Friday, November 16, 2007

Should liberals/progressives use rumors as a tactic to achieve our goals?

Last Sunday I posted an action item urging readers to send a hand-written letter to Nancy Pelosi in support of impeachment. I based my post on an e-mail I received that morning that said, “…Nancy Pelosi is reported to have replied to the question of impeachment that if she received 10,000 hand written letters she would proceed with it.”

I checked previous e-mails from the sender and found her credible. I also checked “urban legends” online and didn’t find any mention that this was a myth. I cautioned readers that I didn’t know if it was a rumor but that it sounded like a good idea to send Nancy Pelosi a hand-written letter in support of impeachment even if it was.

I have since learned that it is a rumor. According to Undercurrents, the Hartford Independent Media Center blog, Pelosi Staffer Denies She’ll Put Impeachment on the Table if She Receives 10,000 Letters, posted November 14: “I decided to check this out, and I called the Speaker’s office in Washington, DC. The staffer who answered denied the report. The aide told me that members of Pelosi’s staff are aware of the report, but the aide wouldn’t confirm that the Speaker herself was aware of it. He said the report is 'baseless' and that she never made such a statement.”

The sender of the e-mail I received last Sunday also sent me an e-mail stating that it was “a very good rumor,” “a fabulous idea.”

What do I do when I inadvertently spread a rumor, even if it leads to a positive result, in this case thousands of letters to Pelosi?

1. I disclose that I’ve learned that it’s a rumor in the same forum I put out the rumor.
2. I am more careful next time to track down something as significant as this. I should have called Pelosi’s office, too.

No matter how desperate we liberals/progressives feel about the need to impeach Bush and Cheney, I don’t believe we should resort to tactics or tools that are “extreme,” i.e., not based on the truth.

On July 1st, I posted, Read Rove's lips. He has resorted to rumor more than once in order to assure that Republicans win. Here’s an excerpt from my post: From Joshua Green’s 2004 Atlantic Monthly article, Karl Rove in a Corner: “…[N]o other example of Rove's extreme tactics that I encountered quite compares to what occurred during another 1994 judicial campaign in Alabama. In that year Harold See first ran for the supreme court, becoming the rare Rove client to lose a close race. His opponent, Mark Kennedy, an incumbent Democratic justice…was no stranger to hardball politics….This August, I had lunch with Kennedy near his office in Montgomery….When his term on the court ended, he chose not to run for re-election. I later learned another reason why. Kennedy had spent years on the bench as a juvenile and family-court judge, during which time he had developed a strong interest in aiding abused children….At the time of the race he had just served a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. One of Rove's signature tactics is to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable. Kennedy was no exception." [emphasis mine]

Some of Kennedy's campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one that showed him holding hands with children….some within the See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile….what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take." [emphasis mine]


1 comment:

Chris Borland said...

I agree with you, Gail.

To my mind, there's nothing more important than insisting on ethics, integrity, and proper restraint of emotion (the lack of which cause anyone, including ourselves, to give in to the temptation to "loosen the rules" or "fight dirty," which is, of course, self-defeating, if integrity and truth are one's cause). It's tempting to get "carried away" and resort to "giving them a taste of their own medicine," but this is emotion talking, not reason. It's never worth it to bow to this temptation. And so rumors without substantiating proof should be labeled as such, until there's clear evidence establishing them as more than such.

The most powerful tool of change is to act as a mirror of what's best in others, so they can see what's best in themselves. That's why we on the left MUST NOT begin to practice Machiavellian tactics in our effort to defeat the widespread impulse in our culture to use such tactics.

The non-violence of Ghandi and King is the example, here ... the antithesis of the Tricky Dick Nixon Karl Rove "anything goes" Orwellian neocon school that turns the Golden Rule on it's head ("Whoever has the gold, makes the rules") and posits "Survival of the Fittest" and "The End Justifies the Means" as the best basis for a just society (how anyone can believe this is beyond me).

The problem, is that, in the short term, practicers of non-violence (and by extension, actual integrity and ethics) must accept the fact that it's going to hurt. "It's the tall grass that get's cut." How long can one stand the pain and still actually hold to true ethical standards? That's the measure of character.

"If you don't stand for something ... you'll fall for anything."

Having said that, lying is certainly sometimes justified (as when a burglar enters your home and asks you at gunpoint where your children are), and I admit I'm puzzled by the following questions:

How do you compete with someone who cheats?What is the best way to handle that? Is cheating in return justified as "self-defense" at some point? If so, how do you stop yourself from becoming worse than your corrupt opponent?