I once wrote for a small newspaper (way back in the 20th Century) at which we were informed at one point that there were certain “progressive” elected officials that had become off-limits as far as criticism went. We were all on the same side, after all, and it wouldn’t be right for progressives/liberals to air their dirty laundry in public.
Wasn’t much we could do about it, since it was clear that if we wrote anything that might be seen as critical of the three it wouldn’t see the light of day. Before that, while it hadn’t been what one might call “Open Season” on all politicians, certainly everyone was up for scrutiny. Now, we were hobbling ourselves at the gate.
Part of the reason for this came from one of the three, an inveterate whiner who would complain whenever he would read anything that wasn’t one hundred percent complimentary. “We’re all on the same fucking side,” he had snarled into my answering machine sometime before, when I had written a little piece mentioning his political ambitions.
I have heard this argument used many times over the years, usually by thin-skinned folks in the public arena who can’t understand why anyone, anywhere, would criticize them. There are several variations on this.
Help hide that Dirty Laundry! It’s your duty!
There is, as mentioned above, the old-fashioned “We shouldn’t air our dirty laundry in public” argument. This is so intellectually dishonest that I’m surprised anyone can still make it with a straight face, and yet they still do. And who benefits from that? The public? Sure, if you mean the public who want to keep their heads in the sand, and isn’t likely to vote anyway.
But folks who care about local ( and national, if you carry the argument that far) government benefit the least. The only ones who benefit from folks willing to look the other way when things are politically hinky are the ones who aren’t playing the game according to Hoyle, the ones who cut corners, the ones who would subvert the political process for their own ends.
I’ve heard this line too many times over the years to feel anything but the most abject contempt for it - and for those who urge silence in the cause of some sort of “liberal patriotism.”
Because sooner or later that laundry gets really, really dirty, and the stink becomes overpowering, and then the folks who have been helping keep it under wraps just look sort of complicit in an unwitting conspiracy.
How can you write such mean things about me?
And then, of course, there is the whiner, the elected official who whines when they read something that doesn’t exalt them.
It’s politics -if you want love, buy a dog. But for god’s sake, don’t buy a cat; no doubt the creature’s condescending looks would have you in tears a few dozen times a day.
Save your whining for someone who has to listen to you, like your immediate family.
Stroking egos - it’s sort of perverse, but I always enjoy watching this
We’ve had a few elected officials over the years who have been awfully good at the ego massage, the pat on the back, the “Fayetteville really needs people like you in it, Wally Cox! I really love your ______ (fill in the blank yourselves) . It’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t live in any other city in Northwest Arkansas!”
And old Wally will swell with pride and, well, Wally’s now part of the team.
And soon Wally is bragging to folks that “Commissar XXXX really liked my article about Cabbage Patch Kids and their place in Fayetteville history! He called me this morning!”
I think this blog was inspired by a piece of writing I read recently about a Fayetteville city council session which was political sycophancy at its worst.
People who write about politics are not on your “team,” and you have no right to either expect them to be, or to expect them to not criticize you, when the occasion calls for it.
Quote of the Day
Your adversaries will call you unpatriotic for speaking the truth when conformity reigns. Ideologues will smear you for challenging the official view of reality. Mainstream media will ignore you, and those gasbags on cable TV and the radio talk shows will ridicule and vilify you. But I urge you to hold to these words: “In the course of fighting the present fire, we must not abandon our efforts to create fire-resistant structures of the future.” — Randy Kehler, The Democracy Brigade