May 24, 2004

Random Acts of Illogic 

posted by Scott @ 8:50 PM
With a few days to settle, the backlash has begun by some Illinois bloggers declaring the Ryan stalker incident a nonstory. Jeff Trigg at Random Acts of Kindness is leading the effort. The general tenor of his post is that the Obama "people" have gone too far and made a mountain out of molehill with this story. While he may have a point that the news media didn't properly clarify that videotaping opponents is a common campaigning tactic (though the talking heads on Chicago Tonight last week made this explicitly clear), his criticism quickly devolves into blaming the Obama Campaign for fanning the flames with reader comments on its blog. Referring to the editing of the comment section of his blog, RAOK chides Obama for not issuing some sort of formal apology:

There's nothing wrong with Obama taking the comments down, but I'll note he didn't offer an apology to Ryan's hired-gun or Ryan for his supporters crossing the line.

Why would the Obama campaign have to apologize for the comments that readers of its blog leave on their site? For all anyone knows these could be Ryan supporters posing as Obama loyalists or just hooligans posting these comments. Though it is of good taste for blogs to take down unfounded or stupid comments, there's no obligation to do so. It's a comment board meant to be a log of unedited reader responses. Why anyone would take them for fact is bizarre, and it's certainly not the fault of the Obama camp that people fell for these rumors. When I read the comments under that particular blog post, I had a good chuckle. Beyond the handslapping of supporters over a story that made Ryan look bad, the metamorphosis of the story from the Ryan worker waiting outside of the bathroom for Obama to in the end helping him shake off was like an online version of telephone. Why RAOK concludes that Obama is somehow culpable for this is beyond me. RAOK even concedes that one of the more ridiculous exaggerations, that the Ryan worker is a skinhead, came from the Illinois Leader comment board. Should the Obama campaign apologize for that as well? Or should Leader. The point is that comment boards are public forums with no accountability. I say read them as such, get your news from reputable sources.
Now I agree with RAOK that the story was not as big as it may have been projected to be. But the news cycle on the campaign is slow lately and, well, from what has been reported this Ryan worker was acting quite zealous and sketchy. As for Ryan having no role in this guys actions, well it is his campaign, and he's responsible as much as anything under his name should be.
This was a story and it got the attention it did because of the timing and because frankly this video taping comes off as a very creepy practice. Add an even creepier campaign worker and the thing has legs. Whether video taping has precedent with other campaigns or not, Ryan's employment of it crossed some sort of line. It's his fault for hiring a worker who clearly wasn't savvy and subtle enough not to attract attention to himself.

Update: ArchPundit makes an even more convincing case on why this IS a story. Check it out.

Update: RAOK responds to us both.

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