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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

American Papist Responds to Kmiec's Complaining About Calumnies

I wonder if Professor Doug Kmiec read the Fr. Orsi article, "Calumny in the blogosphere." Kmiec, a self-proclaimed pro-life Catholic, was the biggest advocate this past election of the proposition that "a vote for Obama is a pro-life vote in line with Catholic teaching." Of course, Kmiec was challenged on this position by dozens of conservative and pro-life bloggers, who pointed out the fact that Obama had a 100% abortion rating by NARAL, promised to sign FOCA as his first act as President, opposed the Illinois infanticide bill, and, in sum, was the most pro-abortion presidential candidate in America's history.

Apparently, these criticisms really hurt Kmiec's feelings, because Kmiec has written a long article complaining about the "right-wing Catholic blogosphere" and all the "personal attacks," the "venom," the "ad hominem invective," the "odium," the "propanganda," the "vituperation", and the "hate-filled" and "hateful" "calumnies" he suffered. (Did Kmiec miss any other adjectives?)

In response, American Papist has posted a well-written open letter which devastates Kmiec's position. Here is an excerpt:
Because Kmiec also lumps-in conservative Catholic bloggers in his accusations, and I am myself a conservative Catholic blogger with a sizable readership, I am issuing a public correction in response to his article. I have mentioned Kmiec by name in almost one-hundred blog posts during the election cycle so am well-informed about the situation, which is in dire need of a reality check after Kmiec's misleading narration.

At the outset, Kmiec makes no distinction between the reasonable criticisms his arguments have received from the shrill hip-shots that also make their way into the blogosphere. Hyperbolic fluff has always been part of the background noise of the blogosphere, but to equate that with the excellent Catholic journalism represented in many blogs is the worst sort of overgeneralizing. It is like complaining that "the press" is persecuting you, and then proceeding to quote exclusively from the National Enquirer gossip pages.

So who exactly are these "right-wing Catholic bloggers"? Is Kmiec referring to popular bloggers such as Amy Welborn, Jeff Miller, Steven Gredanus, Mark Shea, Carl Olson, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, myself (all of whom have blogged about Kmiec)? Together these figures represent a heavy proportion of the Catholic blogosphere’s readership, and yet, having read practically every post they have written on Kmiec, I'm hard pressed to think of a single example of rank uncharity in them. Indeed, I doubt a single one of Kmiec's infamous quotations will be found on their published pages.

What does that leave? Comment boxes and smaller blogs. Now make no mistake, I’m not denigrating smaller blogs – there are real gems out there and I read many of them. Neither am I defending the uncharitable comments that have doubtlessly been made. But what Kmiec has in essence done is to complain about any instance of uncharity in the blogosphere. Considering how easy it is to publish a blog, it is almost like criticizing free speech. Kmiec is asking that we shut down (or criticize heavily) an open room of vocal Catholics because of a few hecklers.

Kmiec's choice to only call out the hecklers has allowed him to avoid other legitimate, constructive criticisms of his position. Here he has perfected the art of misdirection by turning the debate away from the issues onto the personal hurt he feels he has received.
American Papist's point is readily applied to the Ave Maria/Monaghan debate that happens regularly here on Fumare. Fumare is an anonymous blog with anonymous commenters, and anonymity often leads to hecklers and to comments that cross the line of propriety. (In the past, I've been critical of these improper posts and comments.) But too often, Monaghan supporters do what Kmiec is doing: calling out the hecklers and dismissing all blogs as "calumnious" in order to avoid the legitimate and reasonable criticisms of Monaghan and his Ave Maria ventures.