Sarah Palin and the Abuse of Blog Power

The social media that permeate the blogosphere have changed the way politics unfolds in this country. It is more difficult now than ever before to get solid, reliable information about the character of presidential candidates, for example. Today, rumors about Sarah Palin are flying with fury and labels are being applied as if these are factually established and relevant.

Anti-Palin bloggers are pumping out bile with the unrelenting force of an Alaskan gusher. These people are using their blog-power to influence voters. Nothing wrong with that. But fomenting discontent on the basis of rumor alone is an abuse of that power.

We need an example. One blogger who illustrates this obsessive, vicious lampooning of Sarah Palin (and John McCain) is “AKMuckraker” at Mudflats. On one post she insinuates that Sarah Palin is John McCain’s latest “trophy girl.” In another, she rolls out all the labels she can contrive—”Trooper-Gate,” “Baby-Gate,” “Bridge-Gate,” and “Veep-Gate”—and wails to the world that the GOP campaign will come unraveled in the days left before the election. Many who chime in with comments at her posts exhibit an astonishing willingness to believe on the basis of ethereal fumes. (One shining exception is Gerri; she candidly states that she’s pro-Obama, but says she wants proof because she doesn’t like rumors and blatant lies. Way to go, Gerri.)

I have four guidelines to recommend to blog browsers whose eyes are burning from all this smoke. If you find that rumor is beginning to influence your outlook, you might find these helpful.

1. Chase the rumor to its source and investigate the source.

The “scandal” that’s all the rage today swirls around allegations that Sarah Palin’s youngest child, an infant with Downe syndrome, is not her own child but the child of her 17-year-old daughter, and the spectacle of much handwringing about the news that Palin’s daughter is pregnant now and will soon marry the father.

Who’s behind the effort to bring this to national attention? The advertised culprit is Andrew Sullivan, of TheAtlantic.com, a leftist blogger and adoring fan of Obama, who seems to have proven that he can be truly unscrupulous if it will help the liberal cause. Norman Podhoretz explains what is worse than despicable about Sullivan’s behaviour here and here. This criticism extends to Sullivan’s channelers throughout the blogosphere.

2. Listen carefully to the tone of the blogger.

Is the blogger being sarcastic? Does the blogger rely on sarcasm to make the “argument”? Is it plausible to suppose that the blogger is being objective? That the blogger is willing to give the candidate the benefit of the doubt? That the blogger is sincere about relying on bullet-proof evidence when evaluating the candidate’s character and motives?

Does the blogger consider counter-evidence or counterarguments? Are these treated fairly?

Does it sound like the blogger is preaching to the converted? If so, then she probably is.

A muckraker is someone seeks out and publishes alleged scandals in an underhanded way. The writer at Mudflats calls herself “AKMuckraker.” Enough said?

3. Step back and remember what governing this country is about.

Don’t lose sight of the issues. This goes to the question, How relevant is the rumor, even if true? What aspect of prudent national leadership is threatened? Make a list the most important foreign and domestic policy issues facing this country. Then ask, How will the candidate who’s been smeared address those issues? Does the candidate act consistently with his or her declared principles?

4. Don’t expect the candidate to answer every scandalous charge of scandal with counter-evidence.

Putting an opponent on the defensive by making frivolous charges is one of the oldest tricks in the book. If Sullivan or someone else broadcasts an allegation, forbear not to believe it, or even to give it another thought, unless and until the sponsor of the claim presents compelling evidence. That is his or her responsibility, if a case can be made.

No one should be distracted by, and still less should one believe, a baseless allegation made by a scurrilous troublemaker who is ultimately indifferent about truth.

***

Bottom Line: It’s time to shut the Rumor-Gate and get down to the business of sorting out the kind of national leadership, in both foreign and domestic policy areas, that is really needed. Maybe the concentration of muckraking in one party gives us a clue.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

74 Responses to Sarah Palin and the Abuse of Blog Power

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    My contact details are at this site under “About Doug.” Thanks for your interest!

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  2. This is a topic that is near to my heart.
    .. Best wishes! Exactly where are your contact details though?

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  3. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Quite honestly, if I lived in Alaska, I too would be frantically trying to get the info out on Sarah Palin. I get a kick out of Mudflats and the writing style of the author, but I take it all with a grain of salt. I find the site quite humorous; although, the comments are sometimes way out of line. AKMuckraker has done an excellent job of providing me with a jumping off point to do my own deep research as he/she is terrific at providing her resources. That doesn’t mean that her resource is my or anyone else’s stopping point on research. I always look for corroborating evidence from a reliable source and also try to find a primary source. While I haven’t researched all the accusations on the site, I have corroborated many. The only one I found lacking of the ones I investigated was the insinuation that Sarah wasn’t Trig’s mother. I’m not sure if that was actually presented by a commenter to the site. In any case, as far as I can tell, it is an unsubstantiated rumor.

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  4. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi CO,

    I’ve seen the Wiki on this. Note that there is a negative connotation to the term, though this isn’t explored in what you copied. Teddy Roosevelt, I believe, was the first to employ this word, and for a kind of activity about which he was a bit ambivalent—as I am.

    You can plug the positive effects that some so-called muckrakers have had, but this doesn’t vindicate them as a breed of cultural critics. And your last line suggests that you haven’t paid close attention to the specific points I made about the site you seem to like.

    As for Sarah Palin, I allow that others may have found some hard facts in their research. But we’re stuck with AKM’s selection and interpretation of whatever facts there may be. She obviously has an agenda, as only too many do—to discredit someone whose ideology she doesn’t share. This is evident by the code language AKM uses in her presentation of supposed facts. Her style begets suspicion that she is spreading rumor. And let’s understand, even a rumor may be factually correct, to some degree or other. I can tell when a person has been maligned—regardless of the “expert” muckraking work that may have been done—when she’s called someone else’s “trophy girl.” And inferences, quite often to unsupported generalizations, can be examined without consideration of the evidence for an argument’s premises. It’s the BlogLogic that I’ve pointed to in my post. And my word “BlogLogic” is meant to have a negative connotation. I fail to see how I have cheated my own advice.

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  5. WakeUpAmerica says:

    It’s possible that WordPress automatically makes the websites accessible. I just didn’t have time to investigate their hosting site.

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  6. CO Almost Native says:

    Doug-
    Here is a relatively accurate definition of “muckracker” from Wikipedia:

    Muckraker is a term associated with a group of American investigative reporters, novelists, and critics from the late 1800s to early 1900s, who investigated and exposed societal issues such as conditions in slums and prisons, factories, insane asylums (as they were called at the time), sweatshops, mines, child labor and unsanitary conditions in food processing plants.
    Muckrakers often wrote about impoverished people and took aim at the established institutions of society, sometimes in a sensationalist and tabloid manner. (See History of American newspapers for Muckrakers in the daily press). Muckrakers were often accused of being socialists or communists. In the early 1900s, muckrakers shed light on such issues by writing books and articles for popular magazines and newspapers such as Cosmopolitan, The Independent, and McClure’s.
    The term muckraker now also applies to contemporary persons who follow in the tradition of that period, and now covers topics such as fraudulent claims by manufacturers of patent medicines, modern-day slavery, child prostitution, child pornography, and drug trafficking.
    Although the term muckraking might appear to have a negative connotation to it, muckrakers have often served the public interest by uncovering crime, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in both the public and private sectors.
    An example of a contemporary muckraker work is Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed (1965) and one of the more well known from the early period is Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, (1906) which, respectively, led to reforms in automotive manufacturing and meat packing in the United States. Some of the most famous of the early muckrakers are Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker.

    Many of our country’s protective laws came from these muckrakers’ “sensational” work. I’m sure AKM would be proud to be included in this company.

    I have done my own research on Sarah Palin, when she was chosen by John McCain. I discovered- through City of Wasilla records- that one of the first things she did was hire a lobbyist, to garner more earmarks for her town. At one point the town had one of the highest per capita earmark totals in the U.S. Before she ended her term as mayor, Palin pushed passage of a sports center; when she left Wasilla, she left the town in debt over the construction and embroiled in legal proceedings because the town did not have clear title to the land. She also wanted to pass an ordinance requiring rape victims pay for their own rape evidence kits. All of this is a matter of public record, and relatively easy to find by a computer novice (which I am).

    Perhaps you need to follow your own advice, and know of what you speak before you open your mouth to rant about other bloggers.

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  7. Doug Geivett says:

    WakeUp,

    Yep, PHD. I don’t have any web design experience. I probably wouldn’t be blogging if I had to learn it. I’ve got too many other projects going.

