The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Subject to Misinterpretation

Posted on | February 16, 2012 | 82 Comments

In an e-mail to some friends this afternoon, I wrote:

While I was working on other posts and not following Twitter, it seems my feed blew up with ‘H8Rs’ who either missed the point or else got the point, and decided to blow me up for having pointed out some obvious but uncomfortable truths about New Media.
The issue here is not whether I am rude or sexist — I am occasionally both — but rather whether there is a polite way in which media exploits what is pejoratively called “sexism.” My willingness to engage in self-revelation, and self-deprecation, exposes me to abuse and ridicule from certain people who are more concerned about image maintenance and reputation enhancement than in, y’know, truth.
But these problems are my own, and I will not project blame onto others for reacting to my own deliberately provocative remarks. However, I wish to hell some people would have more consideration for how my remarks are themselves but a reaction to other provocative stimuli.
[Insert wry reference to Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic” sketch]

Not playing the victim here or anything, you understand. If I write something ambiguous, and am misunderstood, this is nobody’s fault but mine, and I am not entitled to attribute malice to my critics. However, permit me to retrace the chain of causality, just in case anyone wasn’t paying attention the first time:

It appears that my post was seen by some as a personal attack on Tina Korbe, despite my explicit denial of any animus toward her, and despite my attempt to cushion any criticism with self-deprecating humor. As I say, I’m not blaming others for misunderstanding a long and convoluted essay which, quite obviously, was easy to misunderstand.

Perhaps it is arrogant to believe that my good intentions would be apparent to my friends, and still more arrogant to suppose that any error or offense would be indulged on account of friendship. But it is at times like this that you learn who your real friends are.

UPDATE: Did I say “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”? Cue the Zep:

Had a nice phone conversation with Pete Da Tech Guy, who pointed out that there are some people who don’t seem to mind Whitney Houston dying nearly as much as they mind people being “judgmental” about her drug abuse. Interpret that how you will.

UPDATE II: Now, this is remarkable: Melissa Clouthier accuses me of being “vile” to Tina Korbe, while Katie Pavlich accuses me of “attacking” Tina Korbe, and I am at a loss to explain how so many people can see an intention that (to repeat myself) I explicitly disavowed.

The entire point of the post was that Patrick at “Thoughts and Rantings” had implied that his criticism of Tina’s skirt had prompted Melissa’s lecture on dress and decorum. Patrick linked me, and I saw his post because of the trackback. While I was thinking about doing a follow-up post to link back to Patrick, he blew up and called me a “f–king coward,” recalling an old grudge.

OK, so I wanted to show Patrick that I wasn’t holding grudges, and in doing so, (a) I pushed back against his over-the-top criticism of Tina Korbe; (b) recounted my own history of over-the-top criticism in a related example; and (c) concluded by advising Patrick that he should not be so quick to condemn others for their reactions to his deliberate provocations.

Did I argue this in linear form or compose the post in such a way that my purpose was entirely clear? No.

Is there an obvious danger in writing the way I write? Yes.

Are people prone to sympathize with someone they think has attacked their friend? No.

Do I know who my friends are? Yes. Oh, yes indeed, I do.

UPDATE III: Jenny Erikson is amazed by the uproar, as am I. There has been a lot of crazy on the blogosphere today that had nothing to do with me and, discussing it with Jimmie Bise Jr. this afternoon, we reached an agreement that a lot of conservatives are feeling frustrated lately. They are disappointed in the presidential field; their favorite candidate either dropped out long ago or is currently in third place. And there was also some disgruntlement over CPAC this year. Ergo, people are happy to have someone to lash out at.

So I was doing a post about human nature, specifically about someone (Patrick) who had lashed out at Tina Korbe and then lashed out at me, and beneath the video that started it, here is what I wrote:

Our keen-eyed readers will note that at the 0:28 mark of the video, Miss Korbe gives a little tug at the hem of her skirt and, not to get all Melissa Clouthier about it or anything, some folks might say that’s kind of a telltale clue that your skirt’s too doggone short.

Notice the carom-shot: I said I didn’t want “to get all Melissa Clouthier about it” — nudging her for her post specifying what she considered an appropriate dress code for CPAC — before saying that “some folks might say” the skirt was nonetheless “too doggone short.”

Did you catch the downhome informality of those phrases? Did that register to readers in terms of tone? Because having been accused of “attacking” Miss Korbe, it occurs to me that the jocular tone must not have registered.

