The Other McCain

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

Thankful for the Man in the Fedora

Posted on | November 25, 2010 | 4 Comments

You probably don’t recognize that guy, but if you’re a regular reader, you owe him a big “Thank you.”

Many months ago — it was September 26 2009 — I had just spent two weeks fighting a very memorable flame war, which need not be reiterated here. Burnt-out and weary, I was trying to recover my equilibrium by enjoying the Alabama-Arkansas game (Roll, Tide!), when someone alerted me to a particularly idiotic Andrew Sullivan post about the death of a Census worker in Kentucky.

Well, by God, send me to Kentucky!

Big Creek, Ky., is a 500-mile drive from here. I could easily drive it in eight hours. I had plans to attend an event Sunday in Virginia, and had expected to go to D.C. this coming week to follow up on the latest IG-Gate developments.
However, if my readers would prefer me to teach Andrew Sullivan a lesson in journalism, feel free to hit the tip jar. . . .

And in short order, that man in the hat hit the tip-jar and said, “Go!” Less than 48 hours later, I arrived in Manchester, Ky., and by Tuesday morning had filed a column for The American Spectator:

The FBI and Kentucky State Police, who are leading the Sparkman investigation, refuse to discuss possible motives for his murder. Asked about the theories being discussed on the Internet, KSP spokesman Don Trosper said, “It’s just speculation and rumors. . . . We concern ourselves with facts.”

I subsequently visited the scene of the crime, and also interviewed a local whose flippant remark to a reporter had been misinterpreted as indicative of the “anti-government sentiment” that supposedly pervaded Clay County, Ky.

Interestingly enough, once I was reporting from the scene in Clay County, all that crazy speculation on the left-wing blogs — “Send the Body to Glenn Beck!” — seemed to dry up like a shallow puddle on a summer day. The reality of the place was so drastically at odds with the “Lower Glennbeckistan” myth that our friends on the Left realized it might be a good idea to grab themselves a fresh hot cup of STFU.

A couple months later, investigators determined that the Census worker had committed suicide and staged it to look like murder. I summarized the lesson at The American Spectator:

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.”
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.

Debunking that unfounded speculation by traveling to the scene was made possible by the generosity of contributors to the Shoe Leather Fund like the man in the hat, Nathan Cossey.

Lots more of you have contributed over the past couple of years — thanks to Jeff in Walla Walla, who really enjoyed the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders — but I still remember that night when Nathan hit the tip jar and said, “Go!”

Wow. Seems like forever ago, doesn’t it? Since then, I’ve traveled to New York, Florida, California, Massachusetts, Alabama, Nevada, Arizona, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Georgia . . .

It’s a long list, and y’all know that none of it would have been possible without your support. I’ve fallen way behind on my thank-you notes, and there are dozens of you who are owed Official Tip Jar Hitter mugs. But I just wanted to take this moment to say to all of you that I appreciate your contributions. In thanking Nathan, I mean to say thanks to every one of you.

Truly, you are “angels unaware.” God bless you. Happy Thanksgiving.

And hit the freaking tip jar!


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