Posted on | May 26, 2010 | 38 Comments
There is a line between ordinary human fallibility — sometime you hit the “publish” button and immediately regret it — and 100% douchebaggery. Will Folks crossed that line the same way most douchebags do, by refusing to admit that he screwed up, and doubling down on stupid.
In this, Folks reminds me of Charles Johnson. The self-destruction of Charles Johnson began when he attacked Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer for attending the 2007 Counter-Jihad Conference in Brussels. If he had been willing to back down and apologize — quite obviously, Geller and Spencer weren’t trying to advance the cause of “Eurofascism” — CJ might have gone on his merry way. But he dug in his heels, determined to vindicate his own infallibility, and the whole thing became an insane crusade to demonstrate that he, Charles Johnson, was the Ultimate Arbiter of Truth.
Start thinking like that and eventually you’ll become Captain Queeg ranting about the strawberries.
An insistence on always being right — demanding that other people validate your veracity — is psychologically unhealthy, and so it is with Will Folks. He absolutely insists that everyone else admit that he had an “inappropriate” relationship with Nikki Haley. Being psychologically healthy myself, I frankly don’t care if, within a few days, Haley goes on TV for one of those predictably tearful confessions: “Yes, I did it. But what woman could resist the raw animal passion of Will Folk?”
If I was wrong to scoff at the possibility of a Folks-Haley affair, so what? I was wrong. How was I to know that Will Folks was such an irresistible stud-muffin? Live and learn. But Haley’s spokesman still says Will Folks is lying:
The latest South Carolina political sex scandal has taken a new turn, with a spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley calling a series of text messages posted on the website of FITSNews founder and blogger Will Folks the product of an “overactive imagination” that “has gone into overdrive.”
“South Carolina politics is full of rumors and innuendo, and of course our campaign did everything in our power to prevent false rumors about Nikki from airing out in the media as they now have,” the spokesman, Tom Pearson, wrote in an e-mail to CNN.
Pearson confirmed to CNN that the texts themselves were authentic, but that they referred to untrue allegations that he was trying to work with Folks to keep from coming out.
This morning, I received an e-mail from a friend who had seen the text-messages published by Folks, which could be interpreted as smoke indicating the presence of an actual fire. My friend was enjoying a bit of “I told you so” at my expense. So after I posted my own analysis of the text messages, I sent my friend this e-mail reply:
Let me make clear . . . that I don’t give a damn who wins the South Carolina GOP gubernatorial primary. I don’t know Nikki Haley from Adam’s housecat, and am utterly indifferent to what did or did not transpire between her and Will Folks.
This isn’t about that. This is about Will Folks being a reckless amateur pretending to engage in journalism without anyone to tell him, “Hey, maybe you shouldn’t publish that.” Having been on both sides of the Old Media/New Media divide, I now have a greater appreciation for the fact that, when I worked at The Washington Times, there were people whose job it was to say, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t publish that.”
I arrived at The Washington Times barely two months before Matt Drudge published his first item about the Monica Lewinsky affair. Trust me when I say that Washington Times reporters were doing everything in their power to get that story first. (As were dozens of reporters from other news organizations.) And there came a point when one of those reporters . . . believed he had enough to go with the story. But the editors looked at it and said, no, you haven’t got it nailed down, keep working it.
Within a matter of hours, however, the Washington Post did manage to nail it down, and we spent the next year trying to catch up with them on the Lewinsky story.
The story was always true, you see, and our editors believed it to be true, but our reporters simply didn’t have enough to prove it was true. Wes Pruden’s motto was always, “Get it first and get it right.” The Lewinksy scandal was a case where we weren’t first because to have published a thinly-source article about such a major scandal would have been short of the “get it right” standard.
As I’ve always said, a good reporter never burns a source and a good source never burns a reporter. There are many times that I learn things off the record that I can’t report, because to do so would be to breach the trust of confidentiality necessary to having any sources at all. So it happens that I become privy to a great many secrets that can never be published, nor even related privately as gossip. It comes with the territory.
A political consultant, of course, learns a great many confidential things in the same fashion and with the same implicit agreement. It is important that his clients be able to trust him. Why would any campaign ever hire a consultant if they knew that, as soon as his contract expired, the consultant would dish dirt on their candidate to everyone who cared to listen?
This is what Will Folks has done. Whatever the veracity of his claims of “inappropriate” behavior with Nikki Haley, the fact is that Folks was paid to provide political communication services to Haley and has since exploited the access he thereby gained in order to aggrandize himself to Haley’s detriment.
Whatever the upshot of all this, Will Folks has demonstrated himself to be untrustworthy, either as a consultant or as a journalist. He appears to be a selfish, dishonorable and manipulative person. People are beginning to attach the word “sociopath” to his name, and who can dispute the diagnosis? Even if everything he says about Nikki Haley is true, what kind of person would seduce his employer and then brag about it? And who, having done such things, would then expect sympathy, as Folks so plainly does?
