The Edwards Bloggers, “Scalping,” & “Payback Scalps,” Oh My!

Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise wrote a piece for Salon, talking about how she was approached about blogging for John Edwards, in which she claimed that,

“Unlike the liberal netroots, the right-wing blogosphere is capable of exactly one kind of collective political action. They call it “scalping” — they pick a target and harass that person and his or her employer until the person either jumps or is pushed out of the public eye.”

When some people, including Ann Althouse, pointed out that last sentence about “scalping” was made up out of whole cloth, Beyerstein punched up a response.

Here are a few of the gems contained therein with my comments following:

“Not every public outcry is an example of scalping, even if someone ends up losing their job. When Ben Domenech got fired from the Washington Post it was for plagiarism, not for political speech. Jayson Blair got fired for making things up, Domenech got fired for stealing other people’s work.

….I’ve heard Gannon/Guckert expose incorrectly cited as a left-wing scalp job. That wasn’t a scalping. John Aravosis and other bloggers exposed a mole in the White House press corps. The mole lost his job when it was revealed that he was there illicitly.”

In Domenech’s case, liberal bloggers got mad because he was hired by the Washington Post, did research on him, found out that he committed plagiarism, and lobbied to get him fired. In Gannon’s case liberal bloggers got mad because he asked conservative questions, investigated his personal life, and found evidence that they used to get him fired.

If anything, blogs on the right have gone after people like Dan Rather, Trent Lott, and Amanda Marcotte for things they’ve specifically said or done as opposed to going, “I don’t agree with them politically, so let’s dig up something to nail them with,” which is what both sides of the blogosphere do to politicians. In any case, whether you agree with that or not or with another assertion I’d make, that the left does this much more often than the right, to claim that liberal bloggers don’t try to take “scalps” is faintly ridiculous.

Over the years, Amanda has been attacked for any number of things, but her atheism and religious imagery were never that a big deal in blogworld. The right wing’s beefs with Amanda were about sex, gender, and family law. None of the right wing bloggers cared about her religious beliefs one way or the other.

Correction: “Atheism and religious imagery” aren’t a big deal on the left side of the blog world because hostility to religion is commonplace over there. It has always been a big deal on the right. If Amanda managed to sneak under the radar on that topic, it’s only because she wasn’t one of the bigger fish on the left. But, the whole idea that it’s no big deal to reel off foam flecked, anti-Catholic rants is a concept that exists solely inside of a far left wing bubble. Anyone else, anywhere in America, could instantly tell you how offensive the things Amanda Marcotte was saying about religion actually were.

However, right wing blogosphere made a calculated decision to bring Amanda down. They obviously weren’t squawking because they thought Amanda’s hiring was a bad strategic decision for Edwards. They wanted to get Amanda fired for their own political reasons–partly to get even with a blogger who has been a thorn in their sides for years, partly to embarrass Edwards, and partly to counter the growing influence of the left wing blogosphere in mainstream politics.

You know, I wish the “right wing blogosphere” were capable of making “calculated decisions.” But, trying to organize right-of-center bloggers to do anything will make you pull your hair out. In fact, one of the very few things — let me emphasize that, very few things — that I admire about the left side of the blogosphere is their ability to organize for activism and fund raising. That’s something the right side of the blogosphere is comparatively unskilled at doing.

But, as far as getting Marcotte fired goes, there may have been some people who didn’t like Marcotte because she was a thorn in their side and more than a few who wanted to embarrass Edwards or counter the left’s influence, but most people were just genuinely offended by things she said and found it appalling that a presidential candidate would hire someone so potty mouthed, extreme, and hostile to religion. Moreover, although most bloggers on the right were happy to tear into Marcotte, the majority of them weren’t calling for her to be fired — and it’s worth noting that she wasn’t fired. For whatever reason (She has assured people, and I believe her, that the Edwards campaign didn’t force her out) she chose to quit, probably only a day or two away from the point where the whole thing would have gone down the memory hole. If she had wanted to continue working for the Edwards campaign, she would still be working for them now.

The right wing is smart enough to fund infrastructure for its bomb throwers. There are lots of grants and think tank jobs and consultancies for good Republican surrogates. Most high-profile lefty bloggers are still trying to make a living in the free market.

Hahahahaha, I wish! I wish conservative bloggers were given plum jobs and grants just for blogging. I’ve been slogging away at this for more than 5 years, led the first real blogosphere fund raising effort in the last cycle (We raised roughly $300k in the final 3 months of the campaign through Rightroots), and I’ve never been offered a plush think tank job or a grant because of it. ( I do consult for the Duncan Hunter campaign and write a column for Townhall, but I earned both spots, work for my dough, and if you knew what I got paid, I can assure you the words “plum” and/or “plush” would never be used.)

If anything, there seems to be a lot more of that sort of thing happening on the left than the right (although it’s hard to say how prevalent it is over on that side of the aisle). Off the top of my head, I can’t name a single conservative blogger who got paid a bundle to do nothing, like Kos did with the Howard Dean campaign. And how many conservative bloggers have gotten the sort of jobs Atrios and Oliver Willis have at Media Matters from someone on the right? And grants? I wish. Has anyone on the right side of the blogosphere ever received a grant from some right wing foundation or benefactor? Maybe so, but as of this moment, I know of none.

The Right Wing News approvingly calls Amanda’s departure under the onslaught of right wing harassment a payback scalp:

Even now, there are liberal bloggers and MSM outlets leveling vile smears at Patrick Hynes for no other reason than because he’s a conservative blogger working for McCain and they want a payback scalp. So, what Marcotte and McEwan got hammered with was only a small fraction of what conservatives are hit with all the time.

Just to be perfectly clear, I never called for “Amanda’s departure” or her firing. In fact, to the contrary, I didn’t even write about the whole thing until after she quit, when I wrote this,

“…I had mixed feelings about watching Marcotte and McEwan being slowly picked apart. On the one hand, both Marcotte and McEwan are foul mouthed, obnoxious, and stridently anti-Christian. Neither of them is the sort of person that any presidential campaign should want out front, speaking for them in public, on a blog.

…On the other hand, let me be perfectly honest here: I don’t think this whole tempest in a teapot would have hurt the Edwards campaign at all in the long run. Aside from the fact that almost everyone who was complaining was on the right, it’s Feb of 2007 and the first primaries are going to be in Jan of 2008. Meanwhile, this whole episode would have been down the memory hole in another couple of days.”

Also, more to the point, if you read what I wrote, even what Beyerstein quoted, I wasn’t calling Marcotte a “payback scalp,” I was saying that the left wanted to nail Hynes as a payback scalp for Marcotte. This was after, among other things, hearing a liberal operative falsely claim that Hynes was an anti-Semite when Bill O’Reilly’s show covered the Edwards controversy.

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