Monday, October 16, 2006

Lehigh Valley Whisper Campaigns

Admit it. You love it. If you didn't, we wouldn't have so much of it.

I suppose it's human nature. We love to learn the church organist is getting tuned by her local minister. Or that two workers in our office, each of whom is supposed to be happily married to someone else, disappear for long lunches with each other. Why, we're a regular bunch of little busybuddies, aren't we? Did you know that such and such a candidate for state office may have had an affair? Did you hear that Candidate B was broke? We love those whisper campaigns.

I'm no exception.

A few years ago, however, I saw just how damaging a whisper campaign can be, especially in the workplace. This crisis involved the personal hygiene of a part time title searcher, which was constantly discussed behind the victim's back. The fellow was poor and wore old and tattered clothing, rumpled by constant bus trips and daily walks from the bus stop to the courthouse. He couldn't afford the luxury of a climate controlled SUV. Understandably, he was shy, especially around the women who make up the majority of title searchers.

I didn't speak up for this guy. I usually went along with the latest outrage, whether it was a torn shirt or musty aroma.

One day, matters reached the boiling point when an eagle-eyed searcher spotted a bug crawling on this guy's hair. The alarm bells rang.

"Lice!" The word went out. "That dirty shitball has lice, and he's going to infect us all!"

They had previously complained to his boss. They even wanted the Recorder of Deeds to ask this dude to leave. Finally, they came to me, the nastiest person in the courthouse. I would do something. And I did. I noticed that the louse crawling on this guy's head was just a small leaf cutter that fell from a tree. I was ashamed of myself and told other searchers they should be ashamed, too. After a few unpleasant and very quiet days, these ladies eventually changed their behavior and started being nice to this fellow, who in turn slowly opened up.

And guess what? The guy was a frickin' genius, one of the smartest fellows I've ever met, although unfortunately a conservative. He has since returned to school, and will probably end up a professor in some major university where ladybugs and leafcutters can crawl all over him once he has tenure.

So I don't care for whisper campaigns in the workplace. I don't like it in politics, either. Unfortunately, as election day draws nigh, the blogosphere is increasingly polluted with damaging rumors and innuendo about candidates for state office from the Lehigh Valley. It's very easy to do on the Internet, especially since much of it is anonymous. It's also irresponsible. In some instances, it's downright defamatory.

I love salacious details about a pol's personal life as much as anyone, but anonymous bloggers and whisperers usually lack details to back up their lurid claims. No names. What we get instead are unsubstantiated charges followed by pious condemnations. "Politician A allegedly had an affair with B, although it was never proven." "Politician C is allegedly a wife beater, although I can't prove it." "Politician D picks his nose and eats it, according to unconfirmed sources."

It's really hard to know what's going on in someone's personal life because it is, well, personal.

And when you come right down to it, what goes on in someone's personal life usually has little relevance to his or her fitness for office, with the possible exception of sex with farm animals. (I'm partial to chickens). Whether someone is divorced or has financial difficulties should not be a campaign issue, not even in the Lehigh Valley. Maybe our new AAA baseball team should be called the Lehigh Valley Puritans.

Didn't we just go through this on a national level not too long ago? I admit I was fascinated by that semen stain on Monica's blue dress, but don't think it had much to do with Clinton's presidency.

Don't we have enough real issues to discuss? Let's stick to them and leave the gossip to network news. This is the kind of crap that turns voters off, and it increases voter apathy.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to find out why my head is so itchy lately.


Dem Fly on the wall said...

This from a man who let his underwear fly like old glory from the back of his bike! We all know you are talking about yourself B!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm as guilty as anyone.

LSTresidentPIA said...

Your name for the Triple A basball team is good, but so is Bill White's, the Lehigh Valley Developers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's why he gets the big bucks.

Anonymous said...

I agree that rumors are disgusting but Bill Clintons story was not a rumor. He is in a catagory all his own. I will never vote for a candidate that knowingly is dispicable in his personal life. I think it is directly related to his political life. A scrounge is a scrounge and I think he or she would find it too hard to remember which phase of his life was supposed to be kept on the up and up, and which didn't matter. Bull, a cheat is a cheat. Etc....

Bernie OHare 4 said...

Well, alot of America would probably have done the same if they were married to hillary, I mean come on, she's practically the ice queen.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 1:22, Clinton did cheat on his wife and actually lied about it. It is entirely different siutuation than the rumor and inuendo swirling in some local state house races. I still don't think it had very much to do w/ his fitness for office, but undertand the contrary argument.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To bernieohare4, You're only saying that bc she wouldn't send you a picture. I thought you were over that.

Bernie OHare 4 said...

I should have gone after her when she was a page, Mark was right.

LVDem said...

Berie, if you are going to talk about another blogger, you should reference that blogger by name. Acting as if I wouldn't figure it out is actually a little insulting.

