The Attack on Amanda and Melissa, part 2: What's At Stake Here

What’s at stake here isn’t just two cool jobs for two damned good people. Amanda and Melissa are both so bursting with talent and drive that it fairly bursts out of every available orifice. It would suck if they were fired over this, but they’d both land on their feet in the long run.

Nor is it just about our right to say bad words, like “cunt” and “fuck,” on our own private website without becoming unemployable. Although that does matter, and it’s an important part of free speech.

Nor is it just a test of John Edward’s spine. That’s part of what’s at stake here, and an important part, but it’s not the whole thing.

What the right is doing here is attempting to shift the Overton Window of Political Possibilities. The “window”1 is the space of acceptable ideas for political discourse. So, for instance, right now being either pro-choice or pro-life falls inside the window; it is mainstream and acceptable to hold either view. But being (say) pro-Nazi falls outside that window; being pro-Nazi means that you’ll get fired from political campaigns, because your views are that far outside of the window of accepted political views.

Should criticizing (and even making fun of) the political positions of the Catholic church, the Pope, and the conservative Christian movement be “within the window” of acceptable views? Or should criticizing the Pope — even on perfectly true grounds, such as pointing out that he supports pro-life and anti-gay policies — be outside the window of what it’s politically acceptable to say and to criticize?2

If John Edwards gives up on Amanda and Melissa, he won’t just be ceding two great employees, and he won’t just be ceding his credibility among left-wing activists. He’ll be ceding the most important fight of all; the fight over what views can be discussed in mainstream political debate, and what views are automatically out of bounds. Controlling the Overton Window is how the right kept views opposing the invasion of Iraq out of the public debate in 2003; it’s how the right for decades has kept equal rights for queers off the public agenda; it’s how single-payer health care remains unspeakable in American politics, even though its supported by a significant number of ordinary American voters. This is the fight that all our other fights are won or lost on.

If we give up on the idea that it’s acceptable to criticize conservative Christians for their misogynistic, anti-gay views, the consequences of that loss will stay with us for decades. Let’s hope that John Edwards can see that there’s a lot more at stake here than short-term heat on him from an article in the Times.

That’s it, I’m done. But let me repeat: Please go to John Edwards’ site and send them a brief message of support for Amanda and Melissa. (And go visit Culture Kitchen for a huge list of feminist bloggers posting about this issue.)

  1. I actually think it’s more like a donut than a window, but that’s a subject for a future post. []
  2. Similarly, is Catholic doctrine something that no one is ever allowed to criticize or satirize if they want to be employable, or is it a set of ideas that American citizens can freely criticize without becoming pariahs? []
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73 Responses to The Attack on Amanda and Melissa, part 2: What's At Stake Here

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  9. 9
    Robert says:

    You can say anything you like, pretty much, and be employable in any job you like, pretty much.

    Where the “pretty much” rubber hits the road is when the job is “high-profile media person for national political figure”.

    I fail to see anything particular special about the bloggers in question that exempts them from the critical, and political, eye of the Washington establishment.

  10. 10
    Betsy says:

    Thanks for this clearly-reasoned post about the importance of this issue. It’s also about there being space (or not) for outspoken young feminists (and other activists) within the established political framework. This, sadly, remains to be seen.

  11. 11
    Betsy says:

    Oh, and Robert’s post misses the point entirely. No one is asking for them to be “exempt” from the “critical and political eye of the Washington establishment.” We’re expressing outrage at the possiblity that the Edwards camp’s “eye” isn’t able to “critically” evaluate the nature of the criticism being lobbed at them, conclude that it is spurious, and proceed to defend its hires. And we’re disagreeing vehemently that the manner in which they’ve expressed themselves on their blogs merits condemnation and termination.

  12. 12
    Sheelzebub says:

    Well, Robert, it sure would be nice if this “critical eye” was turned on rabid bigots, homophobes, and anti-semites like Malkin and Donohoe. I will be sure to contact every publication that runs Malkin’s drek and make sure they know that they shouldn’t give space to someone so hateful, as they’ll lose subscribers. As for your buddies getting the vapors over Amanda and Shake’s potty mouths, they should check their own blogs, which throw around f-bombs (and c-bombs) regularly (you can see a recent post of Vox Day for more of that). See also: Michelle Malkin’s and Jeff Goldstein’s less-than-stellar turns at outing their opponents, and shrugging off the threats and harassment said opponents had to endure.

    One waits with baited breath for the right’s efforts to clean its own house in taking McCain’s campaign worker to task. . .oh, wait. Sorry. He’s conservative, so it’s okay.

    Here’s a tip for these filthy right-wing thugs: You can keep acting like bullies and throw your little temper-tantrums. But you will feel the backlash, if the mid-term elections didn’t already get you thinking that this crap has gotten very, very old with people.

  13. 13
    Decnavda says:

    This is the message I just sent to the Edwards campaign:

    I want to congradulate the Edwards Campaign on hiring Amanda Marcotte as your blog mistress. I have enjoyed her writing for a few nows, but I am especially impressed with this choice due to her outspoken athiest views. I know Senator Edwards is a deeply religious man, and I appreciate Christians who work politically to advance the true goals of Christ – relieving the suffering of those in poverty. However, I and may of the roughly 13% of secular Americans often feel as if we are excluded from political debate in this nation founded on Enlightenment principles. The fact that the Edwards campaign is comfortable giving an outspoken athiest a prominent place is good news for the potential inclusiveness of an Edwards administration.

