A few days ago, a conservative commenter who uses the handle "Carlito" got involved in a debate about abortion on the Liberal Avenger blog. He then contacted Patterico, on whose blog he is a regular poster (as "carlitos"), to say that one of his comments on Liberal Avenger, in this thread, was altered (by someone with admin privileges on the blog) to include this lurid passage:
Still, there are some valid and acceptable reasons to have abortions - reasons I think we can all agree with. For example, when my sister and I were in Junior high school we used to experiment sexually - you know, the usual stuff that horny, young brothers and sisters do: rimming, finger-fucking, dry humping, etc. We practically spent the entire summer between 7th and 8th grade in bed - it was great. Of course, by the end of the summer my sister was pregnant. Given our age and maturity levels, we knew she had to get an abortion. Fortunately at that time our state still recognized women’s health as an important social service and access to safe, inexpensive abortions was easy. To this day I wonder what our lives would have been like had my sister carried our baby to term.
After Patterico emailed Liberal Avenger to ask him about this, the comment disappeared completely. However, a screenshot of it was preserved, and Patterico posted it on his blog on February 13 at 6:51 a.m.
Liberal Avenger responded (February 13, 11:03 a.m.):
I don’t know what the big deal is. The comment appears to be gone. I never saw it. I have no reason to believe that it ever existed in the first place. Patterico’s screenshot is meaningless as by its very existence it had to have been manipulated by Photoshop. I’m not saying that he made it up, but I’m saying that in order for somebody to take a screenshot and crop/reduce it to post on their blog it has to be pulled into Photoshop or another image editing practice. Once that happens, the content of that image belongs to Patterico - not me. I’ve learned this through the course of reading countless shrill wingnut blog posts about image manipulation over the past year.
Further, Patterico edits peoples’ comments all of the time. Usually he adds his own comment italicized in brackets and signs them with a “-P,” but not every time. How do we know which comments have been “tuned” (as he likes to call it) on his site vs. which ones are “virgin?” The fact that he engages in that practice makes everything that appears on his site suspect.
Now I’m not saying that he edited the comment in question here. I’m merely pointing out the fact that:
1. Patterico is notorious for editing comments
2. Patterico manipulated an image of a screenshot of this thread
3. Patterico has a motive for doing this and stirring up trouble
Don’t believe everything you read, kids.
I’m closing this thread to commenting. Patterico - shame on you!
On Patterico's site, Liberal Avenger posted:
Yeah, I’m not too concerned about carlitos suing me because of something Patterico made up.A few hours later, Patterico posted a full screenshot of the altered comment (which he had previously cropped for size).
Liberal Avenger then admitted in Patterico's thread that he had personally altered Carlito's comment, and offered a charming defense:
carlito wasn’t interested in rational debate.
The comment in question as originally written by him was an elitist swipe at poor/minority women. It was yet another bogus collection of facts and innuendo to support the racist/classist opinion that most women seeking abortions use abortion as a casual means of birth control. His argument consisted of several variations on the old “the bitch had an abortion because she didn’t want pregnancy to interfere with her fabulous ski vacation” canard.
Actually, Carlito had posted information from this birth control website about women's reasons for having abortions. He also says that he actually made fun of the "ski trip" rationale. But let's say, for argument's sake, that Carlito's comment was a collection of putrid ideological clichés. Does that really make Liberal Avenger's "prank" okay? Would it be okay for, say, Jeff Goldstein to edit a comment by a poster spouting clichés about The Evil Patriarchy to include a lurid description of her secret fantasy of being dominated by a big, hairy, musclebound, hung-like-a-horse male chauvinist?
Even more charmingly, Liberal Avenger now claims (February 14, 5:37 a.m.) that he was just kidding when he said that the edited comment may never have existed:
It’s hilarious that they can’t tell when they’re being teased.
I can’t imagine that anybody here on this blog really believed that I was really accusing Patterico of editing that guy’s comment on this site - or that I was really accusing him of creating a dummy screenshot in Photoshop. They believed it all, however, which is even funnier than the idea that “carlitos” would have actually confessed to diddling his sister in the first place.
There are a bunch of wingnuts out there who’ve been taking themselves just a tiny, tiny bit too seriously of late.
Well, if there was any trace of humor in Avenger's "Patterico -- shame on you!" February 13 post, I certainly couldn't see it.
There's another, ghoulish twist to this story. In his follow-up post, Patterico revealed that the rewritten comment was especially disturbing to Carlito because his only sister died several years ago. Admittedly, Liberal Avenger was unaware of this fact when he altered Carlito's post. However, he is aware of it now, and he has yet to offer an apology. Instead, he and his left-wing friends continue to treat this as a big joke on his blog, and he continues to tell Patterico and his commenters to "stop taking yourselves so seriously."
Also in Patterico's comments thread is this contribution from "Alpha Factor":
You guys are so fucking pathetic. For years you’ve made paper-thin campaign rhetoric and smear-tactics your bread&butter. Where do I start…? Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Tom DeLay, the Swift Boat pukes, or the mere insinuation that there’s something wrong with being a West Coast Liberal a la Nancy Pelosi?
And now, when you’re on the receiving end… You start whining that it isn’t “rational.” Somehow, I don’t feel sorry for you. Liberals offer plenty of rational and reasoned sentiment. It’s just that since your positions are messed-up, the only way you can trade blows is by name-calling: ergo, your bread&butter.
This kind of "they started it!" kindergarten logic is fairly common on the left these days. (It can also be found on the right.) And, as this debacle makes clear, it can easily become a justification for atrocious behavior.
It's a shame, really, because I have encountered Liberal Avenger quite a few times on Eric Muller's Is That Legal blog and elsewhere -- he first came to my attention in debates over Michelle Malkin's odious book In Defense of Internment -- and have generally found him to be a reasonable and interesting commenter. I'm saddened and disappointed that he has both compromised his integrity -- first with the alteration of Carlito's comment, then with the attempted cover-up -- and played into the worst right-wing stereotypes of liberals as intolerant of conservative dissent. With avengers like these, liberals don't need enemies.
Liberal Avenger's "prank" is not only juvenile, unethical, and offensive; it is also dangerous to blog discourse. If people know that a blog administrator can tamper with comments at will, it could have a truly chilling effect on speech in the blogosphere. Any blogger, liberal or conservative, should take this very seriously indeed.
Shorter version cross-posted at Hit & Run.