Michael Orsi’s column this morning about calumny in the blogosphere is perfectly timed, because it comes one day after a post at Firedoglake so defamatory, indeed so slanderous by dictionary definition at least if not by legal definition, that it arguably is almost legally actionable. In it, site proprietor Jane Hamsher attacks Georgia Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall because Marshall was one of only two Dems who voted NOT to override President Bush’s veto of the SCHIP (health welfare for the middle class) expansion bill. But rather than merely disagreeing with Marshall (much less actually offering any substantive argument against his position), Hamsher tried not just guilt by association, but (apologies to Maxwell Smart) a particularly vicious example of “the old guilt-by-unrelated-and-irrelevant-and-false-association trick.” See, Marshall was discussed on a radio show with guest host (and Red State blog director) Erick Erickson, who talked about the SCHIP vote and approvingly noted Marshall vote. Erickson, a councilman-elect in Marshall’s town of Macon, GA, happened to be a driving force behind Georgia voter photo ID law. Hamsher cannot imagine ANY reason, apparently, to be for a photo ID law other than sheer racism. Therefore, I guess, Erickson is by definition a racist. And by some bizarre form of transitive property of equality, this makes Marshall a racist, too, for happening to agree with Erickson on the completely unrelated issue of SCHIP. So Hamsher, showing her usual lack of restraint and lack of class, accused Marshall of a “bigot embrace” and of “cavorting with racists” (merely because Erickson cited him approvingly on the show that Erickson guest-hosted).
Them’s fightin’ words.
Not only have courts thrown out race-based challenges to voter ID laws because plaintiffs could find no evidence that they cause racial hardship (i.e., support of the laws is not “racist”), but the very idea of accusing Marshall, of all people, of racism or even of indifference to racism, is laughable. Marshall is, by national Democratic standards, a moderate rather than a liberal, but one of the issues on which he always has been mainstream left is on race. He owes much of his political success to the support he has well earned among the black population of Macon, which he served as mayor. Imagining Marshall as part of a “bigot embrace” is like painting Gandhi as a warmonger.
Then there is Erickson, directly called a “racist” by Hamsher. Oh, really? Then how does Miss Vicious explain Erickson serving as campaign manager for black, Democratic Macon Councilwoman Miriam Paris? How does she explain Erickson’s public endorsement of black mayoral candidate Lance Randall over white candidate Robert Reichert? Again, what Hamsher has printed is slanderous. (As for opposition to overexpansion of SCHIP somehow being the sign of being “anti-child,” Erickson also has put his own pro-child values first in arguing AGAINST a judge’s decision to take a troubled child away from the lesbian who had cared wonderfully for her and made a difference in her life.)
Erickson, of course, is perfectly capable of defending himself and of putting a mirror up to Hamsher’s own record of hatefulness. He notes, for instance, Hamsher’s execrable tactic of doctoring a photo of Joe Lieberman to make it look like Lieberman is in blackface. And that’s just the tip of the hate-berg for Hamsher and/or Firedoglake. Just lat night at 7:52 p.m., for example, consider this absolutely sick, demented, vicious, callous reference to the late Terry Schiavo. The outrageous reference to Schiavo (no matter what one’s position on that case, making fun of the poor woman is hateful beyond belief) comes in a post mocking conservatives’ “culture of life.” The post is full of invective and absolute nutcase references to thoroughly discredited reports of a million (!!!) Iraqi civilian deaths. “Am I missing some big part of the Right that isn’t about killing people and blowing things up?,” asks the blogger. To which I ask: “What is WRONG with you people? Are you utterly incapable of arguing your points without making vicious and scurrilous attacks on our motives and our character?”
And so on.
A disclaimer: Back during the Libby trial, I twice sent notes to Hamsher praising the depth and breadth of Firedoglake’s coverage of the trial, even though I disagreed strongly with their analysis and conclusions. I was impressed that they at least did their homework, and I thought that they might possibly be serious enough people to have a respectful, cross-blog debate with. (I was not aware at the time of Hamsher’s record of pure hatefulness toward the right: the stuff I was reading had some pretty nasty edges to it, but still — barely — within the realm of merely snarky rather than purely hateful.) But Hamsher never had the courtesy to respond. The more I see of her site and her ad hominem attacks even against honorable Democrats such as Jim Marshall, the more I understand that common courtesy is as foreign to her as is decency and self-restraint.
In the battle of decent people against bigotry, I’ll take Lieberman, Marshall, and Erickson over Jane Hamsher any day.
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