Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Amazing Vanishing Act and weasel apologies.

We previously reported on the radical conservative diatribes being posted at a blog for the Republican Liberty Caucus. The RLC purports to be a libertarian group. The piece in question was anti gay, anti-choice on abortion and pro-censorship. None of that is surprising coming from Republicans but remember this is a site that claims to be libertarian Republicans.

Next the site made false accusations against Radley Balko of Reason magazine. Balko is a columnist at Fox News but this RLC blog cliamed that was a lie on Balko's part. They claimed to know this because they had searched and couldn't find Balko's columns. Apparently they couldn't tell the difference between Fox and Forbes. No surprise there, they can't tell the difference between a libertarian and a conservator either.

Now, these claims and blog posts have simply vanished from the RLC site in question --- all of them. The claims that an Obama appointee was a child porn enthusiast disappeared (conservatives love making that accusation, truth be damned). The false accusations against Balko disappeared as well. There is simply no trace of the comments.

The "Co-Coordinator" of this group posted an explanation that simply doesn't explain. More importantly it doesn't apologize for the accusations. The "co-coordinator", W. Guy Finley says the site is for "Libertarian Republicans" but that he was just too busy to manage it. So he gave control "to someone who wanted to contribute that I didn't know that well." That person, assumeably the author of these articles in question "led this site down a path it was never intended to go down." Finley says: "Inflammatory partisan bomb throwing was never the intention of this site." So he is "reasserting" his "administration" of the site. His apology is to those "offended at some of the prior postings here."

That is pretty much all the points Finley made. While one might call the pieces "partisan bomb throwing" they were more than that. That just makes it sound as if they were partisan insults. While the pieces were very insulting they were more than that. They were anti-choice on abortion, pro-censorship and anti-gay. In other words they were conservative not libertarian.

Remove all the partisan bomb throwing from the articles and they are still problematic for a group that claims to be libertarian. (Of course by Republican standards being libertarian doesn't require much belief in liberty.) There is no mention that these pieces were fundamentally unlibertarian in nature. One expects partisan posts on a Republican site but once doesn't expect anti-liberty views on a "libertarian" site. So one question for Mr. Finley is whether he thinks the posts were problematic from a policy perspective or merely from a partisan perspective. He mentions the latter but ignores the former.

His apology is to to those "offended". But for the "for what reason" of the apology is left out. To apologize for others being offended is a cop out. It allows the author to "apologize" without ever stating the action that they did which requires apology. There are lots of reasons people could be offended by the RLC pieces. Some may be offended that Puma was an extremely bad writer. Others might be offended that Puma lied in his/her accusations. Others might be offended at both those things plus the fact that the content was inherently unlibertarian.

To apologize for others being "offended" never actually says what the blog did wrong. Is Mr. Finley rejecting just the "bomb throwing" or the actual conservative positions that were taken? You can't tell from his short disclaimer.

Also note that he never states that the accusations made by Puma, against the Obama appointee and against Balko, were false. A real apology requires some specificity.

Weasel-apologies do not mention the offense committed only the discomfort others felt about it. It basically puts everything on the shoulders of those offended. Apparently if others weren't offended then there is nothing to apologize about.

Consider this example: one bully at school walks past another kid and punches him in the face for no reason whatsoever. Caught by the teacher he is told to apologize. Instead of apologize for his actions he says: "I'm sorry you feel hurt." What he doesn't say is important: "I'm sorry that I punched you in the face." The onus for the problem is placed on the victim for being hurt not on the bully for doing the hurting.

Mr. Finley's "apology" is for those "offended" not for the sites positions. He skirts the issue and never names the actual problems. There were two things which required apologies. One is that it false libeled individuals. Mr Finley does not acknowledge the libel and downplays it by calling it "partisan bomb throwing" only. Secondly, the articles took extremely anti-libertarian positions as well. That matter is avoided entirely.

Mr. Finley has proven he has learned the art of being a politician well. And one lesson politicians learn fast is to apologize without ever really saying what they did. A Republican gets caught putting it to a prostitute he won't apology for hypocrisy and pushing regulations on sexuality that he himself refuses to obey. Instead he will "Apologize for the pain I caused my wife and family and the disappointment that my constituents must feel." An apology that never mentions the real offense is not an apology -- its playing politics. Mr. Finley really does need to offer a proper apology. Instead he offers a weasel apology.