Thanks to an anonymous source in an Associated Press story and a flurry of speculation by bloggers, however, this quiet community was imagined to be a seething cauldron of hatred stoked by Fox News, talk radio and Republican politicians. Clay County's state Sen. Robert Stivers told the Lexington Herald-Leader that "many in the media owe the county an apology." As Morgan Bowling said Tuesday afternoon, at times it seemed as if pundits were trying to turn Bill Sparkman into a "sacrificial lamb for ObamaCare."You can read the whole thing. And you should also read Michelle Malkin's rejoinder to Andrew Sullivan.
At the height of the national media glare, the Manchester Enterprise's young editor received an e-mail from New York: "What are you people, backwoods ignorant freaks?" the e-mailer wrote. "This crime is a reflection of all the residents of Clay County. . . . You are all disgusting pigs, and if one could level a curse at a community, then I curse the whole lot of you."
Morgan Bowling is only a few months into her journalism career, but she got a crash course about what can happen when irresponsible reporting leads to unfounded speculation.
UPDATE: Well played, Charles Johnson!
Since this news came out, I've received several angry emails demanding that I apologize for saying Sparkman had been murdered by a right wing extremist.Right. And the connnection between the two phenomena -- the murder and the 9/12 March on D.C. -- was entirely imaginary, so long as we assume that Bill Sparkman didn't have something like that in mind in choosing the date of his demise.
The problem is, I never wrote anything like that. For the record, this was my post when the story broke, and I don't apologize for a single word:
"There's not enough information yet to say for sure what was behind this killing, so let's not jump to conclusions. But the description of the circumstances and the timing (around the time of the Washington DC tea party) raises a strong suspicion that anti-government sentiment may have been the motivation."
Nevertheless, don't apologize for your suspicion that the Tea Party movement represented the sort of "anti-government sentiment" that could motivate a murder.
By the way, Tea Party: The Documentary Film will have its Washington premiere next Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Ronald Reagan Center.
UPDATE II: Perhaps it would help to explain that my interest in the Sparkman case -- what inspired my spur-of-the-moment urge Sept. 26 to light out for Kentucky -- was not so much a matter of ideology as of people.
Some have seen the debunking of the "right-wing lynching" meme as a vindication of conservatism, but I see it as the vindication of the people of Clay County. Having worked for 10 years as a journalist in the small towns of north Georgia, I was all too familiar with the yawning chasm between the perception and reality of such places and such people. Go back to my Sept. 29 American Spectator article:
MANCHESTER, Kentucky -- Rodney Miller has lived nearly all his 56 years in Clay County, the only exception being when, as a young man, he moved to Indianapolis. He lived in the big city for two years without ever knowing his neighbors' names.Those are the kind of small-town people I know. It was their good names, and the reputation of an entire community, that were being smeared by the implication that they were a bunch of hateful yahoos who had lynched Bill Sparkman.
"The best people in the world live here," says Miller, sitting in the office of the Manchester Enterprise, where he directs advertising sales. "Down here, everybody knows everybody else." . . .
The good people of Clay County have been vindicated, and their know-it-all accusers (inter alia, the Harvard-educated Andrew Sullivan) have been exposed as credulous fools.
UPDATE III: Speaking of people who have been vindicated, this is as good a time as any -- on the eve of Thanksgiving -- to express my gratitude to our readers, especially those who have contributed to the Shoe Leather Fund.
Several people -- including Da Tech Guy -- have expressed congratulaions to me on the denouement of the Sparkman case, validating the reporting I did here, at the American Spectator and in the Hot Air Greenroom, but I would never have been able to do that reporting without the generosity of the tip-jar hitters. When I got the wild notion of traveling to Kentucky to cover the Sparkman case, I wrote:
Figure 1,200 miles travel round-trip, at 25 cents per mile, that's $300. Five meals at $5/each, that's another $25. A carton of smokes, $50; ten cups of coffee, $20. If you add $125/night for a hotel room, I could make it a two-day trip for $500. . . .That $300 threshold was reached within a matter of hours, and it is to you people -- too numerous to name, lest anyone be omitted from the honor roll -- whom the congratulations are owed. The honor roll can be extended to include all the bloggers who have linked my reports on the Kentucky case, and to Smitty, whose labors and skills deserve so much praise.
So if the tip jar contributions between now and Sunday evening reach $300, I'll take it for granted that the rest will come through while I'm on the road. I could be filing reports with a Kentucky dateline by Monday noon.
You who have contributed should are invited to take a bow in the comments, and you who have not yet hit the tip jar -- well, what the heck are you waiting for?
My wife just spent $90 at the grocery store, including $12 for a turkey. We've got six kids to feed, including 17-year-old twin boys, and you know how teenage boys can eat. You know those $4 frozen pizzas? Last night our family ate four of those -- that's $16 worth for one meal.
Now try to imagine feeding this brood three times a day, 365 days a year. Like they say: Do the math. And the Christmas shopping season starts Friday.
When I came up with this blogging idea, my wife told me I was crazy -- and my wife is always right. But somehow crazy has always worked for me. So I am thankful for being crazy, and thankful that there are so many of you who (like Mrs. Other McCain) actually like my craziness. God bless you!