1. The invention of a fictitious Brendan. Atrios and a number of readers have created a bizarre caricature of me as some sort of aspiring David Broder who kowtows to the center and constantly asserts moral equivalence between the left and right in an effort to become a national pundit. (One especially excitable reader just called me "a Bushite sycophant" who supports "the illegal, unnecessary war of aggression.") Please. I do believe in criticizing both sides if they undermine reasonable debate, but in case people have forgotten (or don't know), I spent months co-writing a book that remains the preeminent guide to the PR tactics of President Bush. We explain in it that we chose to focus on Bush because of his importance and the sophistication of his tactics, but also warn that liberals are trying to follow his example. The book is simply not mechanically balanced; we lost many conservative readers as a result of writing it. And if I were trying to become rich and famous, I would not be in graduate school or working as a non-partisan critic of political spin, both of which pay virtually nothing and attract far less attention than partisan vitriol.
2. The jargon of "concern troll." This phrase, which I had never heard before, has become a popular insult to apply to me on comment threads. It's apparently being used by the angry liberal partisans online to dismiss and stigmatize criticism of them. When someone objects to an extreme statement by a liberal (like me) they get called a "concern troll," which is used to shut down a substantive discussion of the criticism they've raised. According to this blog post, it is a term from Daily Kos that originally referred to people who "pretend at being progressive Democrats, but at every turn seem to suggest the most obviously damaging or boneheaded or offensive thing they can." However, the blogger notes that, "anthropologically, the term has become synonymous with two groups: 1. anyone who calls for civility in a blog, and/or 2. Centrist Democrats."
Interestingly, the tactic seems strikingly similar to the way that some conservatives use "political correctness" to shut down criticism, which I wrote about on Spinsanity:
At first, [the term] referred to specific incidents in which colleges and other institutions attempted to enforce liberal norms some perceived as oppressive. Over time, however, as UCLA's Phil Agre argued, some speakers began to use the phrase (or the variants "politically correct"/"politically incorrect") to imply coercion without making a specific argument that it had actually taken place or stigmatize any opposition to a political view as "political correctness." In this way, a set of associated stereotypes could be triggered in increasingly vague and pathological ways.
Both of these mechanisms have the effect of essentially making up a straw man version of me to attack. It's fine; I can take it. But I thought it was worth explaining how the jargon works. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...