the floor in the middle of debate.

      I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

      by incertus on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 10:25:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It might be fun to see it (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hail Ripley, LynneK

        But I would rather, on the whole, that the Democrats be the party of ideas, and leave the thuggery to the Republicans.  For instance, I thought that Rep. Wiener's "Republic" speech on the House floor was funny, and fine as a one-time thing, but I wouldn't want to see that kind of stuff on a daily basis.  Strong language and insults work best when only applied very rarely and only as a very last resort.

        •  It's a situational thing (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          0wn, jayden, LynneK, skymutt

          but unfortunately, the situations never seem to arrive on the floor. It's always "my esteemed colleague this" and "my friend from across the aisle that." How about a compromise? "I would like to respectfully say that my esteemed colleague is full of shit, and should be slapped in the head for insulting the collective intelligence of this body." Maybe the average American would start paying attention to what goes on in Congress if someone, anyone, threw a bomb or two. I know I'd rather watch PMQ on C-SPAN than our own Congress.

          I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

          by incertus on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 10:46:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Bloggers tend to play fast and loose ... (8+ / 0-)

      ... with both the facts and the proprieties, while blistering others for miniscule or even imaginary violations of same. When challenged, they profess astonishment that their cloaks of invisibility have been pierced, attempt to claim of blogomatic immunity, and demand solidarity from anyone who has ever clicked "Post".

      This won't wash. Reputation is a dynamic process, with its own laws of action and reaction, and nobody is exempt.

      Pass the word -- "No escalation without justification!"

      by RonK Seattle on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 10:42:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is a thoughtful (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kpardue, peraspera, jayden, LynneK, skymutt

    and very informative diary! It's the most commonsense, tough and clear thinking commentary I've seen. We can all learn from you. I agree with all of your points and furthermore, think the basic guidelines will be useful in other situations,too.
    Great job and thanks for writing it for us.

  •  Another important point to make (9+ / 0-)

    is that while campaigns should take responsibility for vetting their bloggers, bloggers who are applying for campaign jobs should also be up front and say "here are things I've written that might be problematic at some point."

    Probably nobody's going to dig back into every comment you've ever made on anyone else's posts, but at least look through your posts and check them out.

  •  you're assuming (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    0wn, skymutt

    the two bloggers resigned of their own accord. My read on it is they were fired. The failing here was with the Edwards campaign to A) not vet the people they hired, and I believe B) not to stand by them in when it counted.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but my read is that on the same day Edwards voiced his support for Amanda and Melissa his staff was showing them the door.

  •  Welcome to blaming the victim 101 (0+ / 0-)

    Your teacher tonight is skymutt.

    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

    by eugene on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 11:26:00 PM PST

  •  I agree with every word you wrote. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FelisRufus, skymutt

    It seemed to me that one important point was lost in all the noise: The candidate is the campaign. Without the candidate, there is no campaign. He or she is the only indispensible person. All else are expendable. For Marcotte and MacEwan to cling to their jobs once it became clear that their presence posed a danger to the candidate was sheer selfishness and hubris on their part. Their jobs were to support the candidate (in a very small way), and when their words became the story they should have tendered their resignations and allowed the Edwards campaign to move on. Instead, they forced the candidate to endanger his campaign for them, then bailed anyway when things got too hot.



    Marcotte and MacEwan risked destroying the campaign of a candidate they were supposed to be supporting for what? Ego and a paycheck? I found their behavior both inexplicable and inexcusable. I am not Melissa and Amanda, either.

    There is no such thing, at this stage of the world's history in America, as an independent press. - John Swinton, 1890

    by Xeno of Elia on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 11:44:23 PM PST

    •  I agree, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayden

      perhaps they offered their resignations and Edwards refused?  I'm not sure if they did this or not.  I think it would be correct to apologize and offer a resignation, but if the candidate rejects the offer to resign, I think you stay.

    •  hope you feel holy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynneK

      You sure are coming across that way:

      "Marcotte and MacEwan risked destroying the campaign of a candidate they were supposed to be supporting for what? Ego and a paycheck?"

      The fact that the allegedly objectionable comments were dated long before the two women joined the campaign means nothing to you?  In what way did they "risk destroying" anything?  By having an opinion?

      You people are all buying into the right-wing framework.  "Oh heavens, let's not offend the conservatives" is a loser strategy.  

    •  But consider this, xeno (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynneK, skymutt

      Remember, we are talking about electing a President here... could the stakes be much higher? We have a war going on, and a whole host of other critical issues facing us.  Your candidate is going to be putting out all kinds of fires for two years-- if your candidate can't handle a controversy like this, maybe he/she is not the right person for the job.  Stuff like this represent OPPORTUNITIES for the candidate to DEFINE THEIR CHARACTER UNDER FIRE.  

      The Edwards campaign and the bloggy girls would have been well served to seek out the advice and recommendations of skymutt as described in his diary. He has offered great insight on how to "own it" and navigate the resulting brouhaha.

      American Christians are becoming less of either

      by jayden on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 04:58:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  wrong (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, skymutt

    "I think that the use of terms like Christofascist by McEwan was a particular mistake."

    Do you go around criticizing the usage of the term "Islamofascist"?  

    Melissa McEwan did not say that Christians are fascists.  She said some Bush supporters are Christo-fascists.  By adopting the former interpretation, you are buying into the smear machine's interpretation of events, and ignoring Melissa's explanation.

    Thanks for the help!

    •  I voted for it before I voted against it (0+ / 0-)

      Sometimes explanations are the worst possible solution. Own it, apologize for it, and move on.

      American Christians are becoming less of either

      by jayden on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 05:00:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  As a matter of fact (0+ / 0-)

      I did implicitly criticize the use of the term "Islamofascist" in my very last diary...

      I'm not buying into anyone's interpretation of anything. I know that McEwan doesn't think that all Christians are Christofascists. That being said, I think people use poor judgment when they use the term, because religion is divisive enough to begin with that we don't really need to be inventing new terms that will without fail offend a wider group of people than the chosen target.

      Look at my use of the word "bitch" that I used as an example. In my example, I specifically applied the term to a Republican Congresswoman, but if you follow that link, you'll see that not one, not two, but three commenters were offended, even though I clearly wasn't targeting all women with the label as I used it.  See how it works now?...  So why use these labels to begin with?

  •  And this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skymutt

    Of course, this is not the end of the matter, far from it!  The right wing character assassination machine is smelling blood-- apologies mean nothing to them.

    Is why I'll never understand the left's need to constantly apologize to some right-wing freakshow who's offended by something taken out of context one minute and slandering or libeling another Democrat the next.

    Black by popular demand!

    by fabooj on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 06:40:49 AM PST

    •  You're not apologizing to the freakshow (0+ / 0-)

      You're apologizing to the good people who are offended by the term Christofascists, or who are offended by some of the other religiously intolerant language. And yes, I thought some of the language could reasonably be viewed as intolerant, even in context. Not saying it's the worst stuff I've ever seen; of course it wasn't.  But an apology?  Why not.  Or, if you really believe in what you said, stand strong by it-- I offered that option too in this diary, though IMHO it wouldn't have been the best choice in this particular case.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site