Drew Johnson's Troubling Attempt to Silence Criticism

CaptainSwing Jul 13th, 2012 287 Never
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  3. Lamar Alexander’s Troubling Attempt to Silence Criticism
  4. Thursday, July 12th, 2012
  6. On Monday, the editorial page that I run at the Chattanooga Times Free Press printed an editorial that criticized Sen. Lamar Alexander’s recent vote to uphold MACT – Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The MACT regulation will do little to help the environment, but it will cause electricity prices and, therefore, the prices of most other goods and services to rise substantially.
  8. After his vote against overturning the looming MACT regulation, the Environmental Defense Fund rewarded him with $200,000 in TV ads thanking him for siding with environmentalists. The editorial pointed out that his vote, while lauded by a DC environmental outfit, was unpopular here in Tennessee.
  10. In response to the editorial, Alexander lashed out in a whiny, petulant letter to the paper that demanded the criticism of him be retracted. He even went as far as to say that if business leaders saw this type criticism of elected officials in the paper, they might not do business in Chattanooga.
  12. Alexander is a career politician and bureaucrat. He has served as Senator, Governor, Secretary of Education and the President of the University of Tennessee. Almost every dime he’s ever earned has come at the expense of taxpayers. He is the most public of public figures – a former presidential candidate who is one of the 20 or so most prominent politicians in the United States today. Still, he is so offended by criticism that he wants to silence the media for daring to question him.
  14. I responded to his letter with an editorial that outlines my concerns about his letter and, more importantly, his entitled, browbeating reaction to being criticized.
  16. Whether you agree with his vote about MACT, I hope you’ll agree that his desire to bully and, ultimately, silence critics is outrageous.
  18. -Drew Johnson
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  23. This entry was posted on Thursday, July 12th, 2012 at 8:49 am by Drew Johnson and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
  26. 22 Responses to “Lamar Alexander’s Troubling Attempt to Silence Criticism”
  28.     #1 |  Jack |  July 12th, 2012 at 9:09 am
  30.     By “troubling attempt to silence criticism” I foolishly assumed that you might point us to something troubling he had actually done to silence critics. Turns out he wrote a letter to the editor and used rather typical political language. This is similar to, though not as flagrant as, your gross mistatements of the facts contained in a link form one of your first posts, about Appalachian/Mountain region public service worker incentives to notify the local population about their public assistance program eligiblity (“forced” to abandon their mountain pride or some such nonsense). There are reasonable arguments to be made and examples to give of bad environmental policy, chilling effects towards public discourse, and unintended consequences of social policy, but you don’t make them, preferring instead to create strawmen and distortions that only serve to make you less credible.
  33.     #2 |  noseeum |  July 12th, 2012 at 9:16 am
  35.     Huh? As far as I can tell, the only thing Alexander is asking retracted is the direct accusation that his vote was traded for $200,000. If this accusation were true he could go to jail. I can understand him being blunt and demanding in the face of such an accusation.
  37.     The rest of his response explains why he feels his vote was the right one, and then he ends with a snarky Volkswagen comment that for some reason ruffles your feathers so much that you accuse him of attempting to “silence the media.”
  39.     So you accuse a politician of a crime, he demands a retraction and publishes a fairly lengthy defense of position. Oh yeah, he publishes this, IN YOUR PAPER!
  41.     “I know how I can shut that paper up. I’ll send them a letter that they can publish which will automatically solicit an impassioned reply in the same newspaper! Then, they can parade this controversy on blogs that will generate clicks to three separate articles in their paper from people all over the country! That will show them!”
  43.     Has he asked for a boycott? Did he ignore you and publish somewhere else? Gimme a break.
  46.     #3 |  David |  July 12th, 2012 at 10:11 am
  48.     Wait, I thought we liked it when groups are allowed to spend money to support their positions in an election cycle.
  51.     #4 |  Randy |  July 12th, 2012 at 10:15 am
  53.     I don’t see where Sen. Alexander is attempting to silence criticism. I see him answering your editorial and making the case as to why he voted the way he did.
  55.     The Senator called you out. He asked for your evidence that his vote was bought. Unless you have any, you might have to retract you statement with regards to the ads. Sorry.
  57.     That doesn’t mean that you are wrong about the MACT standards, I don’t know one way or the other. You should have stayed with merits of that argument and excluded the notion that he voted the way he did for positive publicity from some enviros.
