Partisan football

by Henry Farrell on December 29, 2004

I’ve just discovered a “quite disgusting exercise in partisan pointscoring”: by Wizbang via our Technorati links, suggesting that because we (and other left blogs) haven’t had several posts each about the tsunami and its aftermath, liberals don’t care as much as conservatives about their fellow human beings. I’m not going to return the favour by claiming that this post shows us this or that about conservatives, because it doesn’t tell us anything whatsoever about conservatives as a collectivity. It does, however, speak volumes about the person who wrote this sorry excuse for a post.

NB – further attempts to play partisan football in the comments section will be deleted.



fantazia 12.29.04 at 8:09 pm

The more exposure you give links like these, the more of an “issue” it becomes. Wizbangblog’s entry is an exercise in pointless carping at its pettiest, but a whole CT blog entry dedicated to whining about Wizbang’s carping is even sadder. Why do *you* care what he thinks?

Delete this comment if you are offended, but IMO you shouldn’t have posted the entry in the first place.


dsquared 12.29.04 at 8:46 pm

Why do you care what he thinks?

In as much as one cares about standards of behaviour in the blogosphere, it is important to name and shame people who do this sort of thing.


fantazia 12.29.04 at 9:08 pm

What are the odds that either blog entry will do anything other than arouse the righteous indignation of the faithful on its side of the aisle? More remarks of “Heh, indeed” from CT’s conservative brethren, and cries of outrage from the liberal crowd is par for course, I would think. Hardly worth the extra exposure Wizbang is getting.


Henry 12.29.04 at 9:20 pm

fantazia – I thought about those issues before posting, and decided on balance that it was worth doing for the reasons that Dan mentions. Yeah, you’re right – it gives them more publicity – but it also is something that the poster should be held accountable for. As should be clear from my post, this isn’t an exercise in partisan snark – it’s naming and shaming a particular blog which has made a contemptible attempt to politicize something that shouldn’t be politicized.


Ken Houghton 12.29.04 at 9:26 pm

All I can find at his LGF link is bemoaning the characterization of PowerLine and ranting about Ramsey Clarke being one of Saddam’s lawyers.

From Wizbang’s, er, analysis, I would have thought they would be posting a new charity–ICRC, anyone–on the hour.


Sebastian Holsclaw 12.29.04 at 10:45 pm

Speaking of partisan football, didn’t we just witness the comments section of a blog you’all might know about ( turn a story about the tsunami into an 50+ comment whine fest about American TV by people who apparently didn’t realize that FoxNews had reports on the disaster almost immediately? Wizbang’s little game was galling. I for one am a conservative blogger who hasn’t blogged on the issue because what do I have that is useful to say about a natural disaster that killed 70,000+? But for an example of taking a natural disaster and turning it into partisan talking points you don’t have to look very far. So for the standards of behaviour in the blogosphere, please follow the link and take note of the players.


Peter 12.29.04 at 10:51 pm

And what would be the point of naming and shaming? Do you think that will stop this behavior? Tactics like that haven’t worked before. The blogosphere is a human insitution, and loutish behavior will always be part of the human story.

I agree with you guys that that post is disgusting. But this simply gives it more exposure. And the decision to link to and write about it makes me think about the old joke from Northern Ireland about the guy who drives a hundred miles out of his way just to receive an insult.

Just ignore this …you know… with his stupid scorekeeping.


bellatrys 12.29.04 at 11:03 pm

Fantasia, Peter – how much do you know about herd animal behavior? Specifically, what happens if you nobly ignore a specific bad behavior on the part of a horse or a dog?

It translates, in the mind of the offender, to a) a sign of weakness on your part, b) an encouragement to do it again because c) there was no negative consequence.

It may be gauche, it may be tacky, it may take a couple of lessons – but by refusing to enable/empower certain fandom LGF-equivalents, in a rather brutal way a year or so ago, I managed to expose, shame, and disempower the whole horde of them very publically, and by doing so to vindicate the mass of their victims, and make it difficult for them to be taken seriously in the future.