Now, to let you in on a little secret: I knew for a fact, before I wrote the post, that Melissa’s criticism wasn’t directed at Miss Korbe, because I called our mutual friend Ali Akbar to check first. But Patrick had seemed to be under the impression that his criticism of Miss Korbe was reflected by Melissa’s post, and I was replying to Patrick.

Did you also notice the exaggerated generalizations that followed?

For example, I think tattoos and pierced bellybuttons are two of the tackiest things in the world, but I’m pretty sure not every woman with tattoos and a pierced bellybutton is a whore.
Most of them? Sure, but not all of them.
Similarly, short skirts and exposed cleavage do not necessarily signal that a woman is up for some action with any dude who’ll give her the price of another hit of methamphetamine. It is true that many hookers dress that way, but not every woman who dresses that way is a hooker.

That’s called hyperbole — deliberately stating an argument in an exaggerated way. And the line that followed was about “Maine College Republicans,” a running gag from a previous post I’d linked. And then I got into what prompted the whole thing:

Anyway, my responsible-but-not-judgmental post was linked in a roundup on the CPAC decorum controversy at “Thoughts and Ramblings,” whose proprietor suggested that this was in response to a post he’d done earlier, in which he said, “Tina, you are a Catholic, try actually dressing like one,” and accused her of giving the Senator “a peep show of her hoo haa.”
That went too far, I’d say. It was judgmental to the point of being irresponsible. And while I didn’t realize it when I saw the link yesterday, the proprietor of that blog has kind of a history here, of which he has since reminded me.

OK, when I linked the post that prompted my reply, I expected that people will click through the link and see what I was talking about. But evidently many people didn’t do that, and thus overlooked the nature of the provocation — being accused of having thrown Patrick “under the bus,” etc.

The reason I’ve added this sort of un-fisking of my own post is because I am being accused of attacking someone I had thought I’d made clear I was actually attempting to defend. But this obviously wasn’t as clear to others as it was to me, and so I appeared to be “beating up a girl,” and everything escalated from there.

I’ve since talked to Melissa Clouthier about this, and she was concerned about the “impression” I had created, intentionally or otherwise, and felt that I was insufficiently concerned about it and I suppose she’s right. The problem, I guess, is that almost no one ever shows any deference toward me or concern about my feelings — many people never miss a chance to insult or snub me — and therefore I’m surprised when my occasional breaches of decorum are treated as inexcusable.


82 Responses to “Subject to Misinterpretation”

  1. DetroitRight
    February 16th, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

    And you should really get a life.

  2. Christy Waters
    February 16th, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    Our country’s going down the fucking crapper, and we’re talking about Tina Korbe’s short skirt at CPAC? Let’s keep our eyes on the ball. #JustSaying

  3. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    February 16th, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

    Great! Now you tell me!

  4. Dave C
    February 16th, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

    Pat (Or Paleo Pat as he use to call himself) is an asshat anyway. 

    Not worth farting in his direction.

  5. AnonymousDrivel
    February 16th, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

    Not possible. Morrissey’s slacks are too long. Perhaps a kilt is in order. And then some eye bleach.

  6. William_Teach
    February 16th, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

    For myself, I understood perfectly where you were going with the post on Tina’s thighs. It could be that yoir point was lost in such a long post.

    You should make up for it by posting some Kate Upton. … .I guess that would actually make it worse.

  7. robertstacymccain
    February 16th, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

    When people are told, “Hey, look Stacy attacked Tina,” and then given the link, the power of suggestion is illustrated.

    But, obviously, the attention-grabbing title did nothing to prevent that interpretation. I thought that the joke at the end, about the 6-foot-9 maniac going after Jason Mattera, should have made clear that I wasn’t trying to hurt Tina. I think by the time people got that far, though, they were already so angry it didn’t matter.

  8. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    February 16th, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

    Oh oh.  

  9. Mike G.
    February 16th, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

    Probably right as far as that goes…seems to me that it’s  kind of strange that so many people who are supposed to be intelligent and well read, can’t seem to comprehend the gist of the whole post.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve never read an article and made my mind up about what was in it after just reading the first sentence or paragraph, which is what a few commenters seem to have done.

    ( shrug of the shoulders)…oh well, what can ya do, eh?

  10. robertstacymccain
    February 16th, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

    Is your reading comprehension irremediable? Or do you think that because you say I did something, that means I actually did what you said I did?

    You always do the same thing, and will do it again. And sooner or later, I won’t be the only one who realizes what you’re doing.

  11. RobTaylor
    February 16th, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

    Well argued.