    This was a message I though about sending to them the moment I learned that Amanda would be their blog mistress, but this now big flap compelled me to actually send it.

  14. 14
    Robert says:

    Sheelzebub:

    Which Presidential campaigns are Malkin and Jeff working on?

    I don’t know the McCain campaign worker you’re talking about, sorry (haven’t been following his campaign.) If you have a name, I’ll be glad to run it down and let you know my opinion of his or her status, or whatever controversy you’re referencing.

  15. 15
    Robert says:

    Oh, nvm. I assume you mean Patrick Hynes. Yeah, what he did was wrong. If I were McCain, I would fire him.

    I’m not sure what the connection is to Amanda. (I don’t know anything about Shakespeare’s Sister so I won’t comment about that.) Patrick wasn’t accused of saying terrible things about big constituent groups that McCain is going after, as far as I know; he “just” blogged unethically without disclosing his affiliations. Two different “crimes”.

  16. 16
    Sheelzebub says:

    The point is, an anti-Semite and apologist for priestly pedophiles and a woman who associates with white supremacists are aspirating on their own spittle about Amanda’s supposed bigotry. Known liars are smearing her for being dishonest, which is laughable. And it’s ridiculous for right-wing bloggers to get the vapors over Amanda and Shakes’ f-bombs, considering the fact that they’ve dropped f-bombs and worse on their own blogs.

    And last time I checked, these filthy thugs weren’t going to be voting Democrat.

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    The only material issue, that I can see, is whether Amanda and/or SS’s views are objectionable to some major chunk of the electorate, and whether John Edwards’ campaign wants to be associated with those views. The unsavory nature, in your view, of some of the people raising the question seems largely immaterial. The questions are legitimate.

    The answer to those questions appears to be “obviously yes” and “we’ll see pretty soon now.”

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Eh. The main people who object to Amanda’s views — let alone SS’s — are the chunk of the electorate who would never consider voting for Edwards over a Republican anyhow. I think Edwards has far more to lose — by convincing liberal voters that he’s spineless when it comes to resisting attacks by the right-wing slime machine — by firing Melissa and Amanda than by keeping them.

  19. 19
    Robert says:

    The tricksy bit for Edwards is – although I don’t expect you to feel able to acknowledge this – that the right-wing slime machine (proud member!) has picked an issue on which we’re right. If he fights, it’s going to cost him a lot of votes, support, and momentum.

    There are a lot more than a few of us conservative fuckstains who think that spewing about the Virgin Mary being filled with God’s holy jizz and how she could have aborted Christ with Plan B, is deeply offensive. And a fair chunk of those people vote for Democrats. They certainly vote for social-justice issue Dems like John Edwards.

    He has a fairly difficult set of weights to juggle. He does need the netroots’ initiative, money and votes. He also needs liberal Christian votes. Now he’s going to be forced to choose between the two. He didn’t need to – he could have picked a netroot-inspiring candidate without the silicon trail of anti-Christian hatred – but for whatever reason tried to finesse things.

    I’d pay $2 to be a fly on the wall at the strategy session going on right now.

  20. 20
    Sheelzebub says:

    Anti-semetism is deeply offensive to the electorate, but that hasn’t stopped Donohue from spewing. And he didn’t mind the anti-Catholic statements made by one of his Swiftboat buddies. The Catholic community can smell bullshit a mile away-and Donohue has no cred.

  21. 21
    Dianne says:

    spewing about the Virgin Mary being filled with God’s holy jizz and how she could have aborted Christ with Plan B,

    I’m confused. I thought that the first part was standard Catholic doctrine: how did Mary get pregnant by the Christian god if she didn’t receive his holy jizz? Without consent, too (Mary was told that she would have a son who was the child if the diety, not asked if she would be willing to ), but I suppose if you’re a diety you can rape with some impunity. The second part is, of course, just silly. Mary was a good 2000 years away from the nearest drug store selling plan B.

    As far as Edwards goes, if he dumps Melissa and Amanda, he loses my vote in the primary, my campaign contribution (and I am enough of a latte liberal to contribute meaningfully), and possibly my vote in the general election. It depends on just how disgusting his opponent is. But if the Edwards campaign didn’t know about Melissa and Amanda’s views before hiring them then they’re too dumb to run the country and if they did know and initially approved but are willing to dump them to please the radical right then they don’t have the nerve to survive a campaign anyway. And yes, I’ve told them that too via the handy link several people have provided.

  22. 22
    Decnavda says:

    No, Robert, you picked an issue where you are wrong. The problem is, you want to have a higher level of “respect” for religious views than other views, and that, frankly, is bigoted against the way we freethinkers look at the world. I can repsect your right to hold and express conservative political views while still thinking your views are nutty and making fun of them and you, I think, accept this type of respect and repay me in kind. But just because I respect my wife’s right to hold Catholic beliefs and went along with baptizing our kids doesn’t mean I should not treat her religious views the same way I treat your political views. We freethinkers hold ALL opinions to the same standards. That is NOT religious bigotry.

