Posted on | January 12, 2013 | 49 Comments
Ben Howe: Just some random dude on the Internet?
“The socially-awkward gadfly who might once have been relegated to writing letters to the editor of Ron Paul’s newsletter, can today build an online identity that disguises his quirks. . . .
“Some of my colleagues actually take perverse pleasure in fighting with their stalkers. . . . . My arms are getting tired from punching down, as it is.”
— Matt K. Lewis, Daily Caller, Jan. 9, “Confronting Ben Howe: My own personal Twitter troll”
Let’s talk about professionalism, shall we? Let’s also talk about ambition and misguided career strategies, while we’re at it.
There is no rule that requires everybody in the conservative movement to like everybody else in the conservative movement. But it is a good idea to choose one’s enemies wisely, to keep one’s Enemies List as short as possible, and to avoid turning minor squabbles into all-out feuds.
In September, for reasons best known to himself, Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller decided that he needed to be on Michelle Malkin’s Enemies List.
This created serious problems for Matt Lewis’s friends because, in such a situation, how can one continue to be Matt Lewis’s friend without risk of adding one’s name to Michelle Malkin’s Enemies List?
No one is so powerful, so successful or so popular that they can just go around making enemies like that without eventually paying a price for it. People need to think before doing stuff like that.
Avoid escalation. A few weeks ago, Ali Akbar got into a Twitter argument with John Ekdahl and, when I found out about it, I told Ali to lay off. John Ekdahl is good people and a contributor at AOSHQ, so whatever quarrel Ali had with Ekdahl, it wasn’t worth turning into a blood feud that would risk estranging Ace. As much as Ali might have wanted to double down, entrench his position and turn his disagreement with Ekdahl into an online Battle of Verdun, it was a bad move.
Forget it. Just walk away.
Matt Lewis has clearly passed the point where he’s listening to any advice of this kind. He keeps making enemies he doesn’t need to make, and seems to be pursuing the Conor Friedersdorf strategy of becoming a “conservative” whom all other conservatives loathe. Maybe there’s more of a market for that kind of thing than anyone has hitherto imagined, and Matt Lewis is actually making the smart play. On the other hand . ..
Trying to get Ben Howe blacklisted at the Heritage Foundation? To quote P.J. O’Rourke: “What the fuck? What the fucking fuck, huh?”
Ben Howe and I have not always gotten along. Last year in South Carolina, we got into kind of a shouting match about the whole Rick Perry thing. (I say “kind of” a shouting match, because I was the one doing most of the shouting.) But that was one of those conflicts where I had to ask myself, “How much of this is my own fault?” Even if it was not entirely my own fault, I can’t control other people’s fuck-ups and am only responsible for my own, and there comes a point where you just have to get over it. By the time we ran into each other in at the RNC in Tampa, the thing was sufficiently over that Ben and I were laughing together about Brooks Bayne. But I digress . . .
Enemies tend to accumulate and congregate. It was therefore not surprising to see a massive aggregation at Twitchy with this headline:
See what I mean? That “execrable” was not forgotten. It comes back to haunt Lewis in his next feud, and the dogpile reaction — perhaps not coincidentally — includes a lot of the AOSHQ crew:
— John Ekdahl, Jr. (@JohnEkdahl) January 6, 2013
If @mattklewis wants to be taken seriously, then perhaps he should behave more seriously. Professionals do not whine like a mule.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) January 9, 2013
— Veruca Salt (D) (@LilMissRightie) January 9, 2013
Hmmm. It’s almost as if there were a tacit alliance or something. Or maybe you’re just being such a douchenozzle that it gets people’s attention. Either way, let’s distinguish between two things:
- Using your own platform to fight your own battles. Matt Lewis and Ben Howe can throw down on Twitter and that’s just between the two of them.
- Using your employer’s platform to fight your battles. Here I am on my personal blog discussing this conflict, and that’s just me doing my own thing. But what if I wrote a column at The American Spectator entitled, “Matt K. Lewis Is a Ginormous Douchenozzle”? Wouldn’t that be seen as . . . I dunno, overkill? Or unfairly attempting to borrow someone else’s influence to my own advantage in a personal quarrel?
Tucker Carlson and the management of the Daily Caller are now on the hook for Matt Lewis’s feuds with Michelle Malkin and Ben Howe, and this is not the fault of Malkin or Howe.
Here’s a rule of thumb: When you turn a personal quarrel into a conflict that generates not just one Fishbowl DC item, but two Fishbowl DC items, you’re probably doing the wrong thing. (Say, has anybody heard from George Archibald lately?)
The whole trying-to-get-people-blacklisted thing may seem like fun and games, but if the Giant Wheel O’ Karma ever takes a turn against you, that stuff is likely to be remembered.
Not in a good way, either.
UPDATE: Somehow I missed this one:
As you resort to illiberal snitch tactics to silence any critics you’re no longer safe to even interact with. Blocked. @mattklewis
— WittyFunnyScamp69 (@AceofSpadesHQ) January 11, 2013
There are problems and then there are problems. And having seen what can happen when Ace of Spades gets fed up with somebody’s bullshit and finally decides to unload on them, I long ago decided to pay attention when Ace gets angry, irritated or even mildly annoyed at me.
See, this is my problem: I can be irritating and annoying. And after a while, you learn to look for cues that you’re starting to get on people’s nerves.
You can make excuses for yourself: “Hey, what I did wasn’t that bad. Ace is just being hyper-sensitive.” Or you can reflect on the situation and say, “Yeah, maybe Ace has a point here and in the future I should avoid doing what he’s already told me twice to stop doing.”
Because in the back of my mind there’s always this thought: If Ace ever decides I’m such a useless douchenozzle that he needs to blow me up in public, to ridicule me as a laughingstock . . .
One wouldn’t want to be “socially awkward,” eh?