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  8. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Hmmmmm. I’m guessing that WordPress is a PHD site (point here, Dummy) and not one where you write the code yourself. There is a lot to be said for those sites, and they certainly work for me. I only went 2/3 of the way through a web design class using Dreamweaver. I suggest that you contact the support people at WordPress. They should be able to help you; after all, they claim “…we’ve got some of the most responsive support around….” When I was taking the online class – awesome teacher based in Mammoth -, it was stressed that accessibility to everyone was crucial and made for a much more classy site.

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  9. Doug Geivett says:

    WakeUp,

    Indeed, enough maggots have gagged on our stale metaphors. Maybe we should start a “Save the Maggots!” campaign.

    I imagine we’ll be finding out much more about Sarah Palin as time goes on, assuming there will be news sources we can trust. There certainly wasn’t enough time for the electorate to vet her. Not that that would have accomplished much; Joe Biden has been pretty thoroughly vetted by the public and it doesn’t seem to have injured him enough to second-guess his suitability as VP.

    I don’t know of a single candidate I could support without qualification, during any election year when I’ve been eligible to vote. But it sure would be nice to be able to count on integrity for a change.

    I need to be educated about how to make this blog, or internet communication of any kind, more accessible to people with disabilities. Maybe you can point me in the right direction.

    Thanks!

    Like

  10. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Having a sister with a disability, I would encourage you to inquire about making your site user-friendly for people with disabilities. It is a whole population with wonderful minds and perspectives that may be excluded from sharing their insights with you.

    That being said, I have a couple of comments on Sarah Palin. First, in my research of her background I found from multiple sources (before Cnn, Fox et al) that she has a tendency to kick people to the curb if they disagree with her. In several instances she replaced them with friends from high school who were less qualified. It seems that she only wants to surround herself with her personal cheerleaders. I have to wonder at the decision-making process she uses if she isn’t seeking opposing opinions to consider. That would then bring up questions about her competency to lead. Second, her integrity or lack there of is definitely an issue for me. Certainly, both sides made gross embellishments to the facts in their ads; however, Ms. Palin not only lied, but when called on it, she continued to repeat the lies. One example was her denial of being found guilty of any abuse of power or unethical activity by the legislative investigation of Troopergate. As I recall, it is on page nine of the report where she is accused of just that. Not only did her denial send up a large red flag in the integrity department, I found it just plain astounding. There are more examples.

    By the way, I too find the excessive use of “gate” unimaginative and immature, right up there with the nauseating “Branjelina.” It’s enough to gag a maggot, as my dear mother would say.

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  11. Doug Geivett says:

    JP,

    I acknowledge that the center has drifted in a leftward direction. I’m not particularly worried about the direction we’re headed. And I agree that Obama will most likely be more centrist than he appeared he would be by the hard Left.

    Your tally of the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate going into the election has merit. I don’t question your political sophistication, but I don’t assume that it’s better than average, either. How would I know?

    You’re right about the evolution of language and the current sense of “-gate” these days. I just happen to think it’s absurd to perpetuate that kind of talk. It strikes me as a cheap journalistic trick.

    I thought you were saying in your earlier comment that M. is an investigative journalist. But maybe you were simply lauding her skills as a polemicist who does her homework as well as any qualified investigative journalist. If you prefer “polemicist,” then her strengths should be measured against good polemic. Not all effectual polemic is good polemic, since some forms of persuasion are scurrilous, however successful they may be. Even if we agree about that general point—and we might not—we may yet disagree about what counts as “good,” “effective,” or “scurrilous.” I can live with that.

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  12. JP says:

    Rather than an investigative journalist or an ironist, I would suggest that AKMuckraker is a polemicist. Polemicists have been around for a long time and performed a useful function, especially in the field of political accountability.

    As far as Troopergate’s “carefully plotted political timing”, how do you explain that the report was commissioned for release on October 27, over a month before Palin’s choice as VP, in a year where she did not face re-election as Governor, by a republican committee? The release date was moved AWAY from the election date to October 10 by the prosecutor. To see political skulduggery in that requires a significant amount of political prejudice.

    As for Baby-gate, AKMuckraker made no claims, but reported that there were rumors that Bristol was pregnant. It is true that there were rumors, and those rumors turned out to be true.

    I agree about the -gate suffix. It’s old. But you and I will not stop people using it to denote scandal, which is its modern meaning whether we like it or not.

    Please do not condescend to me to say that the reasons for McCan’s loss are more complex than I realize or acknowledge. I made no claim that Sarah Palin was solely responsible for McCain’s defeat (indeed it would be ludicrous to say that any one factor was) and you know nothing of my political sophistication.

    And as for Obama not making the most of his advantages and winning by more? Give me a break. He’s a black politician with a Muslim middle name at a time when America is fighting wars in Muslim countries on the slimmest pretext of “fear of the other”. He’s young, and has a short resume of actual achievements. He’s up against a respected, trusted, and well-connected five-term Senator who blitzed his party’s primaries and is a bona fide war hero. And yet he won by over 9 million votes: the largest margin since Reagan’s landslide re-election.

    On his side he had Bush’s poor record, but as McCain pointed out repeatedly, Bush was not seeking re-election. Obama also had the benefit of a superbly organized and enthusiastic base, who provided him with a substantial fundraising advantage. But that didn’t arise my cosmic accident, he made that happen himself with the help of the DNC. His victory was earned, and it was substantial.

    I think you worry too much about a lurch to the left. Obama sought no such mandate, and shows little signs of heading in any direction other than centrist populism. Of course, the “center” may be a bit further left these days than you acknowledge!

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  13. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello, again, WakeUp:

    I wouldn’t go to the trouble to search out an instance of equivocation. But if you do come across something like that in future, please let me know.

    I use WordPress.com for my blog. I’m pretty new at it, and I’m sure I’m not acquainted with all the features they provide. I honestly don’t know what provisions are made for people with disabilities.

    I’d be very reluctant to assume that a comment sent with numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes was prepared by someone with a disability. But I understand your point.

    A point of philosophy: If our minds were not speedier than our physical movements, our physical movements probably would not produce intelligible messages. No need to apologize for that!

    Cheers!

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  14. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Doug,

    Your comment on equivocation is well-taken; however, I would have to do the tedious work of going back through your many responses in this blog to find examples. I wasn’t thinking of a particular example when I made the comment; it really was a growing feeling I have had while participating here. Perhaps that is unfair to you. Certainly an intuitive conclusion is anything but scientific; however, it can be a jumping off point for further analysis. Honestly, I suspect that no matter how hard we try to be fair, our own biases will shine through from time to time. We do, after all, view the world through the lens of our own glasses which are made up of our unique experiences in life. My experience in the world has taught me that the world is a complex, imperfect place, and there is very little in it that is black and white.

    As for spelling and grammar, I too am a stickler for correctness in that arena; however, consider for a moment that in our drug-baby culture, there are increasing numbers of people with bright, curious minds who have learning disabilities which preclude their ability to spell or write correctly. After about the age of 12-14 it is more productive to teach those students to use the tools available (handheld speller/dictionaries and word-processing programs) to enable them to publish quality products. On a blog, the posters with those disabilities are at a distinct disadvantage. I know that WIKI’s have editing tools, but I don’t know if that is a feasible format for a blog. Perhaps your tech department has some ideas on the problem. That being said, I am now wondering if your blog is accessible to people with disabilities (blind).

    Even though I am a proficient writer, my brain is faster than my typing, so I always make errors. Unfortunately, I also suffer from lazyitis; I won’t be copying and pasting my pearls of wisdom from Word. My apologies. 🙂

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  15. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi JP,

    I couldn’t agree less. The mudslinger at Mudflats isn’t a good “investigative journalist” if she succumbs to the temptation to use emotive and incendiary language, like calling Governor Palin McCain’s latest “trophy girl” (to give but one example of a disqualifying aside). Is she an investigative journalist? An ironist? Or something else?

    The negative fallout of the so-called “trooper-gate” phenom has been overblown, as it was bound to be given its carefully plotted political timing and the bandwagon-effect it produced. As for “baby-gate,” what could you possibly mean by saying it was “true” after all?

    “Veep-gate” clinches it. The use of “x-gate” has clearly degenerated into a useless anachronism. Does anybody remember the original source for this locution? It was (do I really have to remind anyone?) Watergate, where demonstrable criminal behavior on the part of a sitting president was the issue. So what law was broken in the case of Sarah Palin’s effect (positive or negative) on the McCain campaign?

