Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, cut it out

From WKOW in Madison, this report of a guy who took it upon himself to call signers of Walker recall petitions looking for an argument. He apparently took the names from a television story about the recall efforts.

This is hardly the worst thing that we have seen in Wisconsin over the past year. But it is still a stupid thing. Kevin Stoll,of Hartland, ought to direct his energies in a more positive way. Send letters to the media and post comments on the line. Organize on behalf of the Governor. But disturbing people in their home because they have publicly expressed disagreement is for losers.

I understand that there were organized campaigns to call and even to boycott supporters of the Governor and the recall of Democratic Senators. I know that there are times when decorum inevitably deteriorates in response to tactics on the other side.

But this is counterproductive and unfair. Although Mr. Stoll says that his calls were not hostile, he should just stop. Now.

We also see a report that of a Brookfield man who hollered at recall circulators and grabbed their video recording device. Also very stupid. Rude and uncivil.


jimspice said...

That was more than grabbing a camera. That was assault.

Rick Esenberg said...

I'm not going to make judgments like that based on a snippet of video. All I can do is say that he was seriously out of line. I look forward to your condemnation of the excesses on the other side.

jimspice said...

I've condemned death threats in comments sections at other blogs and have no problem repeating it here. I often see my side calling bad behavior of our own. But I don't see the volume or degree of bad behavior that originates from yours, and I definitely don't see conservative blogs even mention it, let alone condemn it.

Anonymous said...

Professor, you need a primer on what constitutes assault.

Rick Esenberg said...

My own impression is quite the oppsite but I could well be wrong.

So you can remind me about the conservative talk show hosts who made fun of a liberal politician's cancer and accused her of fellating men for politcal favor.

You can let me know about the Republican legislators who told Democratic colleagues that they were "f***ing dead." I want to hear about the Republican doctors who behaved like a pack of unprofessional imbeciles and the Tea Partiers who harassed Democratic legislators at the Capitol.

Please give me the names of Democratic legislator who had beer dumped on their head and businesses who were threatened with boycott because they wouldn't toe the convervative line. Please let me know which people who appeared in pro-Democratic ads have been subject to systematic campaigns to have them fired and defamatory allegations that they "cheered" racist speeech.

Maybe you have video of Democratic speakers - including children - being shouted down, drowned out and subjected to obscene gestures. I have forgotten about Republicans referring to female Democratic politicans with the "c" word, but you'll remind me.

I've aslo forgotten about the Republicans who politicized Special Olympics events and Christmas tree lightings. A little help.

I must have overlooked the conservatives who told a law professor that they would "f*** [her} up" and who later attacked her on the Capitol Square. But I'm sure you'll send me links.

I didn't hear about the conservatives who illegally occupied a street in Milwaukee at rush hour and snarled traffic or who rushed into a bank and started screaming in a way that required the police to be called. (I watched the aftermath of that one from my office window.)

I don't remember how conservatives trashed the Capitol and imposed their bullhorns, vuvuzelas and chanting on people who just wanted to go about their business.

I could be wrong but it seemed to me that the brain dead (and offensive) references to Hitler and slavery and the oh-so- clever allusions to "Koch-suckers" (ha, ha, is funny because we think name is pronounced like the other thing) were more to be found on one side than the other.

Please remind me which school district (or other organization) was shut down by an illegal job action by the Tea Party. I'm sure that there are some conservatives somewhere - maybe running for office up north- who bragged about improperly using state resources for political purposes but I just can't remember.

I did no research to write this response. This is what I could remember in the ten minutes or so it took me to write this.

I have no doubt that you could come up with more examples of bad behavior on the part of conservatives. I could do it myself. Maybe it would match this litany. Maybe it would not.

I am not going to claim that one side is "worse" than the other. I have a view on that but it could be the result of my own biases and the sources I am more likely to be exposed to so I'm not going to put forward my impressions as fact.

