Writings and observations

The legitimate, and the hatemongers

The ever-shifting field if political communications could give the fits to a student of advanced geometry, but one comment about it this week calls out for a little review.

The comment grew out of reaction to a video posted on 43rd State Blues, a Democratic-supporting group blog; it showed Lieutenant Governor (and Republican Senate nominee) Jim Risch speaking, with his voice speeded up to a whine, and with a dunce hat added. (We don’t note it on every Senate-related post but will here: Your scribe worked on the 2002 campaign of a candidate who ran against Risch.)

We couldn’t find Risch’s personal comments, but his son Jason (who works on the Senate campaign) offered this by way of explanation to Idaho Statesman blogger Kevin Richert: “(Jim Risch) draws a very distinct line between legitimate media and the bloggers that are left-wing hatemongers . . . The blogging done by legitimate media sources are not in the same category as the left-wing hatemongers. He considers the legitimate media, legitimate — regardless of the medium used to convey news.”

What we’ll note here is the dichotomy: Legitimate media and “left-wing hatemongers” with “a very distinct line between.” That distinct line suggests that you’re on one side of the divide or on the other. Trying to work out who falls where could make for quite a parlor game. We consider Ridenbaugh Press, for example, entirely legitimate and not in the business of hatemongering. Is the legitimate media legitimized by operating in a pre-Internet medium? By large-scale corporate ownership, as most newspapers and television and radio stations now are? Or something else? Or do some blogs (other than those under the aegis of “legitimate media sources”) qualify?

What would the Risches make of Adam Graham, a conservative Republican who has been a counterpart to 43rd State Blues and its allies? He is a partisan on the right much as those others are on the left; using the Risch standards, would a Democrat have grounds for calling Graham a hatemonger? (And no, we would not call that reasonable, for the same reasons we think the term is ill-applied to all but a very few places on the left.)

The problem with such simple dichotomies, when you talk about political communications these days, is that it’s not an either-or, not jut this or that, but a whole range, a spectrum. Even among the liberal or conservative blogs – those explicitly so – you’ll find a wide range of efforts, some focused to a degree on news and breaking information, others focusing on putting ideas and opinion into the mix. And others heading into altogether different directions.

It’s getting complex out there.

CLARIFICATION Received this from one of the bloggers that started the whole discussion: “The voice wasn’t speeded up, it was pitched up. Also, it’s not a dunce hat, it’s a gnome’s cap. As in, Angry Gnome Risch.”

Share on Facebook

4 Comments

  1. JillKuraitis said:

    Well said, Randy. We feel the same way about NewWest.Net, even though most articles about Risch are opinion columns. (That’s partly because his campaign won’t return my phone calls, put me on their media list, etc. – if I had more information, perhaps I could write more about him…do you think?)

    Risch’s lack of understanding of the internet is apparent here. NewWest.Net won second place, General Excellence, news websites from the Idaho Press Club (first place was the Statesman). We also won for General Excellence by the Online Journalism Association, in the “small” category. The “medium” winner was SLATE and the “large” was the New York Times.

    We are credentialed at the Democratic Convention as traditional media, not bloggers.

    Though we accept comments, and publish a few pieces by talented, untrained writers, we are staffed by journalists and writers from the AP, Lee Newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, the Missoulian, the Denver Post, and more. Our writers have published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and many other traditional publications.

    I went through all that to make the point that Risch is unfamiliar with the difference between the many forms of media operating today. Email, blogs, online news, aggregators, feeds, etc. are not in his knowledge base. At his announcement press conference, it was me who asked, “Do you read online news or blogs, and do you pay attention to the comments?” to which he said, “No, and no!” with confidence and some disdain. He proudly said he doesn’t use email. (Who doesn’t use email? My 86-year-old father used email!)

    I find it remarkable that he remains unconcerned about updating his technological skills.

    Now that I have commented on your legitimate site, he’ll probably say you’re a blog now 🙂

    August 2, 2008
  2. Sisyphus said:

    Randy, Risch’s lambast of bloggers as the illegitimate media was the video itself. Serephin has been using the parody of Risch as an angry gnome for some time to try and draw him out from his bunker. This was the first time that he photoshopped actual footage into that caricature that I’m aware of.

    “we think the term is ill-applied to all but a very few places on the left”–is that really what you wanted to say here Randy? There are sites on other side of the aisle that might be construed as hateful but I’m aware of blessed few on the left although I don’t police the left too much. You ever been to the Free Republic (freepers) or Stormwatch? I’m probably reading that too narrowly. Maybe I need some more coffee.

    All this hubub has caused him to agree to a liveblogging interview at HBO this week. Of course, as Jill points out, it will be interesting how someone who doesn’t personally own a computer will accomplish this feat. I assume one of his disciples will aid in the endeavor. Maybe for an encore he’ll walk on water.

    As far as your commentary its fairly typical Republican noise machine tactics to cast the debate in polemics to better demonize your detractors. However, Risch has waded into the deep end of his ignorance from which he’s trying to swim back to safety. Hence the HBO interview. I would note that he won’t be taking questions from anyone but the moderator DFO who could be characterized as friendly. But its precisely over this issue that DFO agreed to allow the forum. With the new polling in this race it shows Risch cannot take anything for granted. And he won’t. But he’ll want to contol any venue to which he agrees. That’s why he refuses the IPTV debate.

    August 3, 2008
  3. Re 4:

    No, wasn’t my intent to exclude some bloggers on the right from the ranks of “hatemongers” – I was writing in the context of what the Risch campaign had said. But then, getting into the business of defining who is or isn’t peddling hate as a matter of course is something I’d as soon leave to someone else; and while a site might on occasion run something over the top (as many have done on some occasion or other), I’d say the number of those routinely in the practice, on left or right or otherwise, are fairly small.

    August 3, 2008
  4. Alan said:

    I mostly agree with your recent comment, but if we define hatemongering as demonizing some group, or as working to oppress a minority, then surely Idaho Values Alliance qualifies. It is always working to ensure the oppression of homosexuals.

    August 4, 2008

Comments are closed.