On page one of the Sunday edition of my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, (which, on Sunday, is called "Foster's Sunday Citizen") is an article by Adam D. Krauss headlined "Poisoned Politics?".
If you can't see where this is going already, the subtitle gave further hints: "Experts raise concern about angry discourse." Oh oh.
I'm not in the mood for a full-style fisking, but how about a quick Q-and-A about the article?
Is this yet another Foster's news article that presents
unbalanced partisan commentary as "news"?
Why yes it is.
Who are the "experts" to which the subheadline refers?
One is Jim Leach, ex-member of Congress, ostensibly still a Republican
although he endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain in the 2008 election.
He is currently the chairman of the National Endowment for the
Humanities, a job widely viewed as a reward for that endorsement;
he has no obvious qualifications for the position.
The Foster's article notes that Leach is currently on a self-styled "civility tour", lecturing Americans on our supposed lack of manners in criticizing our current Federal elected officials. Power Line identifies Leach as "something of a schoolmarm, both pompous and insipid." At National Review's Bench Memos blog, Matthew Franck describes Leach's civility tour as "transparently partisan, an act not of civility but of servility—to the president who appointed him."
Any other "experts"?
Yes, the widely noted report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
"Rage on the Right" is quoted uncritically. Specifically,
the bit that deemed the Tea Party movement as "shot through with rich
veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism."
More skeptical readers found the SPLC report to be
So what's the problem?
In its implication that intemperate language and actions
are confined to the right, mostly motivated by racism and paranoia,
and directed against innocent
(apparently all Democrat) public servants, the Foster's article
displays (at best) a conveniently
short memory, and a reading of current
events that ignores some
inconvenient facts. And it feeds into the ongoing
attempt to delegitimize honest conservative/libertarian
Is there a good example of blatant bias that is also unintentionally
Yes. My own Congresswoman, Carol Shea-Porter is quoted sympathetically
as referring to some of her more demonstrative critics as "bullies"
who need to be taken "out of the sandbox".
A mere five paragraphs later, when trying to demonstrate out-of-control angry rhetoric, the article refers to a Saco, Maine resident and veteran, Brad Watts, who dared label politicians as "bullies". This was at an "Every Day is Veterans Day" event co-hosted by the Maine Center for Constitutional Studies and the Oathkeepers Project of Maine.
The article helpfully pointed out that "residents raised concerns" about the latter gathering. Nobody was guoted as raising concerns about my Congresswoman for her similar name-calling language. (Something she's done in the past, also without being criticized by Foster's.)
But aren't the Maine Center for Constitutional Studies and
the Oathkeepers Project of Maine dangerous wackos?
Perusal of the MCCS website
shows they're pretty far out of mainstream,
but they're approximately the flipside
of 9/11 Truthers, with a heavy Ron Paul influence.
There's no indication they're dangerous.
I can't find a website for the Oathkeepers Project of Maine, but the national Oath Keepers site is here. They are a group made up of current/former military and law enforcement personnel, pledging to disobey "unconstitutional" orders. Not surprisingly, that kind of rhetoric can draw some nutballs. But even there, the group itself is essentially fringy, and the crazoids are a fringe on the fringe.
Did the article have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to
attempt to make its point?
Of course. One of its prime examples was the reaction of
residents of my very own home town, Rollinsford, New Hampshire,
to a recent epidemic of flooded basements. A selectman who had
to deal with the irked citizenry was spooked enough to be
quoted as seeing "parallels at the local level with what's happening
Rollinsford? Oh no! Was the basement of Pun Salad Manor flooded?
"Flooded" would be an overstatement, but we did get more
there than we've previously
seen in over two decades of residence.
This is about as much fun as a root canal without novocaine, and my sympathies
are with the residents who had it much worse.
What advice would you give to the quoted Rollinsford selectman?
Same as Harry Truman would: if you can't stand the heat, get out
of the kitchen. And it wouldn't hurt to remember that your job
description is "public
servant." And (furthermore) you should probably get used to the new Obama-era
paradigm: government is supposed to guarantee that nothing
bad will happen to us, ever.