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February 12, 2007

The Edwards Blog and the Right’s Fake Outrage


The ever-growing intersection between bloggers and the politicians they blog about hit a crescendo this past week, when revelations about two young bloggers hired by a Democratic presidential candidate drew paroxysms of conservative outrage.


It all began in mid-January, when the Edwards campaign announced it had hired two prominent liberal bloggers, Amanda Marcotte of and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare’s Sister, to run his presidential campaign blog. The hiring made little news until last week, when William Donohue, head of the Catholic League, decided to make a stink.


In a dossier distributed by Donohue’s group,  and later added to by various conservative bloggers, numerous “controversial” posts by Marcotte and McEwan were unearthed which, among other things, criticized the Catholic church, the Christian right and numerous other conservative sacred cows, specifically their opposition to abortion, gay rights and birth control.


This led to demands from the right that the bloggers be fired, as well as demands from the increasingly messianic left-wing blogging community, which had heretofore been in the candidate’s corner, that they would ditch Edwards en masse, should he fire the bloggers.


Edwards, who likely had nothing to do personally with the hirings and probably wanted the whole thing to go away as soon as possible, split the difference, issuing a statement that he was “personally offended” by the blog posts, but that he would not fire Marcotte and McEwan, despite early reports that they had, in fact, been let go (the two women apologized as well). In all, the whole kerfuffle was only the second most unjustly-hyped media story of last week, behind only the death of Anna Nicole Smith.


As more and more candidates are starting to hire well-known bloggers to run their campaign blogs, this sort of thing is bound to start happening more and more. It’s hard to run a blog for a period of years without something controversial coming up from time to time - especially in a medium like the blogosphere, in which controversy and extreme partisanship are rewarded like few other things.


Really, no one has come out of this looking too good. The bloggers themselves had embarrassing posts dredged up and, in Marcotte’s case, she went back and changed them. The Edwards campaign appeared to not do due diligence on who they hired, probably making more news with this than anything else the campaign has done thus far.


The political media, meanwhile, gave constant coverage to the minutiae of the presidential campaign nearly two years ahead of time. The left-wing bloggers, as is their wont, made the possible firing of two bloggers into a fascist-level atrocity. And the right-wing activists and bloggers, going nuts with mock outrage as usual, for some reason decided they all of a sudden cared who a Democratic presidential candidate was employing as low-level staffers.


But perhaps worst of all was the Catholic League’s Donohue, who for years has been at best a nuisance and at worst a menace to free speech and free thought. His sorry operation, which he pretends speaks with one voice for the nation’s entire Catholic population, sees “anti-Catholic bigotry” everywhere. But his organization really has a lot more to do with opposing liberalism in all its forms than anything to do with Catholicism.


Donahue also has his own lengthy paper trail of controversial comments, having once attributed control of Hollywood to "secular Jews who hate Christianity,” and referring to homosexuality as “the gay death style.”


Donahue brings together all of the worst features of American politics, combining the prudery and hatred of culture of the far right with the identity politics and “offense”-based victimology of the far left, along with the monstrous self-righteousness of both. In a just world, no politician, movie producer, or talk show booker would ever acknowledge Donohue except to tell him to sod off.


There is no reason why political candidates shouldn’t hire bloggers to run their campaign operations. But at the same time, there are really better focuses for Americans’ outrage than who the minor staffers are for a presidential candidate of the opposite party who they are unlikely to ever support anyway.  

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