    Many of her comment WOULD be inappropriate if stated as part of her gig as Edwards’ top blogger, but they were said on her own site, and I do not get the problem.

    btw – Can anyone tell me why some people even THINK Amanda is anti-male? I have read her blogs for a couple years and have never got that impression – in fact, I have seen her being attacked by radical feminists (using the term in its Women’s Studies meaning) for her pro-porn views. This even came up on Edwards’ blog when she announced she was running it. Is it just because she is ANY kind of a feminist, or is there anything more substantial?

  23. 23
    nolo says:

    thanks, ampersand, for the reasoned assessment of the issue. It’s about the boundaries of discussion and who gets to set them.

  24. 24
    Tapetum says:

    Oddly enough, Robert, I’ve hung around Pandagon since the day Amanda first started posting there. I’ve commented, and even engaged in extensive debating on religion. I think I would count as one of those social-justice voting Christians you seem so certain would be offended. I’m not. I haven’t been. And I doubt I ever will be. Amanda is not Christian. She is under no obligation to regard our figures of awe and reverence with anything of the kind. She’s a bit contemptuous of “superstitious nonsense”, but how would you react to somebody expounding on contemporary politics based on the theology of the Norse Gods? If our views can’t be defended without resorting to “because God said so” or “it’s in the Bible”, then we need to go back and find better rationales for them, rather than being horrified about their irreverence.

    And just to comment more specifically – yes, I’ve seen a lot of Christians use the fundamentals of the Christian mythos as excuses for blatent misogyny. We need to be called on it, and frequently it takes someone from outside to see it clearly.

  25. 25
    Jamila Akil says:

    Amanda and Melissa have every right to say the things that they have said on their respective blogs. The problem is that once you say things in the public sphere they become a sort of calling card that follows you wherever you go. You don’t get to say “oh, I said that on my personal blog so it really has no bearing as to what I’m saying now or the person I am working for”.

    If Edwards has any sense he will fire whoever it was that hired Amanda and Melissa in the first place. Whoever that person was should have pre-empted this whole bruhaha by picking bloggers who have written far less incendiary things. Whether we like or not, we are the company we keep. Now Edwards had to decide if he wants the company of Melissa, Amanda, and those who support them more than he wants the support of the people who find them disgusting.

  26. 26
    RonF says:

    But if the Edwards campaign didn’t know about Melissa and Amanda’s views before hiring them then they’re too dumb to run the country

    I’m picking option A as the most likely here. Now, I’ve never read either of these women’s blogs, but based on what the objections seem to be, I’ll guess that either someone really wasn’t thinking when they recommended these two or else … naaahh, that’s it. Somebody really wasn’t thinking.

    and if they did know and initially approved but are willing to dump them to please the radical right then they don’t have the nerve to survive a campaign anyway.

    If you folks really think that only the radical religious right will be grossly offended by a phrase like “filling the Virgin Mary with God’s holy jizz”, you are grossly misinformed about American Christians. Being an active Christian myself and all that, it’s my considered judgement that this will be offensive to the majority of Christians in this country. Here in Chicago, where you’d think it was illegal to vote for a Republican, that comment alone would get a whole shitload of Catholics voting for a Republican for the first time in their lives. Heck, I’m an Episcopalian, the most liberal mainstream Christian denomination out there (outside of the UCC, maybe), and I promise you that even the most liberal person in my parish would find that offensive.

    The bottom line is, if you are a candidate starting up a blog, you want the focus of the MSM and the blogworld to be on you and your campaign, not the views of the people running it. The blog exists to support the candidate, not the political or social views of the blog admins. Why would anyone imagine that Edwards has an obligation to these two?

  27. 27
    jack says:

    Hmm. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Amp. I think I was a bit quick to dismiss this issue, mostly because I’ve dismissed the Democratic Party in general and have come to care very little about them and expect even less from them. But when I think about this in these terms – in how this frames who gets to decide what’s permissible discourse and what isn’t – then yeah, perhaps I shouldn’t be so dismissive.

  28. 28
    Jamila Akil says:

    RonF Writes: Now, I’ve never read either of these women’s blogs, but based on what the objections seem to be, I’ll guess that either someone really wasn’t thinking when they recommended these two or else … naaahh, that’s it. Somebody really wasn’t thinking.

    Amanda and Melissa’s names were not picked out of a bag. Whoever asked them to come blog for Edwards had to have read their respective blogs and knew how polemical Amanda’s writing was. Edwards probably didn’t know, but the person in charge of hiring had to know.

  29. 29
    trillian says:

    Amp, both this and Part 1 are really insightful posts; this one in particular articulates a lot of what’s been getting to me that I hadn’t been able to put a finger on.

    I think that a lot of what’s par for the course on the internets just plays very differently when taken out of context and put into the context of television news or a newspaper. The taken out of context is the key part there, though, because Amanda is being slammed for her rhetorical devices, not her views.

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    What Trillian said. (And thanks, Trillian and Jack).

    Robert wrote:

    There are a lot more than a few of us conservative fuckstains who think that spewing about the Virgin Mary being filled with God’s holy jizz and how she could have aborted Christ with Plan B, is deeply offensive.

