Perhaps you should go back and read my original post. Not much to see, really — a lightweight stream-of-consciousness thing in which I started out joking about something I’d read on Twitter, teasing everyone involved… and then decided, near the end, that that was too much levity and that I should play the grownup and harrumph a bit over the Decline of Western Civilization. So I did. And down below, I will again.
My award-wining colleague Kevin Fisher seems to have taken it quite seriously:
Brad Warthen, local blogger and former editorial page editor of The State, is someone I know, like and read regularly. But it seems he needs a trip back to the newsroom at his old haunt on Shop Road, or to sit in on a Journalism 101 class at USC, or to reflect on the wisdom of shooting the messenger.
In a post on bradwarthen.com that surprised me (and I bet others who know and respect him), Warthen attacked Free Times staff writer Corey Hutchins for accurately reporting a comment made by Rep. Boyd Brown (D-Fairfield) about Gov. Nikki Haley…
He was even offended by the joshing part, before I got around to the harrumphing:
Yet Warthen seemed unable to differentiate between the message and the messenger in his Oct. 5 post on the subject, writing: “And Corey and Boyd — what are you boys doing using language like that …”
“You boys.” Tsk, tsk. Yeah, that sounds like me rolling out the big guns, all right. Kevin should refresh his memory regarding the way I write when I’m being critical. This, for instance, is me criticizing someone:
Mark Sanford approaches elective office with the detachment of a dilettante, as though it simply does not matter whether anything is accomplished. His six years in Congress are remembered for a futon and a voting record replete with empty, ideological gestures. As governor, he has proven himself utterly unable — or perhaps worse, unwilling — to lead even within his own majority party. He is easily the most politically isolated governor we can recall. He is startlingly content to toss out marginal ideas and move on, unruffled by the fact that most of his seeds fall on rocky ground.
I guess I should have sensed a foreshadowing of this. Initially, Corey Hutchins and Eva Moore seemed a bit put out with me, but then I decided they were being ironic, too. A day or two later, I worried that I’d misread that situation when Corey Tweeted another mention of me. But all was well, he assured me when I inquired: “All in good fun, friend!”
Maybe THAT was ironic. But I don’t think so.
Originally, the headline of that post was something like, “Don’t use that language around Amanda!” or something similarly silly. Me being the avuncular old guy, protecting the young lady’s sensitive ears: “(W)hat are you boys doing using language like that around Amanda?” See what a corrupting influence this has had upon the poor lass?
But just before I published it, my rather slow mental processes finally penetrated down a couple of layers and realized what I was looking at. So I began the “Seriously, folks…” part, and then changed the headline. (I dig alliteration.)
Why did I do that? What did I see that I hadn’t seen when I started out being facetious?
First, consider that on a superficial level there was nothing original in what Boyd had said. It’s become a bit of tired joke in politics to say something like, “Oh, he’s only doing to her what he’s been doing to the rest of the country for four years.” The reference is a bit salacious, but refers obviously to what the speaker believes as harmful policies. (I say “old.” The earliest references that I find in a quick search — such as here — refer to Bill Clinton. I found some to Bush and Obama, too. But I actually think the device is older than that, a bit of a chestnut.)
But this was said with reference, specifically, to Nikki Haley. Who is not only the first woman ever to be governor. but the only candidate I can recall to have been accused, repeatedly and VERY publicly, of marital infidelity in the course of a political campaign.
Which takes on something different from the meaning of that joke in the normal course of political waggery. And which is, as I said, “grossly inappropriate” in the public sphere, whoever says it and whoever passes it on — particularly when one cutely plays around with the coarsest word we have in the language for such activity.
I shouldn’t have to explain all that. Our sense of propriety should not be so far gone that such an explanation should be necessary. But what should be and what is are not always the same.