Sunday, February 18, 2007

consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do

lately i've been too busy to do a lot of political blogging, so all sorts of things have been happening in the blogosphere that i haven't been able to comment on. but there's at least one topic i can no longer remain silent about: the ongoing feud between advance indiana's gary welsh and a certain member of the indy star editorial board.

the star's rishawn biddle thinks of himself as the "Sensible Libertarian", a role he sometimes plays pretty well—for example, i happen to think he's spot-on about the controversy surrounding pea-shake houses (black-owned illegal gambling operations). but other times, he gets a little too "in character". recently, he's written a series of posts belittling gay activists, insisting repeatedly that he's "on their side" politically, yet because they are just so shrill and whiny, they risk losing the support of Sensible Folks like him. what's particularly annoying about these screeds (other than the wrong-headedness of his arguments) is that he has developed a habit of commenting on other bloggers' posts without linking to them or even naming who wrote them. this reduces his posts to a sort of "inside baseball" which is practically indecipherable if you haven't already read the blogs in question.

in the other corner is gary welsh. like rishawn, gary is highly intelligent and capable of coming up with compelling arguments. also like rishawn, gary can be quite obstinate when he turns out to be wrong. and also like rishawn, gary is a nontraditional conservative. (rishawn claims to be "libertarian", which these days generally means "i'm conservative, but too embarrassed by the religious right to call myself 'republican'." gary is a gay republican, who repeatedly voices his disgust at the religious right, but still thinks it might be possible to save the GOP.)

as a gay man, gary is understandably opposed to SJR-7, the proposed amendment to the indiana constitution that would not only ban gay marriage but would prevent "incidents of marriage" from being granted to "unmarried couples" (which includes unmarried straight couples as well, and would strip away many existing rights that gay and unmarried straight couples currently enjoy, no matter what the amendment's supporters say). rishawn claims to also be opposed to the amendment, yet he seems to spend more time whining about the tactics of gay activists than explaining why the amendment is so atrocious. and he has repeatedly called out gary (perhaps more than anyone else), even while refusing to link to gary's blog or even mention gary by name.

it was always easy to see what this spat was really about. gary, as a gay man, is fighting for his rights, for his livelihood and the lives of many others like him. that's admirable. for rishawn, this feud with the lgbt community has always been about last year's election and the things that were said during that time.

longtime readers will recall that gary got a little out of hand during the election season. in his zeal to oust julia carson from congress, gary went off the deep end on more than one occasion, spewing all sorts of ridiculousness. once upon a time, rishawn seemed to be a big fan of gary's, but rishawn got burned last october, when gary flat-out called him a liar. (the issue was the much-talked-about police report about candidate dickerson's domestic battery arrest. gary insisted, despite all the facts, that julia carson had personally given the report to the star ed board. rishawn, who should know because he's a member of the ed board, repeatedly pointed out that this did not happen, but gary stood by his claim... and for some reason still does.)

gary has mostly recovered his sanity since then (though he has yet to correct or apologize for the many outlandish things he said during the election season), and his blog is almost as good now as it was, say, last spring, before all this nonsense got started. but rishawn remembers being called a liar, and he still holds a grudge.

early this morning, rishawn finally admitted as much in the comments at AI:

Your animus with me goes back to last year's Julia Carson-Eric Dickerson Congressional race, when I criticized your unreasonable rhetoric and called you on the carpet for perpetrating an urban legend that Carson handed a copy of Dickerson's arrest record to this paper. It didn't happen and you were told that by yours truly -- who happened to be at the editorial board meeting in which Carson leveled those allegations -- and was confirmed by the editorial page editor of this paper.

You refused to correct your statement. As a result, I regard you in a territory reserved for two other notable commentattors in town whose lack of class, dearth of civility and unwillingness to deal reasonably: You don't get named whenever cited on Expresso.

of course, in that dispute, rishawn was right. in this one, he's dead wrong. but because gary went too far last fall, he has—perhaps permanently—damaged his reputation in rishawn's eyes. and rishawn isn't just taking it out on gary: he's taking it out on the whole lgbt community. it's a shame.

incidentally, i also want to point out this line: "I regard you in a territory reserved for two other notable commentattors [...] You don't get named whenever cited on Expresso." like a petulant child, rishawn decides to punish those critics he dislikes by talking about them without using their names. rather than just ignore them, as he probably should do if they were really as uncivil and unreasonable as he claims, he passive-aggressively keeps talking smack about them on his blog. of course, the entity most harmed by this is expresso, which is rendered almost unreadable by all the unexplained references to "certain bloggers".

but the real question is, who are the other two "comentattors" that rishawn refuses to ever call by name? i'm pretty sure one of them is steph mineart. but who's the third? i suppose wilson allen is a candidate, but judging from this i'm pretty sure he's actually talking about tdw's jen wagner.


Wilson46201 said...

Thank you for the kind mention but I don't think I have yet driven RiShawn to distraction.

I quite agree with your characterization of a libertarian being actually just a conservative who is too embarrassed by the current ChristoFascist takeover of that moniker...

