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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scurrility and scatology

Most of the South Dakota traditional media ignored the press release sent out by the state GOP in response to Scott Heidepriem's announcement that he will be a candidate for governor. If there was anything that remotely qualified as news regarding it, it is that a political party sank so low that it issued such an exercise in mindless scurrility. It was not a press release; it was merely an attempt to inject some malicious and totally false propaganda into the legitimate media.

Keloland news tried to do some fact-checking on what was stated in the release. When it asked the South Dakota GOP to verify the statements made in the slime effort with documented facts, the GOP was unable to furnish anything other than a greasy deflection away from its scurrility. Here is Keloland's report:

"After KELOLAND News asked the Republicans to prove their claims, they backed off some of the comments and responded to their inaccuracies. Instead of saying he's selling his house and his car and cancelling his country club membership, in an e-mail to KELOLAND News they said, "It is common knowledge that Heidepriem is a member of an elite country club, drives a fancy car and lives in a mansion.""

The Mitchell Republic dropped any pretense to neutrality on the matter and defended the propaganda piece by claiming that the Democrats had used the same tactic on Steve Kirby, a possible Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who might have run against Sen. Tim Johnson. The claim was that Sen. Johnson's campaign was "stalking" Kirby and then issued a fund-raising letter citing Kirby's wealth.

The stalking charge grew from Kirby's statement to the Argus Leader that he saw people drive by his house pointing a camera with a telephoto lens at him. Whether that actually happened and, if it did, the alleged photographers were from the Johnson campaign was never established. It was a matter of conjecture, based upon what Kirby said. Kirby's claim to political fame is when he was a candidate for governor and his fight in the Republican primary with rival Mark Barnett got so stupidly nasty that the voters elected present Governor Mike Rounds over both of them. And the business of stalking people with cameras is a very Republican tactic. We recall when Sen. Tim Johnson ran against Thune and made an appearance in the livestock pavillion at the Brown County Fair. Thune goons were running around smirking and aiming cameras at anyone who looked Democratic. Such ploys are given in South Dakota politics. The stalking gambit was the largely the fabrication of a blogger.

In defense of the libel a la press release, Republicans have also cited a fund raising letter that mentioned Kirby sent out by the Tim Johnson campaign early in 2008. The purpose of the letter was to get Democrats to contribute to the campaign. It did not berate Kirby for being a successful business man. It did point out that he is a multi-millionaire who could finance a campaign from his own pocket and that he belonged to a class of people who had little interest in the concerns of workers and those struggling with matters such as health care and the outsourcing of jobs. It did not make any false claims against Kirby.

The propaganda sent out by the GOP regarding Scott Heidepriem was totally a lie. There is a big difference between making up lies about a candidate and noting his background and affiliations.

Ultimately, if the media--both traditional and new--are functioning with any purpose, candidates will have to run on their demonstrated character and integrity. When some bloggers quote a paragraph that is an obvious sarcastic exaggeration and go into a puerile name-calling rage under the presumption that it is a serious statement, we have the advantage of seeing their intelligence and character on display. Likewise, when a blogger consistently posts libels about people, we have evidence of why we should avoid them in their professions and in any possible social contacts.

Politics is nasty enough without outright lies and libels. That seems to be all some political parties have to run on and some bloggers to blog about.

1 comment:

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