I WANT THE KIMBERLIN TRUTH TO PUT ON ITS BOOTS
On Friday I wrote about the right blogosphere's group attack on Brett Kimberlin, an ex-con who's now a lefty activist and, the righties say, a dangerous serial harasser of his enemies. As I said on Friday, if their claims about him are accurate, he absolutely deserves the attention of authorities -- someone who's done what they say he's done ought to be locked up. But they're the only ones telling us this stuff, and (as I also said on Friday) they seem to be doing it primarily to attack liberals and Democrats, and only secondarily to protect their ideological soul mates.
The latest, from one of the self-proclaimed harassees, Robert Stacy McCain, is that Kimberlin is pursuing a "peace order" against another person who says Kimberlin harassed him. That may mean the story is more nuanced than the righties want you to believe it is -- or it may mean that Kimberlin is following the classic pattern of a spouse-beater who tells the authorities he's the one being abused. We just don't know.
And this gets me back to a subject that's come up in the lefty blogosphere in the past, notably during the James O'Keeffe ACORN brouhaha. Back then, Clark Hoyt, at the time the public editor of The New York Times, asserted that the non-right-wing press pursued the ACORN story too tardily, and therefore the Times "would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies." This was met with some outrage and disgust on the left -- but I've always believed that following the stories right-wingers are ranting and raving about is a good idea for the mainstream press, if it's done with the goal of getting the truth out rather than with the goal of appealing to the right-wing audience. In fact, I think it hurts our side -- and the country as a whole -- if the non-right-wing press ignores these right-wing stories. The Kimberlin story could be another example.
Let me explain.
You know the saying ascribed to Mark Twain: "A lie goes halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots." That's pretty much what happens when the right pushes and distorts a story, while the mainstream press says nothing. That's what happened, for instance, with the "Ground Zero mosque." The right-wing media and blogosphere pushed the story for months before the rest of the media took notice of the right's distortions. The mainstream press eventually pointed out that the "Ground Zero mosque" was not a mosque and was not being built at Ground Zero, that it was being planned with the help of an adviser from Manhattan's Jewish Community Center, that there were already mosques near Ground Zero, and that there were prayer rooms for Muslims in the Twin Towers themselves. But it was too late once all that came out -- the right had successfully turned the Islamic cultural center into a political football.
That's what must be prevented in the case of Brett Kimberlin. In addition to convicting him in the media, the right is already trying to tie him to the Obama administration, and, by inference, to every liberal and Democrat in America. That's only going to continue.
Let wingnuts be the mainstream press's assignment editors? I say yes, but just in order to tell the truth. At worst, we learn that Kimberlin really was a nasty guy; the fact appears to be that liberals and Democrats who may have allied with him simply didn't know that. (Yeah, he's an ex-con, but so is Don King, who once killed a guy, which didn't stop the GOP from expressing delight as his endorsement of George W. Bush in 2004.) Or we may find out that behavior is being ascribed to Kimberlin and his friends that's someone else's doing, or that's being exaggerated and distorted, just to score political points. Either way, the right is prevented from owning the story for the next several months and presenting it in a way that exclusively helps the right. If these hissyfits are ignored, they don't go away.