Problems, ignored, don’t go away – they become bigger, stronger, and more entrenched. This is true of kudzu no less than of behavior issues.


DebC 12.29.04 at 11:16 pm

I know I’m an idiot for saying this, because it has zero to do with the point, but this:

It translates, in the mind of the offender, to a) a sign of weakness on your part, b) an encouragement to do it again because c) there was no negative consequence. absolutely not true in the case of dogs. There are lots of behaviors that, if ignored, go away. The negative consequence is the ignoring. For many dogs(and a good lot of humans too), ignoring is much worse than negative attention (okay, maybe it does have something to do with the main point).


paul 12.29.04 at 11:17 pm

For my part, in response to the esteemed Prof Holbo, I am pledging my next quarter’s Amazon Associates revenue to relief efforts as well as hosting a link with Amazon’s paybox. No words I can come up with make any difference. What I can, I will do.


peter 12.29.04 at 11:31 pm

This is just nonsense. You aren’t offering any credible or meaningful threat or punishment here. This post is probably exactly what that guy was hoping for. He wanted to get a rise out of the CT crowd, and now he has confirmation (message received, zero distortion). And herd behavior is not in fact guided always and everywhere by such easy principals.

I have no idea what you are talking about in the second half of your post, but have you heard of any of the powerful and safe new anti-hubris medications on the market? (That was meant to be a good natured joke.)

Look, this is just silly (delusions of power): we have no credibility to punish, and if this guy had any shame he wouldn’t have published that stupid post to begin with.


peter 12.29.04 at 11:39 pm

If you think about this as a nasty game that this guy at Wizbang is playing (he is almost certainly watching this conversation) you just gave him what they call a tell in poker: he now knows for sure that in terms of a credible “punishment” we are holding nothing (if he didn’t already). You never, never profit by getting drawn into something like this.


dsquared 12.30.04 at 12:22 am

Peter: I have no illusions about whether we can exercise any influence over what this chap puts on his blog and it would probably be a bad thing if we could. But that’s not the only reason for simply saying “we’ve got you sussed”. There is a cumulative effect here that in general, if partisan bullshit goes unchallenged it will proliferate. At least the thinking kind of person will be reminded of what they knew anyway; that posts of the sort that Henry links to are best left unwritten, and that is the only kind of person one can realistically regard oneself as writing to influence anyway.


bob mcmanus 12.30.04 at 12:23 am

Everything seems to go meta- so fast anymore I can’t seem to keep up. This is a post about a poster posting about posts, and I need to come up with a polite yet specific and trenchant comment. Or I guess I don’t need to, and nobody will really care if I don’t, so I won’t.

Delete this if you dare Henry, for the Truth will its day.


peter 12.30.04 at 12:37 am

I think we are on the same page in terms of our feelings about the Wizbang post. I want to be clear about that. But there is no cumulative effect here. There just isn’t. He won’t shrivel up in the light of our annihilating contempt. He’ll just feel warmed by it.

He has one of the diseases (and it is found all over the political spectrum) that humanity will never cure.

This isn’t like some vicious physical action (Hitler invading Poland, for instance) that *must* be met with a forceful reaction. There is no consequence to ignoring him. None. In fact, to the extent that his behavior has any power at all, it is defined completely by its power to provoke a response from us.

May I offer a quote from Lincoln:
“No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper, and the loss of self-control. Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own. Better give your path to a dog, than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.”

For those of you who are interested, that is from the Captain Cutts letter, Oct. 26 1863.


robbo 12.30.04 at 12:56 am

I’m with you, Peter. And for perhaps the first time I’m with Sebastian.


George 12.30.04 at 1:12 am

Henry: I agree with you 90%. For the same reason, I though that Washington Post article criticizing President Bush for not making public comment sooner (cited by Eric Alterman and others) was rather shabby. Bush (or more likely his staff) was clearly doing something; that 4-nation coordination group did not come together out of thin air.

