”MA, MA, WHERE’S MY PA?”

(campaign dig on Grover Cleveland, alleging that he had an illegitimate son)
Hardball campaigning isn’t a new feature in American politics (or in politics in general…), and my comments below on the tone of debate in the Blogosphere isn’t meant to compare it with the tone of electoral politics (although I also think that the tone there is depressing); it’s meant to talk about the tone of the politics of governance, which in my mind ought to be totally different than electoral politics (I know, I know, the campaign never ends, and in today’s politics every utterance is aimed directly at the heart of the next election…to me, that expresses the problem rather neatly).
Blogs…the prominent blogs…are meant to shape discourse, to launch memes, and to try and steer opinion ever so slightly. When I criticized Sullywatch and Hesiod, it wasn’t because my thin skin was unable to take the sharp words they launched; I’ve read worse, hell, I’ve said worse; they’ve never criticized me, and to be honest, I’m indifferent as to whether they do. It is because I’m a liberal too, and this kind of cheap rhetoric is great at whipping up your existing base, and not so terrific at building it. They’re tearing down what I want to see built.
And as a part of my thoughts on combat, I’m getting to the point of ‘honorableness’ in combat, which goes to the fact that combat may end, and that you may have to negotiate with your opponent. And if you have shown trustworthiness, humanity, and honor in the small ways that you can during battle, then there is a door open to greater displays of trustworthiness, humanity, and honorable dealings during peacetime.
The Israelis know this, the Palestinians don’t. And, sadly, neither do the rabid bloggers of the left and right. My criticism applies equally well to both sides; it just happens, as a partisan, that I feel responsible for only one. And that matters, because you have to remember the reply to the slur in the title. It was “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.”
[Update: Eugene Volokh weighs in on name-calling in lieu of argument.]

One thought on “”MA, MA, WHERE’S MY PA?””

  1. Date: 09/30/2002 00:00:00 AM
    What’s interesting (to me) about Eugene’s example is that the blog that was savaging Ben Shapiro seems to be quite right-wing (like Shapiro). So it doesn’t really count as “ideological opponents stoop[ing] to a barrage of personal insults”. He could have found a left-wing trashing of Shapiro, if he’d looked a little harder.

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