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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The usual selective outrage--I'm over being surprised

by folkbum

One of my favorite new-ish bloggers, the Illusiory Tenant, did a Bad Thing: He referred to a less-favorite blogger, Jessica McBride, by a word that, this being a relatively family-friendly blog, I won't reprint. But it starts with c and rhymes with "front." To be clear, it was a Bad Thing to do, and I do not condone it or excuse it in any way. If IT were one of my students, he'd be in the office right now and I'd be on the phone with his mother. Enough other people have written well enough about why it's wrong that I don't need to cover it here.

The IT has proved to be one of the funniest bloggers around. (Read his comment to this post, for example; I wish I had half that wit.) And to see someone who can skewer with clever words opt for a blunt instrument like that particular slur is always a little sad. IT came around to an apology--which was indeed, truly warranted, since such an insult is just simply not appropriate. Michael Mathias, in a beautifully moving post (as usual), follows the trail back to what McBride said in the first place that led IT to comment, and considers that, perhaps, McBride should offer an apology of her own.

But what has me most intrigued in all of this is not the back-and-forthing among the bloggers as, in the end, it's a tempest in the proverbial teapot. No, what perked up my attention was word that Charlie Sykes ranted about this on-air. Hearing about IT's c-wording of McBride made me think of all the other Bad Things I've read in comments section around the Cheddarsphere, most of which never get apologized for at all. One in particular leapt to mind: When a local blogger referred to people he encounterd while shopping who were guilty of the crime of speaking Spanish nearby. That blogger used a different c-word to label his fellow shoppers, this word being not just a slur but also a breed of dog. (The details are here, courtesy of the Recess Supervisor.)

Although I did not listen to Charlie Sykes at the time--I can't listen to the radio at work and, given my borderline high blood pressure, if I could listen to something, I should listen to something less likely to kill me--but I would be willing to bet real money that Sykes said nothing about that blogger using that slur. Now, of course you can argue that since the Spanish-speaking shoppers are not personal friends of Sykes, he might have less of an interest in complaining about that slur. It may just be partisan, as Illusory Tenant is liberal and Sykes shares a conservative ideology with the blogger in question and would be less likely to criticize. It may be that Sykes didn't catch the racial slur, as it was in the comments of a post--but then again, so was IT's. All of these things are kind of reasonable explanations for why Sykes may not have gone after the racist comment and blogger.

But here's the kicker: That blogger has a place on Charlie Sykes's blogroll (something that cannot be said about even McBride herself!), one of the most coveted prizes among conservative Wisconsin bloggers. That blogger was on Sykes's blogroll when he made the comment. Having someone on your blogroll is never to be taken as a sign that you endorse everything that blogger says or does, no matter how stupid. But in this case, we have equivalent breeches of civil discourse, the only difference being that one victim has her own blog to fight back--and the voice of Wisconsin's biggest talker to defend her. If we're going to be outraged, we should be about both.

However, the silence over the one (McBride has him on her blogroll, too) is not surprising. The right has made an art of selective outrage. Consider the howls last week over Democratic Congressman Pete Stark's remarks that American men and women are dying in Iraq for the president's amusement; the outrage machine kicked into high gear and forced Stark to apologize. In the meantime, no one on the right seems to care about John Boehner's 4000-soldier "small price to pay" crack. That's just one example; the incomperable digby, in response to the Stark matter, says it all better than I can.

So do I think that Illusory Tenant was indeed wrong to do what he did? Yes. Did it rise to such a level that the outrage machine (excluding, of course, McBride who had every right to be upset) needed to hit its high gears again? Judging by the antecedents, no. That it did, though, doesn't suprise me anymore.

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