Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Warrantless Blogtapping Program

Issue:'s Banning of Ron Paul Supporters from Posting Comments

John Hawkins, in a piece that discusses banning Ron Paul supporters from commenting on blogs, wrote this:

So, was Redstate right to ban Ron Paul's supporters? Well, it's not the way I would have gone -- ehr, I think -- but, then again, if I had lots of RP supporters posting on RWN regularly, I might be tempted to go that route myself.
I don't want to even get into whether or not Redstate is right or wrong to ban Ron Paul supporters. What I want to point out is the brazen hypocrisy of John Hawkins. He "pretends" to be probably more noble and committed to dissent on his own blog. The fact is that he is happy to ban critics for much, much less. Hawkins bans people like me just because, I think, he takes a personal dislike to criticism that cuts too close to home, makes him uncomfortable, is intelligently expressed, and makes sense. Unlike Ron Paul supporters, I've never called anyone, much less Hawkins, a fascist just because we disagree politically. I don't think I've ever used profanity on RWN's comment boards. I've always tried to stay away from gratuitous ad hominem attacks. I try to stay away from juvenile rants, drive-bys, flame wars, and trollishness on blogs. I've always owned up to my mistakes of fact, and I always apologized when my passions caused me to step over lines of propriety at times and others called me on it. And I always try to express myself in complete sentences, logically, and with proper grammar and punctuation. As for Hawkins, he can't even be bothered by the intellectual exercise of conversation and dialogue. He almost never descends from his lofty blog-throne to explain himself, to respond to criticism, or to engage the comment dialogue on his own blog.

I think his behavior in banning me and then his pretense to be so tolerant of dissent for those who behave much, much worse makes him out to be a fraud and a hypocrite. And he's also an intellectual coward. In fact, although I disagree with Redstate's position on banning the Ron Paul supporters, I give Redstate some credit because at least the editor of the site stepped up and had the decency and the balls to give some explanation or reason for why the ban is in place there. Hawkins didn't even have the courage and the integrity to do that with me, even in a private email exchange, or with others who asked him for some explanation of my banning there.

I know there are some good people that I got to know from RWN who continue to visit my site and maintain a blog relationship with me, even while they continue to be active and supportive of Hawkins at RWN. I treasure and value that these folks still engage with me from time to time, and I wouldn't want to lose that. And I don't mean for my comments about Hawkins to offend these folks in any way, but I will not sit around and let this fraud Hawkins get away with such insincere claims about respecting dissent. It's just not true. And it's embarrassingly shameful. And it's sad that he gets away with it among his readership when he says it or implies it. And I'll continue to point this out whenever I see it surface at RWN, for my sake if for no one else's.


President Friedman said...

Huck, I admit I am still as mystified about your banning as I was the day it happened, but I also think you might go a bit overboard when you imply that Hawkin's promotes himself as being "noble and committed to dissent". Some of his readers have promoted him as such in the past, but I don't think he has ever come out and said that he welcomes all points of view on his blog. Even in your quote from him above, he is basically saying that in the same situation he might very well do what RedState did.

I do not know why you were banned, and I would still like to find out. But I consider your banning a fluke in an otherwise generally fair-handed policy towards dissenting opinions at RWN. That Hawkin's has never addressed it might also be part of that policy (basically saying, "this is my blog and I don't owe anybody an explaination. If you think I'm that unfair, you can quit reading at any time.")

I've been in positions before where I felt I made a mistake or a bad judgement call, but didn't correct it because to do so would create more problems than it would solve. It's a bad situation, and it teaches you to be careful with your decision making! While I have absolutely no proof to back it up, I tend to think this is probably what happened with your banning.

In otherwords, if somebody asked me if John Hawkins is open minded about allowing dissenting opinions to be voiced on his blog, I'd say, "Yeah, most of the time he is, but there was a strange incident with this guy named Huck."

Huck said...

P_F, you make a lot of sense. I would normally tend to agree with you. Of course, I have a personal bone of contention here, so that colors my reaction. But how sure are you that the incident with me is an anomaly? Because I made an effort, I happened to have been able to generate some interest in my banning. But how many others have been banned unfairly who just said: "screw it" and didn't bother to make anything of it?

