disassociating associations and the like....

Is there such a thing as Election Burnout Syndrome? I don't know, but I do know that am really tired of the election, and sicker than I can ever remember being sick of any election before. The worst aspect of being burned out now is that technically, they have not yet really begun to fight, as the real campaign hasn't started yet. We still do not know the Democratic nominee, and the names of potential vice-presidential candidates are barely in the whisper rumor stages.

What fries me the most about the campaign is that the most popular theme so far violates one of my pet peeves, and that is the idea of holding A responsible for comments made by B. This is a violation not only of basic fairness, but of basic logic.

I've been blogging for.... Geez, in May it will be five years. One of the things that has most irritated me is something I know has happened to and irritated countless bloggers, and that is when people come along and put words in my mouth. There are various ways of doing this, but one of the most common is to cite a commenter, then attribute his thought process to the blogger. Listing and lumping people together is another common method. If one of my commenters says something, then it's "typical" of what "readers" think here, or that it typifies "the pro-war mindset," the "libertarian mindset" or even "the right." This is a profound abuse of logic, because what a commenter says is what a commenter says. Likewise, what another blogger says is what that blogger says.

The most frequent targets of such smears are the bigger bloggers who attract hundreds of comments on every post. This vintage attack by James Wolcott on LGF is one example among many of the thoughts of commenters being attributed to a Charles Johnson, simply by the technique of lumping people together with guilt by association.

A more recent example is this attempt to tar Ann Althouse with her commenters:

Ann has blogged quite a bit about her own feminism, and has criticized some powerful people whom she sees as feminism's false friends. So it's hard to understand her wanting to provide a forum for the sort of filth her commenters are spewing.
Wanting to provide a forum for filth? Sounds like a vintage Jerry Falwell remark, except it's considered enlightened leftist criticism.

I know I've complained about this sort of thing so many times that it's almost a feature of this blog, but I find the idea that I am responsible for what someone else says to be obnoxiously illogical. That's because I have no control over what other people say, and there's a fairly wide range of people, bloggers, and commentators I like. If I like someone personally, that does not mean I agree with that person. If I like someone's blog, that does not mean I agree with everything that the blogger says, and nothing is more irritating than the idea that I should be said to agree with something I did not agree with -- much less held accountable for it.

I have been repeatedly "shamed" -- accused of "hate linking" -- for citing Clayton Cramer -- presumably because of things he has said about homosexuality.

Hate-linking still, are we? Clayton Cramer? You really need to remove your head from your ass.
Never mind that I disagree with Cramer on homosexuality and voiced this disagreement repeatedly. Guilt by association means that I am not ever to agree with him or cite him with approval on anything, lest I be accused of agreeing with him on everything, even on things where I have specifically have disagreed! (Of course, it is outrageously bad logic to hold me responsible for things other people have said, and I should not even have to voice disagreement. But never mind logic when the idea is to hold me "accountable" for the statements of others!)

Another example of this illogic was Glenn Greenwald's uproar over Misha and noose jokes. Misha is another blogger I have agreed with from time to time, and who was nice enough to blogroll me. Nothing he says places me under no duty to disagree with him when I disagree, much less "disassociate" myself from him. Like any other blogger, Misha speaks for himself, and I speak for myself. The nonsensical tarring of everyone right of left with Misha's nooses led to such ridiculous extremes that I thought it was funny:

Glenn Reynolds is refusing to condemn those who refuse to condemn.

(My refusal to condemn Glenn's refusal to condemn deserves the strongest possible condemnation, I'm sure.)

On the other hand, when Glenn Reynolds goes too far, I have not hesitated to resolutely condemn him for it. (A good example was the disturbingly similar content between Reynolds and Mussolini, something Greenwald never credited me for, despite the damning list of similarities I provided.)

On the right, there was the notorious, and even more silly delinking campaign against Glenn Reynolds for the crime of being allegedly too soft on the ACLU. Fortunately, the delinking campaign was stopped, but that sort of logic -- of finding ideological heretics and demanding mass denunciations -- is everywhere.

Obviously, this walk down memory lane was prompted by the frenzy of attacks on Barack Obama, not because of what he said, but because of what his minister and mentor said. A lot of what Jeremiah Wright said is so over the top that Obama should denounce it, but I have to ask, how was he responsible for it? My favorite blogger is Glenn Reynolds. My favorite radio talk show host is G. Gordon Liddy. While I'm at it, my favorite comedian is George Carlin. And I have long loved Howard Stern.

(Hmm... Maybe I shouldn't have made this disclosure. I'd hate to think I might have given the Glenn Greenwalds and the James Dobsons of this world an opportunity to link them together in a list.)

Anyway, it just so happens that I agree with Reynolds (and Howard Stern) more than I agree with Liddy. But am I in any way responsible for what any of these people say? For what, exactly? Their philosophies are diametrically opposed in different directions on many issues, and I have no control over what goes out online or over the air.

Take G. Gordon Liddy, as an example. If I were a candidate for some important office (and thank God I am not), no doubt the Greenwalds of this world would comb through Media Matters for quotes and then hold me "accountable" for selected remarks Liddy has make. (Trust me, he's said a lot over the past few decades, and I have often disagreed, but that wouldn't matter to people who'd accuse me of sitting there and "listening with approval.") I'd be especially guilty, because I credit Liddy for helping inspire me out of a serious depression, and I tried to get him pardoned by the Clintons. Therefore, according to today's political logic, I'm just as responsible for what he says as Obama is for what Jeremiah Wright says.

