14 July 2006

Mail Call, or Adding Up The Hominy

The following communication was received this evening, posted as an anonymous comment on the 11 July 2006 entry: "Addendum to Yesterday's Story."

So, I will answer it openly.
Of course had you identified yourself as a quasi-journalist we may have been able to have a different conversation. You are doing exactly what all the other so-called journalists have been doing to my company for the past five years: perpetuating a erroneous story that my company engages in any type of fraud. The stories stick because of Google, and the accusers are able to get away with it because they have a sympathetic ear with the reporters. But the fact the stories are oft-repeated still doesn't make them any more accurate. Politics through defamation is what the unions and the left have come to and it does not become your otherwise well-researched Blog to carry the water for them. Show a little courage and call -- I left my telephone number.

Michael Arno

P.S. Lesson one in writing: don't point out a typo from another writer unless what you have written is free of the same.
There are several issues in this letter, Mr. Arno. The implication is that, for nefarous reasons, I didn't want to identify myself as a 'quasi-journalist' -- and here the foul taste of ad hominem raises its ugly head. (It will become quite pronounced by the end of your letter.)

So, let's get the "insulting" portion out of the way right up front.

Since this is, ultimately, an attempt to insult, it makes no sense to engage in ever more polished and sharpened linguistic ripostes, let's just get down to archetypes and cut to the chase: Since the first 'insult' that both you and I learned was undoubtedly, "poopoo head,"

Very well then: you are a poopoo head.

We are even. We can move on.

Alas, the way that these things usually go is that you will then reply with "no YOU are a poopoo head."

We cannot help it. It is instrinct. It is etched into our genes: I would then be either required to utter it with still greater vehemence, or return with a more elaborated form of "poopoo head," like, say, "poopoo pants." Or a combination of both witty retorts.

Eventually, of course, we would learn that the proper response is "I'm rubber, you're glue, it bounces off me and sticks to you."

And so forth.

The arms race that began when we learned "poopoo head" continues to this day. So, that is the last "insult" I will fling in your direction. What you choose to do in that arena after this is your concern, entirely: I forfeit the match.

Which brings us to the present. I am not trying to insult you in my "quasi-reportage," sir. I make no secret of the fact that I find what you do repellent, and the antithesis of democracy.

But then, I'm not trying to impersonate a quasi-journalist. I have worn many hats in this game, and I am simply writing as honestly as I know how. I don't like what you do, and that's not ideological. I wouldn't like it if you were on the other ideological side of the fence. My December 9, 2004 report on your ideological opposite is at: http://www.hartwilliams.com/ava/ava0106.htm, if you don't believe me.

But, as your vocation is perfectly legal, I'm not casting aspersions. You have a perfect right to engage in your profession, as am I perfectly within my rights to report on the facts, and my interpretation of the facts -- and, as a citizen, to find this whole business of political professionals antithetical to the conception of "the will of the people;"

... just as you have a right to your dislike of "unions" and "accusers," and "quasi-journalists." Golden Rule and all that.

Again, that is perfectly legitimate. I may not hold that political opinion, but as long as you play within the rules, I am perfectly content, and adjudge you in no negative manner. Both of our "sides" of the question agreed, a long Constitution ago, that we would accept the right of the other to live. There was some unpleasantness in the 1860s, but we don't talk about that much here in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

I am under no obligation to get a "response" from you. You are perfectly free to post your own, without editing -- which I see that you did. (What journalist has offered you that courtesy, sir?)

I asked you a perfectly honest question, based on your promise: Write to us for our client list.

I wrote you exactly that. Nothing more, except courtesy.

You explained why that promise was no longer valid, and summarized the ideological waterfront that you cover.

But I asked a perfectly honest question, and you gave a perfectly honest answer.

You seem to be insulted that I didn't identify myself as a sneaky 'quasi-journalist' so that we could play the cat and mouse game of my asking questions whose answers I would then distort (I have been on the wrong end of a lot of writing myself, sir, and I do my level best not to harm with words).

I was perfectly honest with you. I was interested in your services. Could I have a copy of your client list, as you promised? I asked, sincerely. There was no falsehood in my question.

You explained that you didn't do that anymore, and that your webpage was out of date. I believe that you were being perfectly honest with me. You explained yourself elegantly, and I printed your entire response. I did not edit you, nor did I engage in post-facto commentary. I appended the (sic) which only means, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed. 2000):

"ADVERB: Thus; so. Used to indicate that a quoted passage, especially one containing an error or unconventional spelling, has been retained in its original form or written intentionally.
ETYMOLOGY: Latin, sic."
So, I noted that the word in question is presented exactly as it was presented to me. I was engaged in no subterfuge or distortion.

The fact that you seem to take exception to this as some kind of dirty stunt is purely your own projection. I assure you that I was using the term in the precise sense. Honesty demands it: honesty to the text and honesty to the reader. (That is MY profession.)

But to be as fair as possible: when you quote me and find a typo -- or any other errata -- by all means flag it with a "(sic)," and I swear that I will not in the least be offended.


My comment following your reply was "Straight from the horse's mouth," which, as we both know is a colloquial term denoting veracity. I attested to the veracity of your words. Whether they were true or not is a matter of the quality of your word, and I took you as having answered honestly.

You are the only person who knows the answer to that question. But, I wonder, what would you have said, had I identified myself as a "quasi-journalist"? I would hope that it would have been the same answer.

Since I have no interest in the mechanics of what you do, and am perfectly familiar with them, I didn't need to pester you with a bunch of questions about the conduct of your petition-gatherers. That was not the point of my article.

As a brief aside, at least one that did the canvassing in Nebraska dealt with worse than you seem to have in California, Nevada and Oregon, and, as near as I can tell, it's been an ugly season for petition-gathering just about everywhere. That wasn't the focus of my story, and so I only asked you to characterize your clientele, and you did that in a necessary and sufficient manner.

So, there we have it.

As regards "politics of defamation" and "unions" and the rest of it, I take it that you didn't do anything wrong, and don't have to apologize for it (by implication). Fine. I merely pointed out that you've been doing a lot of denials ina lot of places over the past couple of years, Florida to Massachusetts to Nevada to Oregon, certainly. Those are matters of fact. Whether the charges were warranted, or your denials were honest I don't pretend to pass judgment on.

As John Adams said: "Facts are stubborn things."

If you are unjustly hounded by slanderers, that's not my obligation or concern. (You know several P.R. firms, I'm sure, and that's their job.) I'm just tracing out the wiring of a golem machine of politics that delivers signatures on petitions. To be fair, you don't state on your website-- as one Canvassing company does -- that you have been so successful that you offer a guarantee on the number of signatures delivered.

I wrote what I wrote, and I stand by it. I presume that if there was something that was egregiously false, or in dire error, you would point it out to me. I have always been willing to make legitimate corrections. (I don't get many requests, however. I even do my best to spell people's names correctly.)

Really, there's nothing more to say after that, except that your job is to do 'political consulting,' and my job is to write the truth.

And, after thirty years in this business, I appreciate your advice on writing. It is always wise to appreciate good advice.


"Ed Waldo"



Blogger Cap'n Crusty said...

So, what this goober is saying--and please correct me if I'm wrong--is that he's offended that you were being sneaky in trying to get some information out of him that he was, in turn, being sneaky about himself. That about right?

7/15/2006 05:54:00 AM  

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