This is why people hate the MSM, which constantly lectures us as if they were infinitely more knowledgeable than we. And having been a journalist since 1986, I've seen both sides of this.
If your hometown ever makes news -- the kind that brings the focus of national media -- chances are you will be offended by the way the story is covered. Basic facts will be wrong. TV announcers will mispronounce names. And, if there is any sort of liberal/conservative angle to the story, any fact that supports the conservative side of the dispute will be buried down in the 14th paragraph, or omitted altogether.
The MSM Went Down to Georgia
So it was when, in 1995, the argument over the Georgia state flag was resurrected by the media in the context of the upcoming 1996 Atlanta Olympics. A few years earlier, Gov. Zell Miller had invested significant political capital in an effort to persuade the Georgia legislature to change the flag's Confederate battle flag emblem. Yet is was for naught: There simply weren't enough votes.
At the time, I asked one Democratic member of the General Assembly about this issue, and he answered, "Stacy, if it would feed or educate one child, I'd vote to change the flag. But it's just a symbolic issue, and changing the flag isn't going to change anything."
And then came November 1994, when Gov. Miller, who had risked so much in an attempt to change the flag, barely squeaked by to re-election. (I voted to re-elect Miller, although I cast my congressional vote that year for the Republican who defeated Rep. George "Buddy" Darden, who had made the mistake of voting for the so-called "assault weapons" ban. What part of "shall not be infringed" is so hard to understand, Mr. Darden?)
In wake of that election, it was discovered that certain black leaders in Atlanta had accepted "walking around money" from Republicans, in an effort to suppress black turnout for Miller. For years, Democrats had provided "walking around money" to Atlanta's black community leaders at election time, and the GOP had decided to turn the tables.
Many Georgia Democrats were shocked by this discovery. Miller had very nearly been defeated, after trying so hard to help black Democrats on what was one of their top legislative priorities -- and had been sold out by some of the very people he'd been trying to help!
As Tony Said to Scarlett . . .
Now, with Georgia preparing for the national limelight that the '96 Olympics would bring, the media decided that the state flag issue should be front-and-center in their coverage. The Democratic-majority legislature had debated and rejected the Democratic governor's proposal to change the flag, which meant the issue was politically dead -- but the MSM decided to use it to smear Georgia during the months leading up to the Olympics.
To say that our readers at the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune were angered by this unfair treatment from the national media would be an understatement. They were furious. And I, who had not really paid much attention to the earlier flag debate -- covering the General Assembly was somebody else's beat -- became actively engaged in the debate sparked during the period before the Atlanta Olympics. I wrote columns defending the state, and criticizing the opportunistic "activists" (including some who had taken GOP "walking around money" in '94) who were seizing on the national media attention to get their 15 minutes of fame.
All this background on the issue was never reported by the New York Times, and the people who have condemned me as a "neo-Confederate" know nothing about how I gained that descriptor.
Did I write some things that were . . . intemperate? Hey, we're talking about Stacy McCain here, OK? When I go to fight, I go to war, and it's war to the knife, knife to the hilt. To quote Tony Fontaine:
"My God, Scarlett O'Hara!" said Tony peevishly. "When I start out to cut somebody up, you don't think I'll be satisfied with scratching him with the blunt side of my knife, do you? No, by God, I cut him to ribbons."A good rule in the blogosphere, really. If you're going to criticize someone, you'd better be ready to annihilate him. So when I was bashing Yankees and scalawags and New York Times know-it-alls back in 1995-96, I did not scruple as to the mode of attack.
-- Gone With The Wind
But I don't hate Yankees -- heck, I married a Yankee. My wife's from Ohio. A mixed marriage, you see. Let us not, however, get ahead of the argument. Ahem.
Hayek's Theory of Knowledge
The point is that, in attacking me as a "neo-Confederate," Charles Johnson arrogantly supposes that the facts he knows (or rather, believes he knows, as there has been so much misinformation propagated over the years) are the only facts that matter, and that whatever facts he doesn't know must be irrelevant.
This is where the Hayekian insight comes in handy. Friedrich Hayek understood that central economic planning could not work because the information contained in prices is too complex, diverse and localized to be supplanted by decisions made by "experts."
In the same way, our individual opinions on subjects of controversy -- including, but not limited to, public policy -- are shaped by our personal experiences and knowledge.
My opposition to the 1994 "assault weapons" ban was informed by my knowledge that a semi-automatic weapon is not a machine gun, no matter how much it may superficially resemble one. The so-called "assault weapons" banned by the 1994 law were all semi-autos, and thus not fundamentally different than the .22-caliber semi-auto I received as a gift when I was 11 years old. Therefore, the entire legislation was based on a falsehood, intended to fool the ignorant -- e.g., "soccer moms" -- and the politicians who supported it were dishonest.
Well, does this make me a "gun nut"? That's the epithet that liberals stick on anyone who opposes gun control. And far be it from me to deny that my home is a well-armed compound, stocked with more weapons than a National Guard arsenal. If anyone wishes to believe that I never go anywhere without a 9-mm pistol, I won't deny it. A reputation as a dangerously violent man can be quite valuable at times.
Let us take the argument further: Am I a "neo-Confederate"? A "white supremacist"? A raaaaacist? To repeat what I said earlier:
"Racist" has been re-defined to mean, "Anyone who disagrees with a liberal." And the accusation requires the accused to prove a negative, you see?Shall I deny being a vicious hater? Shall I denounce Richard Spencer and Peter Brimelow? How many others will Charles Johnson require me to denounce before he's satisified? And how well did the deny-denounce-and-apologize approach to such accusations work out for George Allen?
The Futility of Explanation
The true story of all I've been through, all I've seen, all I've learned, is quite interesting. But I'm not going to write it for free. There are some misunderstandings that probably need explaining, if anyone is confused, but I'm not going to waste my valuable time on explanations, if I have nothing to gain by doing that. Anyone who would be sympathetic to Johnson's attack is unlikely to be persuaded by my defense.
And this is what is so puzzling about Charles Johnson's attack on me. Just like his attacks on Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Glenn Beck and others, the question is, "What's in it for him? What is his motivation?"
I confess my utter ignorance. Others have speculated on the causes of Johnson's recent erratic behavior, but I am mystified. Why does he take such a keen interest in the European conferences attended by Geller and Spencer? Why does he rage so vehemently against creationists and pro-lifers? Who pissed in his cornflakes?
It wasn't me. When he first took a shot at my friend Pamela Geller, I noticed it, but didn't feel the need to get involved. Then he repeated the attack, and I became curious. When he threatened Michelle Malkin (!) I became concerned that he might have suicidal tendencies.
The important issue that confronts America now is not a dispute over Southern history, or which conferences Robert Spencer attends. The folks I saw at the 9/12 March on D.C. were flying lots of "Don't Tread On Me" Gadsden Flags -- probably a Guinness Book record for the most Gadsden Flags ever displayed in a single location -- and I don't recall seeing any Confederate flags. But I wasn't looking for them.
We are in a fight to preserve what remains of American liberty, and I don't want to waste time defending myself. However, if I may be forgiven for paraphrasing a Yankee, I'm willing to fight it out on this line if it takes all week. Or I might quote Nathan Bedford Forrest's famous words to Braxton Bragg:
I have stood your meanness as long as I intend to. You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it. . . . I say to you that if you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.Bragg was a notorious loser. It seems fitting.
Point One: Charles Johnson doesn't know me from Adam's housecat
Point Two: Charles Johnson is prejudiced, and subscribes to stereotypes