    And that’s understandable.

    But you know, Robert, I hung out with you in college. Correct me if I misremember, but I don’t recall you being above telling offensive jokes, or using blasphemous humor.

    Amanda told a dirty, blasphemous joke. If Amanda had told that joke after being hired, I could see it being a firing offense. But you seem to be saying that anyone wh0 has ever, even in their own website, said a dirty joke that offends Christians, should be unemployable in politics forever.

    Do you want a culture in which telling a dirty joke that offends people on one’s personal website means that? I don’t. Maybe you do.

    And to repeat what I wrote in my previous post: If Amanda wrote that we could never trust any Catholic in public office because we don’t know what master they’d serve, that would be disgusting bigotry. If she wrote that all Catholics are smelly fish-eaters, that would be disgusting bigotry.

    But making fun of beliefs and political positions is not the same thing as bigotry against people; in a nation of free speech, the beliefs and political positions of huge and powerful organizations has to be fair game for both criticism and making fun. This is especially true of a huge and powerful organization like the Catholic Church, which uses its theological beliefs as part of a worldwide campaign to influence the laws passed by secular governments.

    * * *

    You know, the truth is, nearly every atheist and every Jew in the world has at some point in their lives made fun of Christian theology, or made an obscene joke at either Jesus’ or Mary’s expense. So have a huge number of Christians, if the ones I’ve met (including you) are anything to judge by. Should they all be disqualified from working in politics?

    The jokes don’t mean that we all hate Christians, or that we’re bigoted against Christians; it means that Christianity is an overwhelmingly huge (and often intrusive) part of our shared culture, and that it’s natural to want to make irreverent fun of it.

  31. 31
    Joe says:

    I don’t think this is really a free speech issue. Politicians are judged partly on their ideas. So are the people around them. It seems to me that the amount depends on the role the person plays in the campaign. If Amanda is going to be a public ‘face’ of the campaign then her public person is important and relevant. What she said and the way that she said it are WHY they hired her. So i don’t think this is the same thing as telling dirty jokes in your living room.

    It’s like hiring Chris rock, Rush, or Andrew dice clay for a spokesman. Or hiring Trey Parker and Matt Stone to produce your commercials. They’ve said/done things that are offensive. People will want you to comment on those things.

    If she were hired to do statistical analysis of polling data I don’t think there would be an issue.

  32. 32
    RonF says:

    Amanda and Melissa’s names were not picked out of a bag. Whoever asked them to come blog for Edwards had to have read their respective blogs and knew how polemical Amanda’s writing was. Edwards probably didn’t know, but the person in charge of hiring had to know.

    Well, whoever recommended them to be hired should have known. Whether the person in charge of hiring knew or simply depended on the recommendation would be worth hearing about, since it would give an insight to how Edwards’ campaign does it’s hiring. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “the person in charge of hiring had to know”, since most people have never been on a blog. The person in charge of hiring may simply have delegated that part of the evaluation process.

    Somebody knew, as I say at least the person who recommended them. When I said “somebody wasn’t thinking”, I mean that I don’t think they did a good job in evaluating and judging their hiring from the viewpoints of “what are the objectives of having a blog for this campaign?” and “is hiring these two the best way to further those objectives?”

  33. 33
    Dianne says:

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say “the person in charge of hiring had to know”, since most people have never been on a blog.

    Amanda was hired as webmistress. She probably listed her blog on her resume. Sorry, but the person hiring should have known.

  34. 34
    RonF says:

    He’ll be ceding the most important fight of all; the fight over what views can be discussed in mainstream political debate, and what views are automatically out of bounds.

    I don’t think that anyone should lose their job because they hold and express publicly political and social viewpoints that are unpopular with some people. Everyone has a right to free speech, and we are blessed with a government that has to respect and defend that right (much as it has to be brought to that point kicking and screaming sometimes). If I started a blog expressing my viewpoints and my employer didn’t like my viewpoints, I think it would be an outrage if they fired me and I’d sue. My blog entries would have nothing to do with why I was hired or the work that I do.

    I went to the site to see if I could find a statement of why the blog exists; why the Edwards campaign created and is maintaining it. After reading through the FAQ, it seems that the idea is to use it to present and have publicly debated information from the various personnel at campaign headquarters (especially John, Elizabeth, and Cate Edwards, but also featured writers and the campaign staff). There’s also an “open mike” section, where anyone can post about anything, but the main thrust seems to be a) to get information about the Edwards’ campaign activities and political views directly into the blogworld, instead of depending on someone else to voluntarily interpret and present it, and b) to get feedback directly from the blogworld.

    Will either firing these two women or keeping them on interfere with these objectives? Is this situation equal to the one I described in the first paragraph I wrote?

    From a technical viewpoints, firing these two women won’t hurt the campaign’s objectives; they can simply get someone else to run it.

    However, from a political viewpoint, either keeping these two women on or firing them may hurt the campaign’s objectives if people in the MSM and the blogworld spend sufficient time debating this issue (especially on the Edwards’ blog itself) and the blog admin’s own views that attention is sucked away from the message that the Edwards’ campaign established the blog to present.

