Thursday, April 20, 2006
If you don't like worms, try not
opening cans of them all the time
There are lots of things in this world that make you say, "What a bunch of dumbasses."
For example, earlier today I happened upon an old NBA playoff game on ESPN Classic, between the Nets and Sixers. The Nets' Michael Ray Richardson gets fouled hard making a layup and goes to the line*. The camera gets him in the standard frontal close-up as he prepares to take the free throw. At the bottom of the screen is a graphic: "Michael Ray Richardson ... Scoring Average ... Season: 12.0 ... Tonight: 20.0" ...
At this point I'm shouting at the screen, "What's with the decimal point? Just in case he scores 20.1 points tonight? What a bunch of dumbasses."
We all have screaming-at-stupidity moments like that. With the exception of Glenn Greenwald, all of us have done the kind of dumbass things that make others boil over at our own stupidity. But for the most part, dumbassness like the scoring graphic above isn't particularly harmful ... it's just dumbass.
Not so the heartbreaking tale of staggering dumbass cooking in the right blogosphere at the moment. The details: Michelle Malkin posts the email addresses and phone numbers of some UC Santa Cruz students who caused a ruckus over the presence of military recruiters at a job fair. The message from Malkin is clear: "Will no one rid me of these meddling moonbats?" Bloggers on the left cry foul, Keith Olbermann picks up the story and names Malkin the "Worst Person in the World" on his MSNBC show. In the meantime, Malkin compounds her original offense by re-posting the students' personal information. The targetted students are getting death threats. Some dipshits on the left decided to strike back by posting Malkin's home address** on their sites, and Malkin posts on her site that now she herself is getting death threats.
Okay, stop. Here we are. A perfect place for all of us - left and right - to step back and say, "Enough's enough - we're letting politics get waaaaay too personal and out of hand. All of this stuff needs to end ... now."
And some people did say that. And so did some others. And surely many more people that I'm not aware of said it, from the left and from the right. For my part, I'll go so far as to say this series of incidents has made me question if even the exceedingly tame campaign against cobag's cobag Ruth Malhotra might be skirting the edge of reasonable tactics.
But Jeff Goldstein has used the opportunity to (sadly but predictably) get in a high dudgeon over the barbarism of the left. Various other righties (check Malkin's trackbacks) have done a variation of the same.
What utter, hypocritical dumbasses.
Goldstein et. al.'s argument begins with the specious argument that the Santa Cruz kids had made their personal info publicly available in a press release - see, it was their own fault! But as Auguste shows, Malkin's address is also publicly available. And as Auguste makes plain, the mere public availability of information does not make it acceptable in any way for anybody to draw new attention to it in a climate of concentrated revenge-seeking.
Aside from that, what Goldstein and crew either don't know or pretend not to know, is just what a press release is and how the information in it is expected to be treated. But you can be damn sure that Malkin, who worked in newsrooms as a regular journalist before sliming her way to ace pundit status, knows precisely how blatantly she violated the basic understanding between journos and PR flacks (in this case, the "PR flacks" are the students themselves).
Here's a little example of what I'm talking about. As a sports editor, I would get several press releases a week from a publicist for the San Francisco 49ers. These were emailed to me, and were also available on the 49ers' website, easily accessible to any member of the public who might choose to look for them. Printed on the releases was the private phone number of the publicist who wrote them, made available in case I or any other journalist covering the Niners wanted to give him a call about the release.
Meanwhile, I would write stories and columns about the Niners, often extremely critical of the organization and its ownership, the Yorks. I wrote at least one column that accused the Yorks and the Niners of cheating their fans through stinginess and incompetence.
At no time did it ever cross my mind to publish the phone number of the PR flack - publicly available, remember - for the purpose of implicitly prodding my readers to go take out their frustrations with the team on one of its representatives. It wasn't a question that such a move would destroy my access to the Niners (though doubtless it would have done that), but that to do it would be the most cheap, below-the-belt thing I could possibly do as an editor. So cheap and below-the-belt that it would never have crossed my mind to do it even if I'd had some sort of personal grudge against the publicist.
Now there has been some discussion about how "stupid" the Santa Cruz kids were to put their personal contact info on their publicly available press release. As I've shown, however, journalists deal with personal info on press releases all the time, and they don't publish it to start harrassment campaigns against people or organizations they don't like. It's a code so deeply understood, I don't think I've ever actually heard any journalist talk about it. To give Goldstein et. al. the benefit of the doubt, maybe that's too much "tradecraft" for them to have absorbed - even though the understanding I describe falls more into the category of "basic ethics a child could grasp" rather than "secret journalists' guild protocol".
But not Malkin. She knows precisely why such information is on press releases: For journalists (and I use the term loosely with regards to a hatemongering polemicist like Malkin) to contact the principles or their spokespeople for followup on a story. Malkin, from her bully pulpit, blatantly abused the unwritten understanding between journalists and sources to sic her vigilante attack dogs on some kids. There is just no arguing with that conclusion.
So back to dumbassness. The hypocrisy of Malkin to cry foul over her own similar treatment - and for the likes of Goldstein to rush to her defense by heaping his endless capacity for transparently biased scorn upon her tormenters, while giving the instigator herself a free pass for precisely the same behavior - is dumbassness at its dumbassest. It is the achievement of terminal dumbassocity, the absolute zero on the scale of dumbass, the epic collision of all that is contained in Set: Dumb with all that is comprised of Form: Ass.
My own anger over this dumbass display on a scale of 1-10? Season: 12.0 ... Tonight: Infinity.9999 ...
*Incidentally, "going to the line" of another sort would prove the undoing of Richardson's promising NBA career.
**Which I will not link to here.
UPDATE: "Michelle Malkin - Awe Inspiring" ... so sycophantic, you've got to read it to believe it.