Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Unhinged," Indeed

From Ezra Klein's blog:

Right now, (Michelle Malkin) is happily wrapped in one of her typical controversies: a crew of students at UC Santa Cruz, my alma mater, protested some military recruiters, and Malkin got hold of a press release with their personal contact information -- a poorly conceived inclusion on the students' part, but then, these are undergraduates, not trained media flacks. Rather than calling and speaking to them herself, which is what members of the press are supposed to use such releases for, Malkin published their personal information on her website, prompting her hordes of orcish mouth-breathers to brandish their pitchforks and inundate the unsuspecting students with death threats (some of which you can read here). When the students frantically called on Malkin to remove their numbers, she posted their contact information again.

I'm not saying that I agree with what I've heard of the Santa Cruz students' anti-war tactics. If people want to go and visit recruiters on campus, they should be allowed to do so without running a blockade or a picket line. Protests can happen close to the recruitment station, but reasonable access cannot be blocked.

But I think it's wrong to say these students did something "pooly conceived" by having their contact numbers available. That really is blaming the victim, here.

I was a member of the lefty protest set - and the non-denominational free speech advocacy set - back in my university days, and I can tell you that it's absolutely essential to have contact information in with your stuff. You want the press to call you up on their own time, rather than yours, and ask for interviews and soundbites. You want people who might not otherwise take part in that protest, itself, to call up and say "hey, I believe in what you're doing, how can I help?" or "I want to join. When's your next meeting?"

And of course these phone numbers are going to be personal numbers. Student organizations rarely have the funds to have a semi-professional office with its own telephone number, much less a dedicated phone line that's shared property (like an off-the-rack cell phone bought and maintained for that purpose alone). This is because student organizations tend to have only student funding available, if that.

It's perfectly normal to have numbers available for people to call - why else do we have phone books and public directories? What is abnormal, here, is that people are calling and leaving death threats. That is wrong, and we shouldn't be giving these creeps any slack by saying the students somehow asked for this to happen. No one asks to be harassed, demeaned or threatened anymore than they ask to be mugged, raped or murdered: if you leave yourself open to such an attack, the fault is not yours, but that of the person who harmed you.

As for Malkin, who had a hand in orchestrating this harm: she says she doesn't condone death threats or violence, but that seems a wimpy boilerplate at best. It's like stirring up the red ants and black ants and then saying "Play nice, guys?" in your best Kermit the Frog voice. If she didn't think these threats might happen, she's either willfully naive given what she's gotten in the past - part of the basis of "Unhinged" - or ignorant of the worst parts of human nature.

I think she had to have known what would happen when she gave that contact information to her fans, at her blog. And I think, when viewing the students' actions as sedition, she thought the best way to punish that sedition was to let slip her legion of flying monkeys.

I also think she owes them a great, big apology, regardless of what she thinks about what they may have done. I doubt we'll see it, but in its absence we have more proof of one of the central failings of her "Unhinged": an unwillingness to see that the right can be just as stupid, vicious and petty as the left when given a chance to anonymously drool venom over a communications network.

2 Comments:

Anonymous themole said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:09 PM  
Blogger J. Edward Tremlett said...

Sorry, themole, but I don't think I want my blog to be host to any personal info on Malkin. It might be payback, and no less than she deserves, but I'd feel funny about criticizing her for doing it and then doing it myself, too.

Besides, why give her any ammo for "Unhinged Part II?"

J

2:47 PM  

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