    McCain is responsible for his loss of the election, not Sarah Palin, even if his choice of candidate made it less appealing to vote for him. And the factors contributing to that loss are much more complex than you acknowledge, or perhaps realize. Bear in mind, the popular vote was much closer than it should have been given all the advantages Obama had going into the election and all the missteps of McCain’s campaign. The Left is in a state of irrational exuberance if they think they have a mandate to steer the country to the hard left.

    What about Kos versus Mudflats? Quite right, Kos was and is an absurdly prejudiced site, hardly to be taken seriously. So I simply ignored them. Mudflats was being taken seriously by serious-minded people. It exhibited a more subtle form of what I call “blog logic.” But its subtlety is what made it more imperative to draw attention to its excesses. So I didn’t ignore that site.

    I don’t think you have any evidence that I would be more lenient if Mudflats had shared my political outlook. It’s not unusual for people to generalize in this way. But that is another species of Blog Logic to address some other time.

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  16. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello W.U.A. (WakeUpAmerica)

    Actually, a philosopher should be careful not to equivocate. There’s more than one way to equivocate. You can slip between the denotation and connotation of a word, as you note. And you can trade off the ambiguity of a word, either denotatively or connotatively. We normally think of denotation in terms of dictionary definitions. The same word may be defined in several distinct ways in a dictionary. Equivocation may occur when you use one dictionary sense of the word in one portion of a passage and another dictionary sense in the same passage. This dual-use isn’t always equivocation, however, since two senses of the same word may be needed to get across whatever meaning is intended. I’d be happy for you to give me a specific example of equivocation in what I’ve written, so that I can correct the error.

    I am a stickler for satisfactory grammar and spelling. But, of course, I make mistakes, too, and often don’t notice them. Still, I think that consistently bad grammar and poor spelling is often a signal of confused thinking. There’s a threshold beyond which undisciplined expression is a clue to undisciplined thinking. You’re right, though, pettiness is a ‘sin’ in its own right.

    By the way, I don’t know anything about providing editing tools through my site. Surely it’s possible, though, to make corrections before submitting a comment. A good dictionary should be only an arm’s-reach away, for any kind of writer. The simplest of grammar guides are only a little more difficult to use. But the gain in every use of these reference tools is enduring. If it becomes a regular practice, a writer will find less of a need to consult these resources with continued writing. As you can tell, I’m an advocate for quality writing, even when blogging. I’ve described my recommendation for the best writer’s helpmate at this post: https://douggeivett.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/what-good-writers-do%E2%80%94best-book-in-this-category/

    If I may say so, your comment is exceptionally well-crafted, a model of good form and appeal. You and I share an interest in reasons for the views we have. And I’m happy that you see this blog as a place where lively but thoughtful disagreement takes place. And yes, one of my reasons for beginning to blog was to have a venue where my own ideas might be challenged with energetic interest in truth and good reasons. So I hope I haven’t discouraged anyone from joining the discussion.

    I like your suggestion. So very soon I’ll create a post on “Jesus and Participation in the Democratic Process.”

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  17. JP says:

    Nice work here Doug.

    I’m amazed that you can pass off Mudflats’ AKMuckraker as a source of “etherial fumes”, not facts. Have you had time to go back and re-read the two posts of hers you linked to see how they stand up in hindsight?

    Bridge-gate led to Palin having been exposed as a liar for the “Thanks, but no thanks” comment. Alaska is on record as having kept the money earmarked for the bridge, and Palin is on the record as supporting the bridge from its first proposal. For what it’s worth, I can’t see the problem with building a bridge to connect a city poorly served by roads to its airport, but I have a problem with opportunistic lying by politicians.

    Trooper-gate (a label that preceded Palin’s VP nomination) led to a report finding that Palin had breached the Alaskan Executive Branch Ethics Act in exactly the sense AKMuckraker suggested. Not only was the investigation unanimously commissioned by a Republican dominated legislative committee, but the same committee voted unanimously to release the report.

    Baby-gate was not promoted on Mudflats, but mentioned in passing as a possible vetting lapse. Not only was it later revealed that virtually no vetting was done of Palin, but the Baby-gate rumour as alluded to on Mudflats turned out to be true.

    And as for Veep-gate? Well the Republican campaign DID unravel in the days leading up to the election, with Obama’s lead in polling growing constantly from the day of Palin’s first disastrous interview right up to election day. Palin ended the campaign with a higher disapproval rating than her approval rating, hardly a success story for someone brought in to add inspiration to a the campaign of a candidate many found lacklustre.

    So AKMuckraker has not only accurately described things as they were, but also accurately predicted the consequences of those realities. If she shared your political views, you would likely hail her as a top-notch investigative journalist.

    And indeed one of the things that has set Mudflats apart is the willingness of commenters there to remain rational, and to eschew rumour, and ask for sources for unsubstantiated claims. There are countless examples of this if you are willing to read through the comments on her posts (and if you’re not, then you should refrain from publishing an opinion to the contrary).

    There are plenty of left-wing blogs that would have been worthy of your ire – some posts at Kos the most notable amongst them. But because you didn’t like the message, you seem to have shot the wrong messenger.

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  18. Pingback: Group Plans Ads to Counter Palin Critics, some who tried to smear and destroy her! « Goodtimepolitics

  19. WakeUpAmerica says:

    The thing I notice, Doug, is that in your criticism of other’s comments, you appear to deliberately slip back and forth between connotative and denotative meanings of words to suit yourself, often at the expense of the true meaning of a response. Perhaps that is the way of the philosopher; however, if it requires that you sacrifice real communication with the writer, what have you gained?

    Also, to criticize a person’s spelling and grammar when you don’t offer editing tools on your site is a bit petty, don’t you think? It’s wonderful that people want to engage in a vibrant conversation with you on your site, so if their writing is a bit mucked up, so what as long as the meaning is clear? It is tedious to open Word, write a response, check it, and then cut and paste into your blog. Now, if you set this blog up for your students to respond to you, I can fully understand you chastising sloppy writing, but I suspect that many of your visitors stumbled upon your site as I did from another blog.

    I like your blog as you encourage thoughtful, intellectual responses as opposed to emotional verbal diarrhea. While you and I are on different sides of “middle,” I appreciate the insight of your position; it helps me to either affirm my position on an issue or reconsider it. Hopefully, our responses, however ill-crafted, do the same for you.

    I have often heard people say that if Jesus were here today, he would be a liberal. I suspect he wouldn’t care one bit about our politics; however, I would like to see that as a topic for us to discuss on your site.

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  20. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello, “Astonished.” I’m not sure who’s more astonished (or more justified in being astonished): you after reading my post and replies to comments, or me after reading your comment.

    Most of the time I clean up typos, grammatical quirks, and confounding diction in comments that are sent to this blog. I do it as a favor to the sender and to keep the quality of this blog at a reasonably high level. I began to do that with your comment. But when I got to “. . . you are without a doubt someone who feels he is way too clever then the rest of us,” I decided your comment was better left untouched. I suppose you mean, “. . . you are, without a doubt, someone who feels he is way m-o-r-e clever t-h-a-n the rest of us.” You then say, “You much see yourself as some smooth talking master of words.” “Much”? Please.

    I’m sorry you don’t appreciate how much more intelligible and persuasive you could be if you tended more carefully to your own linguistic backyard. Consulting a dictionary for spelling and meaning would be a good place to start, if you want to improve the impression you make when blog-talking.

    Now for your specific points:

    (1) I’m self-righteous, you say. But you don’t provide any support for that claim, or even say what you mean by it.

    (2) You wager you know I’m a right-wing Republican. What is a right-wing Republican? The way you put it, it must be something awful. What would you call yourself? A “sober-minded, left-wing something-or-other”? And don’t you know that Republicans are not the only people who are scandalized by the blog-logic that passes for sensibility in defiance of conservative points of view? Some liberals are embarrassed by the skulddugery employed by others who share many of their social and political values. Some even voted for McCain! If you knew this, you might not be so sure that I’m a registered Republican. It is true, of course, that the Democrat party has moved dramatically to the left in recent years. If you align yourself with “the liberal left,” then you might well be just as “astonished” by the rhetoric of moderate Democrats.

    (3) If I’m presented with evidence or an argument that I believe does undercut some claim I’ve made, then I should be willing to acknowledge it. But what do you expect me to do if a counter-argument to something I’ve claimed is not persuasive?

    (4) Who have I condemned? What, by the way, do you mean by “condemned”? Does the reply you sent to this post illustrate what you mean by “condemn”? Are you trying to make your point by showing me what you mean?

