Lightness and Darkness in the Political Blogosphere

Last week Brad Warthen, an editor at The State (South Carolina) paid Liberal Values a compliment at his blog in a post entitled A candle is lit in the partisan darkness. While the topic was initially about John Edwards, it turned into a more general discussion of partisanship. Brad wrote that “partisans are so accustomed to spouting the nonsense that all evil comes from those people in that other party, that their conditioning keeps them from perceiving the actual tactical situation that lies before them.”

In contrasting my post with such a a partisan post at The Democratic Daily, Brad wrote “Ron Chusid, seems to be a guy who sees beyond such things, despite the title of his blog.” Before I explained in the comments, Brad did have some qualms about the title of this blog writing, “I don’t understand how intelligent people, such as this writer, can surrender their thought processes to an off-the-shelf set of values — which is what a person seems (to me) to do when he is willing to label his own value set with one brand name or the other.”

As I explained, I use liberal in the broad historical sense, as well as considering its European meaning, as opposed to using the label to limit views to one “brand.” The issues I concentrate on are definitely liberal, including a stress on civil liberties, separation of church and state, and limiting powers of the government over the individual. Many of the issues of the day I concentrate on, such as opposing the war and the influence of the religious right are also shared by most in the liberal blogosphere. Other principles I uphold at Liberal Values such as the free market were clearly liberal historically but at different times this has been viewed differently. Using Liberal in the title of the blog does not mean lining up with the liberal blogosphere or the Democratic Party on all issues.

Another reason for using Liberal in the name of the blog was a reaction to the type of partisanship which Brad criticized in light of the manner in which the right has demonized the word. Of course this does sometimes lead to problems from both sides of the political spectrum. There have been a number of conservatives who have commented here under the misconception that I’m a partisan Democrat and assume I hold views which are quite different from those actually expressed here. Fortunately for every comment such as this I receive many comments or links from others which are more like Brad’s comments.

For the most part liberals have been more open to the concept of a blog which agrees with them on major issues of the day including Iraq and social issues but does disagree from time to time. I would even argue that such toleration of a variety of viewpoints is part of being liberal.

The major exception has come from the same blog which Brad pointed out as an example of posting partisan nonsense, The Democratic Daily. As those who have followed this blog from the start are aware, I was involved in building The Democratic Daily but ultimately left due to their increased intolerance of holding any opinions other than a narrow set of viewpoints in vogue there. The final straw was when they defended Mel Gibson and desired to suppress my criticism of his anti-Semitic comments and belittled criticism of Holocaust Denial as unworthy of discussion.

The Democratic Daily has come under criticism in the blogosphere this week as well as in Brad’s post of last week. What is ironic is that it comes from a source which for a while had been fooled into supporting the blog wars that The Democratic Daily has periodically launched against Liberal Values for failing to fall in line with what they see as the only proper views to be expressed by a liberal blog.

Michael van der Galien has had two entries on his blog which I am aware of which repeated some of the false claims being spread by some of the writers at The Democratic Daily. These were posted while Michael was also posting at The Democratic Daily and freely admitted that he considered Pamela (editor of the blog) to be a friend. Blindly backing a “friend” can easily lead to a number of misconceptions.

Sometimes the temptation to say “I told you so” just becomes too hard to ignore. The following is a portion of a recent post at The Democratic Daily:

So, I’ve been watching it trickle into national consciousness, culminating in yesterday’s massive non- violent protests (and the scum-sucking Klansmen and Kewpie Dolls from Hell™ of the Rightie blogosphere proving that Jim Crow is alive, well, and running the “Party of Lincoln” — See Michelle Malkin’s “props” to Michael van der Galien, a Dutchman who “loves” America and posts on Joe Gandelman’s “The Moderate Voice” HERE. Sadly, Michael used to post HERE, on The Democratic Daily, but his “moderate” credentials have been sacrificed, evidently, for increasingly strident Right Wing attacks. It is truly sorrowful to see a White Dutchman pompously and self-righteously lecturing Southern Blacks on racism in the USA. Formerly, he’d seemed a decent guy.)

The real issue here isn’t who is right about this particular case but how The Democratic Daily so quickly resorts to personal attacks. Hart also was involved in controversy recently when he ethically showed no problem with the idea of shooting those he disagrees with if only those pesky laws did not prevent him from doing so.

Michael initially responded to this post in the comments with “Ah, attacking me nowadays no? Nice.” He also entered his own post at his blog entitled When Liberals Go Wild. This led to an email exchange which Michael posted in which each calls the other an extremist. Michael concludes, “And some people wonder why I’m criticizing the left more and more…” If only he paid attention when I first pointed out to him how close minded The Democratic Daily has become and how they are not representative of much of the left. Todd, who has a history of fabricating attacks raises a false charge against Michael in the comments and is quickly shot down once again.

On the other hand, Todd is correct in arguing that Michael was wrong for posting email without the consent of the author. In response a supporter of Michael wrote:

I’m not normally a big fan of it, but since Michael and I were recently the victim of the practice and since there was zero criticism from the so-called “progressive blogosphere” elements that are now outraged at Michael, I’m honestly not inclined to see your protests as anything other than manufactured.

I’m sick and tired of being on the sucker end of double standards. So, until I start seeing some consistency and willingness from so-called “progressives” in regards to their (claimed) standards of civility, decorum, and the like, well, I’ll stand with my friends.

I am unaware of this episode, but certainly agree that the same standard applies to all. Similarly, even before leaving The Democratic Daily I protested their habit of attacking conservatives because of being conservative (as opposed to providing rational arguments against their points) and for engaging in improper conduct such as posting personal information on those they disagreed with.

The blogosphere certainly contains many points of light and darkness. One principle which might have helped in the dispute note above would have been to concentrate on disagreements over the issues as opposed to quickly resorting to personal attacks. At Liberal Values I strive to be objective and consider the argument as opposed to the individual or party in the views expressed here. That is why I do not follow a particular “brand” as discussed above. I have often agreed with certain people on some issues and disagreed on others. Unfortunately once one side turns a dispute into a personal attack it is very difficult to keep it from progressing down this road.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Donald Douglas says:

    I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with partisanship. People need to make choices, and party or ideology help the decision-making processes.

    On the other hand, petty partisanship that descends to ad hominems and threats – including death threats – cannot be considered reasonable forms of exchange, and frankly should be denounced.

    With all respect, you might use the term “classical liberalism”, or some other, to contrast with the “modern liberalism” as practiced by the American left. Sometimes it’s not clear the perspective you’ve adopted.

    Otherwise, interesting and informative post!

    http://burkeanreflections.blogspot.com

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Donald,

    Agree that the real problem is petty partisanship or extreme partisanship as opposed to all partisanship.

    “With all respect, you might use the term “classical liberalism”, or some other,”

    I have considered this but the more detailed the label the more risk of the “branding” problem.

    “as practiced by the American left.”

    Another topic I removed from the post due to length is the changing meanings of the labels. Currently the left v. right spectrum is determined largely over the war and social issues as opposed to economic issues as in the past. While there are a few die hard socialists around, for the most part capitalism has won that ideological battle. The modern left includes a variety of economic viewpoints.

    Another problem is that there are no good labels. Classical liberal will often work, but that could create misconceptions. Sometimes I use socially liberal and fiscally conservative but there remains a wide variety of viewpoints used by people labeled in this manner.

    “Sometimes it’s not clear the perspective you’ve adopted.”

    Yes, there is the danger of people looking purely at the name and assuming more. However I also find it of some value to have reader’s expectations about a post sometimes be wrong and provide material which may be different from what they are accepting.

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