The Corner

Andrew Sullivan’s Blog Ethics

If you had any contact at all with the blogosphere over the past couple of days, you surely ran across at some point Jamie Kirchick’s expose”>expose in The New Republic of Ron Paul’s shady history of involvement in various kinds of bigotry and paranoia. If you’re a regular consumer of the blog scene, you also, I am sure, made a beeline for Andrew Sullivan’s site to see what one of Paul’s most vocal champions in the blogosphere had to say about the revelations.

Sullivan obviously didn’t like what he had learned, and so engaged in a bit of sly messenger-killing. He innocuously linked to a post”>post by a guy named Berin Szoka, a foot soldier in Paul’s army of fervent acolytes, as a way, said Sullivan, of showing that we need not believe that Paul is a homophobe, because even Kirchick, the author of the expose, doesn’t seem to believe so — as evidenced by Szoka’s posting of an email Kirchick had sent him weeks ago saying as much.

The Szoka post that Sullivan linked was actually a disgraceful and unethical attempt at smearing Kirchick: For one, the email that Szoka posted on his blog had been sent before Kirchick had discovered the homophobic content of Paul’s newsletters, thus rendering moot Sullivan’s judgment that Kirchick does not believe Paul to be a homophobe. Szoka, for his part, published Kirchick’s email without asking his permission, without seeking a clarification of the contradiction between the old email and the TNR article, all in a deceptive attempt at painting him a hypocrite.

Was it ethical for Sullivan to link to such a post? Is this the example Sullivan wishes to set in the journalistic medium he so enthusiastically champions — that if you don’t like what someone says, it’s fine to post email from that person that was neither intended for publication nor given approval by its author for public disclosure? This, to Andrew Sullivan, is acceptable behavior? Would Sullivan cry foul if one of his interlocutors published his email without permission?

And that’s not all. Szoka’s post contained a string of abusive epithets directed at Kirchick, calling him a “muckracker, a charlatan, and a hypocrite,” not to mention that “he is a fool to boot” who practices “bottom-feeding journalism.” Szoka, of course, has nothing at all to say about the accuracy of Kirchick’s article; he is a man driven to hysterics at witnessing the destruction of a politician in whom he has fanatically invested himself. Sullivan obviously saw that this crude attack was a central component of the post that he linked. Does anyone actually believe that Sullivan himself wouldn’t have liked to write such words?

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