But there’s also a grain of truth in what Wizbang says. The numerous times Glenn Reynolds linked to the Amazon Red Cross donation page doubtless led many people to give — as have your posts on the topic here. Atrios raised quite a bit of cash for various political candidates; how much could he raise for this effort?

The Wizbang post strikes me a bit like those articles about how little various billionaires give to charity — one of which, IIRC, may have helped trigger the creation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Certainly it shows poor breeding to criticize another’s empathy or charity. But if it redounds to the greater good, where’s the harm?


Dan Kervick 12.30.04 at 1:15 am

Wizbang’s argument: “disgusting”?, “contemptible”?, “loutish”?, “nasty”? Isn’t this all a bit petulant and extreme?

Wizbang’s argument is pitiably weak. The conclusion – that it is false that liberals care more about their fellow man than conservatives – is hardly supported by the laughably small sample he brings forward – based as it is on a a tiny handful of weblogs. And even among the small number of individuals in that sample, there are all sorts of possible explanations of the differences in the frequency of tsunami-related posts which he fails to examine.

But I have to reject the notion that there is something inherently awful and disgusting about mounting a partisan political argument on the foundation of this natural disaster.


Mrs Tilton 12.30.04 at 1:42 am

I’ve notice quite a number of blogs — be they left, right, or whatever — that have posted about the disaster and linked to ways to help, if only by giving money (which is the only way most of us can help). I have no time for Glenn Reynolds, but if he has done so too, then fair play to him. Surely a calamity of this sort transcends any left/right/whatever divide.

If this Wizbang bloke wants to make this a partisan thing, Henry is right to call him on it. And surely everybody who sees the matter for what it is – whether they call themselves left, right or whatever — should treat Wizbang with the contemptuous silence he deserves.


David Tiley 12.30.04 at 2:51 am

What does he want? Attention!
When does he get it? Now!

Reminds me of this saying I have on my wall: “Never fight with a pig. You get all dirty and the pig likes it.”

It does raise the perennial question; When is it worth engaging in combat? The obvious answer is – when it makes a difference to the reader, particularly when it slows the progress of a twisted meme. Hence all the meticulous work combatting the Klimate Krazies.

But there is a bit of bloodless and dutiful utilitarianism in this. We also do it because we like it. Whack! Bam! Sock! Kathud!

(Ninja Philosopher would make a great blog name.. and a fine intention).


Tom T. 12.30.04 at 3:24 am

I agree with Henry and Daniel that denouncing this icky behavior is a worthwhile exercise. The value is not necessarily in causing the fellow to feel ashamed of himself (as others have rightly noted, he may well be impervious to such feelings), but in informing other people that this blogger is not worth serious attention.


peter 12.30.04 at 3:36 am

You can’t meaningfully tell people that. If they find his blog (much more likely now) they have to decide for themselves. You can’t inform someone else that a blog isn’t worth their serious attention: its not your decision (or mine) what is worth their serious attention. They must make up their own mind. Moreover, I doubt peer pressure will win us the sympathy of serious adults.* So what’s the point?

I understand the sentiment that provoked this post, but this is throwing punches in the air, with one difference: the harder we throw the more likely Wizbang’s will actually land.

*And I know what I am talking about here: by my calcualtions 56.4% of my decisions are driven primarily by spite.


paul 12.30.04 at 5:54 am

Being of two minds about this as about so many things, I agree that calling someone out for impugning someone’s compassion for political ends is worth doing, but I’m also reminded of a phrase of (dare I mention her?) Mrs Thatcher’s about denying an enemy “the oxygen of publicity.”

Someone like the person cited (who I had never heard of) will enjoy having tweaked the CT crowd: he likely won’t understand the arguments against such a cheap stunt (scorekeepers aren’t that subtle).

I don’t know what I would do differently: do you? Would more posts equal faster or better relief?


