Some ideas for stalking one’s ideological opponents, from a Frisch — Karl Frisch of Media Matters:
A little after 1 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2009, Karl Frisch emailed a memo to his bosses, Media Matters for America founder David Brock and president Eric Burns. In the first few lines, Frisch explained why Media Matters should launch a “Fox Fund” whose mission would be to attack the Fox News Channel.
“Simply put,” Frisch wrote, “the progressive movement is in need of an enemy. George W. Bush is gone. We really don’t have John McCain to kick around any more. Filling the lack of leadership on the right, Fox News has emerged as the central enemy and antagonist of the Obama administration, our Congressional majorities and the progressive movement as a whole.”
“We must take Fox News head-on in a well funded, presidential-style campaign to discredit and embarrass the network, making it illegitimate in the eyes of news consumers.”
That phrase “presidential-style campaign” makes me smile a bitter, tight smile.
What Frisch proceeded to suggest, however, went well beyond what legitimate presidential campaigns attempt. “We should hire private investigators to look into the personal lives of Fox News anchors, hosts, reporters, prominent contributors, senior network and corporate staff,” he wrote.
After that, Frisch argued, should come the legal assault: “We should look into contracting with a major law firm to study any available legal actions that can be taken against Fox News, from a class action law suit to defamation claims for those wronged by the network. I imagine this would be difficult but the right law firm is bound to find some legal ground for us to take action against the network.”
Note well: the memo does not suggest fact-checking Fox News, or taking them on with respect to the issues. No, instead the memo discusses trying to discredit the network by digging into people’s personal lives. By a strategy of planning to file lawsuits before any specific legal grievance is identified. Media Matters planned to respond to Fox News, not by responding to the message, but by stalking the messenger.
Unfortunately, this sort of thing appears to be an increasingly popular tactic among fanatics. The tactics you see discussed are, believe it or not, rather mild compared to what the fanatics are capable of. Once a fanatic has determined that his opponent is not just misguided, but in fact evil, simply due to the political opinions he holds, it is easy for the fanatic to justify all manner of outrages, including the criminal.
Framing your opponent, for the fanatic, becomes a convenient way for him to “catch” you at what he believes you are doing anyway. Trying to get you killed is simply one more method a psychopath uses to try to obtain your silence.
I have been a victim of the sort of thuggery I describe in this post, as have others close to me — to an extent that would probably shock many of you to hear about. So if this seems personal for me, well, it is. The full story will be told one day, but for now, suffice it to say that this post is not an academic exercise for me.
I picked this story up at Hot Air, and several commenters are making comparisons to the Stasi — which is, I think, an apt analogy. What I find disturbing is that some of them also claim that we need to “get tough” with the other side and start using their tactics against them. This sort of attitude is all too common whenever one side is shown the most despicable tactics of the other side’s fringe.
But it is important not to succumb to this point of view. I say this as someone who has seen criminal ugliness first-hand. The most dangerous attitude in the world is that of self-righteousness. It allows one to rationalize all manner of abuses that, in the abstract, would horrify anyone with a sliver of a conscience.
While we seem to see so very many stories about this sort of thing happening on the left, I have also witnessed thuggish attempts to silence dissent on the right. Organized smears and a mob mentality are not the exclusive province of either side. What is important is finding a way to articulate your principles without falling victim to the sort of thuggery Media Matters proposed (and probably engages in to some degree) — and also to avoid falling into the trap of engaging in thuggery yourself.
This country was built on the idea that speech can be countered by more speech. Increasingly, it seems that some take the attitude that speech you don’t like should be countered by destroying the messenger. Media Matters has fallen into this despicable category.
I don’t know that they are capable of feeling shame. But I still feel compelled to say: shame on them.
Shame on them.