Insofar as this story has told us anything bad about Nikki Haley, it tells us that she was once foolish enough to associate with a vicious scumbag whose previous claim to fame was getting fired by Mark Sanford.
When the Folks-Haley story first came to light, my response was entirely jocular.
Michael Brendan Dougherty’s report at the American Conservative was the first reason I had to think that a Folks-Haley affair was possible, as my next post noted in an update.
As more of the story has come to light, however, it has become evident (to me, at least) that Will Folks was having a grand old time bragging about his relationship with Nikki Haley until he began to fear that he would be exposed as the original source of the rumors. Folks reveled in being the center of attention — his pompously transparent self-references to “our founding editor” are a huge red flag for his narcissistic personality — so long as he could control the narrative about himself. But once a real reporter like Jim Davenport of the AP started asking questions, it was only a matter of time before everyone knew that Folks had backstabbed Haley with his boasts that depicted her as yet another notch on his belt.
That was why, in his text message to Tim Pearson on May 20, Folks said, “I am honestly losing my mind a little.” It wasn’t Haley he was worried about. A sociopath has no empathy for others. No, Will Folks was worried about Will Folks.
And with good reason. He was an arrogant, impulsive amateur who got in over his head and refused to admit his own incompetence, since such an admission would contradict his own narcissistic narrative of Will Folks, the Greatest Guy Ever. He is now utterly doomed, a laughingstock, and there is only one person to blame for this: Will Folks.
My apologies for the long e-mail, but I wanted to make clear my own view of this, and I trust you won’t mind if I publish this on my blog — minus any reference to you, and without identifying you as the recipient. Because a good reporter never burns his sources. Give me a call this evening . . . and next time you’re in DC we’ll have to get together for some of that fine Irish stew at Murphy’s.
When you work at a newspaper, you’ve got bosses and co-workers who can tell you if you’re being a douchebag. And if you push it to the point of complete douchebaggery, you could get fired. So it’s hard for me to fathom why David Brooks is still employed by The New York Times, or why MSNBC keeps Chris Matthews on the air, but there are at least theoretical limits on their douchebaggery.
Whereas, in the blogosphere, nobody can fire you, no matter what a ginormous douchebag you are, and it’s possible — as in the case of Charles Johnson and Little Green Footballs — that you can attact enough mini-douchebags to form a sycophantic echo chamber where it’s always upding! upding! upding!
Nobody ever sets out to become Der Fuhrer of the Axis of Douchebags, but just as with CJ and his minions at LGF, there are commenters at Will Folks’ blog telling him, “Yeah, buddy! You go get that Nikki Haley! You show her who’s boss!”
This incites Folks to keep wandering down the road to ultimate douchebaggery and the momentary spike in traffic — caused by people curious to see what manner of absurdity Folks will publish next — will be followed in due course by the predictable Hindenburg-at-Lakehurst flameout.
Congratulations, Will Folk, on becoming the inspiration for Rule 6 of How to Get a Million Hits: Don’t Be a Complete Douchebag.
UPDATE: Not to be missed, Allahpundit’s summary of the story:
So the media might have been about to break a story that he, when he was single, hooked up with a married woman, and rather than have a private chat with his wife and lie low in hopes that no one would publish anything — remember, even Barrett’s supporter seemed queasy — he decided to beam it out to the Internet. And then, when Haley’s campaign got angry, he downshifted into “aggrieved d-bag” mode, rescinding his vow not to talk about this further, lawyering up, and making an “aggressive effort” to pull together evidence that might destroy Haley. Which not only prolongs the story, no doubt to his wife’s delight, but makes him seem so scummy that Haley will end up looking like a victim here even if it’s all true. Someone should adopt this plotline for a movie with the twist ending being that the Folks character is actually in cahoots with the campaign, blunting the force of the about-to-be-revealed scandal by making himself look like such an A-hole that the lying candidate seems sympathetic by comparison. I’d see it.
Exactly. Martin Bormann would seem sympathetic by comparison. As interesting as Allah’s theory is, however, the more plausible explanation for Folks freaking out is that he was about to lose control of the narrative. Other people were about to tell the story, and that story wasn’t going to depict Will Folks as the wicked-funny cool guy. He was going to come out smelling like a double truck-load of fresh manure, and he knew it, so he tried to seize control of the narrative with his “admission” of an affair.
Unfortunately, this did nothing to dispel the odor of manure, and the follow-up seemed an act of desperation. Folks is either a complete liar or he’s the World’s Clumsiest Extortionist.
All he had to do, really, was to keep his mouth shut and be mysterious — being mysterious is pretty cool — but instead he started blabbing like the ginormous douchebag he is. Classic.