11 May 2012

What I Learned this Week

My tiff with Joe Romm and the Center for American Progress this week taught me a few lessons and put a finer points on ones that I have already known:
  • Political debate is rough business, politics ain't beanbag
  • There are people and institutions whose business is to try to tear people down, to savage their reputation in order to avoid a debate on policy substance
  • No appeal to reason, honor or dignity matters to such people
  • They will lie to your face and to everyone else without batting an eye if they think they can get away with it
  • When caught in an obvious fabrication they will pretend to make it go away and that it never happened, while doing everything possible to spread the lie far and wide
What can one do in such situations?
  • Recognize that your character is being attacked because they feel that they cannot engage you on substance, an implicit argument that they see your arguments as better or unimpeachable
  • Recognize that their megaphone is bigger than yours, always will be
  • Recognize that because they are more influential and connected than you are, that non-combatants will generally (often silently, but sometimes overtly) side with the more powerful -- this is a fact of life and no use complaining about
  • Recognize that appeals to reason, honor, dignity will be ignored or used as a means to further inflict damage on you
  • Recognize that you have choices -- to drop out of debate, ignore, joke, quietly correct or return fire-with-fire
I have tried a lot of these strategies over the past years to respond to efforts at character assassination, of which I have had my fair share of;-) I don't really like any of the responses, as they all have positive and negative outcomes. But, if one can't take the heat, one should get out of the kitchen.  And if one stays in the kitchen, then that means learning to cook with gas.

This week I respond to Romm and CAP's buckets of mud with an aggressive and loud response. Sometimes bullies should be stood up to.

Was it the right response? I am not sure, but it certainly was effective. Romm's dozen or more updates and changes to his post full of lies were undignified and embarrassing, and certainly an admission of wrong-doing. CAP's outright lie to me that they stood by their reporting even as they were erasing evidence of their fabrications was laughable.

For anyone paying attention -- and I don't blame anyone for not -- this week's episode shows clearly the moral bankruptcy of the vicious element of US political discourse, which exists on both sides of political debate. One organization used a billboard campaign to associate their opponents with mass murderers -- character assassination to be sure. Another organization then used lies to try to associate me with the first organization -- more character assassination. Apparently, appreciation of irony is in short supply these days.

I do not expect to have to engage in open warfare with Romm or CAP in the future, given the degree to which they have embarrassed themselves this week. However, should they continue to try to savage my reputation and harm my career, I will not take it lightly.

For my part, I will continue to call things like I see them, and will welcome debate with (and especially with) those with whom I generally disagree with, ideologically, politically or substantively -- and that means even with vile organizations like CAP and Heartland.

As I told Joe Romm and CAP, I am in the business of sharing ideas with people who I may have many disagreements with and interaction/exchange/discussion is a virtue in my world. Disagreement and conflict are to be expected. Malicious lying and bullying is not.