This is a story of how otherwise decent people can lose sight of each other’s humanity, because of political differences, and a lack of perspective.
This is a rather silly story and I’ve debated the wisdom of commenting on it. But pretty soon it’s going to be all over the Canadian blogosphere, and the moral is going to be quite compelling. And those who don’t particularly care one way or the other (I’m thinking, most people with lives) can simply skip on over to my review of the latest Doctor Who episode. No harm, no foul.
On one side is Warren Kinsella, long-time political strategist and loyal Chretien supporter. His web site has been up for a few years, now, and he’s been a refreshing blast, showing off the human side of political operatives, and just as in the non-electronic world, not being afraid to mix it up a bit in his defence of Chretien and in opposition to Martin, the NDP, Conservatives, people on the far right, etc.
On the other side is Don at All Things Canadian, an average Joe who, like Warren, has a wife and family. He lives in Ed Broadbent’s riding, and he votes Conservative. He is as opinionated as the rest of us, and he writes persuasively enough that he’s gotten himself his own little readership.
Warren has been a longstanding critic of Paul Martin and the Gomery Commission. He has said that the bad apples within AdScam can be more properly be investigated by the RCMP, and he has raised issues of political bias held by some people within the Gomery Inquiry — not without point, either.
Early on in the commission, however, a number of bloggers, myself included, posted an e-mail from someone who wished to remain anonymous, drawing a connection between one of the law firms at the Gomery commission and Justice Gomery’s daughter. Don made it a matter of public record that the person behind the e-mail was Warren Kinsella.
So began the blogging feud. Things had been souring between Warren and the right side of the Canadian blogosphere for a while, as Warren took delight in poking some (some of whom richly deserved it) with a stick. Don’s actions got the link to his website struck from Warren’s front page. There were more backs and forths, with Warren posting somewhat goading comments on Don’s blog. Don started posting items suggesting links between Warren and AdScam. On Warren’s side, the response was mostly playful, until yesterday when he really fired back:
Time for a bit of Internet sleuthing.
This frigging moron, who runs a site that even his far right buddies derisively call “All Kinsella, All the Time,” is one of the “Blogging Tories,” who uses the party logo (apparently without their knowledge or approval, but more on that at a later date) and is obsessed with Yours Truly in a way that neo-Nazis, Libyan spies, and Paul Martin supporters never were. Take a look at his web site - you’ll see what I mean. He’s got a fixation on me that verges on the homoerotic. It’s creepy.
Anyway, since this guy is so interested in me, I figure it’s time to get interested in him. Fair’s fair. Welcome to the Internet Age, stand back if you don’t want to get bitten, etc. etc.
Here’s what I know so far:His name is, I believe, Don Hawkins
He apparently is a civil servant
He has two young daughters
He lives a short distance from Lansdowne Park, in Ottawa Centre
He spends more time on the Internet than the rest of us spend breathing
He, um, is an idiot
That’s all I’ve got so far. For those of you who, like me, are fed up with “Blogging Tories” - you know, the guys who use their “Blogging Tory” web sites to (as I have noted previously) defame feminists, gay marriage, the United Nations, bilingualism, immigration, anti-tobacco laws, liberals, fluoridation of water, the metric system and the Satanic subliminal pro-Stalinist messages used on episodes of The West Wing - it’s time for a little payback. Writing about Wolfgang Droege, yesterday, reminded me of my halcyon investigative reporter days, and made me yearn for same. So I intend to investigate the living shit out of my good friend Don - and urge him to share the critical spotlight, as it were. I don’t intend to jeopardize his ability to earn a living, as he has repeatedly done with Yours Truly, but everything else is on the table. Is it fair? Is it nasty? Well, Don’s the guy who decided to make himself a public person when he created his little web site. Me, I’m just helping him in becoming even more of a public person! It’s New York Times v. Sullivan, with a decidedly Canadian twist. If you want to join my anti-Moron Don crusade, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s going to be fun!
Don is not a civil servant, and I am not going to violate his privacy any further by saying what he does do for a living — other than to say that it’s not much different from any other average Canadian. Don does have a family, and as one can see from the trailing-off pace of his posts, he spends less time on the Internet than I do, and I still breathe.
In my opinion, Don has been posting too much about Warren Kinsella. Others, even on the right side of the Canadian blogosphere, have needled him by calling his website “All Kinsella, All the Time.” I have not appreciated how personally Don has taken his task of keeping tabs on Warren’s public life, and was about to tell him so until Warren fired back in this even-more personal, vindictive manner.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both individuals, and I know them both to be decent people. I don’t think either of these individuals deserve to have their families drawn into any attacks they receive, and I believe that both are acting quite immaturely.
There is a risk in using the Internet. Whenever you speak publically within the medium, you leave a piece of yourself behind, including some things you might rather not have said. A quick search for “James Bow” under the Google groups feature will bring up posts of mine to various newsgroups dating back to 1994, when I was much younger and a lot less level-headed. I’m sure there’s potential for embarrasment in that record. I can’t go back and erase history, so I have to live with the consequences of what I’ve written, but I don’t think it’s right to use this record as a weapon. And when someone of Warren’s stature uses this against an individual Canadian with no public life to speak of, he cracks a peanut with a sledgehammer. He looks like a bully.
What we say and what we do is increasingly a matter of public record in this day and age. We are going to say and do things that others will disagree with. If somebody disagrees with us, I would hope that they do so by attacking our ideas, and not our selves. Doing otherwise takes us down a dark road, and is a major reason why people have such low opinions of politicians these days.
It is another sign of the dehumanizing aspect of politics, where people forego rational debate and criticism for the visceral; where we fail to see our opponents as human beings but as blood enemies. Where legitimate differences of opinion are enough to get you labelled as a bigot, a fascist or a variety of immature and hateful names.
When you hate this much, you lose a part of yourself. You become as bad as the thing you hate.
If nothing else, this event has convinced me not to seek a life in politics. One does not get away untainted.
Still, it could be worse…
Thankfully, we have no equivalent to the paranoid, ethically questionable, vindictive, egotistical and other worse things, Tom DeLay.
Now there’s somebody that doesn’t see politics as the art of the possible, but instead as a war to the death. The picture on my right, taken as DeLay addressed the national convention of the NRA, says it all, as does this quote:
“When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed.”
Preferably armed. Okaaaaaay.