June 2, 2007

Getting political bloggers fired: Is Matt Browner-Hamlin the new Amanda Marcotte?

I wasn't going to write about this post by Ian Schwartz, because it involves something I consider to be an old blogosphere flame war. I decided not to talk about it when I saw it yesterday, but now I see Glenn is talking about it. He is saying no one's going to care too much, because it involves Chris Dodd, but he's still telling us to look:
This will get less attention than Amanda Marcotte, though, since most people, upon hearing about Chris Dodd's campaign blogger, will respond by saying "Chris Dodd is running for President?"
So Chris Dodd is interesting enough to bother to say that he's uninteresting. Glenn doesn't link for the purpose of noting that something isn't worth paying any attention to. And the incantation "Amanda Marcotte" conveys a lot of meaning. It says this is a story about how a blog that got someone a political job contains some nasty writing that could be used to drive him out of that job.

Now, I'm a weirdly interested party here, because the #1 nasty thing Schwartz tells us about is something the blogger -- Matt Browner-Hamlin -- wrote about me. He called me a "f*ckwit" and a "f*cking assh*le" in the midst of that absurd, frenzied blogswarm around me for the way I made fun of that photograph of a bunch of bloggers posing with Bill Clinton. Well, look. Amanda Marcotte got into trouble not just for writing bad words and attacking people. She said vicious things about religion. Anyone could look at her quotes and see the problem: John Edwards had hired someone to speak for him who had openly expressed contempt for religion. There's no back story that needs explaining. We already know what religion is and what it means to millions of American voters. No serious candidate is ever going to say religion is bad, even in polite language.

So not only is Edwards a more important candidate than Dodd, but what Marcotte wrote hit America's hottest hot button. What Matt Browner-Hamlin wrote, on the other hand, is blogosphere arcana. Not only will people say -- as Glenn put it -- "Chris Dodd is running for President?," they'll have to say "Who the f*ck is Ann Althouse?" I can't believe any normal person trying to understand the 2008 campaign would sit still for an explanation of why Browner-Hamlin felt motivated to write those things about me. I suppose you could try to avoid the back story and just slam him for screaming obscenities at a woman. And I suppose there are a fair number of Americans who are sensitive about language and manners -- and even attitudes about women. Browner-Hamlin did present himself as defending women by attacking a woman, though, and who is going to want to delve into what really happened there? It lacks the pizzazz of the Marcotte matter.

Anyway, apart from my self-interest in this, I'm not keen on using old, nasty blog posts to try to get bloggers fired. Let me remind you of the position I took in the Marcotte controversy:
... I'm a little conflicted about this. Not because Marcotte attacked me [link] -- that's life in the blogosphere -- but because I like to see bloggers use blogging to snag political jobs, and, on the other hand, I'm wary about this new activity of wrangling bloggers for the benefit of political candidates. [ADDED: Marcotte was hired by the Edwards campaign to act as a liaison to bloggers. I call that "blogger wrangling." "Edwards" is a correction.] For you bloggers seeking jobs: I hope you get them. But for you bloggers staying in this noble enterprise: Preserve your independence and don't let yourself get manipulated, even by some blogger wrangler you loved when she was one of you.

In that post of mine that Marcotte savaged, I really was trying to hurt this emerging profession of blogger wrangler. I want bloggers to keep their distance from candidates and not succumb to flattery and seduction. Oh, the candidate actually cares about me, wants to talk to me. It's fine to take advantage of some access, but don't come back like a sucker and blog about how nice the candidate was to you.
So, Browner-Hamlin is a young guy who did the blogger thing and got a job. Please don't try to get him fired on my account. But a little advice to the new bloggers who are starting out and hoping to leverage themselves into political jobs: Don't fall into the lazy blogger approach of calling your opponents f*ckwits and assh*les. It was never good writing. It's a cheap way to seem spicy, and it may seem cool to some readers, but it doesn't show off your skills even now, when you're just getting started writing. The fact that later it may screw up the career you're trying to promote is a huge other reason not to do it, but it was never good. Think of better, more original ways to express yourself. You should want to distinguish yourself through writing. Calling people assh*les... it's been done.

ONE MORE THING: There is something about the Clinton-and-the-bloggers controversy that I would like to draw more attention to and that is that way the attack on me relates to the Hillary Clinton campaign. My main point about the photograph was that the blogger who stood directly in front of Clinton would remind people of Monica Lewinsky and thus undercut what Bill Clinton was trying to do by lunching with bloggers -- to help Hillary.

