Ethics BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!! A NEW Missoula “List” Controversy, and It’s Just as Stupid as the FIRST One!

I am sorely tempted to just scream, “ARRRRRRRGGHHHHHHHH!!!!” and leave it at that.

This time around, the humorless, metaphor-challenged, unfair individuals and media outlets misrepresenting an innocent, non-violent, non-provocative use of the imagery of putting someone on a list doesn’t hail from the lunatic Right, like Ronbo and his Missoula Maniacs (an excellent name for a rock band, if you ask me), but from the Left….proving that when it comes to allowing ideological fervor turn your brain to mush and your ethics to applesauce, there are no partisan limitations.

But…you are not going to believe this, but it’s true…this one started in Missoula, Montana too, just like the Missoula Mikado Affair!

Get this:


OK, I feel a little better. Let’s proceed:

Montana’s Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg recently gave a speech to the Montana State Legislature in Helena. It covered many things, among them being a long-standing controversy in that state over the grey wolf, which bedevils ranchers but which they cannot hunt, because it is on the Endangered Species List. Recent counts show the population of the grey wolf rising dramatically, and a recent effort attempted to get the wolf removed from the list. From Rehberg’s speech…

“Unfortunately, the only thing growing faster than the gray wolf population is the number of obstructionist environmental groups and their lawyers. Environmental obstructionists found a federal judge in Missoula that was willing to ignore the scientific evidence as well as the expert opinions of on-the-ground wildlife managers here in Montana. And he ruled last August that the grey wolf had to remain on the Endangered Species List.

“When I first heard his decision, like many of you I wanted to take action immediately. I asked: how can we put some of these judicial activists on the Endangered Species List? I am still working on that! But in the meantime, I have introduced legislation that would permanently end federal jurisdiction over the gray wolf population – and return responsibility to the wildlife managers here in Montana.”

Now seriously: would you read his remarks to be a veiled threat to the life of the judge, or any judge? Could any reasonable, unbiased audience member with the wit to grasp a a knock-knock joke possibly mistake the meaning of the facetious “How can we put some of these judicial activists on the Endangered Species List? I am still working on that!”?

I mean, to believe something like that, you’d have to be capable of believing that Ko-Ko really is advocating that everyone on his “little list” in “The Mikado” should be beheaded!

And yet here is the Far Left blog “Think Progress”:

“Just one month after federal Judge John Roll was brutally murdered while waiting to speak with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Giffords’ Republican colleague Denny Rehberg used an address to the Montana state legislature to make a thinly-veiled threat against another federal judge.”

The reliably absurd uber-left Daily Kos followed suit…

It is out of the question that, especially in the light of the Tucson assassination of Judge Roll, these are completely inappropriate and dangerous comments. Congressman Rehberg should definitely apologize for his remarks.

And then that bastion of American journalism, that paragon of journalistic integrity that otherwise intelligent people keep claiming is not hopelessly biased despite all evidence to the contrary, The New York Times weighed in today with an editorial condemning Rehberg’s speech, entitled “Dangerous Threats.”

A Wall Street Journal columnist deftly dismantled the Times’ silly argument:

“…The Times’s treatment of the quote is even more misleading than ThinkProgress’s: The paper falsely asserts that Rehberg said he wanted to put a particular judge “on the endangered species list,” when Rehberg actually referred to “some of these judicial activists”–to a type, a metaphorical species, of judge. Now, one can criticize a joke on the ground that it is not funny, although the Times notes that “Representative Rehberg’s threat [sic] drew an eager laugh.” …One can also fault a joke as being in poor taste. Certainly most jokes about killing public officials fall into that category. But is that even an accurate description of Rehberg’s “endangered species list” jape?

Even the Times anticipates the obvious objection that the purpose of putting a species on the list is to protect it, not to endanger it further. The Times editorializes that Rehberg “did not mean that Judge Molloy should be protected and nurtured, which is the actual purpose of the species law.” It seems reasonable to assume that the Times is correct on this point: Rehberg meant to suggest it would be desirable if “judicial activists” dwindled in number.

