James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘James Alan McPherson’

Electronic Klansmen trying to make me famous

Posted by James McPherson on December 7, 2009

As any regular here knows, I read a lot of stuff from throughout the political spectrum. I think all Americans should do so, for reasons I’ve expressed previously. As I’ve also mentioned before, I also occasionally try to point out an error and/or to engage in dialogue with a blogger with whom I disagree, even though most blogs are largely meaningless expressions of ego.

I always try to remain civil in those cases, and I’ve made some new electronic “friends” as a result. Some conservative bloggers now link to this site, and I link to theirs. Even in cases where I didn’t win over the blog host, I’ve had good “conversations” via comments sections, and have drawn some readers over here.

Of course I hear in various forms from an assortment of crazies; it goes with the territory. But one particularly vile and cowardly crew has apparently decided to try to make me famous, devoting at entire posts to me, with my name and title in the headline. With an apparent regular readership of about half a dozen mother’s-basement-bound Orly Taitz wannabes, the blog  is unlikely to make me as recognizable as this James McPherson or this one or this one (the first two are Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, the third a Civil War general), but its anonymous (naturally) author is doing his/her best. The site is one of those racist paranoid New World Order sites, and had posted a warning about a Muslim stamp issued for the holidays under the “Muslim Obama administration.” One respondent cried, “The government is slowly becoming muslim-based,” while another suggested that Barack Obama was involved with a plot to kill off black people with vaccinations (no, I don’t get the Muslim stamp connection either).

I should have known better than to respond, since this site is one of those that proudly portrays the racist depiction of Michelle Obama that I mentioned in a recent post. But I felt obligated to note, “The stamp was first issued during the George W. Bush administration, in August 2001–about a month before 9/11, and then reissued in September 2007 ,” and that “there are lots of available Christmas stamps, along with stamps commemorating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Valentine’s Day, Black history, the Lunar New Year, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and the Simpsons,” and that a 10-second web search would do much to boost the credibility of ther arguments.

That prompted a serious of nutty personal attacks from other respondents. These folks are toxic fungus common to many blogs, using the pseudonym as a modern version of a Ku Klux Klansman’s outfit to hide their identity. Fortunately they spend most of their time hidden away from most of civilized society, trying try to abuse and intimidate others from the shadows. They generally lack either the intelligence or the guts to be willing to open up their ideas to public scrutiny (one even complained after my comment that I was on “a private blog,” whatever that is), and because they’re afraid to remove the electronic pointy hoods, their only real threat is that they might induce other morons to commit violence.

By the way, I don’t response to those sites to try to start arguments–life is too short for that. I do so because I know that too few readers seek out a variety of sources, and I feel that it’s part of my obligation as an academic to contribute when I can to general knowledge, and to the democratic process. Based on what happened this time, though, I think from now on I’ll limit my responses to sites with named contributors.

Of course, I wasn’t terribly surprised at the venomous responses I received in return after posting my comment. What did surprise me was that the site host approved my comments–and then changed one of them to make it look as if I’d said something that I hadn’t (something very profane, at that). It was the first time I’ve ever had to point out the key elements of libel law (probably something every blogger should be familiar with) to force someone to delete something from a blog.

In addition, the host then featured me in an entirely new post, calling me “another idiot liberal professor that wants to poison student minds.” No surprise there, either, but in this case the post included a couple of photos of me, a partial bio, contact information for a couple of school administrators, and a suggestion that readers call to complain about what I was doing on “company time.” It also included my office phone number and email, though so far no one has used them. For reasons I cannot fathom, the post also listed all of the editors (and their contact info) for the award-winning student newspaper that I happen to advise (students, of course, do all of the writing and editing).

I never know whether to be more impressed with the power that some people think college professors have, or more depressed by those same people’s lack of respect for the intelligence and integrity of young adults. I certainly can’t imagine my employers caring much what anonymous hatemongers might have to say about me. Besides, one of the things I love about working in academia is the respect that most people in it have for a diversity of opinions. And aside from the fact that I was writing on a Saturday morning after a 60-hour week, part of my job as a teacher is to share my knowledge beyond the confines of the classroom. That’s why academics from all disciplines write books, journal articles, guest opinions in newspapers, and, increasingly, blogs.

Since that Sunday post, the host of the site has also featured me in three other headlines, and parts of a couple of other articles. Among the things I’ve been called by various writers on the blog in the past couple of days: “a feminist sympathizer” (I’m actually a feminist), “a radical leftist” (no doubt, compared to these folks), “a spineless whimpy little coward” (despite usually being the only writer there using his real name), a “funny looking little nerdy chap” (hey, I’m no lumberjack, but still…), “a disgrace to America and to college professors everywhere,” “the poster boy for NAMBLA,” “a mother——– feminist,” and “a c——-ing squirrely nut holding gnarly Gilligan elitist liberal” (I edited out the profanity with two of those comments).

Unfortunately, one of my conservative and highly ethical students (the other person on the thread using a real name, and someone who–like most of my students–disagrees with me on most things political) came to my defense on the site (oddly, these people apparently believe in Jewish New World Order black spy helicopters, but seem clueless about Google alerts). That college student has been equally disparaged on the site since then. Brave and classy folks indeed.

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