As far as why I published the post, there are a couple of things that I took into account. First, was this matter appropriate to report. I struggled with that. Candidates who have marital problems are entitled to mistakes and I fully recognize that. Perhaps that should have prompted the matter to go splat next to the cereal I dropped that morning on the floor. However, I also looked at the nature of the candidate. Reichley has sent out some information about his oppenent that is misleading and out of context. Remember the bankruptcy crap? Well, what I posted was the truth. I also factored in one item that I mentioned in my title: the GOP as the Family Values Unit of government. I was pointing out that the party is all about telling me about my problems and shortcomings, but doesn't take ownership of their own. Does the fact that this is a personal matter make this unfit for print? We can argue about that just the same as we can argue that other stories shouldn't become public. Personally, I think the more information a person has the better. That's why I published information about Joe Brennan during the primary. I think the average voter, when provided with information, can determine for himself what is worth factoring into a voting decision. It's not my job to say what is or isn't worth mentioning.

Your concern over the lack of my being specific is a fair point but I point out that I am not one to provide information without having a solid foundation. What is my accountability? The market place will render me untrustworthy if I lie or provide false information. My integrity is the only thing I have to go on. That provides me accountability. If I lose my readers then I have been held accountable.

You've taken issue with my being annonymous in the past and I have said why this is the case. My professional ventures place me in direct contact with some of the very people I write about. Some of the information I get is worth writing about, but I couldn't do that under my current name. I'm like an anonymous source that writes for himself, although i try to point out matters that are publicly known to support my claims. You might not like it, but you don't have to trust it. If I am untrustworthy, the market place will weed me out and render me obsolete. Besides, history is fully of people who use a pen name to write pamphlets and other publications. Well, pamphlets are expensive and out dated. I have the internet(s) and use it.

One area on which I do agree with you is that I didn't do enough from the outset to limit the potential for libel and defamation. I should have turned on my moderation setting from the beginning but I didn't think people would act the way they did. Clearly I was wrong but I fixed that problem pretty quickly and stated my thoughts on the statements that were left.

Finally, I'd like to point out that politics isn't a noble sport and I'm not in a position to change the rules (give me 25 years?). When I see an opportunity to put a hit on somebody, it's entirely appropriate to do so. I'll think about it before I do it, but I always remember that history is full of noble people who took the moral high road and agreed to stay out of the mud. Personally, I'm tired of losing b/c I know my ideals are better than the oppositions (at least I think so). Every now and then you have to hit back.

I'm not saying like it, but understand that I didn't make this decision without thought. Most importantly, I think voters had a right to know what a public figure has done in his life.

LVDem said...

As far as a team name, I got with the Lehigh Valley Ruffnecks... Ruffnecks are typcially affixed to the oil rig industry but it has a longer history of general industry. Given our industrial roots, I think it's a good name.

We could also go with the Runoffs (in honor of our recent flooding), Drunken Dutchmen (in honor of... well the drunks and the dutchmen)... or my favorit... the Bushwackers (in honor of our refusal to vote for the guy).

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem, Actually I was not terribly troubled by your post and the way you set forth your details. I disagreed and didn't think it was terribly relevant to anything but would not have posted anything other than the comments I made on your blog. I was, however, deeply troubled by the comments that subsequently came from other anonymous bloggers. Those comments, quite frankly, were irresponsible. I did not identify your blog by name because I didn't want the rumor and vague accusations read by others. I didn't want others to be linked by me to remarks that I thought were possibly defamatory. As I understand things, those remarks have now ALL been removed. If that were not the case, your comment would be removed.

It was not my intention to insult you and I apologize for giving you that impression. The way libel works is that I would be just as guilty as the original defamer if I linked to the defamatory remark. Hence my silence on the exact source of the whisper campaign. It was actually my intention to protect you and state my opposition to this sort of thing. Sorry if I upset you, buddy.

I don't take issue with your anonymoity. I understand and don't mind. I do take issue with a person who hides behind a mask of anonymity to defame another human being. And that's what some of your commenters did. Fortunately those remarks are now gone.

This is not a game. I try to get facts right, although I do screw up. And I hit people hard, but it is on issues, not personal lives, unless they have a direct impact on fitness for office.

If I remain silent while that typer of irresponsible blogging is done, I eventually will diminish my own credibility and will be nothing more than a "nitwit ranting in my underwear." Same for you.

But I am sorry to have upset you. I like your writing and analytical skills, and my criticism wasn't directed at you, even though the offending material was on your blog.

LVDem said...

Fair enough... we are entirely cool on this matter.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Glad to know that, and I'm sorry to have set you off.

LSTresidentPIA said...

Are you two done PMSing yet?

Some ideas I have for names would include the LV steelworkers is one. The LV sellouts in honor of ED Rendell, or the LV casinoites if you live in Bethlehem, where I believe that a casino is going since Allentown got the baseball stadium/team. The LV Engineers-in honor of the railroads or for you Lehigh alum. We could call ourselves the LV preservationists, in honor of all the open sapce some are trying to save.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd vote for Lehigh Valley Ramblings in honor of me. In fact, I submitted that name, and it's under serious consideration. Of course, they have to pay me.

Anonymous said...

Considering all the mudslinging, I think Lehigh Valley Cow Chips might be fitting

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon, There ya' go! I like that. LVCC w/ a logo to match. I can't wait for the hat!