    Personally, I rather suspect that the whole thing will blow over quickly; again, relatively few people use blogs and will pay much attention to this issue. But, I could be wrong, it depends on how blown up it gets in the campaign. There’s a risk for the Edwards’ campaign here either way. Frankly, I think it showed poor judgement on their part – they should have looked for someone to run their blog who wasn’t already running a blog that expressed extreme political or social viewpoints in either direction. Why buy trouble?

    Consider if you had been giving speeches expressing controversial viewpoints. Now imagine that the Edwards’ campaign is considering hiring you as their press spokesman. Expressing and explaining political viewpoints of your boss would become your job. How much does your boss have a right to demand or expect that you limit your own political viewpoint expression? How much danger is that your own viewpoints and those of your boss will become conflated in the public mind? How legitimate is it for your boss to expect that congruence of his political viewpoints and your political viewpoints is a job qualification? How likely is it that people will think that your political viewpoints would have to meet with your boss’ approval or else John Edwards wouldn’t have hired you? How good a job would you do if your political viewpoints and John Edwards’ viewpoints didn’t agree?

    I don’t think that people should be hired or fired on the basis of their political viewpoints. But when expression of someone else’s political viewpoints is the job, that becomes less straightforward. I don’t agree that this is an issue of limiting the window of acceptable political debate. They’ll still have every right (which they apparently exercise quite effectively) to have their own blogs, so the presence of their ideas in public political debate is not at issue. I think it’s an issue of whether John Edwards both risks and wants the personal ideas of these bloggers to become associated with his own. I’ll bet he doesn’t want that; whether he risks it is less obvious.

  35. 35
    Dianne says:

    Amanda told a dirty, blasphemous joke.

    A dirty, blasphemous joke with a serious point behind it: the story of the conception of Jesus is a troubling one. “Holy jizm” aside–and I’d be happy to assume that Jaweh used a less messy method for conceiving Jesus if everyone else is–the story of the conception of Jesus, as it is told in the Bible, is a story of rape and forced pregnancy. Mary is never asked if she is willing to bear the holy child, never asked if she wants to accept the, er, donation that allows Jesus to form. She is told that she will, regardless of her desires, and this nearly ruins her life–Joseph comes near to breaking off their betrothal because of the pregnancy and there’s a strong chance that neither Mary nor Jesus would have survived if he had. One might assume that God, being all knowing, etc, chose Mary because, among other things, she was someone who would welcome the pregnancy as a miracle and not curse it as an unfair burden (and had a fiance with a little imagination who would marry her even if she was pregnant already).

    Nonetheless, the story is a disturbing one, especially to a non-Christian who has no particular reason to see the Christian God as “good”. Not to mention the possible political implications…would a Christian want to make abortion illegal on the off chance that the fetus being aborted is really the reincarnation of Jesus? Amanda was dealing with this problem with humor. Tasteless humor, perhaps, but tasteless humor is a venerable method for dealing with things that are simply too frightening to take seriously.

  36. 36
    RonF says:

    Sorry, but the person hiring should have known.

    Should have known as in “should have read a couple of months’ entries on her blog or had someone they trusted do so before they made the hiring decision”? Yeah, true, I’ll buy that. Should have known as in “actually did ….”? That’s the question.

  37. 37
    RonF says:

    No matter what he does, John Edwards is going to piss someone off by either keeping these two or firing them. He probably wishes they’d both resign. No politician wants to be in this position. Right now he’s playing the numbers game – “who’ll be pissed off if I do ‘x’? Who’ll be pissed off if I do ‘y’? How many people? How long? How will it effect their vote? Damn it! I just wanted to put a blog up! It was a GREAT idea!”

  38. 38
    Dianne says:

    No matter what he does, John Edwards is going to piss someone off by either keeping these two or firing them.

    How many of the people he would piss off by keeping them were going to vote for him anyway? I can’t say if this reaction is common or uncommon, but, personally, the only reason I ever considered voting for him in the primary was Amanda’s participation in his campaign. There are many other quite reasonable choices for candidates: Obama looks quite good and my junior senator has proven herself quite competent, if wimpy in some areas, such as support for the Iraq war. Heck, if Dean ran again I might vote for him out of sheer professional solidarity. Any of the above would be a reasonable choice and more interesting than some random Southern white male. On the other hand, his choice of Amanda for webmistress seemed to argue that he had more imagination and vision than I’d previously thought: in short, that he might be a better candidate than one would expect from the demographics. I guess not.

  39. 39
    Robert says:

    Amp:
    But you know, Robert, I hung out with you in college. Correct me if I misremember, but I don’t recall you being above telling offensive jokes, or using blasphemous humor.

    You must be thinking of someone else. I was too busy in college doing my homework and attending Bible class to have time to “hang out”.

    Oh wait, no, that was “chasing women” and “drinking”, not the homework and Bible one.

    Yes, I’ve made obscene/blasphemous jokes; probably worse jokes than Amanda has made.

    But you seem to be saying that anyone wh0 has ever, even in their own website, said a dirty joke that offends Christians, should be unemployable in politics forever.

    Not at all.

    The point is that these are political jobs, which means that they have political (i.e., non-rational) implications and requirements. It isn’t that there’s a formal rule, “nobody with dirty joke background can work in politics”. As you say, we’re all screwed there.