But I think you ought to reconsider your own. What you fail to see is the product of your failure to look.

Brew City Brawler said...

Thank god that race-baiting paragon of civility Charlie Sykes is here to tell those stories.

Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 8:23

With respect to the bit shown on video, I am not at all sure that it qualifies as an assault as your on-line dictionary defines it. It might. It might not. If you want to call it that, feel free to do so.

But generalized "assault" as such is not a statutory crime in Wisconsin. You have to read the law, not an on-line dictionary and the nearest thing here would seem to be either disorderly conduct of "attempted battery."

I don't mind if you use the term assault but, when you do, it has a common sense meaning. I'd want to see more than the video shows. You wouldn't. Fair enough.

With respect to what charge should be brought, I don't think the video shows enough for me to express an opinion other than that the guy was in the wrong.

Rick Esenberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Esenberg said...


Do you doubt the accuracy of a single story?

Charlie Sykes is not a race baiter. You have to adhere to an almost stereotypical set of sixties era liberal presumptions - can't discuss crime, can't discuss personal responsibility; can't question progressive pieties - to think so.

But even so, while I suppose I may have heard first some of these from Charlie, there are none that I can't recall to have been verified from other sources.

Brew City Brawler said...

I share your opinion in some instances and have said so previously in other areas (Sly, incessant heckling of Walker, etc).

I would question the accuracy/depiction of some - the Capitol wasn't "trashed" under any meaningful definition, being subjected to vuvuzelas comes with living in a free country, and I think you inflate other examples to be more than they are.

I could point to pox on both houses stuff as well - your friend Prosser certainly can get testy and direct bad words at women, Owen Robinson says he'll boycott petition signers (and on the subject of boycotts, Sykes has been doing that for years and now it's an issue for him?)

Some stories I would describe as examples of civil disobedience and opinions there likely vary on your POV. Would Republicans be outraged at an anti-abortion group illegally occupying a street to make a point (efficacy of that is a separate issue)? I was actually a "victim" of said occupation and it slowed my commute by about 5 minutes. I lived.

As for offensive references to Nazis and plantations ... I don't advocate Godwinism and I thought the plantation remarks were stupid. Then again, I recall a local blogger extensively defending Charlie Sykes' likening a Democratic governor to a racist Southern governor -- something I also found stupid and offensive -- so y'know, I guess that's all about perspectives and stuff.

And big picture, I think many Wisconsinites would label Walker's gutting of public employee union rights -- and doing so after not running on that as part of his platform -- as an example of "bad behavior." The sort of bad behavior that has a tangible negative effect on the lives of tens of thousands of people. Way more so than, say, dumping a beer on someone's head.

As for Sykes. After listening to him for a long time, and having more than a little exposure to the racial dynamics in this community, I am perfectly comfortable in saying his show, the narrative he's established, the stories he covers or chooses not to cover, justifies the term I used. It's full of dog whistles. You can disagree.


Brew City Brawler said...

C'mon, Rick - you deleted your original response and defense of Sykes -- saying calling him a race baiter was not serious, I believe -- and then put up another while I was typing up a response.

So: No, it's not about adhering to stereotypical 60s liberal assumptions. Fine, talk about crime, personal responsibility, progressive pieties.

But at the same time for Charlie, poverty in the inner city is never about economics. It's always about the culture. It's always about personal failure. He once mocked a caller that suggested in the 70s the AFrican American community in MKE was relatively well off; look it up - it's true. What's the biggest difference between now and then? Did the culture fall off a cliff or did Milwaukee's manufacturing base? is there a connection? is the reality of urban poverty a little more complicated than the morality play Charlie puts on? Why doesn't he go into that? Bring culture into that discussion - fine. But if you look at the totality you wind up with a much different conversation than the one charlie has.

If you don't see the endless repetition of the "obama's stash" tape as some sort of dog whistle, that's your right.

