The Right-Wing Terror-Sphere


Fox commentator and popular right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin "has crossed a line." The "line" journalist Don Surber refers to is Malkin's having pulled the names and contact information of three UC Santa Cruz students from a press release and published them on her blog, while calling the protesters "unhinged" and bleating that "[t]his used to be called sedition."

Surber's comments are notable because he's an avowed conservative editorial writer for the Charleston Daily Mail.

"She knows better," Surber continues, referring to the fact that Malkin is a syndicated columnist and pens the second-most-linked-to right-wing blog in the nation. "Only a mean person would be so crass as to put that information in mass circulation."

This latest Malkin-related controversy began last week, when UC Santa Cruz's Student's Against War organized a peaceful protest against the presence of military recruiters at the campus' annual career fair. Blogger Ezra Klein explains with a flourish:

Right now, the dark-haired, lashy Ann Coulter understudy 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.
Blogger Jon Swift, in a tongue-in-cheek letter to Malkin, put it best: "If [the students] didn't want to broadcast their private numbers to the whole world, they shouldn't have sent letters addressed to members of the press, which as anyone knows, will print just about anything except the names of the people who leaked Valerie Plame's identity."

The hate and vitriol unleashed on the students by Malkin's readers justifiably earned her Keith Olbermann's World's Worst Person Award. Here's just one creepy example of the harsh rhetoric the students were subject to:
"My sincere hope is that a couple hundred of the local patriots take a day off work for your next anarchist event, and come down with some axe handles and bust your fucking heads."
In an update to her original post, and after receiving criticism from across the blogs for the hate that followed, Malkin added the disclaimer: "I do not condone death threats or foul language." Following that disclaimer (and the republication of the students' information), Malkin's updated contact information was posted on a small political website out of New Jersey called One People's Project.

The predictably overwrought response from Malkin would be amusing were it not so delusional: "The anti-troops brigade at UC Santa Cruz has now called in the left-wing blogosphere's kings of hate to attack me."

Unfortunately, although Malkin published the sickening emails she's received as a result of the disclosure, she doesn't link to the call to left-wing blogs supposedly put out by the Students Against War nor does she name or link to the blog post with her contact information.

In other words, it's unlikely that this site is, in any way, a significant player either in the liberal blogosphere or in liberal or progressive politics in general. One People's Project is virtually unheard of and linked to by no influential liberal blogger, politico or pundit.

One of Malkin's smoke screens is the contention that the protesters were somehow violent or threatening. She routinely refers to them as "thugs" in her posts, linking to allegations (from recruiters and spokespersons) that tires were slashed and rocks were thrown. As John Amato points out, however, one need only watch a Fox & Friends video to hear from "Cody James, a student at the university who wanted to see the recruiters and says the protesters were not violent."

A Santa Cruz Sentinelarticle this past Saturday quotes Malkin saying, ostensibly as a result of the publication of her contact information, "I am now forced to remove one of my children from school and move my family."

The suffering of Malkin's family and of the Santa Cruz students is, of course, a deplorable and sad effect of the unethical publication of contact information. However, there is no equivalency here, nor should this sad chapter be seized upon as another excuse for lambasting blogger ethics in general.

The fact of the matter is, Michelle Malkin, knowing full well what the ethical imperatives of journalism are, deliberately and cruelly violated the code that no other blogger thus far has -- not in this case anyway. Georgia10 explains that "Malkin is no journalist, nor does she have any decency. It is high time she be stripped of this designation in the media and labeled appropriately: as a pundit who makes her living off of propaganda and hate." She quotes from the Society of Professional Journalists:
Minimize Harm
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

Journalists should:

  • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects. […]
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.[…]

What is perhaps most notable about Malkin's latest hateful act is the censure she's received from conservatives as well as liberals and progressives. Surber, the conservative editorial writer from Charleston mentioned above, and a blogger himself, used to link to Malkin. Until now. "When people stoop that low, I as a reader realize that is all they have. They have lost the argument," he wrote. "It is like when a political candidate goes negative. Malkin went negative. She lost the argument. She lost a reader."

Explaining his decision to delink Malkin, conservative blogger Fred Witzell of Ace in the Hole wrote: "This goes beyond all decency in my opinion. I don't care who's side you're on, there are 'some' things you just don't do …"

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