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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, May 21, 2007

A final McFiasco post

by folkbum

This is a post mostly just to gather the last few thought strands about the whole mess. I'm not saying I'll never write about anything related again; don't get me wrong. But this is some important stuff you shouldn't overlook.

Some of you who read me by accident (or because you live with me) may be wondering what the big deal is. And it is a big deal. Fact is, Friday (when McBride was fired) and today (when everyone got back into the office to find that McBride was fired) have been two of my highest-traffic days ever. I'm talking numbers that rival recent election days. (Unfortunately, I don't get paid unless [DEPENDENT CLAUSE REDACTED TO SATISFY GOOGLE'S SENSE OF PROPRIETY].)

But why? I can't help but be reminded of Seth Zlotocha's question of so long ago. (Actually, it was only February, but the fact that it feels like so long ago kind of proves his point.) He wondered whether the kind of blogging we do actually helps or hurts, since the most excitement, the most buzz, comes from this kind of intensely partisan and ultimately small-potatoes issue. Seth, admirably, has kept silent on the entire McFiasco, choosing instead to do really important work on matters that, someday, will make a difference in the world. And here I am explaining, repeatedly, in comments all over the Cheddarsphere that no, I don't particularly care about Eugene Kane and any part he may or may not have played in the drama.

So, why? Because it's about us. The keys are flying off our keyboards over this mess because, regardless of whether we're liberal or conservative, Jessica McBride is one of us. Even we bloggers who would not agree with her if she posited that the sky were blue on sunny days have to look at what she does, and what we do, and see, in fact, some similarity. You can think she's horrible at it, but at the end, the it is this. In any small group, gossip about the group is inherently perceived as more important than discussion of things outside of the group. Children dying in the streets? Nah, let's talk about McBride. Troops dying in Iraq? Nah, let's talk about McBride. Incompetent justice department? Health care crisis? Underfunded schools? Nah--did you hear the one about McBride . . .?

I'm not saying we shouldn't have done this. In-group policing is a key part of belonging to a group, after all. I'm just trying to explain why this, of all topics we could have thrown down about over the last week, is the one that got the attention.

[UPDATED to add: McBride, as well, has been upfront about admitting the relationship between conservative bloggers and the megaphone of talk radio. And that liberal blogs lack such a megaphone. I have always given McBride credit for that, when Sykes and Co. deny, deny, deny.]
Most of the interesting commentary from the weekend was collected at WisOpinion today. Mike Schramm forever has his finger on the pulse of the blogosphere, today being no exception.

Two posts you absolutely must read--and I'm not kidding, people, this is mandatory: Nick Schweitzer's explanation of why McBride and her supporters in the McFiasco cannot blame Eugene Kane. Nick said it better than I could, and in language even the dimmest bulb could understand. Also, you must read Jason Haas's account of attending Jasmine Owens's funeral. UPDATED to add: Check out Erik Opsal's omnibus post, too.

Some on the right (encouraged by hints among McBride's excuses) are raising the suggestion that the McFiasco is purely the result of someone with a personal axe to grind against McBride. First, as I suggest in the comments to my previous post, if we ignored every blogger with an axe to grind, we'd never have anything to read. James Rowen can speak for himself on the matter of whether his grapes are sour (I suspect they are not). But as one who, in the words of a certain Marquette University professor, "carries water" for Jim on the matter, let me explain: It matters not who first noticed that a thing was done. It matters only that thing was done, and, in this case, the thing was wrong in itself. If we cannot call something wrong because of the origin of that knowledge, then we have lost something critical about our ability to think and discuss rationally.

It's also important to remember that pretty much none of us asked for McBride to be fired, only for an apology. Her firing precludes--or perhaps is a substitute for--that, so after all is said and done, we axe-grinders didn't even get what we wanted. The only one I see calling for McBride to be fired now from UWM is Michael McGee, Jr., who as I'm sure you're all aware, speaks for practically no one but himself. Certainly not me, certainly not Jim Rowen. (Aside: Would McGee ever get any exercise if he weren't constantly chasing that spotlight around?)

There's one more long, long post in my head about anti-intellectualism on the right that is tangentially related, since it is inspired by this post defending McBride. A part of that defense seems to be a discussion of how Rush Limbaugh's "Barack the Magic Negro" song is not only not offensive, but hilarious. As Barbara O'Brien asks, where's the joke? Let that link be a primer and, in case I never write the whole post, enough of a response for now.

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