“Endangered species” as a political metaphor did not originate with Rehberg…A New York Times editorial from March 2, 1981, was titled “Endangered Species in the White House.” No, Ronald Reagan did not bring a rhinoceros into the Oval Office. Rather, as the editorial explained, he was considering the abolition of an executive board: “The Council on Environmental Quality, a tiny but important unit that advises the White House, has been placed on the endangered species list.”

Expertly done, sir! And who is this rational, fair-minded conservative columnist who properly called the Times on its ridiculous inferences from the Congressman’s use of a venerable political metaphor that it had in fact used itself?

None other than James Taranto! Yes, the same Wall Street Journal columnist who led the effort to accuse the Missoula Community Theater of threatening Sarah Palin with beheading by including her name in “The Mikado” famous satirical song about people “who never would be missed”!

Perhaps Taranto didn’t notice that the judge whose ruling inspired Rehberg’s speech made it in Missoula. If he did notice, and it didn’t trigger an attack of abashed self-realization that he was attacking the New York Times for making exactly the same outrageous and unfair accusation against a conservative politician that he himself made against the imagined tormenters of another conservative politician—with both incidents arising from events in Missoula Montana—then his integrity is beyond redemption.

And I think it is.

Rep. Rehberg did nothing wrong, and Missoula Community Theater did nothing wrong, but both are the victims of deluded, hyper-partisan, biased, hypocritical and common-sense deprived critics, ranging from Right Wing fanatics (Ronbo) to Left Wing fanatics (The Daily Kos) to respected conservative commentators (Taranto) to respected liberal newspapers (The Times). Bias causes one to see the conduct of friends and allies as benign and the conduct of foes and adversaries as sinister, even when the conduct is exactly the same. Objectivity and fairness are essential to those who want to remain credible by subduing their biases, as those who are involved in political discourse are obligated to do.

And all of these people and media institutions, and probably many more, have proven themselves incapable of doing it, when equally tested by different events originating in Missoula, Montana.

Believe It or Not!

8 thoughts on “Ethics BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!! A NEW Missoula “List” Controversy, and It’s Just as Stupid as the FIRST One!

  1. I made a parody of the popular Internet show “Is It A Good Idea To Microwave This?” called “Is It A Good Idea To Freeze This?” in which two friends of mine and I pretend we’re about the stupidest people who ever picked up a camera and we attempt to copy the style of Microwave show without having any fundamental understanding of what made the show watchable and fun. It was more a statement about Internet series and how there is no qualification process to make a video on Youtube.

    I still get comments from people who say, “This is such a bad ripoff” or “You need to leave stuff in the freezer longer,” even though the last episode ends with us putting a paper airplane in the freezer and it inexplicably destroys the freezer. Some of them are probably kids who don’t get that we’re joking. It’s forgivable. (There is a video where I give up the ghost and admit it was all fake.)

    But with something like this… I keep thinking of that line Treebeard said when he saw down the cut-down forest for some reason: “A wizard should know better!”

    Parody and satire must still exist if for no other reason so that morons hiding in our society will reveal themselves when they take it seriously.

  2. As the examplar of “otherwise intelligent people” (thanks for that, by the way) who claim the Times “isn’t hopelessly biased,” I ask only that readers note that, in the blog piece you link, I describe the Times as “equal opportunity incompetent,” “lazy,” and “oftentimes more interested in the ‘sexy’ story than in the truth.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.

    And they’re wrong again here. Congressman Rehberg is guilty of telling a stale joke that wasn’t particularly funny the first time I heard it 30 years ago. Given recent events, it might also have been in slightly bad taste (an offense I commit with regularity, be it noted). But the Times‘s argument is, as you say, silly [and borderline incomprehensible, too].

    For the record, I blogged last April that Sarah Palin (whose politics I despise) was being treated unfairly in the whole gun-sight brouhaha. You can, as the great Casey Stengel would say, look it up.

    • I already had, Rick—and I confess that my ulterior motive for tweaking you in the post was to get some readers to your excellent blog. You are fair and perceptive: now why are those qualities more in evidence in the so-called alternative media than the Old Masters?

      • By percentage I bet they’re not, but we can pick and choose which new media we pay attention to. It’s easy to cross someone off our list and pop up another name. With a conglomerate, it’s much more difficult to separate the good from the bad.

  3. Nonetheless, Jack, just consider how many thousands of people who never knew of it before are now interested in seeing productions of The Mikado.

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