    (5) There’s nothing ridiculous about talk of believing that I have an orange tree in my back yard. It is, after all, something I believe. It also happens to be true. That’s something I know; and if I know it, it must be the case that I believe it. Here’s a different point to consider about this: statements of the kind I used are convenient for explaining what is meant when I report a belief. For that purpose, it doesn’t matter how bizarre the example is, if it clarifies the point. So it seems that you missed the point.

    (6) I should fess up to something you may have suspected. My graduate research was in philosophy and teaching philosophy to graduate students at a university is my profession. (More details can be found elsewhere on my blog.) Philosophers in the analytic tradition try to be clear. Precise language is how we make our ideas clear. (Notice how often I’ve asked in this reply what you mean by some word you used.) This sometimes results in stilted language that isn’t commonly used. It’s a habit I have. Fortunately, I think that, in general, that’s a good thing. But you may disagree.

    (7) Being a philosopher doesn’t make me feel like I’m clever—though I must, once again, ask what you mean by “clever.” It sounds, again, like it’s a bad thing, something no one would ever want to be. I’d say I probably use the word “clever” with a difference sense than you do. I do hope that my training and continued discipline to improve in my intellectual life will serve me and others when I speak and write about topics of interest and importance. Wouldn’t you agree that this is a worthy aspiration?

    (8) What is “an illusion of semantics,” and how do you “live in” it?

    (9) “Dude” works for me as a form of direct address. Know what I mean, pal?

    (10) I’m not really concerned with my “rights” as a blogger. As far as I can tell, they’re not threatened at the moment. I’m more interested in believing responsibly, and in using the blog-o-sphere as a place to test the quality of my ideas and the reasons for my ideas among intelligent people who disagree.

    (11) From what you say at the end of your comment, I guess I have a pretty good idea what you think of this reply.

    -Doug

    Like

  21. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Eleanor,

    Thanks for checking the post and leaving your comment. I don’t think McCain ever said anything that implies that he thinks Obama is a terrorist. It seems to me he went out of his way to deny that inference. But he did think, as many did, that Obama needed to acknowledge the relationship he had with some bad guys, and explain himself.

    One theory, used to defend Obama, oddly enough, is that Obama is a political opportunist and recognized the value of such associations if he was to succeed in the Chicago political arena. This might explain the association in a way that’s thoroughly consistent with not being a terrorist. But it raises problems of another kind.

    I think I know what you mean when you say “a blog is a blog.” But I wouldn’t put it quite that way. Blogs are not equally dismal, abominable, informative, intellectually stimulating, or whatever. Some have high quality content and are written in good style. I aspire to that here.

    The same goes for books, or TV punditry, or conversations with friends.

    I’m glad you’ve joined the conversation here!

    -Doug

    Like

  22. Astonished says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how self righteous you right wing Republicans can be. You say you aren’t bias? OMG are you serious? You are more biased then anyone! You suggest people check their facts and when one poster agrees ad gives sources where one can check facts, you debunk the site because it doesn’t fully support your candidate and condemn the opponent.

    Another poster openly challenges you, you come back with a ridiculous comment about how “I believe” isn’t hedging your words and use some lame example about “When I say “I believe I have an orange tree in my backyard” When have you ever said “I believe that …” to describe a fact? Honestly, do you look at a blue car and say, “I believe tat car is blue.”? Please you are without a doubt someone who feels he is way too clever then the rest of us. You much see yourself as some smooth talking master of words. You live in an illusion of semantics and we all see right through it. Only you are blind to your own smoke.

    Sorry dude, but you’re the real abuse of the power of the blog. There is nothing wrong with having your opinion and shouting it to the world, that is you right. It is mine too. But to do so and say you aren’t, thats disingenuous and despicable. And those two words are how I describe you and your entire commentary in this thread.

    Like

  23. eleanorrose says:

    Fair enough, rumours go round about Palin. It’s the work of misguided or even malicious bloggers who don’t want her to be Vice President. I imagine it’s not very nice for Palin or her family.

    It’s probably not very nice for Obama and his family, though, that the McCain campaign (not just mere bloggers like you and me, but people with serious political power) have implied that he is a terrorist.

    Everybody knows a blog is a blog, an unvetted opinion. Some bloggers are scrupulous with facts. Some aren’t. It certainly isn’t just Palin that gets ripped. And if there is an unusual dominance of anti-Palin material, it probably reflects the discontent of a public who are incredulous at the nomination of a candidate who is so clearly inadequate for the role.

    Like

  24. Progressive From Oregon says:

    It’s amazing how, in your smug condemnation of another blog’s accuracy, you fail to do the same in your own; in your very first ‘guideline’, yet.

    Andrew Sullivan is no more the ‘original’ source for the speculation about who the birth mother of the Palin baby is. The morning that Plain was chosen, I entered her name in Google and found an amazing wealth of information about her. By now, I’m sure most of the same sources would have been pushed much lower in the same search.

    But to remedy that, I’d only have to add one parameter: “Alaska newspapers.”

    Your subtle slander of Mudflats is unwarranted and inaccurate. I’d suggest before you make too many more comments about other blogs, you spend sometime with a dictionary. Then you might learn what some of the words you use actually mean.

    You and others like you give the Internet a new genre with an old and tired name: yellow journalism. Look it up.

    Like

  25. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Dominique,

    Agreed—the negativity happens on both sides. But I’m not talking about the campaigns, which we can do little about. I’m focusing on what I call BlogLogic, by which I mean the sort of lazy and fallacious reasoning that is so pervasive.

    I don’t think Sarah Palin is only preaching to the converted. There are organized groups of Democrat women who support her and will vote for her and McCain in this election. You don’t even have to be pro-life to prefer the McCain/Palin ticket over the Obama/Biden ticket—unless you’re a single issue voter.

    I don’t support being anti-so-and-so, no matter who it is. This is ad hominem. I advocate for challenging policies, beliefs, values, and ideas of candidates, and to do so on the basis of thoughtful argument and adequate evidence. BlogLogic is notable short on the intellectual virtue. And it’s a setback for public discourse and a distraction from shared concern for the common good, regardless of your specific views.

    So bashing candidates is different than making good arguments on the basis of good evidence.

    Certainly, pro-Obama voters should take their turn at making the argument that Obama is the better candidate.

    The media has a social obligation to cover and investigate the candidates equally. There’s a legitimate perception that they have been negligent in fulfilling their duty to scrutinize Obama’s background and political philosophy with vigor. They have been much more intent on digging up dirt on the candidate they abhor.

    Like

  26. graciad says:

    Isn’t preaching to the converted what Sarah Palin was all about? She’s a pro-life, highly religious Republican. Appealing to the… pro-life, highly religious Republicans… who would never have voted for Obama anyway (but who might have voted for an independent if it weren’t for Palin ‘bringing them back into the fold’)?

    I don’t like the rumours or excessively vitriolic bashing any more than you do. Most of the things I read about Palin are being funny because otherwise we’d probably have to cry. Anti-Palinists are allowed to be anti-Palin and allowed to discuss it amongst themselves. Why shouldn’t we?

    As far as the actual campaigns go, I see much more rumour-production and excessively vitrioloic bashing coming from the actual Republican CAMPAIGN, however, than from the Democrat side. And the Republican supporters are doing precisely the same thing that you accuse Democrat supporters of (just look at the Republican woman who made up the ‘attack’ by an anti-McCain supporter in Texas… Because SHE’S not trying to influence the voters at all…)

    Like

  27. Doug Geivett says:

    Mole Valdez,

    Thanks for dropping in. I think there’s more to writing a responsible blog than documenting claims with sources. I explain this in my original post and in comments at this post.

    I’m not terribly impressed with Palin’s credentials. But I have to say the same for Barack Obama. On top of that, I think we know a lot less about Obama than we should when it comes to presidential politics, and less than what we know about Palin.

    So Palin isn’t a deal-breaker for me, all things considered. If I was a Socialist, I’d probably feel different.

    Like

  28. Mole Valdez Palin says:

    Actually, I have been reading the flats for more than a month now. I’ve not seen undocumented attacks aimed at Palin in that time. AKM goes out of her way to document what she writes with appropriate points and authorities. Perhaps it’s time many Americans to take off their beer goggles and examine Palin’s credentials a little more closely.