    Instead, it’s a question of what you’ve said, and when, and how it’s perceived, and what people thought of you already, and what they think of you know, and how is it going to interact with the rest of today’s message, and on and on.

    To use me as an example – say Mitt hires me for his campaign, and like a fool I go. You come out and say “But I knew Bob Hayes back when, and he told a terribly offensive joke about Jesus’ left nut.” It would go nowhere.

    (A) I didn’t have the foresight to post my joke on the Internet, permanently attached to a popular website.
    (B) I don’t have a website filled to the brim with Christians-are-teh-suck.
    (C) I can come forward and say “That joke was awful and I wish I’d never made it. Since that time I’ve found peace in Jesus’ love.” instead of “Fuck all of you wingnut fuckstains I hate you fuck fuck fuck.”

    There’s a difference in perception, there, ya see? George Bush could probably make a crack about marital infidelity and have it laughed off. Bill Clinton would run into trouble. Who you are and what you’ve done is part of the perception of any new, or newly-discovered, act. Nobody would be shocked if Rudy Giuliani got a new girlfriend, everyone would be shocked if John Edwards did.

    The jokes don’t mean that we all hate Christians, or that we’re bigoted against Christians; it means that Christianity is an overwhelmingly huge (and often intrusive) part of our shared culture, and that it’s natural to want to make irreverent fun of it.

    Surely. But those of us who DO hate Christians and ARE bigoted against Christians are going to have a hard time making the “it was just a joke, I’m so sorry” presentation.

  40. 40
    Dianne says:

    George Bush could probably make a crack about marital infidelity and have it laughed off.

    That’s probably because he’s perfectly incapable of being unfaithful. (Cheap shot, I know, but it was just sitting there…)

  41. 41
    Robert says:

    He’s keeping them on.

  42. 43
    Dianne says:

    Edwards’ statement is obnoxious and condescending, but he didn’t fire them. It’s a pretty low bar, but any number of candidates might have failed it anyway, so I’ll give him a C- for his handling of this affair.

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  44. 44
    RonF says:

    Well, he’s keeping them on. He seems to be basing it on the concept that while they’re working for him they won’t use certain kinds of intolerant language. It seems to me that the real objection to them, however, are the viewpoints they hold and that they’ve already expressed, not the level of language they use to express any viewpoints from now on. And I’m not sure this statement addresses that.

    they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone’s faith

    Really? I haven’t spent any time on their blogs, so I won’t offer an opinion. The real question will be whether or not any sizable group of religious people will both hear of their views and be offended by them.

  45. 45
    trillian says:

    “who’ll be pissed off if I do ‘x’? Who’ll be pissed off if I do ‘y’? How many people? How long? How will it effect their vote? Damn it! I just wanted to put a blog up! It was a GREAT idea!”

    I don’t disagree that this thinking probably played a big part in dragging bloggergate out, but I think that the Dems need to reevaluate this policy of equivocation. If the Edwards campaign’s response had been to call out the hypocrisy of Malkin et al, the Republican machine would have circled the wagons and made that the politically advantageous thing to do. They’re willing to spout any kind of unfounded attack in the hopes that one will occasionally stick, yet we’re afraid to even bring up the truth if it might step on a few undecideds’ toes. Of course, owning the media helps a lot, but wringing our hands over what who will think kind of means that they win, no matter what we eventually decide.

  46. 46
    RonF says:

    As Harold Washington (1st black Mayor of Chicago) said, “Politics ain’t beanbag.” Harry Truman said it differently, but I think he meant the same thing: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

  47. 47
    Decnavda says:

    I am not entirely happy with Edwards’ statement, but he did the right thing, and his expression of offense, while I disagree with it, was probably sincere. He is a religous man and her statements probably did offend him for exactly the reasons Robert & RonF have been saying, even though I think they are wrong. He was not concerned with thier “potty mouths” or what some people saw as anti-male statements; his concern was potential religous intollerence. There is a societal rule that it is offensive to subject religious beliefs to the same standards we subject other beliefs, and the shock at seeing that was probably real. And accusations of intollerence SHOULD be investigated seriously. Still, with the evidence, and after talking with them, he did the right thing.

  48. 48
    AlieraKieron says:

    Here’s a slightly different question: to what extent can we call Pandagon “Amanda’s own personal blog”? An article I read today claimed that Pandagon gets upwards of 2 million readers a day. When you hit that level of exposure, can you call anything you say “private” speech?

  49. 49
    RonF says:

    It’s not private speech, but it’s personal speech. It’s not private in that it’s put into a public forum, but it’s personal in that it’s meant to express her personal viewpoints, thoughts, and feelings. So it’s her personal blog, in that it’s meant to represent her, not someone else, but it’s not private speech, it’s public speech. Whereas the Edwards blog is not personal – it’s meant to represent the Edwards campaign and its official positions.

  50. 50
    hf says:

    AlieraKieron: indeed you can. Exposure has nothing to do with it in my book, only whether you represent some authority while speaking. For example, the ACLU would object to a teacher using the authority of the public schools to endorse prayer. They would probably defend a teacher who lost his or her job for endorsing prayer on TV to millions of people.

