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Amanda Marcotte: What I Learned About Dirty Pool from The Right, the Media, and the Edwards Campaign

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February 17th, 2007

By Guest Blogger Amanda Marcotte

You know you’re doing something right when the right wing noise machine
paints a target on your back. Having spent two weeks getting harassed
and hounded by right wing nuts
intent on separating me from my job with
the John Edwards campaign, returning to this thought — that I must be
doing something right — was the only thing that kept my spirits high.

For those who don’t know, the whole sorry saga can be summed up fairly
easily. I was a liberal feminist blogger at the popular blog Pandagon,
a position that earned me a shot
at being the blogmaster for the John Edwards campaign. My tenure at
the campaign lasted a whole two weeks, and I had to resign under an
onslaught of accusations of everything from hiding my archives to not
looking like a movie star to finally the deadly and untrue allegation that
I’m bigoted towards Catholics. The day I unleashed myself from the
campaign came almost two years before I would have hoped, but the silver
lining of this whole episode is that I’m free to tell the story of what
happened. My article detailing the whole sordid episode is available at
Many people joined the attempt to separate me and my colleague
Melissa McEwan from our jobs, but the man who finally succeeded at putting
together the harassment campaign that worked was Bill Donohue of the
Catholic League.

In venues ranging from the New York Times to the major
cable news networks, Donohue demanded that the Edwards campaign fire
McEwan and me. The left blogosphere, furious that a smear artist might try
to snap his fingers and bully a Democratic campaign into firing a
staffer, pushed back hard. Liza at Culture Kitchen collected just a sampling
of the hundreds of blog posts and letters that were protesting the very
idea that such a manufactured controversy should have any impact on the
staffing of presidential campaigns.

I can’t comment on Salon’s story about what went on inside the Edwards
camp between the publication of Pickler’s story and the morning of
Thursday, Feb. 8. I can say that the furor seemed as if it had ended when,
after a day of official silence from the campaign as well as from us
two bloggers, John Edwards announced that the campaign would keep us on,
with press releases from McEwan and me stating that we had had no
intention of insulting anyone’s private beliefs. At this point, Donohue
vowed to continue his scorched-earth campaign, stating, “We will launch a
nationwide public relations blitz that will be conducted on the pages of
the New York Times, as well as in Catholic newspapers and periodicals.
It will be on-going, breaking like a wave, starting next week and
continuing through 2007.”

In retrospect, McEwan and I were attractive choices for a right wing
hit—young, feminist women who are laying claim to space in political
circles where quite a few people don’t think we belong. And I examine in
the article what this could mean for young feminists seeking political
jobs in the future, especially ones of prominence.

Regardless of its motive, the result of the smear campaign
was to send a loud, clear signal to young feminist women. It tells them
that campaigning for Democratic candidates, and particularly doing so
in positions that would help the candidate connect with young feminist
communities like the one that thrives in the blogosphere, is a scary,
risky prospect. There are few things like having Bill O’Reilly work
himself into a pearl-clutching fit while speaking your name over the air, or
watching your in box fill to the brim with sexually violent,
threatening e-mails. Young feminists certainly picked up on the message. As one
wrote in a blog post tracking back to Pandagon, “I will never, ever go
into any sort of actual work on any political campaign. I still might
have to close off my original teenage wasteland-style blog. People will
gleefully tear you apart any day of the week — but I’d rather not have
that done to me over politics.”

When I was trying to decide whether to resign, no other concern weighed
as heavy as the fear that resigning would tell the right-wing mob that
harassing young feminists works. That would only encourage the hit
squad in the future. As many commenters at Pandagon noted, we’re far from
living in a postsexist era where feminism is not needed, if one can’t be
an outspoken young feminist and work for a campaign without producing
waves of outraged commentary. But in the end I decided it might be
better for the campaign if I was no longer around to draw fire.

Whether or not it was the intention of the right-wing noise machine to
throw more obstacles in the way of Democrats who want to play to their
pro-choice, pro-gay rights feminist constituents — it’s also plausible
that the right-wing noise machine was working on pure misogynist
emotion — the episode has had a chilling effect on the future of Democratic
outreach to feminist communities, particularly the younger ones that
flock to computers for political information as earlier generations
flocked to television sets and newspapers.

Please check out the whole article. I’m hoping my worst fears don’t
come true, but this development has some ominious implications.

Guest blogger Amanda Marcotte is the author of the popular Pandagon blog.

One Response to “Amanda Marcotte: What I Learned About Dirty Pool from The Right, the Media, and the Edwards Campaign”

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    July 8th, 2013 10:24

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