    Like

  29. Concerned Alaskan says:

    First, let me state that I am an independent voter. I agree that one always needs to check the facts before sharing information. However, this forum is critical of unsubstantiated information spread by bloggers. What about the hate mongering, outright lies, and half-truths that are being openly spread by the GOP candidates at their rallies? Examples include the Bill Ayers issue, the ACORN issue, use of the opponents middle name to intimate connections and incite hatred. Also, as a long-time Alaskan it hurts me to hear our governor continue to spread and repeat lies to the unknowing American public. Examples: “I said no thanks to the bridge to nowhere” blatant lie, “I built a gas pipeline to the lower 48” – this project is still up in the air and may be completed by 2025, “the report totally cleared me of any wrong doing” – the report clearly states that Sarah abused her power as governor. These and other statements are all lies which most people probably do not bother to check out.

    Like

  30. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi IBD (AKA intelligentbydesig),

    You’re right about how much mudslinging is practice, regardless of political position.

    I wasn’t criticizing everything in the Mudflats post. My list of criteria are useful for assessing posts. Mudflats may violate some of these criteria and not others.

    See my comment to Chris (above) for a comment about the use and abuse of satire.

    I have a separate post about the finding that Sarah Palin is responsible for abusing the power of her office as governor. You may find that post interesting.

    Colbert, Letterman, SNL are primarily in the business of entertainment. Notice how often the humor in their monologues and skits depends on knowing something about what’s going on in the real world of politics. I enjoy a good laugh, to be sure. I like the Palin impersonations. I’d like to see some of Obama. He ought to be easy, too. The question is whether humor should be used in a deliberate effort to disclose reality selectively and for the purpose of shifting support to a particular candidate or issue.

    Notice, my advice in this post is to readers, viewers, and audience members. It’s not directed to commentators, pundits, comedians, or what have you. My aim was to suggest ways receivers of these messages might exercise appropriate care in weighing the value of what they hear and some from these various sources.

    “intelligentbydesign” is a clever handle, by the way. I like it.

    Like

  31. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for adding your comment to this post.

    Please understand that my list of criteria are general. I’m not saying that AKMucker violates each one of these guidelines.

    I don’t disagree about the value of satire to draw attention to issues. But using satire does require an additional measure of deliberate fairness. I myself sometimes write in this style.

    Humor is a persuasive tool, but it is a rhetorical device. If care is not taken to wrap a fair examination of the issues in humor, then the use of humor may be an abuse.

    I don’t agree that bias is inescapable. But even if it were, it wouldn’t follow that all bias contaminates arguments to the same degree. A person may be biased, admit his bias, but then make a compelling case that supports her bias.

    I think people often confuse advocacy with bias. They’re not the same thing.

    I hope to hear from you at this blog again. You make good points.

    Like

  32. Chris says:

    Understand your point on sources needing to be more thoroughly researched and looked at with a more skeptical eye, but I have to question if you have taken your own advice. In reading the posts that you have linked to from AKMuckracker, it appears that, despite her tone being biased, her facts are mostly in line. The Troopergate thing has now been resolved, and the report has been released. Interpretation of how severe the offenses it outlined are is up to the reader, but there can be no denying that the report *did* find some abuse. Bridgegate, I can only assume, refers to Palin’s “thanks, I mean no thanks, but thanks for the funds” stance on the issue, which has now been thoroughly vetted to show it’s changing nature…even Palin has stopped mentioning it on the campaign trail. And “Babygate” is mentioned in a skeptical nature that gives two options for truthful outcome, one of which has been shown to be correct. My question to you is, how can you suggest that the overall sarcastic bent and bias of opinion negates stated facts? Facts can be framed in many ways to serve many purposes, no doubt, but the facts themselves are not negated by the way they are framed. As it is impossible to see all sides equally, bias is inescapable. Is it not up to us, as intelligent beings, to use our brains to decipher biased opinion from factual statements?

    Like

  33. And Doug, as to your statement that sarcasm betrays the bias of the commentator, which disqualifies it as a reliable source of information…what about shows such as the Colbert Report, or the Daily Show, or even Carson, Conan, Letterman, and the other late night show hosts? Many of these hosts and programs use sarcasm as a device to bring humor to factual situations. For instance, SNLs portrayal of Sarah Palin’s interviews with Katie Couric. While they were laced in sarcasm, there were many parts of the skits that were direct lifting of responses from Palin. The facts are not negated by the sarcastic tone…rather, the sarcastic tone softens the blow, and makes the facts more accessible for many of us who are severely dismayed by the tone of political discourse in the country at current.

    Like

  34. Interesting…I linked here after reading the blog on Mudflats about the Branchflower report. Saw nothing anywhere on it about this baby rumor thing…in fact, what I saw in reading the comments was quite a few Alaskans who were none too happy with their bi-partisan investigation being messed with due to a national political campaign. Seems as though quite a few folks up there don’t understand how an investigation that was enacted by a vote from a Republican majority board, and a report that was released only based on the same Republican majority boards later vote, was being called a partisan attack.

    I highly agree that there is far too much mud-slinging going around that is baseless on both sides. The “Obama wasn’t born in the United States” is an example from the other party. But please don’t drag the community over at Mudflats into this kind of war. In fact, even the post you talk about speaks only of Troopergate, Bridgegate, and then mentions “Babygate?” later saying that AKMuckracker chooses not to comment on that one, leaving it to the Enquirer, stating only that it means that either Sarah’s most recent child isn’t hers, but is her daughters, or that her daughter is now pregnant. Seems to me the two options she gave were right on – Bristol is pregnant, as was rolled out a few days later to destroy the possible “Babygate”. As to “Troopergate” and “Bridgegate”, well, those are pretty public knowledge at this point – Sarah didn’t say thanks, but no thanks…she took the money, and only turned against it after Congress did. And Troopergate has now had it’s investigative report released, finding that Gov. Palin abused the public trust. Your point is valid, but please do not invalidate it by using examples that do not meet your own standards of vetting. And too the person above who defended AKM – “he” is a “she”. Seems we could all use a little more time spent personally checking our own “facts”.

    Like

  35. nascentliterati says:

    Just happening to drop by. I’ll respond to the question. I think Sarah did a good job of holding her own. But Joe had more knowledge and understanding of the issues. And, I have to agree, any human has their bias and sometimes, I mean, let’s be honest, the same story can be portrayed in any number of ways. it can even be presented as if what was said was factual, but in fact was not. A person can rant and openly declare their bias, but that has nothing to do with the truth of the matter. There’s no reason to believe that what they’re saying isn’t true just because of their manner of saying it.

    I provide this example for my own amusement:

    “Today at 9 am, Jonathan Doe was seen leaving the cubicle of one Sarah Drake, carrying an object that Sarah later reported missing…”

    So did Jonathan steal the object? Maybe. But not certainly. Who wrote that? Do they have reason to lie? Was it a pen (taken absentmindedly for example)? Was it a priceless artwork? Does Jonathan even work there? Why was he in the building and was he in fact in the building? Are there people who look like Jonathan in the building? How far away was the writer standing or was the writer just repeating hearsay evidence and if so who said it? Maybe there was no malicious intent, the writer might have only been mistaken. and so on…

    Like

  36. Doug Geivett says:

    How so, Judi? Do you think she blew the debate tonight?

    Like

  37. Steve says:

    Boo-frickin’-hoo. Tell it to Michelle Malkin.

    Like

  38. judi says:

    Palin does herself in…

    Like

  39. evidentialist says:

    Oh dear, a new logical fallacy I had never heard of: the ad homonym! Thanks, drchill, that makes my day …

    Like

  40. drchill says:

    Sorry but some of your responses are just silly. You seem to equate factuality with objectivity.

    You also suggest that AKMudraker’s factual claims would be more believable if he used less incendiary language. What happened to logic?
    Most readers are capable of parsing- its . . . raining buckets, and reduce it to its essential claim of precipitation in excess of a drizzle.

    In your ‘analysis” of AKM’s concern with Palin’s affiliation with AIP, you dismiss AIP members as crazy, therefore false, and therefore AKM – illogical.
    Thats call an ad homonym attack and is itself illogical.

    I think you don’t know what a blog is. Its like a personal diary in a public space.

    What so many people seem to like about AKM is that he makes clear that he’s ‘politically progressive’. He presents facts and his sources. He also uses incendiary language in response to facts, not as some do, to color the facts, interpret them and blend argument and persuasion.

    He also has been following Palin and other AK pols far longer than most. So you might want to consider the possibility that AKM has a bead on some of the AK Pols, including Palin.

    Something else caught my eye. You falsely claim AKM is ‘obsessed’ with Palin. Evidence suggest that he is focused on all Alaskan politics as it rises to his attention.

    The blog was started in May 08 and since then has tracked AK political events.

    Evidence suggests you are neither factual nor objective.