Martin Wisse 12.30.04 at 7:23 am

If you want to know what happens when you nobly ignore this sort of behaviour, look around on Usenet…


x 12.30.04 at 9:36 am

Have a look at alicublog’s latest shorter lileks on the tsunami for more of same partisan hooliganism (the honourable art of futbol is another thing). Meanwhile, other websites (buzzmachine for instance) seem to think the purpose of those lists of initially pledged aid by nation published in papers is to start a big macho contest to declare which country has the biggest penis, sorry, generosity. Obviously girly hypocritical France loses pathetically while the US, in spite of ‘stingy’ predictions, remains on top. The forces of nature are clearly not powerful enough to drown the need to frame everything in ideological terms. Let’s just hope and pray when the next big one comes, the internet will be the first thing to go. And the media. And the press. News will have to travel slowly by word of mouth and people will have time to think about what they say and no instant mass audience to sermonise to. That’s my dream disaster scenario – no victims and no damage except to push button fatwas.

While waiting for that day of peace and quiet, I have vowed to avoid all political blogs from now on, except the fun and satirical ones. Nothing personal, I just have a weak stomach and it does not improve by following the political blogosphere equivalent of usenet flame wars on any given topic. Farewell everyone, and have a good 2005.


Richard Bellamy 12.30.04 at 7:18 pm

Of course, partisan pointscoring about blogging the disaster has to take a back seat to Sri Lanka’s partisan point scoring about actually assisting in the disaster recovery operations.

” Sri Lanka rejects Israel rescuers”


Uncle Kvetch 12.30.04 at 8:53 pm

While waiting for that day of peace and quiet, I have vowed to avoid all political blogs from now on, except the fun and satirical ones. Nothing personal, I just have a weak stomach and it does not improve by following the political blogosphere equivalent of usenet flame wars on any given topic.

I’m in a very similar place right now. I’ve scaled back my blog reading (and commenting) enormously in the last 2 weeks and I feel much better for it. I’m trimming my daily intake down to an essential half-dozen or so, which as of now consists of CT, Wolcott, Berube, Majikthise, Body & Soul, and a few others.

X’s Usenet analogy is increasingly apt, I’m afraid.


abb1 12.30.04 at 8:55 pm

You can either ridicule wingnuts or ignore them, everything else is futile.


Phoenician in a time of Romans 12.31.04 at 2:07 pm

Speaking of partisan football, didn’t we just witness the comments section of a blog you’all might know about ( turn a story about the tsunami into an 50+ comment whine fest about American TV by people who apparently didn’t realize that FoxNews had reports on the disaster almost immediately?

So what the hell did you want or expect instead? A hundred posts all following each other saying “This is awful”, “Yes, it is awful”, “Indeed it is awful”?

On the one hand you have a leftist blog that discusses TV coverage, with people disagreeing with each other without insult. On the other, you have a rightist blog that attempts to relate the number of meaningless posts (and every post on this subject is meaningless, except those saying how to donate) to “compassion” to score partisan points, with rancour and flamewars in the comments threads.

The left side of the blogosphere is interested in ideas and talking about how they see the world around them. The right side is interested in winning over their self-perceived “enemies”. That says it all, really.


Ripper 12.31.04 at 4:17 pm


Sebastian Holsclaw 12.31.04 at 5:52 pm

The link I provided (to crookedtimber) was not principally about a discussion of ideas any more than the wizbang post. The tone set immediately was of insult. It was also wrong in that it ignored the fact that FoxNews covered the tsunami immediately and with as much depth as was available at every moment along the way. The confusion on that score is especially funny considering that FoxNews is generally considered by people on CrookedTimber to be the most right-wing and least useful news station. To have a post almost immediately afterward which decries partisan point scoring about the tsunami but which ignores the same on one’s very own blog, is a bit rich. It lends the impression that one uses the phrase ‘partisan point-scoring’ in a rather partisan point-scoring fashion.

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