As blogging comes of age, growing pains persist

A few comments on the latest political/blog scandal. First, some background. This time around, liberal blogger Amanda Marcotte, recently hired to run presidential candidate John Edwards’ campaign blog, is being criticized for a variety of blog posts she’s written at her personal site, Pandagon.

As to be expected, liberal bloggers are rising to her defense, while conservatives are, without calling for her removal (and I count threeone who think she should stay), commenting on the issue and re-publishing her thoughts on issues from Hurricane Katrina to the Catholic church.

What was said?

So that we’re clear on some of those comments, and please note that the following contain graphic language that may not be suitable for all ages, here are some of Ms. Marcotte’s writings, as re-published at ABC News blog Pushback:

ON THE CATHOLIC TEACHINGS ON BIRTH CONTROL:

Last year, Marcotte blasted the Catholic Church’s position on birth control: “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.” (Side note: Would there be a different reaction if John Edwards “blogmaster” had insulted Islam to this degree? Is it “okay” to trash Catholicism–but not Islam?)

ON THE DUKE RAPE CASE:

“I had to listen to how the poor, dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and f***** her against her will–not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.”

ON REPUBLICAN VOTERS:

“Voters who are motivated by misogyny, homophobia, and racism aren’t going to leave a racist, misogynist, homophobic party for one that is all those things but just less so.”

Clearly, these are not simply liberal opinions expressed with power or wit. Rather, they’re pretty disturbing, irrational comments that I would sincerely hope do not represent the general tone of the Edwards– or any other– campaign for president.

So…should she be fired?

But do these comments– as disturbing as they are– mean Ms. Marcotte should be fired?

With respect to the issue of a political campaign firing a blogger for controversial things he or she has written in the past, I don’t think a precedent should be set that any blogger should be fired for simply publishing any controversial thoughts- in fact, this should be obvious, that tends to be one of the reasons they’re hired in the first place.

However, to me that’s not the real issue here. The real issue is not that Ms. Marcotte published some controversial ideas, as some of the liberal bloggers on this case would have us believe. Rather, the issue to me is whether or not the particular things she’s said are in line with how the Edwards campaign wishes to portray itself.

If Ms. Marcotte’s published writings are not in line with the beliefs of the Edwards campaign, I think there can only be two reasonable courses of action going forward:

1) The Edwards campaign should immediately fire Ms. Marcotte and apologize for the decision to hire somebody whose writings are outside of the scope of rational political discourse.

2) OR, the Edwards campaign should immediately release a statement roughly along the lines of this:

It has recently come to our attention that Amanda Marcotte, a blogger we tapped to manage the John Edwards campaign blog, has published a number of comments on a personal blog that millions of Americans may find in poor taste.

While we do not agree with or condone Ms. Marcotte’s previous comments, we did not hire her based on them either. We will continue to welcome Ms. Marcotte as a member of the John Edwards campaign team, with the mutual understanding that she regrets offending people and plans to speak positively about political issues on the Edwards campaign website going forward.

Either way, this should happen soon, and decisively, and the campaign should then immediately announce some kind of “free beer for all Americans” program or something equally as earth-shattering.

That’s not the end of this issue though. Far from it.

The argument for failed hires- and for moving on.

A few bloggers have made the point that the Edwards team should have done a more thorough vetting of Ms. Marcotte’s blog and other public writings before bringing her on and placing themselves in the middle of such a difficult situation. Fair (and obvious) enough! But now at least one blogger is arguing that the campaign should live with their bad hire and carry on.

What?!!

Anybody who has even been remotely involved in the managing of a company or organization that aims to be successful has to understand that making the wrong hire does happen. You don’t want it to, but it will happen from time to time. And when you realize you’ve made a mistake, the best thing you can do is cut ties with the scandal as quickly and as completely as possible. Nothing short of that makes any sense for the ongoing success of your organization.

In fact, when the scandal becomes too big to manage, a decent person in Ms. Marcotte’s position, particularly if that person professes to support the organization in question (as Ms. Marcotte has expressed support for Edwards’ campaign), should take the responsibility and immediately recuse him or herself from that difficult position. That’s called honor, and it’s rare.

Mis-direction and revenge

Something else beyond Ms. Marcotte’s comments really bothers me here, and that is the way in which many liberal bloggers have chosen to defend Ms. Marcotte.

Without addressing her comments directly, Glenn Greenwald chose to talk about the rude comments of a conservative blogger.

Without addressing her comments directly, Daily Kos diarist Kagro X suggested that other Democratic candidates circle the wagons around Edwards.

Without addressing her comments directly, Shakespeare’s Sister blogger Waveflux commented on one of Ms. Marcotte’s critics.

And most disturbing of all in my opinion are the comments from Chris Bowers, writer at the popular liberal blog MyDD. Short of addressing the particulars of Ms. Marcotte’s comments– should we then assume he supports them?–Bowers instead launches a pretty bold threat directly at the Edwards campaign:

I have a pretty vicious rant and an important action alert lined up, but I am waiting to hear from the Edwards camp about the fate of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan before doing anything…But like I said, I am waiting before letting loose.

Bowers goes on to reference a straw poll at liberal blog DailyKos, commenting that “Either way, [Edwards] won’t be tied with Barack Obama in Dailykos straw polls anymore. It will be hard in one direction or the other” (emphasis mine).

In a later post, Bowers continue to actively threaten the Edwards camp, writing that “If someone is willing to stand with us, that should mean something big, and should not go unrewarded.”

Bowers’ message here is loud and clear: We don’t care what she said, whether or not it’s offensive, or any effect it might have on “our” candidate– we only care that one of “our own” is being threatened.

Could Bowers be any more direct? Fire Ms. Marcotte, and he will “let loose” on the Edwards campaign with a “vicious rant” (the same kind that Marcotte writes, I wonder?). However, if Edwards does what Bowers wants, then that “should not go unrewarded”.

These are pretty direct, and audaciously arrogant, threats for a liberal blog to make at a presidential candidate. Particularly when they are accompanied by a deafening lack of comment about exactly what Ms. Marcotte has written and its potential effects on the electorate.

This is a soggy, pathetic affair, and it reflects poorly on the entire blogosphere. Sadly, it will also likely have a negative effect on the prospects of talented, intelligent, and reasonable bloggers being hired by not just political campaigns, but by organizations on the whole.

And like many things, the initial situation was unfortunate. But the cover-up is turning out to be much worse.

UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers! Thanks to Michelle for the pointer.

2 Replies to “As blogging comes of age, growing pains persist”

  1. Exposed: The Pandagon Papers…

    Smile, nutroots, it’s just a joke. *** Related: CNN covers the Pandagonization of the Edwards campaign. Bryan has an IMPORTANT ACTION ALERT about the leftosphere’s IMPORTANT ACTION ALERT. Danny Glover notes that it is not at all clear whether Edwards…

  2. Hey Jason,
    Some very logical thinking going on here, I appreciate it. This is the crux of this whole “scandal”; presentation. Come off like an ranting,disenfranchised-PMSing feminist and the real world isn’t going to take you seriously. When profanity and ludeness become your primary writing tools, this is what happens.

    On a side note, it might be important to note that many lefy blogs aren’t willing to actually debate this issue, they are moderating/censoring posts all over the place, not wanting to engage in discussion on the Edwards Blog situation, unless, of course, you agree with them.

    -Marc

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