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Where Does Responsibility End?

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year thinking about the concept of endorsements and what constitutes one, and what doesn’t. This is mainly along two lines. First, if a political entity uses a particular technology (or even acknowledges the fact that it exists) does that constitute an endorsement of said technology. Second, if some random nutjob supports my party/campaign/product, and that fact becomes public knowledge, do I become tainted simply by association?

The first example I have covered before… And I’ve covered it again… Merely recognizing something as a physical reality is not, and should not be considered an endorsement. Let me give you an example – Mountain Dew. I have, by referencing it here, acknowledged the product. If you search Technorati for that term, you’ll likely turn up this blog. In politics, that is considered an endorsement.

The truth is I hate Mountain Dew. It tastes the way I imagine rat vomit would taste. I’d rather blow a goat than drink Mountain Dew. It’s vile and nasty. So the fact that I have recognized it’s presence in society as a product does not mean I think you should drink it… I don’t… Ever… Nobody should… It’s evil in a can or plastic bottle…

So let’s move on to the second kind of endorsement.

David Duke is apparently supporting Randy Graf in Arizona-08. That’s kind of apalling on the surface, but let me ask this… Who really cares? And would they know or care if not for the internet?

The Internet (let’s limit the definition to the “browsable” internet) has been around for about 12 years (ok, it’s arguable, but I’m using Andreessen’s browser as the start date, quibble in the comments if you must). Prior to that date, if some nutjob racist supported a candidate (D or R) you would probably never know. The campaign would probably never know, and it would probably not be an issue.

Today, however, is a different world. Today we encourage candidates to set up MySpace profiles to attract friends who can help the campaign. But it’s all BS given that oppo-research guys working for the other side will troll every one of your “friends” to find someone with something shameful they can use to attack your campaign. If you post on MySpace, beware. The guy or girl you are running against will be looking at every one who connects with you to find an embarrassing link.

So I was asked if I would be posting about Graf. Seeing as I savaged Laffey for his homophobic comments in college, it seemed I should beat up on Graf for the Duke connection.

The truth is I see these as two completely different cases. If Graf had made racist remarks, I would be all over him. But I don’t equate support from a racist to the candidate being racist. The first Graf knew of Duke’s endorsement was likely the first time the media called and asked about the blog post (assuming they have already).

I have plenty of reasons to oppose candidates based on their positions and personalities. I don’t need to lump them together with someone else to find a reason to like or dislike them. There are plenty of reasons to dislike people on an individual basis, and lumping them together with others in order to dislike them is no different from racism anyway.

All of this is my way of saying I think the current trend of “guilt by association regardless of how tenuous” is a dangerous slope. If we start down that road, it’s only a matter of time until candidates are attacked because their best friend’s neighbor’s sister’s dog walker once handed out copies of Mein Kampf. Given the power of the Internet, it would not be hard to track that information down.

The real power to make or break this cycle, however, lies with us and the media. As long as bloggers try to make these connections to score a political point, the reporters will treat it as news. And as long as the media reports things like the David Duke connection as news, the people who get their news in 10 second sound bites every night at 5:30 will think it’s valid political fodder.

So let me state right now, for the record, just because I mentioned Randy Graf, David Duke, racism, Mein Kampf, the 5:30 news, rat vomit, blowing goats, and MySpace does not mean I endorse any of them. What I do endorse is thinking for yourself, analyzing candidates based on what they believe, and voting against all incumbents just on general principles.

Written by Michael Turk