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June 21, 2007 [LINK / comment]

On the ethics of blogging

The recent Hanger vs. Sayre state senate campaign has left quite a legacy in terms of blogging issues to be resolved. Waldo Jaquith recently got into quite a dustup with Carl Kilo (who called him a liar) over the alleged false identity used by a commenter. Techno-wiz Waldo has been tracking down the IP address of blog commenters, and concluded that Carl was hiding behind the pseudonym "Teddy's Turds," a reference to the Teddy's Truth blog. I'm not an expert in such things, but it seems very unlikely that someone could have planted a fake IP address in that comment, or that it could be a pure coincidence.

I communicated briefly with Carl a few times earlier this year, even offering (semi-seriously) to help with a legal defense fund on one occasion. That's why I was deeply disappointed to learn that he had divulged to someone else a personal e-mail message that I sent to him. (An excerpt of it, without the proper context, was posted by Alton Foley on his blog.) If it weren't for that grievous lapse of ethics on Carl's part, I might be more sympathetic or willing to believe him.

Phil Chroniger has a fair and balanced take on that, noting correctly that both Waldo and Carl have ambiguous records when it comes to blogging standards.

There is anonymous commenting, and then there is anonymous blogging, which is one of my pet peeves. Unlike me, Republitarian seems to have an "anything goes" attitude about that. His post did inspire a good comment thread, at least, and some folks acknowledged the ethical pitfalls. I have a hard time linking anonymous comments with freedom of speech, as some do, but I will grant that many of our Founding Fathers used pseudonyms such as "Publius." That was in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, however, when people were still killing each other over political differences.

As most folks know, my observation about the anonymous Bloggers 4 Sayre sparked an avalanche of vitriol against me, which in retrospect was probably the moment when the Sayre campaign went into decline.

Blogs are many things to many people, and it would be vain to expect everyone to abide by the same standards of conduct. For example, I "speak" to a general (though small) "audience," maintaining a relatively formal, polite tone, and aside from occasional jests, I refrain from addressing individuals in the second person. (That's you, for you folks in Rio Linda.) Exposing an individual to embarrassment or ridicule in the blogosphere with words such as, "so, John Doe, are you still my friend?" can be abusive and threatening. Blogs are for public discourse, e-mail is for private discourse.

On a more light-hearted note, I enjoyed Whackette's "Ten Commandments for bloggers," which was inspired by the Vatican's "Ten Commandments for drivers." Overall, the rules she drew up are very appropriate, though most of the blog commandments (eleven, actually) were obviously directed in satirical fashion at a certain group with whom I am familiar. For example, "Convincing 'well respected' bloggers to join your cause and blog with you doesn't raise your credibility, it just lowers theirs." (Sorry, Leslie. ) Whackette forgot to include one very important commandment, however:

Otherwise, they may disown you.

Close but no cigar

One week after Scott Sayre lost to incumbent Sen. Emmett Hanger by six percent, "SWAC Girl" still can't get over the narrow margin of defeat. She keeps talking of Sayre as if he had been the underdog in this race, which is contradicted by a number of indicators. For one thing, Sayre stated quite clearly that he expected to win, which is why he declined to answer the question of whether he would support Hanger if Hanger beat him. Furthermore, his demeanor at public forums (BRCC, Staunton GOP) suggested that he believed he would win; see May 29.

For another thing, the pro-Sayre bloggers were positively gloating about their anticipated victory as the campaign progressed, and jeering those of us who supported the incumbent. "Spank That Donkey" wrote on June 8 (not posted until June 13) that the hoped-for endorsements of Sayre by Delegates Saxman and Cline "probably would drive the last nails in Emmett's coffin, in this race." From late May through early June, moreover, General Grievous' Dog had daily blog posts (invoking those Star Wars characters) warning us Hanger supporters of impending doom. "SWAC Girl" drew attention to that at least once, but the link in a blog post she made points to a page that has no longer exists. Yes, the sophomoric "GGD" has apparently deleted all of his pre-election blog archives! "Blog credibility," indeed; what a weasel.

In light of all the hardball politicking that has happened in this area, I find "SWAC Girl's" righteous indignation a little hard to swallow: "as a Republican volunteer I resent the fact he actively recruited democrats to cross over and vote in a Republican Primary." (She consistently uses small d for democrat and large R for Republican; what's that all about?)

UPDATE: After thinking about it, there are two possible reasons for the small d: either she means to disparage the other party as not worthy of a capital letter, or she is making a sharp distinction between Republicans and those who believe in democracy. Either way, it sends the wrong message about the Party of Lincoln. FACT CHECK: "SWAC Girl" stated that Sayre was "outspent 4:1 by the Hanger campaign," but VPAP data show that the actual margin was 3:2 ($232,321 to $152,707) -- and that does not include the anti-Hanger radio ads sponsored by VCAP, etc.

As for reuniting the party in the wake of the bruising primary campaign, I think the first step would be to refrain from insinuating that our party's nominee is a "RINO" or a closet Democrat. It would probably help to apologize for past statements along those lines. Republicans should all agree on the general commitment to restrain the size of government, and not spend so much time quibbling over how much restraint is necessary. Beyond that, I think it's best to refrain from further comments on this topic, and hope (against hope) that time will heal the emotional wounds caused by this primary race.

President Bloomberg?

Groan... Speculation about third-party presidential candidacies this far in advance wears my patience thin. Likewise, polling numbers about Fred vs. Rudy or Hillary vs. Barack bore me to tears. I'll start paying more attention to Decision 2008 this fall.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 21 Jun 2007, 11: 19 AM

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