Edwards Bloggirls: Throwing Stones in the Glass City
By: Mark W Adams

In a comment thread at AsOhioGoes, fellow Toledoan and outstanding writer, Lisa Renee, commented:

I guess in my role of devils advocate, I’d suggest that anyone who believed that hiring those two would not create controversy didn’t pay attention to what they were writing on their personal blogs. Bottom line is though that Edwards supporters are offended as well, so it’s not just the right wingers out there who making a huge deal about this. Manufactured or not it will hurt John Edwards and that is what bugs me most of all. There was no reason to hand his opponents ammunition and that’s exactly what was done, if you want to create controversy with your hiring of bloggers than you should be prepared to face that head on. If you want to create the impression that you are truly interested “one america” you don’t do that by alienating supporters from the very get go.
Lisa goes on say that despite being a catholic, she was not offended by things written by John Edwards' new bloggers, Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon) and Mellissa McEwan (Shakes) on their personal blogs.

Lisa believes they are ill-fiitted to John Edwards' "unity message" and laments the perpetuation of the idea that bloggers are often (as the NY Times charitably put it) "provocative and often crude language." Lisa, I wonder if you are offended by this language:
"Just imagine if a white guy is performing oral sex on a statue of Martin Luther King with an erection. Do you need to see it to know it's ugly?"
That little gem spewed from the mouth of the Edwards Bloggers most vocal critic in the traditional media, Catholic League President, Bill Donohue.

I accept the premise that Amanda and Mellissa's previous writings were fair game -- for criticism, as were the atrocious writings of John McCain's blogger (who pretty much got a pass), but not grounds for dismissal.

Even when you're playing the part of counsel for the Defendant, Luce E. Fur, you don't have to accept the frame that this was anything BUT a manufactured controvsery. What we call the "right-wing noise machine" is exactly that, a machine -- whose product masquerades as "news," but in reality is nothing more than propaganda, misinformation and distraction.

I'll refer you to two excellent articles on this phenomenon by Glen Greenwald, which in turn points us to one by Peter Daou. One of the most striking things on these essential descriptions of how the "news" actually becomes the topic of the day is where it originates.

Greewald reminds us that ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin's book states:
Matt Drudge is the gatekeeper... he is the Walter Cronkite of his era.

In the fragmented, remote-control, click-on-this, did you hear? political media world in which we live, revered Uncle Walter has been replaced by odd nephew Matt. . . .

Matt Drudge rules our world . . . With the exception of the Associated Press, there is no outlet other than the Drudge Report whose dispatches instantly can command the attention and energies of the most established newspapers and television newscasts.

So many media elites check the Drudge Report consistently that a reporter is aware his bosses, his competitors, his sources, his friends on Wall Street, lobbyists, White House officials, congressional aides, cousins, and everyone who is anyone has seen it, too.
You and I, Cindy and every other blogger who is not a tool for the corporate financed media is fighting against this to get the truth out -- to even understand the truth ourselves.

This machine is as well oiled as it was the day we heard the "Dean Scream," that Al Gore invented the internet, and that Clinton was blowing up aspirin factories instead of chasing al Queada terrorists in order to make us forget that he should be impeached for getting a blow job.

Don't do it Lisa, don't even be tempted. They really ARE the Devil.

Edwards did not lose support. Anyone trafficking in this distraction, this scalp-hunt, was never, ever going to vote for him anyway. From what I've seen, Edwards won some support of moderates and got some respect for standing by his bloggers from folks who still will be choosing between Rudi, Romney, Brownback and McCain in the primaries instead of Hillary, Obama, Richardson, Wes Clark and Edwards.

He also solidified support from people like me, who were ready to walk out on him if he walked away from his new bloggers who, like me, agree with his message and admire his character -- but are not so naive to blindly follow someone because he talks a good game and doesn't back it up with action.
Jeff Fecke, Blog Of The Moderate Left: In the end, I’m less interested in what Edwards says than what he does. Actions do speak louder than words, and Edwards’ actions were to keep Amanda and Melissa around. Now, you can say that’s what he should have done, but that’s what he actually did. That wasn’t the easy thing to do, nor the traditional way things like this are handled. For that, he deserves a large amount of credit.
Lastly, Lisa, you misspeak when you characterize/imply that Amanda and Mellisa "rely" on the crude language. They don't rely on it anymore than any other vocabulary choices, and suit the tone of their message to their audience. The very first rule of communication theory is to know your audience. Shakespeare's Sister and Amanda of Pandagon now have very different audiences than before, and I (and John Edwards) trusts that they will act appropriately in their professional persona.

You should understand this. You wear two hats as a blogger and professional journalist. You understand that you will indeed take your licks if your professional persona were to engage in decidedly unprofessional behavior. But I hardly think that you could be justifiably FIRED for slinging around an F-bomb or two around the 'sphere. Do you? Criticized, yes, FIRED? FIRED for things you wrote BEFORE you were hired.

I'd take case, and win it. I too wear two hats. I was admonished by a judge once for saying -- in chambers, not even in open court -- that my client would have been treated differently if "he did not have external genitalia." I didn't say, "cuz he has a penis," or even the more vulgar, "dick/cock, etc." well you get the point. I said it the way I said it for the sheer descriptive poetry of the phrase -- much more dramatic than simply saying, "because he is a man."

Dumb me. The discussion was no longer about my argument that my client was a house-husband and primary care-giver for the children, that his wife was the bread-winner, and that traditional stereotypes were not recognized under current law or applicable to that case. The argument was distracted to the appropriateness of my remarks and it took some time to get back on track. (Oh, the judge agreed with me on the law, just didn't think that I should talk that way in front of a female opposing counsel -- how interesting.)

You are dead wrong when you say they should have resigned so as to spare Edwards this awkward episode. They were hired specifically to fight the right wing noise machine using the power of this medium, this internet that has proven it's power, effectiveness and relevance in our political lives. To back down from the likes of Malkin, Donohue and Drudge would have effectively sent the message that you and your blogging are beneath contempt and insignificant -- a message the New York Times would have gleefully distributed.

What's best about this whole thing is that before they even had a chance to stick their foot in it, and write something truly unprofessional that could be attributed to John Edwards, they were put on notice that as a professional, there are limits to what they can do. They learned the lesson the easy way.

If people are interested in the least about blogs, they will go on the net and read blogs. If they don't, if they are shied away because the Times says the truth, that we ARE provocative and we DO resort to language that would be unsuitable for a newspaper or prime-time broadcast, so be it. I would argue that such people are too unsophisticated, too thin-skinned, too sheltered to appreciate the often in-depth and nuanced arguments that are the very core of political blogs. I would also submit that they don't read beyond headline in the papers or ever read comment after comment on a blog thread -- and never will.

1 Comment:

arubyan said...

Well said, my friend.

A couple of things occur to me (in no particular order):

1. Hiring bloggers and then expecting to control them from the top down is kind of counter-intuitive. Blogging is networking and networking isn't top down -- it is peer to peer.

2. This passion play is happening out on the frontier, where polite company and mule-skinners come together to share a friendly round or two. In a few years, the mule-skinners will either be gone or will have made enough money to put on airs and clean up their language (mostly). Until then -- sorry about the occasional F-bomb.

Like the man says, "It's hard out here for a pimp." IJS.

3. External genetalia, ideed. Hee.