In the early 1990s, after I wrote a an opinion piece mildly taking a local elected official to task, for taking a naive position, he left a message on my answering machine, taking me to task for having the umbrage for having written such a piece.
“Just remember that we’re all on the same fucking side,” he barked, just before abruptly finishing the call.
I played back back the message a couple of times, and then looked at the machine, and muttered, “What a putz.”
From his point of view, I suppose you could hardly be blamed (if you came from the Bizarro World, for example) for believing that writers at this particular paper should automatically support him. After all, it was a progressive paper, and shared common goals with the man. And I had personally written columns in the past that praised his efforts to reform Fayetteville city government.
But that was as far as it went. We were not his handmaidens, to look the other way when he said or did things that we felt we should comment on.
All too often, progressive - to be honest, this is true for conservatives, as well - politicians often don’t understand that just because writers may write approvingly of them or their policies it doesn’t mean that they are part of “the team,” or that they leave their critical faculties at home when it comes to writing about said politicians.
What they admired about writers previously - when it was aimed at their opponents - is now not quite so admirable, but signs that writers have changed, or don’t see the big picture.” Where before one had seen independence, now one saw signs that writers had changed, and not for the better, for the public good.
“You hurt the progressive cause by focusing on these things,” is another whisper that will come down. The “things” being referred to, of course, are missteps by any particular progressive administration which is power at the time. “You just help the bad guys by writing about this stuff.”
Such canards get hurled not just at writers but at anyone with the temerity (or the bad taste?) to criticize those in power. It is the Political Guilt Trip.
A lot of folks fall for this - and things never get any better, or at least not until everything blows up in people’s faces.
Of course, there is also the ego stroking - and who doesn’t like that? It feels so good when an elected official tells you that your paper or blog is the best thing since sliced bread, and they couldn’t imagine Fayetteville without it - well, golly, who wouldn’t want to help out those folks? Who wouldn’t want to be on the team?
So they get what they want - and don’t deserve - political and journalistic obeisance.
And who - except the elected officials who receive such blind loyalty- benefit from such fawning attitudes? Well, not the public.
The public benefits most when elected officials remember the old maxim, “If you want love, buy a dog.”
Writers, be they journalists or simply bloggers, also befit from it, as their writing will be sharper, more honest, and they won’t be seen as total tools.
Of course, they’ll whine a lot
The more professional (and mature, perhaps?) those in public are, the less likely they are to react like mad bulls to bee stings every time they see a criticism in print. During the infamous Coody years, one senior staffer would whine occasionally in public about being criticized in blogs.
Blogs, for crying out loud!
Of course there is perhaps apocryphal story of one city staffer who would go on various blogs and use a variety of different names (fondly imagining that no one knew their true identity) harshly criticizing anyone who would dare to criticize city policy.
Quote of the Day
A divorce is like an amputation; you survive it, but there’s less of you. - Margaret Atwood