  12. Dave C
    February 16th, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

    Chuck is an asshat.. 

    One who outed where Michelle Malkin lived in the past as well..

    He’s not worth the effort.

  13. Dave C
    February 16th, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

    With regards to sexism, the term is “wolf whistle”.. Not dog whistle.. 

    I’ll be sure to get you the memo.  🙂

  14. Bob Belvedere
    February 16th, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

    Disqus generic email templateI didn’t know that about MM. That’s disgusting. —– Original Message —–
    From: Disqus
    To: [email protected]
    Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2012 8:27 PM
    Subject: [theothermccain] Re: Subject to Misinterpretation

    Dave C wrote, in response to Bob Belvedere:

    Chuck is an asshat..

    One who outed where Michelle Malkin lived in the past as well..

    He’s not worth the effort.

    Link to comment

  15. DaveO
    February 16th, 2012 @ 8:43 pm


    RSM et al are THE go-to site for Rule 5 sugar.

    And he’s criticising a pretty, young woman about a too-short skirt?

    Did observation and logic die while I was away?

  16. DaveO
    February 16th, 2012 @ 8:44 pm


  17. Garym
    February 16th, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

    I understood completely what your point was, and thought the post was light hearted as well as serious concerning (ultimately) how precious blog dollars get spread around. There are many good writers in “The Green Room”, but Ed and Allah should have been honest about the “opening”, especially after what was the alleged sales price of Hot Air. People out there blamed, for no reason, Tina for applying for and getting the job. Blame Townhall , Ed, and Allah. 

  18. Zilla of the Resistance
    February 16th, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

    Thanks for the tip. The people freaking out at Stacy are still wrong, even if I did not use the correct word in my hasty comment that I made before running off to attend to my mombligations.

  19. Zilla of the Resistance
    February 16th, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

     Stacy didn’t attack Tina Kobe or her skirt.

  20. Zilla of the Resistance
    February 16th, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

     No, he didn’t criticize her or her skirt, people just assumed that he was because they have a reading comprehension problem or are just lazy.

  21. Bob Belvedere
    February 16th, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

    Richard was just funning with you – you were 100% correct, Zilla.

  22. ThePaganTemple
    February 16th, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

     There would be no rapes if some so-called”men” could understand that they don’t have the right to impose their sexual needs on unwilling victims and could exercise a bit of self-control beyond the range of the common everyday dog. They’d also know that how any woman dresses is nothing more than just another excuse. Of course if there wasn’t that one, their brains, otherwise known as their sad little dicks, would think up another one.

  23. Bob Belvedere
    February 16th, 2012 @ 9:28 pm

    No!…it most certainly would not!

  24. ThePaganTemple
    February 16th, 2012 @ 9:28 pm

     No sir, you could never go wrong there.

  25. » Malaise in blog-over country - Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion
    February 17th, 2012 @ 12:14 am

    […] down in Update III to a Thighgate post, Robert Stacy McCain makes an observation which is spot on about the mood […]

  26. Dave C
    February 17th, 2012 @ 12:52 am


  27. The Usual Brouhaha | Goldfish and Clowns
    February 17th, 2012 @ 1:11 am

    […] case, twice) have been quite pointed in their criticisms, with other pundits such as Stacy McCain (twice), Dan Collins, DaTechGuy, Dan Riehl, Joy McCann, Lisa Graas, Katie Pavlich, and Jenny Erikson, to […]

  28. TammyNowotny
    February 17th, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    My, my you rightwingers are delicate flowers!

  29. The CPAC Dress Code and Decorum Debate – Silly, or Good Advice? | The Lonely Conservative
    February 17th, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

    […] of his own giving some advice to Patrick. Now Politico has devoted some space to the debate, and Stacy’s under attack from some conservatives.If you follow the first link to Stacy, and read the entire post, you should realize the point of […]

  30. » The view, the proud
    February 17th, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    […] same: For some strange reason, the conservative blogosphere has spent the last three days debating Tina Korbe’s hemline rather than the bottom line on Barack Obama’s budget. Because, you know, that’s […]

  31. Notes on an Unfinished Letter of Apology (Or, Does Ed Morrissey Torture Cats?) : The Other McCain
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  32. Zilla of the Resistance
    February 20th, 2012 @ 9:09 am

     I am only just learning how deep the insanity goes. Holy crap. In addition to outing Ms. Malkin’s private information, he also attacked a blogger who had recently lost his wife in a horrible accident and said the most vile things about her and to her grieving husband.