When I have to step up and clean up the trash in the blogosphere, something is seriously wrong.
This evening Senator George Allen bought some airtime to deliver a short speech. His wife was on camera as well, but did not speak. I thought it was a great address, and I hope it changes the tenor of the political debate, as I’ve pretty much tuned out from the senate race’s mudslinging and have found precious little worth paying attention to for some time. I still hold out some hope that the debate actually becomes a debate at some point, rather than a discussion of long-past events which are shrouded in the mists of long-past recollections possibly colored by current political agendas. Until then, it’s not worth paying much attention to the current back-and-forth for me.
BVBL is a muckraker blog to a large degree. We throw some mud around here, and almost all of that is my doing. It’s usually about an issue, a policy or a candidate’s qualifications, although sometimes the more trivial observations about a candidate. Sometimes it strays over to public figures who are associated with a candidate, when that’s relevant to the discussion. I run right up to the line of propriety sometimes, because it needs to be done. But one place I will not go is into attacking someone’s family. No one should do that in the blogosphere.
I know what it’s like first-hand to be the target of an attack that goes over the line. Many readers will recall my posts about it, but what I haven’t discussed is what that feels like. I thought it irrelevant at the time, but perhaps it’s worth laying out what it’s like now just to make sure we understand just what happens to people when the line is crossed, so we’re clear about what we will and will not tolerate.
When I discovered that someone was trying to have my family harrassed with phone calls, I gave my wife a call to let her know what’s going on. I had to explain to her why someone would do this, and apologize that my political activity could result in her taking the heat that should be focused at me. And then I realized that not only was my phone number released, but my address was as well. I asked her if she had something she could do to get out of the house that day, where she could get herself and the kids out of the way until I got home from work, just in case there was someone with a little, or a lot less than a full deck reading that day. Dinner that night was difficult.
The next day posts went up that said my little girl should be drowned. Given the previous day’s events, I had to take that very seriously. Again there was a need to get the family out of the way, and this time the threat of harm was a lot more tangible. The police were not helpful, as the threat was not specific enough for them to warrant action, but they did offer to make a few passes by the house for the next few days and keep an eye on things. I accepted, but clearly understood that the protection offered was more an attempt at reassurance than an effective degree of protection from someone who might be possibly dedicated to the murder of my innocent little girls.
Although it appeared later that the threat was not as imminent as it first seemed, for about the month it took to track down what exactly happened my family was concerned that something could happen by someone who had a beef with me, but who lacked the courage to confront me and thought my family an easier target. And lately, we see too many of these horrid instances of a deranged individual who realizes it’s easier to attack children than adults. It’s pretty well known that I’m a veteran, and I’m not an easy target for a physical attack. My children and my wife don’t have my stature or my experience.
So what does this all have to do with attacks on Susan Allen? If what I had understood as an inviolable rule was universally understood, that families are absolutely off limits, my family would never have been attacked in an attempt to get at me. The attacks tonight on Susan Allen degrade that rule, making it a case-by case determination without a consistent standard about who can be attacked and under what specific circumstances. It creates a nebulous rule, where any one at any time can reasonably determine that the attack they want to make, regardless of their perhaps temporary emotional state, is justified. The loss of an absolute standard like this makes what happened to me and my family not only possible, but likely against someone else. Given my experience, I fully expect that unconcionable attacks will result absent a clearly understandable and consistently applied standard. It is absolutely necessary.
Left, right and in the middle, bloggers must have an absolute ethical standard that we do not attack the families of our political opponents. While politics can be hardball, let’s be clear about to whom we’re serving up our posts when we play.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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