    I commented on Amanda’s “dirty” joke in the other thread.

  51. 51
    hf says:

    Oh, and Robert, I assume you’re not confessing that you hate Christians, so kindly keep your hypothetical scenarios to yourself. Accusing Amanda of hating Christians would cross the line from false information to blatant, laughable deception.

  52. 52
    Tapetum says:

    RonF – if you’re anywhere in my parish, then you’re quite wrong. Actually in most parishes you’re likely quite wrong. I’m an Episcopalian. I understand the difference between raunchy political criticism and bigotry. I rarely find Amanda offensive, even if I don’t always love how she expresses herself.

    And I’m hardly the most liberal or tolerant person in my church, let alone my diocese. I’m middle-of-the-road sufficiently to be sent off to our last Conclave as a representative. Not to mention that our particular church is one of the more conservative in our diocese, being right on the edge of diocese of Quincy territory (you remember – one of the holdouts on the issue of ordaining women?).

    I suspect the pastor of the next parish over would laugh at much of Pandagon, and enjoy it mightily. Ours would probably feel the need to say something about the need for caution in how we express ourselves, but I would be surprised if he were significantly offended.

  53. 53
    Michael says:

    How do people feel about Marcotte scrubbing her old posts? One should have the courage of their convictions don’t you think ?

    http://www.johnlocke.org/site-docs/images/marcotte.jpg

    Marcotte scrubbed that post clean and replaced it with this :

    UPDATE: Since people are determined to make hay over this quick shot of a post, I’m deleting it and here’s my official stance. The prosecution in the Duke case fumbled the ball. The prosecutor was too eager to get a speedy case and make a name for himself. That is my final word.

    To me this is both dishonest and cowardly .

  54. 54
    Ampersand says:

    Michael, I think gaslighting the readers is wrong (e.g., pretending that something had never been written). But that isn’t what happened in this case.

    I don’t think publicly announcing that you’re removing a post, which is what Amanda did in this case, is either wrong or dishonest.

  55. 55
    RonF says:

    Tapetum, I’m Senior Warden of my parish and represented it at the Diocese of Chicago’s last Annual Convention. Also, I was the one who handled the distribution and collection of the questionnaire the Diocese sent out recently that was intended to be used for input to the Diocesean Selection Committee (our Bishop is retiring), and it had a bunch of questions about social issues such as same-sex marriage, etc.

    I imagine that our pastor would laugh at a bunch of that stuff, too. But most of our parishioners wouldn’t.

  56. 56
    brett says:

    > Should criticizing (and even making fun of) the political positions of the Catholic church, the Pope, and the conservative Christian movement be “within the window” of acceptable views?

    > If we give up on the idea that it’s acceptable to criticize conservative Christians for their misogynistic, anti-gay views

    That is a fundamentally dishonest representation of the problem with these two women. Of course criticizing the Pope is fair game. Talking about God’s semen may not be.

    And you conveniently leave out the most egregious comments Marcotte made — which were about the Duke case. It is most decidedly unacceptable to slander obviously innocent people by implying they are rapists, when anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see that the accuser is lying.

    You’re completely missing the lesson here, which is that there are some things you can say on a blog that disqualify you as representative of a political campaign. Edwards is dead in the water now – this will follow him for the rest of the campaign.

  57. 57
    brett says:

    > “Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.”

    This is what a Presidential candidate wants to associate with? Fine. You’re judged by the company you keep.

  58. 58
    Decnavda says:

    brett -
    You are so right. If the general election ends up Edwards vs. Guliani, how could social conservatives NOT vote for Rudy?

  59. 59
    brett says:

    > If the general election ends up Edwards vs. Guliani, how could social conservatives NOT vote for Rudy?

    Well, first of all, I think Edwards (even before this whole thing) has as much chance of getting nominated as Sam Brownback does. And second of all, huh? I don’t purport to know what social conservatives are thinking, because I’m sure not one of em. And I’m not a godbag either.

  60. 60
    Daran says:

    Brette:

    And you conveniently leave out the most egregious comments Marcotte made — which were about the Duke case. It is most decidedly unacceptable to slander obviously innocent people by implying they are rapists, when anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see that the accuser is lying.

    Well, Brett, I’ve got a couple of brain cells to rub together. More than a couple in fact, and I can’t ‘see’ that. Not as a certainty.

    What I can see, out of the plethora of evidential documents the defence has chosen not to withhold, is a lot of material which would tend to discredit her as a witness, and to suggest that in fact no rape took place. Nobody outside the case has any basis now (nor did they ever) for declaring the accused men to be rapists.

    However the same material, viewed not as a defence for the accused, but as an indictment of the complainant, is essentially the case for the prosecution. The court of public opinion hasn’t seen the case for her defence. Evidence, possibly exculpatory for her has been withheld by the men’s lawyers, and yet we’re supposed to find her guilty.

    Well I won’t. And there’s a reason why I won’t. It’s because I care about false accusations. That makes me very reluctant to point accusatory fingers at people unless I’m pretty damn sure that the accusation is true.

  61. 61
    Daran says:

    Ampersand:

    I don’t think publicly announcing that you’re removing a post, which is what Amanda did in this case, is either wrong or dishonest.