Put yourself in Hillary's place, seeing that picture. I think it would piss her off! I think people working on her campaign are trying to figure out how to use Bill well and know they don't want events that yield pictures like that. As I suggested here, it would work as a dirty trick against Hillary to ruin appearances by Bill by having Monica-like women pose near him like this. And I'm not saying the woman in the photograph I mocked was doing that or was behaving in a particularly suggestive way. It really doesn't take much to make people start thinking of Bill as a lecher.

Obviously, a lot of bloggers attacked me over what I wrote, and I haven't checked through to see which candidate each one supports, but I don't think they support Hillary. That is, I think they were happy with the subliminal effect the photograph had and didn't want the subject made into a subject for conscious, critical thinking. Both Amanda Marcotte and Matt Browner-Hamlin went to work for Hillary Clinton opponents. Not long before he got his new job, Matt wrote a piece on Huffington Post that was very hostile to Hillary. These are not friends of Hillary Clinton.


Kirby Olson said...

Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that Democrats don't have any other ideas, or any other way to discuss anything. If you're not with us, you're a bad word.

That's all they can do even at the top levels.

It's odd. They have fallen away from the Lockean tradition but haven't yet realized they've adopted the neo-Marxist position. They are kind of in-between radio programs and it just comes off as a lot of angry static.

I would be happier if they would just quote Marx directly. There's more solidity in that, and then they would at least have a clear stance.

Meade said...

Memo to Matt Browner-Hamlin: Think. Breathe. Meditate. Then blog.

Daryl said...

[ADDED: Marcotte was hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign to act as a liaison to bloggers. I call that "blogger wrangling."]


I think you mean the Edwards campaign!

I thought we would have to start another campaign to have her fired again.

George M. Spencer said...

If it takes 4,000 holes to fill the Albert Hall, how many holes does it take to fill the blogosphere?

I'm Full of Soup said...

I predict it is going to be a hot one here today at the old Althouse.

My Doppler has caught a glimse of Ann mischievously stirring that cauldron of hers. Please stay tuned - pictures and body count at 11.

Christy said...

Slightly off topic, but I'm in a sharing mood.

I've begun watching the DVDs of "Deadwood" which drop f-bombs at the rate of about 1 every 5 seconds. In the commentary to the first episode, David Milch says that he needed to find some way of not just showing the audience how dangerous the town was, but of making the audience feel the danger. He chose to do it with language. How interesting that a man, expert in manipulating audiences, believes that the use of foul language (particularly the f-bomb) makes us feel less safe.

Ann Althouse said...

Daryl: Thanks. Corrected.

Swifty Quick said...

It used to be that people socially dropped words like f-bombs because it seemed tough and macho. Having spent 4-1/2 years on active duty in the navy, most of it in the fleet, I can relate to that. And other people seemed to do it to shock or sometimes even intimidate the genteel amongst us. And then some people because it seemed so avante garde --even arty-- to talk dirty. You saw that one alot with leftwingers. And that was about it. One or another of those types covered just about all those who talked that way. But lately a new category has emerged: those who do it because they believe that rules don't apply to them. They make their own rules. And they salt and pepper their words just to prove it.

Unknown said...

"I suppose you could try to avoid the back story and just slam him for screaming obscenities at a woman."

Not really. I doubt Althouse wants to be accused of getting special treatment. This is the internet after all.

Zeb - interesting take.

Invisible Man said...


I think that you are way off on your interpretation of people's motives in the whole Clinton-picture controversey. I'm sure Hillary, as well as a lot of women with husband's with wandering eye's, would love that there spouses only be in the company of women who resemble maybe Harriet Miers but that just isn't realistic. Bill is a public persona, and he's going to get photographed with some hot women, some average looking women and some ugly women regardless of what you think Hillary might attempt to control. I'm sure that they wouldn't let him get caught eating dinner alone with Paula Zahn at the Capital Grill, but a group setting really shouldn't be a big deal.

I think the hope is that people don't go all "National Enquirer" and make a big deal of it everytime it happens, like he's Lindsey Lohan with white powder on her shirt. The only reason that him taking a picture with a cute woman in it becomes an issue is because the same people obsessed with bullshit like haircuts, weight loss and Law & Order reruns would rather peddle in cynicism than anything substantiative.

Der Hahn said...

If finding 101 creative ways to use "ass-f*cking" in blog posts gets a blogger a gig at Time, I think you've given yourself a tough row to hoe.

Tim said...

"It really doesn't take much to make people start thinking of Bill as a lecher."

I think most of us who've been paying even a slight amount of attention know Bill Clinton
is a lecher; I think the photo reminded us (and others) once again that he is, indeed, a lecher.

Brian Doyle said...

FWIW, and this should apply equally to conservative bloggers, I think it's absurd to banish any blogger from having a job in politics because the blog was R-rated.

If it's just really bad, then there's no problem having it be a strike against, but most people use profanity once in a while.

