In the spring of 2010, I was able to go visit with my family in Utah. At one point during my visit, my dad and I were talking, and he brought up the topic of stupid politicians. I agreed, and then he followed up with an example — not of our then-Speaker-of-the-House who had just recently said that we needed to pass a bill to see what was in it, not of our “Orator-in-Chief” who can’t string two coherent words together without a teleprompter, nor the chronically idiotic Vice President.
No, his next words were a mocking, “I can see Russia from my house.”
I was immediately furious. It was hard, after seeing a woman I greatly admire being gleefully maligned again and again and again by dishonest press and bloggers, to hear my own dad saying the same sorts of things.
Now, as you can probably gather from that exchange, my father is not a Sarah Palin fan — he pretty much believed all the bad things said about her, not out of malice, but out of a deep-rooted (and, for his part, well-earned) cynicism.
He’s not a fan of hers. But he is a fan of mine. And when my temper had cooled a bit, he gently took me aside and explained something: The moment I had gotten angry about what he had said was the same moment that I had lost the argument.
As with most — most — things, my dad was right. Think about it: if the person saying that sort of anti-Palin garbage was just an insufferable douchebag, then he wins because he visibly upset you. But if the person saying those things is simply someone with a different opinion (or working off of bad information) then they can easily conclude that the reason you’re so touchy on the subject is that there really is something ugly there. And if it’s someone making a joke, the impression you leave is of a raging asshat whose sense of humor had long ago been blown off in a boat explosion. Getting defensive in such a way that you give your emotions free reign is a lose-lose-lose proposition on your part.
I tell you this for a couple of reasons: 1. To illustrate that I know exactly what it’s like to lose my temper on Sarah Palin’s behalf, and 2. To illustrate the point that doing so is thoroughly counterproductive.
Today, while traipsing through my Twitter feed, I bumped into a couple of stories: One about how the Daily Caller had posted something vile that Mike Tyson had said about Sarah Palin, and the other about how Glenn Beck is now a horrid anti-Palin hatemonger.
Now, Tucker Carlson over at the DC is a piece of work — we all know that. But even after reading Dan Riehl’s over-the-top “righteous indignation” spiel, it seemed to me that the great sin here had been that the Daily Caller had posted Tyson’s comment without bending over backwards to point out that it was awful. I saw no indication in the original posting that the DC was endorsing Mr. Tyson’s comments, and quite honestly I thought it was obvious enough that Tyson was being disgusting when he said it that I didn’t think that point needed editorializing. Jim Treacher (@jtLOL) made that same point on Twitter and was lambasted for it — the most ridiculous rebuttal coming from our pal Dan Riehl, who made fun of Treacher for the time he had been hit by a car while in a crosswalk.
Stay classy, Dan.
The other, rather more ridiculous assertion of the day is that Sarah Palin’s longtime friend and stalwart supporter Glenn Beck is a nasty icky turncoat — all because of this (the joke in question is about 2 minutes in):
Full disclosure: I am a GBTV subscriber, and have been since before day one. And because of this, I know that Brian Sack is an equal-opportunity mocker — he doesn’t care who the joke is about, as long as he thinks it’s funny, and he’s usually a good judge of that. I did laugh at the first part of this joke, because not only was it funny, it’s making fun of the ridiculousness that is the stupid rumor about a one-night-stand Sarah may or may not have had in college. The second part was less funny — not in and of itself, but because of the underlying context of why she stepped down as governor — and the audience called him on that.
I guess I missed the part that was supposed to send me into a conniption fit.
Last year I was very involved over at Hillbuzz — regular commenter, sometime contributer, that sort of thing. (More disclosure: I severed all ties with that site after an incident wherein I sent a private email to Kevin DuJan to politely let him know that he had used an offensive term, only to be rewarded with some truly awful hate mail, followed by Mr. DuJan thoroughly misrepresenting what I had written and then comparing me to the Taliban in a public posting.) And I remember that, during my time there, there was a series of posts about how to spot a troll in the comments section. It was all very informative, but it had a rather chilling side-effect, in that, from that point forward, anyone who dared to contradict or challenge or disagree with Mr. DuJan in the comments section — in any way — was immediately denounced as a troll by fellow commenters and harangued into silence. To call it an unhealthy environment would be an understatement.
The reason I bring this up is that it seems to me that the Palinista movement is in very real danger of heading wholesale in that direction. It doesn’t do us or Sarah herself any favors if we start to see (and overreact to) attacks where none were intended, or even where there’s enough reasonable doubt in the matter that a more reasonable person would just let it alone. We (justifiably) poo-pooed Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter for decrying how unreasonable we Palinistas are, but stuff like this is only handing them (and others like them) more ammunition. It’s the flip side of Palin Derangement Syndrome, in which anything anyone says that could possibly be construed as a negative toward the Governor is immediately decried as vile hatemongering. It’s wrong when they do it, and it’s wrong when we do it.
As I said before, I know exactly how maddening it is to see someone you deeply admire being constantly thrown to the wolves. But, in our efforts to counter that behavior, we must take care to not become wolves ourselves. I wrote in a previous post about how the Honolulu Tea Party was horribly misrepresented by the local ABC affiliate — and how the only correct way to truly counter stuff like that is a method that Sarah Palin herself uses to great effect: Be your best self. If we resort to over-the-top attacks, exclusionary tactics, and unbridled anger, we are only setting ourselves up for failure by proving the naysayers right. It does you no good if, when your opponent is getting ready to really shoot himself in the foot, you wrench the gun away and point it at yourself.