Monday, April 17, 2006

THE BLOGOSPHERE IS IN AN UPROAR over Michelle Malkin's blog post in which she published the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of some students at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The students had organized a protest against military recruiters on campus. They included their personal contact information for the benefit of the press and other interested parties, which was certainly a mistake -- even a foolish mistake.

Malkin did not have to take advantage of these students' naivete, however. But that is what she did. She encouraged her readers, whom she knows hate antiwar activists as much as she does, to call or write the students. As a result, they have received floods of hate mail, including death threats. When one of the students wrote to her asking her to take the contact info off her site, she posted it a second time.

Ezra Klein has the definitive post about Malkin and what she did. I can't say enough good things about Ezra's writing here, or the way he gets to the heart of the issue. He exposes Malkin's essential inhumanity, cruelty, and spitefulness better than anyone else I've read recently.

Here is a sample:

I know I'm not supposed to, but I pity Michelle Malkin. Really, I do. Punditry is a game of incentives, encouragement, luck. You write a hundred articles before striking paydirt with one. That zeitgeisty dispatch activates an eruption of applause and adulation, so you try to repeat it. Soon enough, you've got a niche, a style, a persona. The lucky ones, among whom I include myself, find their path opening towards responsible, serious commentary. The sort of articles that allow us to wake up, yawn, look in the mirror, and feel good about what we see. And then there are the unlucky ones, the Michelle Malkins, who achieve acceptance through hatred and venom, and find themselves groping down the darkest path to political success.

Right now, the dark-haired, lashy, Ann Coulter understudy is happily wrapped in one of her typical controversies: a crew of students at UC Santa Cruz, my alma mater, protested some military recruiters, and Malkin got hold of a press release with their personal contact information -- a poorly conceived inclusion on the students' part, but then, these are undergraduates, not trained media flacks. Rather than calling and speaking to them herself, which is what members of the press are supposed to use such releases for, Malkin published their personal information on her website, prompting her hordes of orcish mouth-breathers to brandish their pitchforks and inundate the unsuspecting students with death threats (some of which you can read here). When the students frantically called Malkin, asking that she remove their numbers, she posted their contact information again.

The invaluable John Amato, who's got some video from the scene, gets it right. Malkin, he writes, "crosse[d] the line of decency..the death threats are emanating from her blog and she knows it. Malkin understands the nature of the fear and outrage she causes. Will she take responsibility when somebody gets hurt?"

"When somebody gets hurt." It's not just somebody, though. Malkin has already done grievous harm to an idea. I went to UC Santa Cruz. It's entirely possible I was friends with some of those Malkin has placed in danger. It's a school filled with young, idealistic kids determined to save the world, feeling their way through uncertain thickets of ideology and unfamiliar collections of ideas, and naive about the dangers of direct political action outside a university's protected confines. That, after all, is what college is about -- providing a protected space for young adults to experiment, learn, try out ideas and identities. If they made a mistake attaching their home numbers to a press release, it's understandable -- forgive them father, they know not what they do.

Malkin lays claim to no such ignorance. A skilled and experienced rhetorical warrior, she saw the pale, white flesh of their throats and lunged. The vicious always seek out the weak. Rather than forgive their poorly-written, too-revealing press release, she published their oversight, opening them to danger and harm. If any of these students are hurt by a crazed Malkinite, the blood will drip from her hands, the guilt will burden her shoulders. But forgive her just the same, for there is nought else she can do.

Malkin has created an identity of outrage, she trades in hate because she proved unable to achieve recognition for anything more elevated. It's a sorry fate for a pundit who, once upon a time, must have been an idealistic college student herself; learning, experimenting, seeking out an identity of her own. I wonder if her younger, better self ever once entertained the notion that she'd soon be a peddler of anger, successful in nothing but demagoguery and appeals to the reptilian brain? I wonder if she saw it foreshadowed in her own darker moments, if she feared it? Malkin may have hurt some idealistic young college students at Santa Cruz, and I loathe her for it. But I pity her, too, because somewhere along the way, she murdered her own.

Oh, heck. This is the whole post, not just a sample.

Well, I couldn't help myself. Ezra's writing is too good. Go over there anyway. The comments in response to his post are quite interesting, and not always in a positive way. Plus, Ezra links to other posts about Malkin that have linked to his.

UPDATE: Check out the video at Crooks & Liars, supplied by John Amato. I just watched it. It's a FOX interview of a Santa Cruz student who wanted to talk to the military recruiters but couldn't because campus security had blocked access to them (because of the protest). The student, Cody James, quite clearly and unequivocally states that the protesters were not violent, despite the FOX reporters' best efforts to get him to say that they were. One of the interviewers, an Ann Coulter type, launched into an extended tirade against the antiwar activists which left Cody James speechless for a moment. He looked really taken aback. She tried to push him into agreeing with her, but he declined, with great politeness. This young college student showed more professionalism than a supposedly professional network broadcaster.

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