The Fringe and Me

| March 29, 2005 | 3 Replies

Glenn Reynolds has a post today that sort of frustrates me.

He opens thus:

Hugh’s right that it’s hard to ascribe the Congressional legislation to “theocrats” when it was supported by Tom Harkin (and Ralph Nader!). There’s much more going on than that; this is a matter on which all sorts of people, of all sorts of persuasions, can be found on both sides.

Well, of course. That’s more or less been the point I’ve been making, off an on, for well over a week. My position in this has nothing to do with my political or religious persuasion and I find that more than a couple folks have very similar positions. We are arguing from pretty neutral ideological ground and we always have been.

But then Professor Reynolds throws in the All Consuming But:

On the other hand, here’s some advice, very similar to advice I gave to the antiwar movement: If you don’t want to be confused with a movement led by theocrats, don’t let actual theocrats be seen as your spokesmen. It may be impossible to shut Randall Terry up — though if I were Karl Rove, I would have tried really hard — but he needs to be loudly and regularly denounced as a nut. Otherwise you’re in the same boat as lefties who don’t want to be identified with Ward Churchill, but happily use him when they want to draw a crowd.

Why, exactly, am I in that boat? Where have I, or Hugh Hewitt, for that matter, used Randall Terry’s particular brand of bomb-throwing to bolster any point we’ve ever made.

I can’t speak for Hugh, but I suspect heavily that he makes the same assumption about Randall Terry that I have. Randall Terry is largely a loon and I expect that reasonable people who have read any of my posts about Terri Schaivo will see clearly enough not to put him and me in the same group. I expect the same assumption that I give them when I do not equate Reynolds’ argument with that of, say, the noted death-dealer Dr. Cranford.

I haven’t written one word about Randall Terry until today. Why? Because what he says is completely unimportant to any argument I’ve ever made on the matter. Quite frankly, I have better things to do, and better points to make, than to point out the obvious: Randall Terry is a loon and his methods are not mine. I assume that reasonable people will use what I say and how I say it to deduce that for themselves.

Perhaps I’ve been wrong about that.

What Reynolds seems to be doing is plucking the exceptions out of the crowd and using them as the rule here. Maybe I shouldn’t rely on the goodwill of “the other side” in this argument. Maybe I should assume that those who differ from me on this or any issue will automatically assume that the fringe element actually does speak for me, even though I (and most of us who agree with me here) have never embraced the fringe point of view of their methods.

I’d rather not do that. I think it elevates even the most ordinary political debate to a futile exercise in territory-marking and self-labeling that would go on for weeks before any debate could ever happen. I’d hope that folks like Reynolds would be wise enough to see past the bombastic edges of the argument and judge me for what I do and how I argue.

But perhaps I’ve been wrong.

Reynolds also says something rather odd. On one hand, as I’ve quoted him, he says that we on the “Terri should live” side should frequently and loudly denounce Randall Terry. One the other, though, he tells us just what the man really wants.

Terry’s getting what he wants from this: Attention, and a measure of undeserved legitimacy.

What would our loud denunciations give him but more of the same? To date, most of us have ignored Randall Terry. We’ve given him exactly as much attention as his rants have merited. If we turn out attention to what he’s saying, even if it’s just to note that he’s not speaking for us and that his views aren’t ours, isn’t that giving him more attention and treating him as at least legitimate enough to earn our attention? And let’s face it, folks, we could beat the man with sticks with nails driven through the ends and he’d still find a microphone and some nutball reporter to interview him. Why spend our energy on his lunacy instead of the issue at hand? Isn’t it more important to be steadfast, tell the truth, and make sure the facts are there in spades than it is to play Whack-A-Whacko?

No, I think what we’ve done thus far with Terry, which is to pretty much ignore him, is the right thing to do.

Now if we could get the MSM and bloggers like Andrew Sullivan, Jeff Jarvis, and Reynolds (sorry, guys…you picked Sully’s hyperventilating side in this one, at least right now. You earned the grouping) to stop treating Terry like his opinion mattered one single whit we’d be doing something.

I suspect, though, that even if we were to completely divert our attention from the real fight here – the attempt to stop killing a helpless human being – to turn our guns fully on Terry, we still wouldnt get good-guy credits. My bet is that we’d see an endless flood of stories about how Terri’s supporters were fragmenting and how the “movement” was losing steam and how we were simply an aggregation of political and theocratic rabble who couldn’t even focus on the important part of the issue for a couple weeks before degenerating into a pack of wild hyenas.

And we’d still see Randall Terry’s mug on television every night.

UPDATE: The Anchoress gets the Instalinky-love (but why shouldn’t she? Did I not say she’s a blogosphere star in the making??) but goes in the opposite direction from me. Oh and she folded in Paul Krugman’s column about which I only commented peripherally.

Category: The Good Old US of A

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