    Like

  41. WakeUpAmerica says:

    “As far as I can tell, there’s nothing hypocritical about my calling attention to what seems to me to be irresponsible blogging that targets Sarah Palin”

    And there it is, Doug, your bias, but then, try as we might not to, we all have our bias. I have to say that while I am a registered Democrat, I am more middle of the road and have jumped the fence numerous times. I try to the best of my ability to vote for candidates of integrity. Sometimes there is only a tiny, tiny spark of that in our choices. My profession in academia requires that I be proficient (close to expert) in research; therefore, I try very hard to run assertions down to the source; although that is not always possible. That being said, I have to agree with FactChecker about the unprecedented smear campaigns that emerged with Bush. In all my years, and they are many, I have never seen such deliberate and outrageous attacks launched by ANY campaign prior to that. As you do not appear to be put off or terrified by the prospect of Sarah Palin in the White House, I honestly wonder what the depth of your research on her has been. I think that if you broaden your base of primary resource material on her, you would be less supportive. Perhaps I am wrong.

    In spite of some of our differing opinions, I do enjoy your blog and find it intellectually stimulating.

    Like

  42. WakeUpAmerica says:

    “As far as I can tell, there’s nothing hypocritical about my calling attention to what seems to me to be irresponsible blogging that targets Sarah Palin”

    And there it is, Doug, your bias. I have to say that while I am a registered Democrat, I am more middle of the road and have jumped the fence numerous times. I try to the best of my ability to vote for candidates of integrity. Sometimes there is only a tiny, tiny spark of that in our choices. My profession in academia requires that I be proficient (close to expert) in research; therefore, I try very hard to run assertions down to the source; although that is not always possible. That being said, I have to agree with FactChecker about the unprecedented smear campaigns that emerged with Bush. In all my years, and they are many, I have never seen such deliberate and outrageous attacks launched by ANY campaign prior to that.

    Like

  43. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi nascentliterati,

    I was pleased to find your comment on my post. I have to get caught up on my responses, and I’ve been taking them in the order of most recent first. drchill will have to wait a little longer. But he shouldn’t expect an apology when the time comes. I would have to agree with his assumptions and his verdict regarding the objectivity of Mudflats.

    I’m happy to see humor in political commentary. Some of the best commentary has been written in the style of satire. I wish I had more talent for that sort of writing myself. But the risk of abuse is very real.

    You’re right about how difficult it is to track down the truth. It certainly doesn’t help when the alleged truth is lathered in sarcasm. Mudflats presumes to report the facts, but betrays its bias with sometimes bitter sarcasm. Thus it disqualifies itself as a reliable source of factual information. The level and nature of its sarcasm invite suspicion about its fairness in reporting facts. So facts they may be; but who can tell, given the tone of the blog? (Representing a different perspective than Mudflats is Sean Hannity, whose believability about the facts is also compromised by tone and style.)

    To be sure, Alaskans are bound to be more familiar with the political culture of that great state. Doubtless, Alaskans disagree about some things. I’ve visited Alaska, and look forward to future visits. I do have friends living in Alaska who have been there for years. I’ve worked there, but I’m not from there.

    Again, thanks for your comment. I hope you continue to visit and share your point of view.

    Like

  44. Doug Geivett says:

    Hello FactChecker,

    I haven’t blogged for a few days, and I haven’t approved any comments coming in until just now; so please don’t take it personally.

    I’m very surprised to see you credit Karl Rove with the tactics of today’s campaigners. Presidential campaigns have been besmirched with smears and undocumented innuendo for two hundred years. It’s an unfortunate occurrence among those seeking power. I’m careful not to speak of “you Democrats,” or “you Republicans,” or “you so-called Independents,” or “you Reptilians,” since the result is inevitably a crude and biased generalization.

    I realize that many would guess that I’m a registered Republican because I have expressed disapproval of the way some have gone after Sarah Palin. I’m all for seeing the relevant facts made public. By “relevant” I mean facts that have a significant bearing on the wisdom of voting for one candidate rather than another —- all things considered.

    As far as I can tell, there’s nothing hypocritical about my calling attention to what seems to me to be irresponsible blogging that targets Sarah Palin. I didn’t initiate or support the swift-boat allegations against John Kerry during the last general election. I have never produced a single television ad of any kind. And I haven’t, as far as I know, engaged in the sort of BlogLogic I’ve decried in my blog.

    This is a blog, and, among other things, I write about blogs. It was, in a way, pure serendipity that I discovered Mudflats and encountered an amalgam of reportage and dubious reasoning. In this respect, it served as a suitable example of the abuse of blog power I describe in my original post. Unlucky for Mudflats, maybe.

    One of the few genuinely positive aspects of blogging is that blogging differs from lecturing. Nobody has to show up or stick around.

    I’m pleased that you’ve visited and shared your comments. May the discussion continue . . .

    Like

  45. FactChecker says:

    Just stopped by and saw that my comments didn’t make it through your moderation process. Was that because I reminded you that the kind of politics you decry started with Republicans: Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove. The hypocrisy here is to imagine, four years after the Swift-Boating of John Kerry, that the Democrats have been the aggressors in this fight.

    You say, “Yes, many Republicans dish out the same kind of smears that many Democrats do.” The whole Rove operation is based on the lowest kind of smear politics, including setting up and prosecuting political enemies such as Don Siegelman. And you have problems with a blog. Spare us the lecture.

    Like

  46. nascentliterati says:

    Hey Doug,

    I was pleasantly surprised to find your blog, obviously Republican, but still with an attempt at reason. Are you going to respond to drchill’s comment about the research of facts at mudflats? Would you actually print an apology and make a correction? It’s true, there is sarcasm and humor, but sometimes when things are so awful it’s the only way to respond without being totally morose.

    My interest always is, do you let yourself be wrong and then make it right?

    one way to test their fact gathering would be to do a search for articles regarding these comments to see how many newspapers (printing just the facts) substantiate that.

    Of course it’s hard to know what’s what. “Factual” newspapers have been known to be wrong. Are you from Alaska, Doug? Mudflats comes from Alaska. We can determine some truths by actual observation.

    Like

  47. FactChecker says:

    And how is it lampooning Palin to question the firing of the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner, when a bi-partisan Alaskan legislature supported an investigation into her alleged abuse of power? The purpose of an investigation is to find the facts. Palin’s critics did not create this situation; Palin herself did with a history of firing political opponents and hiring high school cronies. The Republican VP choice is under fire because either the McCain campaign failed utterly in the vetting process or because they decided that vetting wasn’t necessary; they would just create their own reality, roll her out as a market product. After eight years of Karl Rove, people are onto that strategy and thus there is now pushback at these attempts to sell the American people “a pig in a poke.” That’s just an old phrase for asking people to buy something they haven’t seen.

    When Palin can stand out there on her own and take press questions, when she provides medical and tax records, when she keeps her word and cooperates with the Troopergate investigation, then there won’t be be these questions that Republicans find so uncomfortable. It isn’t the blogosphere that you have a quarrel with; it’s your candidate.

    Like

  48. FactChecker says:

    It takes some nerve after the Swift-Boating of John Kerry to go after AKMuckraker and Mudflats. Or consider what George W. Bush did to John McCain in 2000 with a push-poll on McCain fathering a black baby (whom the whole world now knows is an adopted child). Or the sleazy TV ad with a blonde calling Harold Ford (African American candidate) and saying “Call me.” Lee Atwater invented this kind of campaign. Roger Ailes took this stuff and made it “news” on Fox. Karl Rove made it a cornerstone of an attempt to create a “permanent Republican majority” based on lies about everything from Iraq’s involvement in 9/11 to who outed Valerie Plame.

    AKMuckraker posts well-written and researched responses to the various twists and turns that have evolved since Sarah Palin became VP. The blog predates Palin’s nomination, as you can see if you go to the site. AKM’s words are out there for others to respond to, including the person who writes this blog. Those varying opinion form the basis for debate. The people involved are willing to stand behind what they say. That is far different from the vile, sleazy ads that abuse and debase the political process in 30-second sound bites and are often impossible to refute because they have been seen and heard on TV and radio–a situation in which rebuttal does not actually reach the people who have been misled.

    Republicans don’t like the way that internet blogs have brought some balance back to the race, at least for educated citizens who are looking for a way to speak against mainstream representations that brand people like McCain and Palin as “mavericks” when they represent the party that has held the presidency for 20 of the past 28 years.

    Like

  49. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Rumors are neither truths or lies until proven otherwise; they are possibilities. The problem with rumors is that they are often presented as truths and passed on as such. Like the old game of “telephone,” the internet has allowed the rapid passing and morphing of rumors-as-truths phenomena to grow wings and fly. A benign comment in the morning can become a vituperous, outrageous lie by evening and have reached thousands of people by email. The astounding effect of this is that so many intelligent people believe the content of said emails.