  60.     #5 |  delurking |  July 12th, 2012 at 10:24 am
  62.     The only thing Senator Alexander asked you to retract was your accusation that he traded his vote for the advertisements. You may claim that you didn’t intend to accuse him of coordinating the ad campaign before the vote, but you clearly did accuse him of that.
  65.     #6 |  JohnCMulligan |  July 12th, 2012 at 10:28 am
  67.     This is some seriously weak sauce.
  69.     1. You accused him of trading his vote for an ad buy. He complained that this was libelous, quoted the offending phrase. You responded by simply denying you had ever implied any such thing. (I hope he sues you, since you won’t own up.)
  71.     2. You complained that the bill was a job-killer, he smacked you down by pointing to a new VW plant and suggesting that you were the one making your district look anti-business. You freaked out, because you didn’t like the rhetorical box he’d put you in. I’m not saying he won that fight fairly, but he did win it.
  73.     3. The exchange had competing numbers on clean air data. A mindful editorial response would have cited academic studies, official statistics, rather than just adding to the confusion. FWIW Wikipedia has a 50-50 split between natural and anthropogenic sources for mercury (not the 99.5-0.5 split you claim).
  75.     4. Put a name on your editorials. Who wrote the first one? Maybe Drew? And the second one? Drew, Drew, and Drew, with Drew editing?
  77.     I know this site likes to rub shoulders with libertarians, but please try to avoid publishing their male-hysterical outbursts? I just wasted half my morning on and because this joker couldn’t take legitimate criticism.
  80.     #7 |  JohnCMulligan |  July 12th, 2012 at 10:30 am
  82.     Also, I’d like to see a response to David’s point.
  85.     #8 |  delurking |  July 12th, 2012 at 10:34 am
  87.     Oh, and as to:
  88.     “Still, this page was saddened and disappointed to receive the letter — printed elsewhere on this page — that you authored in an attempt to silence criticism of you.”
  90.     It was not an attempt to silence criticism. I recommend you read these, written by your co-guest-bloggers:
  97.     #9 |  La Rana |  July 12th, 2012 at 10:38 am
  99.     Wow, super fail. Petulant, dishonest, AND got completely handled by Lamar Alexander. Sorry to see Radley sullied by association with this hack.
  102.     #10 |  derfel cadarn |  July 12th, 2012 at 11:34 am
  104.     For this act alone the good folks in Tennessee should vote him out of office. He has evidently forgotten who he is employed by and what his responsibilities really are. Asa for the ad campaign it certainly gives the appearance of quid quo pro. When elected officials can no longer be criticized or held responsible by there constituents it has become time to look to our founding documents, another tally in the column of long chain of abuses.
  107.     #11 |  Felix |  July 12th, 2012 at 11:41 am
  109.     A lot of comments here that the senator was within his rights and did not try to silence the paper.
  111.     Au contraire! Politicians know very well how powerful their opinions are, and while he may have had one legitimate complaint, he should have restricted his letter to that alone. To drone on and on liek that can only be attributed to intimidation,
  113.     What’s that saying? With great power comes great responsibility? Any ethical politician (if there is such a beast) would go out of his way to avoid that kind of blather for precisely the reason that it would be seen as intimidation.
  116.     #12 |  Ranger Jay |  July 12th, 2012 at 11:44 am
  118.     It doesn’t appear to me that he was trying to “silence” critics. You need to grow some thicker skin.
  120.     Also, I want the air I breathe to contain as few pollutants as possible, and I fully support the EPA and the Clean Air Act in this regard. I don’t give a crap about what it costs industry. And your comment about “importing more oil” is just stupid, as practically all impact from this MACT thing will hit coal-fired power plants. Coal is nasty, for everybody.
  122.     I have come to the conclusion, after reading your articles (especially your “mountain pride” slosh), that you are full of shit.
  125.     #13 |  tonylurker |  July 12th, 2012 at 11:56 am
  127.     Wow, what a terrible post. Having read both the editorial and Alexander’s response, I’m going to have to come down firmly on the side of Alexander. Your accusation of censorship is, quite frankly, absurd in the context of these articles. If you could provide some evidence of an actual attempt to intimidate your paper into retracting the statement, please show it, otherwise cut out the pathetic overreaction. It’s an insult to those who are being unjustly censored.
  129.     I come to this site daily to read about real events, not imagined slights.
  132.     #14 |  el coronado |  July 12th, 2012 at 11:56 am
  134.     I don’t often agree with La Rana, much less 100% of the first 6 comments on ANY post, but she (& they) are right on here. Alexander objected to being called a vote-selling crook, and he did it the same way Joe Sixpack would have done it: via a letter to the editor. Characterizing that as a “troubling attempt to silence criticism” is dishonest sophistry at best, and partisan horseshit at worst.
