So I screwed up.
I wrote this in the post about how Giuliani is out of touch:
I don’t know what it’s like in Noo Yawk Siddee, where hamburgers cost twenty dollars and the taxi drivers charge to stab you with their crack pipes on the way to the Marriott, but here in California we’re edging up on four dollars a gallon….
And Holly took offense:
Yeah, what Zuzu said. I walk by a gas station every day on the way to the subway, but damned if I can remember the price. How the hell would I know how much a gallon of gas is? Even if I did, what would that mean to me? I don’t have any idea of how many gallons of gas people have to buy every month to commute or go other places, what gas mileage is like in your average car these days, etc. I totally have no clue, nor do I really want to, I haven’t driven regularly since I was a teenager, I rarely ever take cabs because they’re too pricey and sometimes scary late at night (and apparently our cabbies smoke crack?! wtf piny?) It’s all train, bus, bicycle, and foot for me.
I was gonna just put my response in comments as follows:
No, no, not at all! It was a riff on the Big City that might as well be another planet trope that the rest of the country seems to resort to so often when discussing your hometown. It’d make more sense, admittedly, if I actually came from a small town myself, as opposed to an urban/suburban setup with its own expensive albeit distinct car culture. But you’ve probably heard similar stuff in earnest, right down to the barely-coded racism, so I’ll just take this opportunity to apologize.
And I was thinking, Hey, we just had a disagreement and I apologized for saying something that was misunderstood. This bears a striking resemblance to recent events, up to a point. Maybe someone else will point it out–in fact, someone already did something similar.
And then I thought some more, and I realized that it’s not very similar after all.
(Given everything I’m about to go into, I really want Holly to understand that I’m speaking as Hypothetical Blogger here, not as myself. I would be devastated were I to lose Holly’s respect.)
So I offended her. What if I had said something much worse? What if I had said something nasty about Holly herself? She couldn’t hurt me.
On the other hand, what if I’d decided to fuck her over? What if she’d said something offensive to me? What if she’d, oh, complained about some insensitive throwaway comment I’d made, and I decided that I didn’t like people criticizing me? What if I’d decided to write a post about what an asshole she is and how y’all should all go over there and make her miserable–in fact, I don’t think I’d even need to state that part in as many words–because she needed to be taught a lesson? I don’t think every one of my readers would even bother to fact-check me, even if the things I was saying didn’t happen to be true. That’s not how the blogosphere works, is it? I’d probably get a lot of mileage out of a couple of spurious accusations and a small, vocal subset of asshole commenters, and Holly might be driven off her blog for a few days or weeks. Maybe I’d poison the well for good. I’ve built up a lot of trust over the past year and change, and nothing prevents me from abusing it.
Yes, I meant SEK. MEK is an American supported-Iranian Terrorist Group. Freudian slip? Maybe, I don’t know.
It was a misunderstanding, and the easiest thing would be for me to apologize and move on, but I don’t think I did anything wrong. It’s a tragedy. I feel very bad about it. I was mistaken, but it was a logical mistake to make. If I had cost her her job, it would be different. I didn’t.
I’m not the type of person who refuses to apologize when he’s wrong. Do a search on my blog for apology or sorry or some similar term. You’ll find three or four apologies. Look up Santorum and fetus. I think that will lead you to one.
Maybe I’ll change my mind in a few days after putting some disance between me and the controversy, but I don’t think so. I’ve put a lot of thought into it already.
You were upset and you had every right to be upset, but you should understand that it’s not that simple. We’re talking about your actions here, not your feelings. You were mistaken. You were wrong. You didn’t know everything. None of that fallibility hindered you. You acted anyway, and your actions had some bad consequences that could have been a great deal worse. What if she had gotten fired? What if one of your commenters had been an abusive misogynist fuck as opposed to a plain old misogynist fuck? What if this had been the last straw on the post-traumatic camel’s back? It would make sense to feel bad then, but not now just because what could have happened didn’t? There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be wrong next time, too, since you’re human. That’s why I really hope that this misunderstanding will be at the foreground of your planning phase the next time someone makes you this angry. But the way you’re responding to the new knowledge makes me wonder how many minutes will pass before you do the same thing all over again.
Whoops! Sucks to be you, huh? I might not have taken the exact same course of action if I’d known that I was gonna out you to your church, ArkansasMama, but you might have taken the trouble to let me know ahead of time! No hard feelings come Koufax season, right? Not that it matters!
She does not bear responsibility for this dogpile, because she’s not the one who went and made someone else’s life miserable. That’s you. In fact, I’m not even sure she could send a posse over to your place. She can’t retaliate. She can’t punish you for your mistakes. She couldn’t punish you even if you had been completely off-base. You get to go on your merry way and she’s left without so much as a note. Just another day in the blogosphere, as far as you’re concerned. You’ve got a weapon–and you know it, because you were happy to let volume make your case–and unilateral power to use it. You have no accountability here, and that will never change, and that’s why you have to impose some extra responsibility on yourself.