    But what about the original post itself? She didn’t apologise for or retract it. She just scrubbed it.

    It’s not as though you haven’t been invited to comment. Nor is there any shortage of forums in which you could do so should you feel that it’s not on-topic for that thread. Nobody is questioning your right to ignore the issue, but in the light of your robust defence of her other remarks, it’s beginning to look like avoidance.

  62. 62
    Ampersand says:

    In my view, removing a post and replacing it with a “this is my official position” post is a retraction of the original post. Actions speak as loud as words, in this case.

    I don’t agree with what Amanda wrote in her original post. But I’m also not going to be egged on into joining a huge, ongoing (albeit waning) anti-Amanda pile-on by anti-feminists[*] or right-wingers. Context matters; I’ve been at the center of too many blogstorms, experiencing people searching my back for rare unknifed portions, to want to contribute to this one.

    I might, eventually, get around to posting about where I disagree with posts that haven’t been pulled by their authors, and that are more substantive, such as this post. It’s one of a few dozen posts shuffling their feet on my “I really should get around to writing this post” list.

    [*] I know, you don’t consider yourself anti-feminist. I disagree.

  63. 63
    Ampersand says:

    And you conveniently leave out the most egregious comments Marcotte made — which were about the Duke case.

    Brett, did you notice that this is the second part of a two-part post? The comments I focused on were all drawn from the Catholic League’s press release, which was the most prominent and important criticism of Amanda and Mellisa.

    Amanda’s comments — which she has since pulled off her site, and replaced them with what she called her “official position” — seem to me to be premised on the idea that a rape definitely took place. I now disagree with her about that. That said, I certainly don’t believe that having expressed an opinion I disagree with about a legal case, should be grounds for firing. And given her belief that a rape took place, I think her anger is perfectly understandable.

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  65. 64
    Michael says:

    Ampersand Writes:

    February 10th, 2007 at 1:50 pm
    In my view, removing a post and replacing it with a “this is my official position” post is a retraction of the original post. Actions speak as loud as words, in this case.

    No Ampersand . This would be a retraction if she stated as such .Howver, she scrubbed the other post and made a dishonest effort to claim that the new post was her opinion . I am willing to bet you that she will go back to her original comment and stand by it .That scrubbing was a weak attempt to cover her tracks
    for when the Duke case became a hot issue again . In fact , it is the very reason
    why she was offered the chance to resign .Please take note as to where Edwards headquarters is located . Then consider how Fox News and other media would play this as the Duke case continued .

    Marcotte was asked to leave as a result of her Duke rants rather than the comments regarding religion .

  66. 65
    Daran says:

    Marcotte was asked to leave as a result of her Duke rants rather than the comments regarding religion .

    We’ll probably never know whether she jumped or was pushed, but I’ve seen nothing to indicate that her Duke rants had anything to do with it. Both Ewards’ and her own remarks refer to the Catholic reaction, but neither mention the Duke issue

    This was a battle between Christianity and feminism over which had the greater traction in the political discourse. The issue of those accused of rape being vilified counts, I guess as a men’s issue, and has no traction at all. That’s Patriarchy for you.

  67. 66
    Michael says:

    Daran Writes:

    February 14th, 2007 at 7:15 pm
    Marcotte was asked to leave as a result of her Duke rants rather than the comments regarding religion.
    Well, probably never know whether she jumped or was pushed, but I’ve seen nothing to indicate that her Duke rants had anything to do with it. Both Ewards’ and her own remarks refer to the Catholic reaction, but neither mention the Duke issue

    That is exactly the impression they wanted to leave. Do you really think she scrubbed the Duke comments after the fact for no reason? As for knowing if she was pushed or jumped you simply need to understand how these things are done.
    Edwards said the Bloggers would stay remain when he thought it was simply about the Donahue issue. Then they looked deeper and saw the other writings.
    Marcotte attempted to scrub several posts but screen shots had already been captured.

    The evidence points to what I am saying. But that is not the only reason I have for being so sure.

  68. 67
    RonF says:

    I wonder if these folks actually resigned because they were sick of the attention and/or genuinely didn’t want to hurt Edwards’ campaign any further, or if they were given the “quit or get fired” choice.

    I wonder if anyone else has quit/gotten fired from this campaign recently and (possibly related) whose idea it was to pick these two to be part of the Edwards campaign public face.

    As far as the Duke case goes; so far no one has been found guilty of anything, including both the accused and the complainant. I am still content to wait, and still condemn those on both sides who are ready to rush to judgement.

  69. 68
    Robert says:

    Ron, they were quite possibly chosen by Elizabeth Edwards. Which could be an explanation for why no middle-management figure on the campaign took a fall on this one for Edwards. You can’t fire your wife.

    Well, you can, but it looks bad on the news.

  70. 69
    RonF says:

    Robert:

    That’d be a good one. I know exactly not a damn thing about Elizabeth Edwards. Do you? Do you think she would have read their blogs and then told her husband “Let’s hire these two.”? Or just did it on hearsay from a friend/staffer? Yow.

    Michael:

    Do you know for a fact they were asked to resign? Source?

  71. 70
    Robert says:

    She was a diarist on dKos for awhile, and is said to be very into blogs.

    Now you know as much as I do. ;)

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