    Like

  50. Doug Geivett says:

    HI Suzanne,

    Agreed. Politicians have to be able to push ahead, despite rumors—fair or unfair. But I think that rumor-mongering and scandal-mongering is an abuse of blog power. Fixation on gossip and calumny that is often quite irrelavant is a poison that dooms serious debate about real issues.

    Like

  51. Doug Geivett says:

    I don’t disagree that many Republicans can give as good as they get. I see there’s a typo in my response above. Yes, many Republicans dish out the same kind of smears that many Democrats do. This is damaging, whoever happens to be playing that game.

    I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh. O’Reilly, as far as I know, doesn’t claim to be wedded to a particular party. At any rate, I’m often baffled by his logic and generally turned off by his hubris. (Ditto for Geraldo.)

    Like

  52. WakeUpAmerica says:

    I was referring to the republican party when I said that they give as good as they get. I would never paint all republicans with the same brush. Surely you will not deny that the RNC gives as good as it gets. So now I would like to know what your “belief” about Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh might be.

    Like

  53. What about the fact that when you become a public person you have to be strong enought to face the rumors ? We french bloggers are explosing with sarcasm against Palin. She is so fragil and so peasant that this is a real pleasure to blog on her. Just like we are doing with Sarkozy and Carla, his franch wife !

    Like

  54. drchill says:

    Doug –

    The thing I like about mudflats and the thing I dislike about your blog relates to the use of insinuation. This irks me.

    AKMudraker makes it clear in every post, what the facts are and what his/her opinion is.

    You on the other hand insinuate that the labels ”Trooper-Gate,” “Baby-Gate,” “Bridge-Gate,” and “Veep-Gate” are JUST labels, and JUST “of ethereal fumes.”

    You might want to turn up the contrast on your monitor, and notice the slightly grayed links to previous posts and articles from Alaska Daily News.

    You are guilty of hypocrisy. You insinuate that the blogger is guilty of these things, yet you fail to support your views with facts, and ignore the blogger’s meticulous and accurate research.

    I have been unemployed and spent nearly full time hours researching info related to this blog, and related stories and found it substantial and well researched.

    So I followed your advise, traced it back to the source, and found it to pass your test with flying colors.

    You on the other hand … uuuhhhh not so good.

    Do the research yourself, and try to find a substantially wrong fact, or false rumor on mudflats.

    Then post your findings.

    I’ll be back next week to see if you will apologize to your readers.

    Like

  55. The Messenger says:

    The Republican Party is trying to shut down the investigation and they most likely will succeed. Therefore the only thing left is the truth from “We the People” on the blogs.

    A rumor is a lie. It’s not a rumor if it is the truth. Do not blame bloggers for the ineptness of Palin. You filthy Republicans always blame others (the mythical liberal media, the blogs) when you refuse to acknowledge the truth. That is a tired old tactic that does not work any longer.

    Like

  56. Allan says:

    One more example of bias that bothered me. Webster defines to muckrake as: “to search out and publicly expose real or apparent misconduct of a prominent individual or business.” Your definition sneaks in the phrase: “in an underhanded way.” So to score a cheap shot on AKMuckraker you would malign the heroic efforts of muckrakers like Upton Sinclair and Jacob Riis. Your attempt to turn “muckraker” into something negative betrays a casual dislike of those who expose misconduct and a conscious attempt to discredit a century old tradition of exposing social and political evil. Fail.

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  57. Pingback: The Abuse of Blog Power? « Blue Dog Blog

  58. WakeUpAmerica says:

    “Anyway, what you mean by a “sense” seems to be a belief. Why not all [sic] it that?”
    In any writing worth reading, one does not want to over-use any word. Finding synonyms instead is considered a good writing technique. “Sense” and “belief” are fairly close in meaning if taken from the context of my writing, don’t you think? Let’s not be petty.
    I believe that we are both striving for the same end, beliefs founded on solid research and evaluated fairly. I have the same concerns that you have about the blogger bile. Beyond that I find it very disturbing that otherwise intelligent people would pass on emails shrouded in “truth” that in fact contain nothing but vicious and often outlandish lies about a candidate. I have received them from supporters of both parties. I am further appalled at the number of, again otherwise intelligent people, who believe every picture and video on YouTube is the absolute, honest truth as they pertain to the candidates. Have they not heard of Photo Shop’s uncanny ability to morph everything?
    As for the bias that I perceive in your second paragraph, if you had left “Anti-Palin” off of that sentence, it would have appeared much more objective. It would have seemed that you were referring to vituperous political bloggers in general; however, going to the effort of adding “anti-Palin” has given the impression of a bias in favor of Palin. I have to wonder why you would go to the trouble of adding “anti-Palin.”

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  59. Doug Geivett says:

    WakeUpAmerica,

    A good reason to identify examples of bias here would be to support a claim you haven’t yet tried to support.

    I do not believe that many Republican politicians and Republican voters do give as good as they get. What’s the point? Maybe we can stand apart from that and resist the temptation to smear a candidate, even if we loathe his or her policies. That should be possible, shouldn’t it?

    If I don’t give examples of smear tactics from both camps, it doesn’t follow that I’m mistaken about the ones I discuss here, and it doesn’t follow that I’m not being objective in my exposure of smears. And I’m even more interested in exposing goofy BlogLogic.

    When it comes to evidence, I don’t see the need for the word “concrete” as an adjective. There are kinds of evidence, and evidence delivers different degrees of support for a belief. If you or I have a belief that is not sufficiently supported by the evidence that we have, then we should abandon that belief. And we definitely should keep it to ourselves, lest we mislead others, and spread our own logical misfortunes to undeserving others.

    Yes, a remembered event that cannot be documented can count as evidence in some types of circumstances. But it doesn’t work that way in all circumstances. And if one person recalls an event that supports some belief she has, she may well be justified in believing as she does. But it doesn’t follow automatically that others would be justified in believing the same thing on the basis of her testimony. Lots of things can have a bearing on this. I think you recognize this in what you say about the need for corroborating evidence.

    Anyway, what you mean by a “sense” seems to be a belief. Why not all it that?

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  60. WakeUpAmerica says:

    Why would I point out the bias of this blog? I agree with your first paragraph, but then you go on to only use examples of “anti-Palin” bile. Do you seriously believe that Republicans don’t give as good as they get? If you had given examples from both camps, I would have thought that you were more objective. Wouldn’t it be nice if every belief could be substantiated with concrete evidence? The truth is that there are many times when a belief (aka “theory”) is arrived at after discovering many bits of information such as interviews, which are usually rooted in an individual’s perception of and processing of an event (ie: conversation). A remembered conversation or document that is no longer available (ie: erased email) is valid evidence even if it is not concrete; although, said evidence must be taken with a grain of salt. Then one must look for corroboration to substantiate the rememberance. A person doing diligent research will look for several types of corroboration and then walk away with a “sense” of what happened and what is most likely the truth. Sometimes that is all that we have to go on in life and decisions need to be made.

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  61. Doug Geivett says:

    WakeUpAmerica:

    (1) Why would you say this blog is more biased than Mudflats? Can you give an example?

    (2) When I say “I believe,” I’m not hedging. It’s the same when I say that I believe I have an orange tree in my garden. That is something I believe. And I have good reason to believe this. So when I say “I believe” some proposition, I’m saying that I hold that the proposition is true. And my goal—especially when it comes to my most important beliefs—is to be justified in believing what I believe; that is, to have adequate reason for thinking that what I believe is true. For that I depend on evidence. What do you rely on when it comes to believing the things you believe?

    (3) Notice that you say something weaker and more subjective when you talk about your beliefs concerning Sarah Palin. You say, “My sense of Sarah Palin . . . .” Are you telling us what you believe, or not? If not, then what is this sense that you have?

    (4) You say you’ve done extensive research. That’s good. If you’re going to make the kinds of claims you’re making, you definitely need good evidence. You owe it to Sarah Palin, and you owe it to yourself.

    (3) I don’t know whether Sarah Palin is “heartless” in the way you say. It’s possible that she has fired people, and that she has done so for reasons you think are unfair. So that’s something you believe. And I hope you have evidence for both: (a) that Sarah Palin has fired people, and (b) that firing those people was unfair. I would imagine this includes special knowledge you have about how the people you refer to performed their jobs. I don’t have knowledge about that, so I don’t have a definite belief about the matter.

    (4) What do you mean by “habit”? How many times do you have to do something before it counts as a habit?

