Kevin says I ‘attacked’ Free Times. News to me…

Perhaps you should go back and read my original post. Not much to see, really — a lightweight stream-of-consciousness thing in which I started out joking about something I’d read on Twitter, teasing everyone involved… and then decided, near the end, that that was too much levity and that I should play the grownup and harrumph a bit over the Decline of Western Civilization. So I did. And down below, I will again.

My award-wining colleague Kevin Fisher seems to have taken it quite seriously:

Brad Warthen, local blogger and former editorial page editor of The State, is someone I know, like and read regularly. But it seems he needs a trip back to the newsroom at his old haunt on Shop Road, or to sit in on a Journalism 101 class at USC, or to reflect on the wisdom of shooting the messenger.

In a post on that surprised me (and I bet others who know and respect him), Warthen attacked Free Times staff writer Corey Hutchins for accurately reporting a comment made by Rep. Boyd Brown (D-Fairfield) about Gov. Nikki Haley…

He was even offended by the joshing part, before I got around to the harrumphing:

Yet Warthen seemed unable to differentiate between the message and the messenger in his Oct. 5 post on the subject, writing: “And Corey and Boyd — what are you boys doing using language like that …”

“You boys.” Tsk, tsk. Yeah, that sounds like me rolling out the big guns, all right. Kevin should refresh his memory regarding the way I write when I’m being critical. This, for instance, is me criticizing someone:

Mark Sanford approaches elective office with the detachment of a dilettante, as though it simply does not matter whether anything is accomplished. His six years in Congress are remembered for a futon and a voting record replete with empty, ideological gestures. As governor, he has proven himself utterly unable — or perhaps worse, unwilling — to lead even within his own majority party. He is easily the most politically isolated governor we can recall. He is startlingly content to toss out marginal ideas and move on, unruffled by the fact that most of his seeds fall on rocky ground.

I guess I should have sensed a foreshadowing of this. Initially, Corey Hutchins and Eva Moore seemed a bit put out with me, but then I decided they were being ironic, too. A day or two later, I worried that I’d misread that situation when Corey Tweeted another mention of me. But all was well, he assured me when I inquired: “All in good fun, friend!”

Maybe THAT was ironic. But I don’t think so.

Originally, the headline of that post was something like, “Don’t use that language around Amanda!” or something similarly silly. Me being the avuncular old guy, protecting the young lady’s sensitive ears: “(W)hat are you boys doing using language like that around Amanda?” See what a corrupting influence this has had upon the poor lass?

But just before I published it, my rather slow mental processes finally penetrated down a couple of layers and realized what I was looking at. So I began the “Seriously, folks…” part, and then changed the headline. (I dig alliteration.)

Why did I do that? What did I see that I hadn’t seen when I started out being facetious?

First, consider that on a superficial level there was nothing original in what Boyd had said. It’s become a bit of tired joke in politics to say something like, “Oh, he’s only doing to her what he’s been doing to the rest of the country for four years.” The reference is a bit salacious, but refers obviously to what the speaker believes as harmful policies. (I say “old.” The earliest references that I find in a quick search — such as here — refer to Bill Clinton. I found some to Bush and Obama, too. But I actually think the device is older than that, a bit of a chestnut.)

But this was said with reference, specifically, to Nikki Haley. Who is not only the first woman ever to be governor. but the only candidate I can recall to have been accused, repeatedly and VERY publicly, of marital infidelity in the course of a political campaign.

Which takes on something different from the meaning of that joke in the normal course of political waggery. And which is, as I said, “grossly inappropriate” in the public sphere, whoever says it and whoever passes it on — particularly when one cutely plays around with the coarsest word we have in the language for such activity.

I shouldn’t have to explain all that. Our sense of propriety should not be so far gone that such an explanation should be necessary. But what should be and what is are not always the same.

11 thoughts on “Kevin says I ‘attacked’ Free Times. News to me…

  1. Steven Davis

    Maybe you could have a news conference and refuse to continue as long as he’s sitting in the room. But offer to take everyone else into another room for one-on-one interviews.

  2. Brad

    By the way, while I am often critical, the last time I actually “attacked” anyone was when I was 16 — I popped a guy for bugging me in Algebra II in Tampa, Florida.