It is deeply, profoundly illogical, but it just goes on and on, and I see it every day.

As a matter of fact, in Friday's offering of bad logic, Greenwald works himself into quite a lather over several selected excerpts from the multi-blogger National Review Online's Corner. Considering my longtime opposition to social conservatism, it wouldn't be hard for me to find and get worked up over selected remarks at the Corner either. But it wouldn't occur to me in my wildest dreams to blame Glenn Reynolds. Greenwald, though, goes further than that; he advances the claim that Glenn is even worse (less "respectable" and therefore belonging to a "lower level") than the Corner writers he condemns:

...these [excerpts from the Corner] are the high-minded, deeply Serious observations one finds in just one 24 hour period in the most respectable right-wing outlet in America. This is to say nothing of what one finds peddled by the lower levels of the right-wing noise machine: Rush Limbaugh, Instapundit, Bill O'Reilly, Drudge, right-wing blogs and the like.
I know this is getting tedious, but once again, nothing could be more illogical than listing people together, claiming a connection that is not there, and then giving them all a colletive title -- the lower levels of the right-wing noise machine!

Why not Limbaugh, Reynolds, Drudge, David Duke, Mussolini, and Hitler? I mean, if guilt can be imputed by association, why not impute guilt by listing?

Actually, I shouldn't complain. In fact, I should feel probably proud that Greenwald would so graciously include me with his catchall "right-wing blogs and the like." I don't know how well I live up to the "right wing blog" label.

But can I be part of "the like"? Should I?

For the likes of me, I'm torn. Because, like, while I like thinking I like being included in "the like," I'd, like, also like to disassociate myself from "the like." Because, like, how am I to know what the rest of "the like" are going to, like, say?

Nothing like being held accountable to the likes of the like.

So many likes, so little time.

MORE: Might this latest round have started with Farrakhan and Hagee? And they're also talking about Parsley.

Is there a Parsley, Hagee, Farrakhan, and Wright conspiracy of denounced, repudiated and disassociated associations?

posted by Eric on 03.16.08 at 01:09 PM


Sorry, but this comment has an "except" to it. I agree and do not like guilt by association anything. EXCEPT Obama is running for POTUS, AND he has attended his church for 20 yrs. His Minister is his advisor and mentor. Your and other blogger commentators are neither of these, there should not be and guilt by association. Attaching Obama and his Minister is not guilt by association in my book.

LYNNDH   ·  March 16, 2008 4:41 PM

What LYNNDH said.

Obama voluntarily joined Wright's church. He was married by Wright. His children were baptized by Wright.

Wright hasn't just recently started on this whole "hate America" schtick. He's been on about it for his entire career.

One would think that in one's choice of religious mentor, one would be wary of following a man with such character flaws.

That Obama has executed no such judgement makes him as suited to be President as it makes Eliot Spitzer to be Governor.

brian   ·  March 16, 2008 5:36 PM

"A lot of what Jeremiah Wright said is so over the top that Obama should denounce it, but I have to ask, how was he responsible for it?"

He has given the church $20000 dollars. He has attended the church for 20 years. He was married in the church. His children were baptized in the church. So his ACTIVE endorsement of this church and the church's teaching are well established.

dre   ·  March 16, 2008 5:38 PM

I think some people are arguing that Obama basically agrees with what Wright says. If he agrees with Wright, then he should be held accountable for what he agrees with, because he thinks it.

There's a difference, though, between holding him responsible because he agrees with Wright, and holding him responsible simply because Wright said it, and he likes Wright. The former is a reasonable subject of inquiry; the latter strikes me as holding him to a standard beyond his control.

Eric Scheie   ·  March 16, 2008 11:18 PM

"Parsley, Hagee, Farrakhan, and Wright"

Sung to the tune of "Scarborough Fair," maybe?

Sean Kinsell   ·  March 16, 2008 11:51 PM

The essential part of Obama's relationship with Wright and the church where Wright is pastor is that Obama has chosen to have the relationship and a member's relationship with a church is customarily considered by most people to be a fundamental aspect of the member's belief system.

Or are we to think Obama's association with this church is casual and mostly meaningless? Horrors, political expediency as usual.

Bob Thompson   ·  March 17, 2008 8:16 AM

Is there such a thing as Election Burnout Syndrome?
Yes, I got it around a year ago and had agita for probably 3 months. I've even made serious comments at IMAO, something that had previously been verboten to me.
Now? I've embraced the horror and my only joy is schadenfreude.

Veeshir   ·  March 17, 2008 8:19 AM

are we to think Obama's association with this church is casual and mostly meaningless?

I don't know, but I hope that he is insincere, and doesn't believe what Wright preaches.

The problem is that we already know he's insincere, because his current denunciations of what Wright says don't seem to jibe with his previous behavior.

What sort of person sits in church and disagrees with a minister, yet comes back for more? An insincere person?

How are we to know whether he is lying about his insincerity?

Eric Scheie   ·  March 17, 2008 12:41 PM

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