  136.     If you wanted to point out a congresscritter who made an ass of himself over a media issue, why didn’t you shine the spotlight on John Dingell? Back on 27 June, Yahoo news reported him whining to Dish Network execs that their ‘Hopper’ TIVO system was ‘allowing people to skip over politicians ads”. (!!) “The Hopper potentially limits the ability of every member of this subcommittee to reach constituents and help” (LOL) “them make up their minds on election day”, the 30-term (!!!) congressional parasite sniveled. Now right off the top of my head, I can come up with all kinds of reason to call out Dingell for the ass he is. Required TV viewing; TV usage monitor police armed with MP-5's; telescreens….
  138.     But instead, you attack Alexander for merely defending himself against unfounded accusations of graft. Odd…..SEEMS like a double standard…..might each man’s party affiliation have something to do with this? As the lady pointed out, it’s a pity to see Balko associated with this stooge’s hackery.
  141.     #15 |  William Quinn |  July 12th, 2012 at 11:58 am
  143.     Drew,
  145.     As with the other commenters, I have to say I see nothing remarkable about the senator’s reaction. I don’t see police coming to shut down your newspaper, for example. I personally applaud the senator’s position and urge you to reconsider your own, please see:
  149.     The American Lung Association continues its history of supporting public health, and those who try to belittle its position look suspiciously like tobacco company lobbyists to me. The MACT is long overdue.
  152.     #16 |  Mike T |  July 12th, 2012 at 12:31 pm
  154.     Posts like this are why civil libertarians are frequently ignored by “mainstream Americans.” No ordinary American would read Alexander’s letter and think he was even insinuating reprisal. If anything, it would come off as downright reasonable because rather than get threatening (except on a point where a jury might find he had a defamation claim against the paper!) he responded with a point-by-point harsh rebuttal. Calling him censorious for that just comes off as insane and anti-government for the sake of being anti-government.
  157.     #17 |  Jim |  July 12th, 2012 at 12:32 pm
  159.     “I hope you’ll agree that his desire to bully and, ultimately, silence critics is outrageous.”
  161.     Like you did a couple days ago to Jenny McCarthy? Buzz off.
  164.     #18 |  EH |  July 12th, 2012 at 12:44 pm
  166.     Lotsa new names in the comment section today, but I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
  169.     #19 |  Lefty |  July 12th, 2012 at 12:50 pm
  171.     At first I was like “good for you”. It’s easy to see politicians as heavy handed entitled douchebags. But after reading his letter I’ve got to side with him on this one. He was accused of a felony. He asked for proof or a retraction then offered a point by point rebuttal. That’s not censorship.
  173.     On the Jenny McCarthy thing. I think she’s ethically, if not legally, to blame.
  176.     #20 |  Andrew S. |  July 12th, 2012 at 1:12 pm
  178.     Odd one, isn’t it, EH?
  180.     I’m not sure this was an attempt to “silence”. But the last part is quite typical of why I hate politicians: The “how dare you criticise your betters?” attitide that seems to pervade their responses to the slightest bit of criticism.
  183.     #21 |  C. S. P. Schofield |  July 12th, 2012 at 2:10 pm
  185.     The way I see it, either Alexander seriously expects the paper to be cowed by his displeasure, or he is a sniveling strip-assed poltroon who needs to take his thin skin into a career less open to criticism. Crack pusher or pimp come to mind, and would both be an ethical improvement.
  188.     #22 |  PBO |  July 12th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
  190.     “The website Jenny McCarthy Body Count continues to do outstanding work tracking the lives damaged and lost due to McCarthy’s continuous spewing of unscientific bullshit.
  192.     . . . And please, take the advice of doctors rather than the advice of a nude model when it comes to the health of your children.”
  194.     Mr. Johnson, you wrote those words two days ago, and today you write a post claiming that an elected officials “desire to bully, and, ultimately, silence critics is outrageous.”
  196.     So I just want to make sure I have things straight. Jenny McCarthy is a critic of “mainstream scientific thought” and in response to her criticism, you wrote that “I thought now was a good time to remind people that she is responsible for the death of hundreds of children as a result of her scientifically bogus anti-vaccination rhetoric.” You actually argued that her speech is responsible for dead children.
  198.     So maybe it is just me, but accusing a critic of murder is about the most extreme way one can go about bullying and silencing said critic. You see where I am going here?
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