I have severe disagreements with Gary Welsh - he banned me after I pointed out as a white Republican lawyer he seemed to relish too much informing voters of the pecadilloes of Black Democrats. He is however only an amateur blogger with limited readership. Mr. Biddle writes for Indiana's leading newspaper - he has so much more responsibility for seriousness and accuracy.

Bil Browning said...

Wilson, while a frequent blog commentor, does not have his own blog. I know that RiShawn has referenced us in his posts, but not linked to us. But I've also seen him do the same to TDW and Steph.

I'm actually having lunch with RiShawn this week over his recent blog posts. I sincerely believe that he's with us on the issue of SJR-7 and doesn't understand why everyone is getting so angry with him. Hopefully things will get better for everyone after we sit down and break bread. I plan on explaining why the community keeps taking umbrage at his posts - even though what I see him trying to say is simply "Be more civil." Unfortunately, it's just not coming across that way...

stAllio! said...

bil, rishawn has mentioned you without linking, but at least he referred to you by name. i can't remember the last time i saw him refer to gary, steph, or jen by name in an actual post. (me, he never bothers to mention.)

arnie said...

Yea know, RiShawn is just a Star Editorial Board flunky front man doing what he is told, walking the company line, trying to keep a job.

RiShawn Biddle said...

Atually Stallio!, you're assuming that my criticism of the latest round of strategies by gay activists is driven by a personal animus. Once again, you're wrong. My view of Welsh isn't driven by a personal disagreement either.

Both are driven by a belief that in the arena of debate, one should be principled in their discussion. This means that rhetoric needs not be inflammatory or defamatory to make the point. It also means that if someone points out that you're facts are wrong, especially those who have presented evidence of this, you concede the point. And as an editorialist, I am as obligated to call out those whom I support for not walking the walk as I must call out those with whom I disagree. That's the job. Period.

I won't go into Welsh except to say that after dealing with his last round of e-mail tirades, well, I'll simply say that it's a surprise that he graduated from law school. But in the end, the disagreement we have has nothing to do with the criticism I've made of the movement, whose aims I generally support. After all, I have also called Bil Browning on the carpet and I haven't had any dealings with him on any major level.
The issue I take with activists is the tactic of extremeist rhetoric, which has not only been embraced by Welsh, but by Browning and others. And I take issue with it because it won't work. The general public isn't going to buy into a comparison of a state senate leader to a Klansman, plain and simple, especially if there is no evidence of this.

Rhetoric and tactics matter. Martin Luther King understood that and so did the NAACP in its prime. This is why Rosa Parks was promoted over two young women who did exactly as she did, but weren't considered ready for prime time.

The unwillingness to understand this on behalf of the gay activists out there is disturbing, mostly because as a libertarian, I take umbrage to any form of discrimination, be it against Blacks, gays or pea shake operators. But it is hard to make the case when those whom you give support insist on using rhetoric and tactics that win them little regard among those whom they want to gain support.

If gay activists embrace tactics that are no better than those of their opponents, then they deserve to lose in the marketplace of ideas. If they don't call out those among them for embracing extremist rhetoric, then they also deserve to lose. And if you insist on picking fights with those who are generally supportive of your position, but disagree with your tactics instead of actually being willing to listen and give some thought to the suggestions they make, then you also deserve to lose.

And that is all.

stAllio! said...

rishawn, thanks for your thoughts.

it's interesting that you turn up to deny that your beef with gay activists is "driven by a personal animus", considering that it's an accusation you yourself throw at your critics fairly regularly. you claim gary has an animus against you dating since before the election. you claim steph is "disposed to disliking anything [you] write". and you tried to use the same line on me a few months ago.

maybe you don't have a personal grudge against gary, steph, or anyone else. maybe it's a coincidence that two of the Three Who Must Not Be Named On Expresso are gay activists (and the third works for the democratic party). but whether you do or not, you sure come off like you do, both in the amount of time you continue to devote to this topic, and in the tone you use when you do.

RiShawn Biddle said...

Actually Stallio!, outside of Mineart's own issue with yours truly, I haven't spent any time on her at all. She's entitled to her position, but she hasn't fostered any sort of conspiracy theories or urban legends. I don't spend much time on Mineart anyway; she comments, I respond. That's that.

So actually, it's just one activist who's on my banned list. You'll have to guess the others who I don't mention. If you've been following Indianapolis media for the past three years, however, you'll have an idea.

Pointing out Welsh's and Mineart's personal issues with me -- and they are; read their respective posts over the past year and you get the sense that they (and even Welsh's piece yesterday) and you get the sense that they spend more time angry at me than I do on them -- is part of the job; readers need a context in which to understand some of this commentary. That I point it out strongly is part of my job too; I'm not here to be a shrinking violet, but be like a lion in arguing my points. I argue everything strongly, even pointing out those who have personal issues with yours truly.

But in the end, it isn't personal. Hate to break it to you, but I have a life outside of my role. More importantly, everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if it's driven by issues of their own inability to deal with reality.

By the way: As far as purportedly opposing SJR-7, there's no purported opposition on my part. The record of my support for gay marriage can be found at Expresso and in The Star archives. The record speaks for itself.