Among the Intellectualoids

Shut Up, Cowboy

It's not easy engaging the left in Missoula high country.

By 6.22.09

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I have an amusing very part-time hobby, that being a contributor to the commentary threads of the Op-Ed columns found at NewWest.net, a website based in Missoula, Montana, and about which I've written before in a previous piece, "The Wicked Witch of the West."  

Despite its pretensions that it produces serious, well-balanced journalism, New West can best be described as being of the regional kneejerk Left, along with High Country News, "Headwaters News" service, and major newspapers such as the Denver Post. One irony about living in the contemporary West is that in spite of its overall conservative makeup and dependable red-state electoral base, the media landscape -- with a few exceptions -- is as liberal as that found on the blue state coasts. These are media entities that conservatives out here love to hate (oops -- there's that word again; the one they're always tarring us with). The editorial page of my own "local" (it's published 130 miles away) daily, the Idaho Falls Post Register, sometimes strikes me as so leftwing bizarre that I can't believe it's published in Idaho, which gave John McCain 62 percent of the vote the last November.

Most of the opinion pieces found at New West actually relate to Western issues: politics, culture and especially our endless environmental debate that involves the management of the public lands. The latter never changes. Administrations --federal, state, local -- come and go, as do policy and policymakers, yet still the same parade of lawsuits by environmentalists march through the courts. The lawyers remain static. The commentary threads on these show opinion clearly delineated black or white. There is little middle ground on environmental questions.

Other pieces are of national import, lately concerning such matters as Rush Limbaugh's infamous "I hope he fails" comments, or the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller, or the attack on the Holocaust Museum in Washington. These highlight the usual Lefty-tropes branding mainstream conservatives as evil revanchists not only obstructing the Left's progress, but capable of violence. The recent piece on the Tiller assassination featured talking points from the Daily Kos; another "humor" piece about moving Guantanamo inmates to an empty prison in Hardin, Montana, had a photoshopped picture of uniformed Nazis with the faces of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld superimposed on them. The writer of the Limbaugh piece implored the radio host to "Kiss my a--" in its last line. All this found on a website whose mission seems to be to save the West from unenlightened , recalcitrant Westerners like those 62 percent of Idahoans who voted for McCain. There's something for everybody at New West.

So I wade in and join the fun, taking my lumps from the Left, but always mindful of New West's explicitly detailed commentary policy. We've all seen those. Please refrain from "hate speech," profanity, etc. But New West also has a problem with good old-fashioned American sarcasm. A couple of my posts have been deleted over the last few months (that's okay, I'm still batting over .900), and one recently when I poked fun at a piece about New West sponsoring an urban planning seminar in Boise. The smart growth guys take themselves seriously, so I interjected my support of the Obama administration's ideas about bulldozing large portions of rust belt cities like Flint, Michigan, in order to restructure them in more green ways. I said in my post that this modus operandi might work in such western garden spots as Butte, Montana, and Idaho Falls, Idaho. Later, I returned to the thread to discover that the post had been scratched. In another post I directly inquired of the author, none other than Jonathan Weber, Publisher and CEO of New West -- the great man himself -- as to why I'd been scratched. The next morning, Mr. Weber took time away from the administration of his media empire and other civically-minded enterprises to answer me:

Bill, If you want to comment in a manner that is relevant, useful, interesting even in the slightest, great. But we're certainly under no obligation to allow the comment session to be a place for meanspirited and gratuitous mocking of me, my colleagues and my company. You are a classic Internet troll and we're not going to leave comments up if they are in that spirit. We're being generous by not blocking your IP altogether. Don't you have anything better to do than piss on people who are working very hard to make a living doing legitimate journalism.

Well. I simply answered this by inquiring of Mr. Weber if he had a sense of humor.

Bill, If you knew me you'd know I actually had a great sense of humor, I just don't find your nasty sarcasm particularly funny. Oh, and we actually do pay our writers, believe it or not. Making a living in this business is not easy and we're working very hard at it. To return the sarcastic favor, thanks for all your help and support the cause of original journalism in the West. If you don't like New West, don't read it, but spare us the gratuitous meanness.

When William F. Buckley, Jr. died, there was unleashed a flood elegiac stories, reminiscences of friends and colleagues, etc., as befits a man of his intellectual stature and accomplishments. After reading one of these pieces (not on New West), I followed up with a short trip down the commentary thread, and one post has stuck in my mind ever since. It went: "William F. Buckley is dead. Too bad conservatism didn't die with him."

That's all they really want. They want us to go away.

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About the Author

Bill Croke, formerly of Cody, Wyoming, is a writer in Salmon, Idaho.