Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You don't have to defend everything they do

A few months into Maine governor Paul LePage's term I realized something: just because I agree with his economic policies doesn't mean I have to pretend he's not a jerk.

LePage has had the deck stacked against him since he ran for governor. The leftist social circles I live in are ready to pounce on him whenever he takes a stand, such as when he declined an NAACP invitation. However, knowing he's a target, LePage has never put any real effort into curbing his personality and couldn't resist making an off-color remark.

He knows there's a witch-hunt out to get him for being a Republican leader in a left-wing state, but he's never made it hard to find dirt on him. Since taking office this year, he's provided the bitter left with a regular supply of ammunition by losing his cool or saying silly things, like the chemical BPA is safe but might give women "little beards."

Even though he was right about BPA being safe, even though the NAACP is a twisted parody of a once-glorious organization, even though I'd probably vote for LePage again, I am not obligated to defend his self-sabotaging personality that comes out when the cameras are on. He needs to knock it off and stop making it so easy for the other side to mount an opposition.

People seem to have a natural tendency to defend their peers and comrades in the face of all reason. Look at some of the awful things being said to defend Dominique Strauss-Kahn this month.

This brings me to the unfortunate case that inspired this post. Scientist Lawrence Krauss, who is supposed to speak at the TAM 9 skeptics conference this July, has expressed doubt of the accusations that his friend and financier Jeffrey Epstein is guilty of knowingly participating in human tracking and sexual abuse.

My post is not about Krauss being unwilling to consider his friend is guilty. He has expressed doubt, not cynicism, Instead, it's on the framing of the issue by Rebecca Watson, one of the hosts of the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast.

This is the ignored paragraph where I say that I generally like Rebecca Watson. It's true. While she's a far-leftist and a third-wave feminist, I don't fault her for these things and she genuinely makes me laugh with her wit and humor. I think she's put a lot of work into organizing various skeptic groups and events and I'm glad she's on the panel of one of my favorite podcasts.

But sometimes she shows poor judgment. She flipped out when co-host Jay Novella said a transgender person who lives as a man but became pregnant is really a woman. She got banned from the for sockpuppeting - not a viscous thing to hold against someone, but for someone so high up in the community it was a major lapse in judgment. She accused the skeptical community of sexism for not having more female speakers at TAM 7, learning on the podcast that organizers tried desperately to find them but they just aren't there. In the past year on the show I've noticed her bringing her wild anti-corporate politics more and more into discussions. Some of this blame belongs on host Steve Novella for not reeling her in on a non-political show, however. She even went as far to bring up "Monsanto," the left's secular devil.

There is an amazing post on Skepticism & Ethics about how Watson is leading an online lynch mob against Krauss, armed with more self-righteousness than facts. Watson has given into that human weakness to assume guilt with sex-crime accusations and has the facts all wrong. False allegations ruin lives and their are a lot of innocent people dealing with this.

This is not a generic anti-Rebecca post. I really like some of the things she's done and I generally agree with her on important issues. But I'm not going to defend her actions here or tolerate them. She has gone off the deep end here and needs a serious reality check.


  1. Personally, I like his unapologetic tone. But then, people call me a jerk too.

    I believe that any unapologetic right-winger will be made to look like a fool in the press. The left can't stand principled right-wingers, because leftists are unwilling to engage in fundamental political debate. Millions of people HATE Michelle Bachmann because she used the phrase "armed and dangerous" in an interview. And those people have never, and would never want to be exposed to the full context of her remarks in that interview.

    So, I've come to believe that the proper course of action is to focus laserlike on principles and policies, AS STATED BY the politicians themselves, and to completely ignore media characterizations based on an angry moment here, and an out-of-context quote there.

    We on the right will never win the larger debate if we keep rewarding Mitt Romney types, just because the press tells us that every principled republican is a kook or an idiot.

    And I'm sure you are aware, Michael, that if we had the MSM bullhorn and were so inclined, we could pore over every word of any given leftist politician, pull out the various ill-advised things they say, and turn them into an unelectable strawman.

  2. I completely agree. It was obvious that from day one, Paul LePage quotes were going to be cherry picked and the worst motivates would be ascribed to anything he does.

    My point here is that he's made it very easy for the left to do so by saying obnoxious things and losing his temper.

    When I engage with the hostile left, I've made sure to keep my emotions under control and not lower myself to the level of the Portland Phoenix. LePage has no such reservations, and that makes him an easier target than he has to be.

  3. But your point is the same point made by all the "sane" voices who gently try to marginalize the more forceful and unapologetic voices. "Oh, if only they'd not give the left so much ammo!" Ultimately turns into "I guess I gotta vote for Romney, at least he doesn't make any waves..."

  4. At least LePage isn't advocating a return to the '67 borders, that takes a proper jerk.