Wednesday, May 14, 2003

My Correspondence With Michael Graham

Michael was kind enough to send this email to me:

First, let me apologize for not being a regular at the site. Media bashing is one of my personal pleasures, and your collection of articles/blogs on the topic looks promising. I promise to be back.

As a member of the "just spell my name right" wing of American punditry and shameless self-promotion, I'm glad to get the mention on your site. And as an unapologetic right-winger, I'm not bothered in the least that mention isn't positive.

But I'm waging this (seemingly) one-man war for something resembling reason between the Right and Left and I'm just curious: Do you really find my comments on Hardball offensive? Really?

Given the context (a discussion of a columnist getting in trouble for a joking remark) and the statement itself, (isn't "tire iron" the least bit humorous?), and the fact that it's preceded by the sentence "It's a JOKE!" and followed by "That's how I felt, but I would never DO it," do you really think this is violent rhetoric on par with a discussion at LGF of purging our nation of problematic fellow citizens.

Look, I know that people on my team jump on every little comment from a lefty. I know that in the post-Clinton era, all debate is partisan. But I have this dream (which I write extensively about in REDNECK NATION) that liberals will one day return to the principles of liberalism, one of which is for everyone to relax and get over it.

I remember the days when it was Conservatives who had no sense of humor. Does it truly move us forward for the Left to lose theirs, too?

Sorry about the long email and thanks for your time.

which I thought was reasonable enough that I should reply in kind, so I responded:


I'm not a member of the humor police. I'm one who thinks anything can be funny, from the holocaust to dead babies (remember dead baby jokes?), and even ethnic jokes.

However, for a something to be funny there actually has to be a joke. Simply stating something is a joke doesn't make it one. Where is the humor in wanting to beat Hillary Clinton with a tire iron? Other than appealing to the "yes, me too!" crowd who thinks the idea of beating her with a tire iron would indeed be funny. That's the only joke there - I'm not sure how the pairing of the word 'tire' with the word 'iron' constitutes a joke.

It's conservatives who have seized upon some absurd parody of political correctness and combined it with the new Patriotic Correctness, as you say jumping on anything lefty political opponents say. Once upon a time conservatives would do things like wonder out loud why, say, jokes about women were misogynystic but jokes about men were A-Ok. Hey, maybe there was a point there - but now we see conservatives being far more PC than lefties ever were - getting genuinely outraged about jokes about men, or christianity, or generally priveleged ethnic groups, or whatever. What began as "why the double standard" is now frothing rage more silly than even the silliest caricatures of lefty PCness. Combined with the increasing tendency to view any criticism of Great Leader as evidence of a lack of patriotism - as if president and country where the same - from where I stand it's the RIght who needs to lighten up.*

As for the question of I genuinely found the comments offensive or whether it's just scoring points for my side - it's both. There's a violent undercurrent in too much of the rhetoric cominig out of the right - particularly on AM radio but increasingly moving to the more "legitimate" news outlets. Now, if someone goes and hits hillary clinton with a tire iron I won't blame you for it, but one can't deny that there's a segment of the population (one can see them at, free republic, LGF, etc...) who thinks should violence would be acceptable or even necessary. More generally, we have a problem with violence against women in this country - there are plenty of men who think fists, if not tire irons, are the appropriate way to deal with uppity women. So, yeah, it's offensive.

But, the other part of what's offensive is the double standard which has overtaken the increasingly conservative dominated media. You're not blind - you know when one of our side makes a little slip, real or perceived, it gets Drudged and broadcast on practically every radio station in the country. If Susan Sarandon had suggested that Tom DeLay should be beaten with a tire iron, there would be howls of outrage on your side.

You screwed up. Should you be drummed out of the public square for it? Probably not. Should Hardball think twice before having you on again anytime soon? I'd hope so. If you'd just said it on your radio show would anyone have noticed? Probably not. But, shows like Hardball are still masquerading as legitimate news - and thus they define what is acceptable legitimate discourse. What is okay for an AM radio ranter isn't necessarily okay for the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, or Hardball.

That's the point that Bob Somerby is trying to make - it isn't simply that people say these things, it's that the political discourse in this country is increasingly dominated by Chris Matthews fantasizing about Hillary Clinton's sex life and people who make tire iron jokes. That the AM radio talk ethic is moving its way into cable news, the network news, and the non-tabloid op-ed pages.

To which he said:

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Unfortunately, your entire response was a screed against the VRWC media boogeyman, and avoided the obvious, fundamental question: So, anytime some says "I wanted to kill that guy/break his neck,etc.,etc"--a common idiom in the Engligh language--that person is making a threat? Saying something offensive?

Once again, that was the POINT OF THE CONVERSATION on Hardball. All you're showing me is your intentional obtuseness in defense of your politics.

I'm happy to be a conservative, but I'm not willing to be intentionally stupid to further the cause. I guess I don't want it as bad as you do.

Thanks again.


*I slightly fixed that sentence which managed to get mangled somehow. I don't think it changes the substance of the exchange in any way.