But I am curious about one thing. Assuming that Hawkins, in a fit of overreaction, really does think he made a mistake in banning me, how would his owning up to this "mistake," or admitting an error of judgment made in a moment of passion, created more problems for him? The only problem it would have created would be a temporary personal embarrassment to Hawkins, who would probably have been redeemed in the end by having had the courage to do the stand-up thing in the end. I don't think Hawkins would have risked advertisement revenues, readership, or anyone's life or career by having said "Oops, I let my emotions get the better of me in this instance." Besides, whatever happened to that conservative commitment to integrity and taking the lumps that might come from owning up to mistakes?

But even still, if there were greater problems for him beyond personal embarrassment in being stand-up about his mistakes, there are certainly ways he could have handled this privately with me, at least, that might have mitigated such potential problems.

Perhaps you are right. Perhaps Hawkins isn't the noble creature about respecting dissent that some make him out to be. Just don't say that on his blog, though! ;-)

President Friedman said...

"But how sure are you that the incident with me is an anomaly?"

Not sure at all, but I don't notice a large number of liberal posters dissapering from RWN, so there is no reason to think that there is a wholesale ideological purge going on at that site. It could be happening though, I admit.

"Assuming that Hawkins, in a fit of overreaction, really does think he made a mistake in banning me, how would his owning up to this "mistake," or admitting an error of judgment made in a moment of passion, created more problems for him?"

Because if he owned up to making a mistake, he would be obligated to reverse your banning, and if he reversed the ban, it would set a precedent for anybody banned in the future for whatever reason. The threat of being banned carries more weight when it is unquestionably permanent.

"Besides, whatever happened to that conservative commitment to integrity and taking the lumps that might come from owning up to mistakes?"

Oh, I don't think there is anything particularly conservative about that commitment. Every liberal I know advocates integrity and personal responsibility in their private lives (it is in their public policy stances where I believe they become disconnected from these ideals). I don't know anyone of any political, religious, or social stripe who
gets it right every time though.

"there are certainly ways he could have handled this privately with me, at least, that might have mitigated such potential problems."

I agree, he *could* have, but if he banned you because he was mad about you repeatedly attacking his personal integrity (justified or not) I doubt he was in a state of mind to be consoling about it, even if he did later decide it was a bit heavy handed (again, purely speculation). Jesus may have advised in favor of turning the other cheek, but he never said anything about shaking hands! ;-)

Huck said...

Well-said, P_F. Yeah, there's not a wholesale ideological purge going on at RWN, only of those lefties like me who sometimes don't play nice with Hawkins. I have had a few emails from some folks who have been banned from RWN for nothing more than the sin of being critical of Hawkins and his arguments. Granted, who knows if these folks didn't do something bannable by Hawkins' criteria of bannable offenses, but I am no longer willing to give Hawkins that benefit of the doubt. Also, the question of integrity is, indeed, a non-partisan or non-ideological one, though conservatives do tend to often lay claim to such integrity and lambast liberals for their lack of such. And even given that integrity knows no ideology, it is still a value that should apply to conservatives, and so my point stands. It may not be something only conservatives claim, but it is something that conservatives do claim, and so wondering about a "conservative" commitment to integrity and owning up to mistakes is not a falsehood.

Also, Hawkins doesn't have to reverse my banning just because he owns up to the mistake. He can very easily say just what you implied: "Like the referee who blew the call and admitted it after the game, perhaps I, too, made a regretful mistake in banning Huck, but once banned always banned. When the clock has run out, the game is over, my mistake notwithstanding. I'm sorry I banned Huck, but he's gone for good. And that's that. No one said life is fair." The problem is that he just doesn't want to be man enough either to state this or to take whatever lumps to his integrity might come his way. Though I suspect people would think more highly of him for handling the problem this way, than for maintaining a cowardly silence. And that leads me to my last point ...

Handshake or not, a Jesus-inspired turning the other cheek or not, that still doesn't mean that the whole way Hawkins handled it is, in the end, anything but cowardly.