How quickly did Charlie set the record straight when it turned out two African American women who signed a recall petition were in fact of age and not minors, as he claimed? Did he ever? Nothing to see there.

Sykes will periodically complain about free cell phones to the indigent and then laugh as his callers tell hilarious stories of how all these folks do is use them to make booty calls and drug deals. Again, nothing to see.

Sykes will intimate, sans evidence that voter fraud is a major problem in the inner city.

Sykes will recycle the never proven contention that Milwaukee in the 80s was a welfare magnet as if it's established fact.

Sorry. My claim has nothing to do with an adherence to a stereotypical set of 60s liberal assumptions. It has to do with listening to how some white people talk about "race", going back to the halcyon days of the late 70s and 80s, and hearing those words, sans slurs, spoken back on Sykes.

Rick Esenberg said...

I deleted it because I got the phrasing cobbed up when I edited it and, having posted it, could no longer edit. I did say that calling Sykes a race baiter is not serious and I stand by that. I dislike the way in which a standard rhetorical tool on the left is to try to stop the conversation by allegations of "subtle" or "institutional" racism.

We could go back and forth on the details. I am not assumning the burden of arguing that one side is worse than the other so I'm not going to get into a contest on who can produce a longer list. Mine is more than long enough to challenge Mr. Spice's claim.

As whether the Walker reforms "justify" bad behavior, give me a break. We are talking about adjustments in retirement and health care funding that happened in the private sector long ago. I didn't like going from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan that I funded either and, no, I didn't get a raise to "cover it." I understand that some people have a different view of collective bargaining than I do but about half of the states and the federal government either do not permit or limit collective bargaining by public employees. Almost all private employers are not unionized. It's hardly a departure from the social compact.

The idea that culture and personal responsibility are increasingly critical factors in whether one is or is not poor is hardly a view limited to Charlie Sykes and "race baiters." I absolutely disagree with your suggestion that the problems in the central city are soley (or even mostly) the result of fewer factory jobs but that is a topic for another day. There is ample evidence of folks moving up to Wisconsin for higher benefits. Read Jason DeParle's book The American Dream.

Of course, all of these things are more complicated than what you call a simple morality play but I actually think Sykes does a pretty good job of making room for that while accepting the reality that a talk show is entertainment and not a faculty seminar.

The Obama stash comment is, I think, instructive because it illustrates a common political problem that was on display in the debate over the Governor's reform. People think that the things that government gives them comes from nowhere or, maybe, just from multi-millionaires. I understand that there are people who would say that it can't be played because the speakers are black but that's what I mean when I say sterotypical seventies era liberalism. It's a different world now.

Anonymous said...

Professor, your 9:14 p.m. is a classic P-Mac "I'm not really saying it, but I'm saying it" rant. Standard Disclaimer, indeed!

You DID say that one side is worse than the other. You DO have a view that is the result of your own biases.

I don't know if it is funny or sad when you and your brethren, along with the liberal blogosphere, shout at the top of their lungs, pointing fingers that the "other" side is worse in regards to their conduct while simultaneously claiming that "well, I do call out my own, why can't you".

Why can't we, as a nation, simply call out conduct without attaching a (D) or a (R) to it? Simple--a number of Americans act like spoiled children when it comes to politics. No wonder our nation is in big trouble!

Display Name said...

The Professor always includes the Standard Contradictory Disclaimer™. He puts one in every blog post, just so when he's proven wrong later, he can later to point to the other half to show he was actually correct.

Rick Esenberg said...

Foust can't understand nuance so I've given up on him. As for our anonymous commenter, I never said that there was more bad behavior on the left. I expressly declined to say it because, even if I think that, it could be the result of my own biases or the fact that I am more likely to hear about it. So, without doing a lot more work, I'm not making that argument.

And you think that's disingenous or "sad and funny."


Display Name said...

I don't own a copy of Black's, but to me "nuance" means "a slight variation in meaning", not an outright contradiction or an interjected "But I could be wrong."

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