Friday, February 16, 2007

Amanda Marcotte Speaks


Pandagon was a personal blog, where I wrote in my own voice; clearly the blog for the Edwards campaign would be a campaign blog, where the campaign dictated
the directions of my posts.
Which means olvlzl was right: a blog is a blog, but a campaign is a job. As I've said, I don't doubt the power of smear, but that wasn't the only problem here. This was not a match made in heaven, and won't be, until bloggers decide that posting your own unfiltered opinions is not necessarily the best way to build a professional resume. And that creating, and even running, a blog is not the best qualification for writing for someone else. Sometimes, it's the worst. The problem is integrating blogs, which are personal, into the "real world," which is not and, frankly, is not that concerned with you or your opinions, except as they step on other people's opinions. Or, as Amanda puts it:

"Reasonable people," I thought, "can tell the difference between a personal blog post and those I'll write for the campaign." What I naively failed to understand was that there is no relationship between what reasonable people think and what will be used in a partisan bout of mud-slinging.
I've no doubt she dind't understand the relationship between "reasonable people" (i.e., people who think like me and read my blog) and "what will be used in a partisan bout of mud-slinging." Let me say this about that, too: mud-slinging is not limited to partisanship nor politics.

When I was last in a pulpit, I pastored a church which had a huge 8-burner professional range in the church kitchen. It was a relic from an earlier day when the church was the community center and huge meals were served to one and all on special occassions and as fund-raisers. Even in those days, it was more stove than the church needed, an over zealous act of charity from a younger church member who remembered fondly the church of her youth, a church gone with the dramatic changes in demographics in the church's neighborhood. Enter the City Fire Marshall, who decided the stove either had to be disconnected, or a very expensive hood vent and fire suppression system installed over it.

Understand, this stove was hardly used anymore. I thought it sensible at a Church council meeting to suggest the stove might be removed, since the costs required to meet the fire code were not only beyond our church's budget, but a waste of money to boot (as the stove was hardly used and was completely unnecessary.). I made the comment merely to indicate what I thought was the common sense approach to the problem, and no one in the room seemed taken aback by what I said. Although they did all act as if I'd just dumped a dead dog on the table, because they quietly moved on. One learns, sooner or later, that "gifts" in a church, especially a small one, are sacrosanct, and it is easier to change the church's denomination than it is to remove a "gift" which has become an albatross around the church's collective neck.

That was not the end of the affair, however. I soon learned that at least one person in that room was telling anyone who would listen that I had "stipulated" (I still remember that very word being used) the removal of the stove, which of course was a "gift" from old church family members, whom I was now not only slighting but insulting; not only insulting, but spitting on their graves, and so on and so forth. You get the idea. Did I intend such a result? No, of course not. Did I imagine "reasonable people" would react in such a way to my sensible comment? Of course not. But one soon finds, if one takes any position of responsibility at all (including responsibility for one's public speech, however personal it may be), that the "reasonable person" is a legal fiction, and very little more than that.

That said, what happened to Amanda Marcotte shouldn't have happened. There's just a meanness in this world, as Bruce Springsteen said, and she got a taste of it. That's really too bad, but it doesn't necessarily indicate something irrevocably broken in the system. What it indicates are the conditions that prevail, something even Reinhold Niebuhr would agree with. The person I referenced, by the way, was instrumental in seeing I was finally removed from that church's pulpit. So it goes, I can finally say, 6 years later. But then again, 6 years later, here I am.

That shouldn't have happened to my family, either. There's just a meanness in this world.

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