    Teacher was out of the room. This jerk sat behind me, and was always trying to start something with me, or with somebody. I forget what he was doing or saying, but all at once — without even realizing I was going to do it — I swung my whole body around and, in a single motion, hit him across the face with the back of my hand.

    I remained turned around, staring at him. I was amazed; he was amazed. He then slapped me across the face with his open hand. A proportional response. Then we resumed staring. One second later, the teacher walked back in, and I slowly turned back around.

    After class, my adversary asked me if I would like to meet him after school. It was the gentlemanly thing to do under the circumstances, except that this guy ALWAYS wanted to meet somebody after school. It was my second such invitation from him.

    I declined, and walked off. I’d had my satisfaction.

    Anyway, that was my last attack, and not much of one. For real roll-around-on-the-ground fighting of an extended sort — a sustained attack, as it were, a determined engagement — I’d have to go back to Cub Scout days.

    I had a lot of fights as a kid. And all of them were pretty stupid affairs.

    But I digress…

  3. Brad

    Oh, I neglected to mention… about the time I was starting to write this post, Corey Hutchins Tweeted, “@BradWarthen And I never felt ‘attacked’ anyway, so there’s that.”

    Good to know.

  4. bud

    Brad, you do have a tendancy to overthink things and perhaps it leads to ironies on top of allusions within the context of enigmas (to paraphrase Winston Churchill). And it can get daunting to try and sort it out. As for me, when I saw that column my first thought was “Whatever”. It was just too much to wade through.

  5. Steven Davis

    “I swung my whole body around and, in a single motion, hit him across the face with the back of my hand.

    I remained turned around, staring at him. I was amazed; he was amazed. He then slapped me across the face with his open hand.”

    Next time, tell people you punched him… guys don’t get into slap fights.

  6. Brad

    What? But it was about ME! You weren’t fascinated?

    Seriously, though… you’re completely right.

    That post was a mess, since it changed tones radically, turning suddenly on the word “seriously” and going off in a totally different direction.

    When I wrote for the paper, I often changed my mind in mid-column. But then, I would go back and rewrite the whole column for the sake of consistency. Some of my friends here on the blog think I don’t change my mind. Well, I do. I used to completely reject the thesis of a column I was writing in mid-column, and rewrite it. Sometimes I’d finish it, and then change my mind. Once, I pulled a candidate endorsement off a page in the proofing process, and very late in the day, rewrote it to endorse that person’s opponent.

    Sometimes I’d write my Sunday column on Thursday, then come in and scrap it completely in favor of another topic, on Friday. Eventually, I learned my lesson and stuck to only writing at the last minute.

    But blogging is different. I rationalized not rewriting this one (except the hed) by saying, “Blogging is supposed to be stream-of-consciousness.” Which is sort of true. But what I was really doing was indulging myself. I had enjoyed the first part, and didn’t want to delete it. So I both laughed at the dirty joke, and then turned and sternly lectured the whole world, including myself by implication, for laughing at it.

    So criticize me for self-indulgence, if anything.

    And yes, I do overthink things. Which is why, when I finally reach a conclusion, I hate to be contradicted. Because then I feel obliged to explain how I got there, which is often rather involved…

  7. Brad

    And Steven, I have to tell it the way it happened.

    And HE was the one slapping. By comparison, the back of the hand is macho. I could see John Wayne doing it — you know, when his opponent was contemptible enough.

    Giving someone “the back of your hand” is generally understood as a universal insult. Reserved for those who aren’t worth a punch.

    Not that I thought this through in advance… That was a case of NOT overthinking…

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    Speaking as a wine-and-cheese activist, reading Kevin Fisher is hazardous to your equilibrium.

    Steven Davis says:
    October 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Maybe you could have a news conference and refuse to continue as long as he’s sitting in the room. But offer to take everyone else into another room for one-on-one interviews.


  9. Steven Davis

    “Giving someone “the back of your hand” is generally understood as a universal insult.”

    Maybe… if you’re sitting in the middle of an Early English Literature class. Having blood squirt out of his nose two aisles in either direction usually ends the fight before he has a chance to hit/slap you back.

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