    (5) Is there any kind of pattern to Sarah Palin’s treatment of the people you have in mind, other than the heartless bit? Is it possible that she took action on the basis of certain principles? It may be that you disagree with her principles, but that doesn’t mean Palin is heartless and unprincipled.

    (6) Since you don’t say how you know what you want to say you know about Sarah Palin, I have no idea how reasonable you are. For all I know, given what you say in your comment, your criteria for evaluating her actions are inappropriate.

    (7) True, all points of view are important, but its not because “the truth is somewhere in the middle.” What does this even mean? What would the middle be? Take the proposition, “There’s an orange tree in my backyard.” You say it’s false, and someone else says it’s true. Where’s the middle?

    (8) What do you mean when you say, “She seems to believe that she is a righteous Christian”? Do you think it’s a bad thing to think that about oneself? Let’s suppose it is. I think we have good evidence that Sarah Palin is a Christian. But what is the evidence that she believes herself to be righteous? Don’t you believe that your negative evaluation of her character is righteous? If you don’t, then why say such things?

    (9) You think Sarah Palin has the attitude that “anyone who has an opposing point of view is a heathen.” How are you using the term “heathen”? Have you heard Sarah Palin call a particular individual a heathen? And are you saying this is her attitude in all cases? If so, then if I believe I have an orange tree in my garden and Sarah Palin believes I don’t, that makes me a heathen.

    (10) I haven’t said anything on my blog about whether Sarah Palin knows enough about Russia, or how she knows it. I’m not sure it’s relevant if you can believe that. In fact, I’d like to hear a good argument that it is relevant to whether McCain and Palin are elected.

    (11) I do like your sense of humor. You got me laughing about seeing mountains from your deck. I mean that. It was funny in the good sense.

    Cheers!

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  62. WakeUpAmerica says:

    It is important for all of us to thoroughly research the rumors hitting both sides. I can’t say that this blog is any less biased (perhaps more biased) than Mudflats. Take the emotion and “I believes” out of it and research the facts. My sense of Sarah Palin, after extensive research, is that she is very determined and patriotic as well as heartless to those who have a differing opinion. I’m particularly concerned about her habit of throwing employees under the bus if they disagree with her and calling them “haters” for having an opinion that isn’t in line with hers. All points of view are important as the truth is somewhere in the middle. I find it particularly troublesome that she seems to believe that she is a righteous Christian and anyone who has opposing point of view is a heathen. How arrogant and unChristian is that? And seriously, she understands foreign policy with Russia because a portion of Siberia can be viewed from some spots in Alaska? The fact that I can see some of the mountains from my deck must qualify me to be Secretary of the Interior. It is also troubling that she has spent so much of her time as governor living in her house in Wasilla and charging Alaska a per diem for it. Doesn’t that bother anyone. I know, I know, Murkowski was so much worse. But what does “she’s not nearly as bad as Murkowski” really qualify her for? What about her firing so many people and filling the posts with questionably qualified people from her high school days? Those are the questions that people should be asking themselves and seeking answers for. Is that really the kind of person that we want as a potential president if McCain dies in office? Be honest and fair in your evaluations people. Too much is riding on this.

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  63. Doug Geivett says:

    Yes, the truth is out there.

    Factcheck.org purports to be a non-partisan fact-checking information source for all things political. During this season, that means special focus on two presidential campaigns. The concept is great. But here are some precautions:

    (1) The writers for fact-check tend to be journalists who have worked for prominent newspapers.

    (2) In this arena, it’s possible for the to over-extend their resources in dredging for the truth, since so many factual claims are flying around about the candidates.

    (3) If you read carefully, you’ll sometimes see opinion seep into the reportage of facts.

    (4) Factcheck.org has to be selective when it investigates the facts, and the selection can be guided by subjective factors that a reader wouldn’t know about; so there could be a disproportionate tilt in fact-checking that favors one candidate over another.

    (5) It would be difficult to know whether factcheck.org ever deliberately ignores reporting about their findings in some cases.

    (6) Checking the facts related to a politician’s claim requires getting the politician’s claim right, and this requires charitable interpretation; fact-checkers might inadvertently misconstrue a factual claim.

    SourceWatch utilizes contributors outside their editorial fold. The language used at their site seems to be more latently evaluative.

    I agree that using these two web sources is an aid to getting clearer about the issues and the facts. At the very least, they resist the temptation to poison the arguments with vitriol and libel. But since their persuasive influence is more subtle, readers should be alert to the subtleties of their presentations of the facts.

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  64. liambuckley says:

    I agree completely with the importance of actually checking the facts and the sources. I’m especially suspicious of any journalism that claims to offer an ‘analysis.” Factcheck.org is a great place to begin your search for the facts. Sourcewatch.org is “your source to the names behind the news” (the site’s self-description”). The truth is out there!!

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  65. Pingback: Want a Little Humor With Your News? « Nailin’ Palin

  66. Doug Geivett says:

    Dear Swineprincess,

    If AKMuckraker is determined to set a standard of objectivity and fairness, then she might consider using less incendiary language that not only betrays a bias but makes some readers suspicious of her factual claims.

    Also, as I’ve shown in a more recent post, the muckraker has much to learn about the proper use of facts in making a cogent argument. See “BlogLogic—Rumors of Sarah Palin’s Affiliation with the Alaska Independence Party.”

    If you know of a false factual claim made in any of my posts, please do let me know so that it can be corrected.

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  67. If you had spent as much time on Mudflats as I have you will find that AKMuckraker and the commenters on the blog are more conscientious than most MSM reporters about fact checking. We are also quick to come back with corrections if we are wrong. We ask that you make the same corrections to your statements.

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  68. Mike Austin says:

    Doug,
    Good questions.
    (1) Perhaps this is true, I’d have to think about it more in depth.
    (2) I don’t know enough about the swiftboat controversy, I just meant that as an example I’ve heard those on the Left employ of unfair treatment and mudslinging.
    (3) I’m thinking specifically of the rumors about him being a Muslim. Obviously that in and of itself does not matter with respect to being a good President, but it is the sort of thing that many seem to believe, or at least believed for a while before the Jeremiah Wright stuff came out.
    (4) As a moderate, I’ll pass on this one!

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  69. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Stacy,

    You’re right. Obama made a very strong and classy statement making it clear he objects to the kind of tactics some on the left have used. One unfortunate consequence of this kind of behavior is that it undermines the candidacy of the person these people support. First, it can create the impression that this is Obama’s own response. Second, because there is so much cynicism about politics, some might have trouble trusting Obama’s repudiation and wonder if his own operatives aren’t fanning the flames while he makes public statements repudiating that sort of thing. I think Obama is sincere, and means it when he says he’ll fire anyone officially linked to his campaign making this kind of noise.

    Thanks for your comment, Stacy!

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  70. stacybuckeye says:

    Speaking as one moderate, both sides do this sort of thing. I received hateful emails about Obama for months. And not once in those months did McCain come out and say stop the personal attacks. This Palin baby mess was all over the blogs, and I have to respect the fact that Obama came out today and said that families were off limits. I’m not blaming either side, but neither should either side be excused.

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  71. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Clancy,

    “Internet bullies” is useful terminology. I do think there are bullies within the full spectrum of political camps.

    Like

  72. Doug Geivett says:

    Fair enough, Mike. It does cut every which way. Certainly, the principles should be applied evenly. But here are a few questions:

    (1) Could the difference in governing philosophies between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats (setting aside moderates for the nonce) inform their respective attitudes about what’s fair in love and war?

    (2) Was the swift boat thing pure construction? Was it rooted in fact but overblown?

    (3) What rumors about Obama are you thinking of? Were these rumors inaugurated by GOP operatives?

    (4) Is there a self-described liberal reading this who wants to argue that rumor-mongering is an acceptable form of political clash?

    I don’t mean to suggest that these are rhetorical questions. I wouldn’t say one party is in general reptilian about these things, while the other always operates above the fray. I don’t think it’s a party thing as much as it is a lens on how the extreme left (like the Paul Begala types) engage their opponents.

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  73. Mike Austin says:

    I’m not as convinced that there is a concentration of this in only one party. I can imagine people on the opposite side of the aisle, as we say, bringing up swiftboats from the past campaign and the various rumors about Obama in the present one.

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  74. clancycross says:

    We need to recognize these people (or should I say snakes) for what they are — Internet bullies. Let’s hope more people take a public stand against ignorant and venomous behavior.

    “The best thing about the Internet is that it makes everyone a publisher. The worst thing about the Internet is that it makes everyone a publisher.” — Source: Unknown

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