It's not like there are lots of children reading political blogs who are going to get exposed to language they wouldn't elsewhere.

Plus, I have a lot of sympathy for those who found Ann's behavior in Jessica Valenti Breast Controversy worthy of a profane tirade or two.

blake said...

That photo was taken with a tin, er, eye.

It still makes me laugh.

"Bill 'n' Monica Together Again"

I know these guys like to do things by height, but they could've put the blonde in Valenti's place--cleavage and all--and it wouldn't have struck such a chord.

Kevin Hayden said...

I thought this was about Matt. But so little was said about Matt that I see it's not about imparting any real wisdom. It's just an effort to stimulate traffic. Thanks for the dead air.

Michael The Magnificent said...

Plus, I have a lot of sympathy for those who found Ann's behavior in Jessica Valenti Breast Controversy worthy of a profane tirade or two.

The controversy is over a so-called feminist willing to have lunch and be photographed with a known lecher.

That said, Ann has found one too many clever ways of segueing back into the Jessica Valenti blog-fight again for my taste.

paul a'barge said...

Me, first thing Monday morning I'm going to ramp up the effort to get this snot-nosed little twit fired.

Sorry Althouse, but the thought of this guy out of work is just too wonderful to pass up.

Enjoy the weekend, little weenie-j

Eli Blake said...

Let me put a different spin on it. A friend of mine is putting together a campaign to run for Congress. He wants me to work the internet for him.

I plan to do so, and am glad he asked me to be on his campaign committee. I am not expecting to get paid for it (in fact, he shouldn't be paying me because he needs the money to pay real campaign bills). I'm doing it because I've known him since before he ran for office, and I happen to agree with him politically (plus the fact that I think he can win.)

I've always maintained my independence as a blogger (even to the extent of intentionally not putting a sitemeter on my blog) but there is a difference between blogging for a candidate because they hired you and you are a mercenary, vs. blogging for a candidate because you know the person and they are a friend of yours.

Eli Blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dave™© said...

I wasn't going to write about this... but now I see Glenn is talking about it.

Gee... if "Glenn" jumped off a bridge, would you, too?

Will you do it anyway?? Please???

And take Instacracker with you.

greenpoint said...

Sipping on cognac (what's your favorite mark, btw?), watching the lefties rekindle an old flamewar. Bracing myself for a long hot summer in the vortex...

The Exalted said...

you're bringing up the clinton photo again??

how sad.

hdhouse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hdhouse said...

What I am amazed about here is the amount of projection that some bloggers fall into. Ann, you don't. You write what you write and although your expertise is the law and you have a pretty darn good camera eye and you write very well, your bread and butter is teaching and it would be a lot more catch as catch can if you had to rely on your other talents to sustain your current standard of living.

some other bloggers seem to write well, or in such a style that is readable to a segment (readable to a segment as in why some people find the New Yorker or Atlantic great prose while others are more tuned into the New York Daily News).

It is when facile blog writers - wordsmiths if you will - project themselves into political or broadly social platforms that they, unfortunately know little about or have zero understanding of the nuances involved, that they get into trouble with a subject.

I think you have to distinguish between those who can operate a blog, gain an audience and hold it, as opposed to those who can convincingly editorialize on a specific subject. It's like asking Carl Sagan to explain celestial mechanics and seeing that he can do that convincingly asking him to apply his writing skills to a synopsis of Stravisky's Rite of Spring.

vrse said...

"My main point about the photograph was that [Valenti] would remind people of Monica Lewinsky and thus undercut what Bill Clinton was trying to do by lunching with bloggers -- to help Hillary."

OF COURSE! I'm sooo stupid, it all makes sense now!!! Let me go ice-fishing now. Shit, there's no ice!

"I think [those who attacked me]were happy with the subliminal effect the photograph had and didn't want the subject made into a subject for conscious, critical thinking"

Are you serious??? When do you dream this stuff up? I see paranoia, vanity, insecurity and misery all lumped into one post.

P.S. the new profile pic doesn't help Annie... sorry. We all know you're bitter.

hipparchia said...

Bill Clinton is a lecher, and it's his own fault that we think of him so. In no way is it Jessica Valenti's fault, nor is it the fault of any of the other women in that photo.

I won't be voting for Hillary Clinton. It's got nothing to do with her husband, and everything to do with the fact that she is too pro-big-business and too pro-war for my taste.

gg said...

"Well, look. Amanda Marcotte got into trouble not just for writing bad words and attacking people. She said vicious things about religion."

Her false and sarcastic comments about the Duke lacrosse case also did her in. (I assume that's not what you meant by "attacking people" because the former is much worse.) Perspectives, even bitterly anti-religious ones, are one thing. Some liberals could defend that. Facts are much more stubborn.