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People who aren’t already the President of their things should keep their traps shut.

June 7, 2009, 8:04 pm

You know who should be allowed to blog?

Presidents of things.

Presidents of things who graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law.

Presidents of things who graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law and then clerked for a Supreme Court Justice.

Presidents of things who graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law and then clerked for a Supreme Court Justices before working in the White House.

You know who shouldn’t be allowed to blog?

Employees of things.

Employees of things who graduated from community colleges.

Employees of things who graduated from community colleges and then found a decent enough job.

Employees of things who graduated from community colleges and then found a decent enough job but are vulnerable to managerial whimsy.

Such is Ed Whelan’s “argument.” If you work for a company that manufactures cat food, you shouldn’t be able to pseudonymously blog about your liberal politics if your boss is a conservative, because “revealing [your] identity breaches no ethical norm,” so everyone you argue with has the “right to tell [on you], for whatever reason it suit[s them] to tell it—including no particular reason at all other than that [they find] it useful at the moment [they do] it.” If your boss fires you because he disapproves of what he now knows to be your views, it’s your fault for having them while not being the President of your thing.  (Because when you’re the President of your thing, only you can fire you for your views.)

But if you’re not the President of your thing, that makes you an employee; which, following Whelan’s logic, means that you don’t have anything important to say, because you can’t have anything important to say, because people who haven’t already risen to being the President of their thing are worthless people. They shouldn’t be allowed to blog because, when they chatter about their unimportant views, the compel Presidents of things, like Ed Whelan, to listen and respond to them—even though whatever it is they say is, by definition, worthless.

Because anything written by anyone with a threatenable job is, by definition, worthless.

Unless, that is, they have “extraordinary circumstances in which the reason to use a pseudonym would be compelling.” Having “extraordinary circumstances” indicates that someone’s extraordinary enough to acquire high-caliber circumstances, which means that—despite not being the President of their thing—they are somehow important. What kinds of circumstances does Whelan consider extraordinary? Hard to tell what they are, but we know what they can’t be: they can’t be “private, family, [or] professional,” because when those were offered as reasons not to out someone, Whelan went ahead and without ever inquiring as to what those reasons might be outed publius anyway.

That can only mean that “extraordinary circumstances” never fall into the categories of private, family, or professional matters, otherwise the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center would’ve violated his own ethical standards by outing someone who potentially had such circumstances; and, being that he’s the President of an ethical thing, the laws of logic preclude from being the case. As for how he became the President of an ethical thing, I think we have a blueprint for how that happened:

It begins by acquiring a small amount of power, then using it to silence your critics by creating structural incentives for them to keep their mouths shut. Then, you acquire a bit more power and use it silence your new critics by creating structural incentives for them to keep their mouths shut.  Then:

Rinse.

Lather.

Repeat.

Because that’s what Whelan’s done. He has yet to indicate what his preferred outcome to this was—that is, whether he wanted to see publius lose his job; lose his job and be forced into accepting a position that afforded him less time to write on the internet; lose his job and be forced into accepting a position that afforded him less time to write on the internet and provided no health insurance, so that he might have to choose between feeding his family or bringing one sick member of it to the doctor—but we do know that one reason he outed publius was because he had tired of people thinking less of his character, his integrity, and his intelligence on the basis of his exchanges with publius.

Which, given the reaction to this sorry episode, almost makes you feel sorry for him.  Because being the President of a thing is much like being the Captain of a thing, and what Whelan did here was very brave indeed. In order to prevent the enemies of the U.S.S. Reputation from destroying it, Captain Whelan did the noble thing and hit self-destruct.

(x-posted.)

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