Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Etheridge the Boor


No excuses for this boorish and illegal behavior. Dude should not only resign, but be prosecuted for criminal assault and battery. And the Democratic Party should publicly disavow him. Liberal Democrats who try to spin this away come across as tribalist fools. And I say this as a proud liberal both embarrassed and angry that Etheridge shares my party affiliation. What Etheridge did is really unconscionable. Even if the students don't file charges, the local DA should prosecute anyway. The Democratic Party should definitely withdraw its support for Etheridge in the upcoming election. However, if that doesn't happen (and shame on the Democratic Party if it doesn't) and if Etheridge loses in November, I say good riddance.


eric said...

If he broke the law he should pay the penalty, but I'm actually a bit sympathetic for Etheridge on this one. I've yet to hear anyone come down on the kid for his atrocious behavior. If you want to get an interview with a Congressman for a school project, you don't just ambush him on the street with random and vague questions while shoving a camera in his face.

If that was my kid, and I was paying for his tuition, he'd very quickly find himself with no more cell phone privelages, and I'd be a lot harsher with him than the Congressman was while we had a conversation about manners. And I wouldn't give him a penny of money to go towards mounting a lawsuit.

The Congressman reacted poorly, but given the way the kids engaged him, he had absolutely no context for what their intentions were. It seems clear to me that he attempted to first push the camera away from his face, and then when the kid immediately shoved it back in his face he responded by grabbing the camera and trying to restrain the kid from getting it back. Is that wrong? Probably, but it's a response you can reasonably expect from quite a few people if you shove a camera in their face without identifying yourself and without their consent.
The entire situation was completely avoidable if they had just approached the Congressman and said, "Hello sir, we're students working on a project for school and we were wondering if we could interview you on camera for a few minutes?"

At some point, without the proper social ettiquette, you just can't expect people to behave rationally towards eachother. And the influx of technology, especially mobile tech, over the last decade has put some serious strains on our existing set of social rules, and I think this exchange is a perfect example of that.

Huck said...

Eric - That's a very measured response. And I mostly agree with you. You make some excellent points about the less than ideal behavior of the students, and I would probably be as strict with my kids as you would be with yours if they were the ones mounting this video experiment. But here's why I have much less sympathy (actually no sympathy) for Etheridge: (1) I do hold public officials to higher standards of conduct. It might not be fair, but I think it comes with the territory. Etheridge could have, and should have, simply ignored these kids completely. He not only lost his composure, but he actually physically assaulted them. At a personal level, I can understand the reaction to lash out and swat the camera away; but as a public official in a public context, it is just not acceptable to do it, especially when there are other ways to deal with the situation. (2) Etheridge's behavior is the antithesis of the values I believe come with being a liberal Democrat. Because Etheridge is a representative of the Democratic Party, he casts a black mark on the ideology that I ascribe to. So his behavior, in some way, reflects on me and all liberal Democrats. Thus, I believe it is imperative that I be much more vocal in defending a belief system that I hold from the behavior of someone who also claims to ascribe to the same belief system, but who acts contrary to such beliefs. (3) Finally, if I were to put my kid in Etheridge's shoes (instead of the place of the students), I'd probably be equally as harsh on them for such a response. I wouldn't want my kids behaving like these students, but I also definitely wouldn't want them behaving like Etheridge.