I swear I woke up this morning and it was 2006. Like groundhog day. I find Joe Hallett misrepresenting blogs and (after having admitted reading them) belittling them in a way that left his own credibility in the matter wanting. I also find Brian Rothenberg stepping into the blogosphere and getting his ass handed to him.

Let’s take them one at a time. Joe first.

[This will be long, so click through for the full piece]

The title of your latest opinion piece is irresponsible. I could link to it, but since you see fit not to return the favor I’ll not bother. Not at all fitting a serious journalist. “Anonymity of Internet encourages people to spread venom, vulgarity” seems to only refer to a passing thought at the end of your piece about comments on your own website from anonymous people related to the death of Ted Kennedy. However, your entire piece is about “a few bloggers” (actually two), only one of which does that which you appear to deem vulgar. The problem is, he’s not anonymous. His name is Tim Russo and you even mention him in your article.

Hallett’s entire piece is utter bullshit. Complete and total fantastical spin. You’d almost think he either didn’t write it himself or he is so hopelessly ill-informed as to be an irresponsible journalist.

It is one thing, I cautioned, to have the most intimate details of your life publicly exposed in a little-read blog and quite another for them to appear in a newspaper that circulates to more than 300,000 homes on Sunday.

So little read, in fact, that if you believe how this article supposedly went down Joe himself reads the blogs so closely as to have noticed someone mentioned Brian Rothenberg is gay and then Joe called Brian to ask if he could write about that. I love the circulation number thrown in there. Little read blog. 300,000 on Sunday! As if all 300,000 read Joe’s column. Earth to Joe: They want the sports scores and need a crossword puzzle for the shitter, bro. It ain’t you, babe. Joe doesn’t tell you that in 2008 that number was 330,000. In 2006 it was 350,000. In 2004 it was 370,000. See the trend here?

Just say the word and you can find something else for your column? Wow. There’s journalistic integrity for you. I wonder how many are on Joe’s “just say the word” and I won’t write about it list? I know Tim Russo wasn’t on Mark Naymik’s list or the Plain Dealer’s. Funny how Joe didn’t have a comment about them getting very personal – and in a manner totally unrelated to any story they were writing – with Tim. So much so they completely silenced him for some time until he regrouped. Where was the outrage then Joe? You didn’t have any. So please save us the holier than thou bloviating now, buddy.

The difference between then and now is there was absolutely no reason to include such information other than to embarrass and (successfully) silence a voice speaking out against a candidate and his wife who was a Plain Dealer employee. In this case, the sexual orientation of a person has direct and pertinent impact on a story. It has real meaning and is the furthest thing from venom. Your selective outrage belies the nature of your article and your bias. It also proves false this notion that real journalists engage in fair discourse while bloggers are vile and vulgar. It wasn’t the anonymity of the Internet that caused a personal attack in June of 2006, it was your beloved journalistic integrity.

Maybe you should take a look at yourself and your profession a bit more critically when you ask where decency has escaped to in our country.

Now Brian.

I have to freely admit that my friendship with both Tim Russo and Brian Rothenberg is a lesson in Middle East diplomacy. It’s a bitch. There is a deep seated dislike that only grows with every interaction it seems. I’ve given up long ago on brokering any kind of d?tente.

Brian has this habit of and history of stepping into the blogosphere and completely missing the boat. I think it’s a form of media that the admitted media pro does not yet have mastered. It’s a different animal and one that he’s none too comfortable taming. It requires a completely different skill-set than the one used to manipulate the traditional media as clearly shown in this Hallett v. Bloggers case. Rule number one in handling the blogosphere? You can’t bullshit some bullshitters. In case you are wondering, it really is rule number one:

1. No BS. Save your slick PR and spin for the masses. Those of us engaged and online typically know a bit more about current events than the average Jane. Not all of us, but most. I suggest you stick to the straight talk and cut the shit early and often.

Brian and I met as a result of one of these episodes. The big Obama dinner dustup of 2006. Whatever you think of it, it’s pretty clear it could have been handled better and in a way that would lead to a better relationship between party and blog.

That same type of attitude appears to have permeated the atmosphere at Progress Ohio of late. I don’t pretend to be responsible for any of the growth and successes of the current organization. Brian and his team get all the credit and I know for a fact – despite the constant chatter in the ‘sphere – that they work their tails off. I did, however, help launch the thing and when we did we had a great relationship with the blogosphere. I really can only chalk this up to the fact that I was by then pretty ingrained, known, and somewhat well respected among left leaning bloggers in the state. In fact, I think that was a reason in the beginning to combine me with Rothenberg (an unlikely match at the time mind you) to launch PO.

Now it seems there is an outright disdain between bloggers and PO that is perpetuated by things like this. The atmosphere is not good for either side, in my opinion. I have specific suggestions here and have communicated my willingness to share them.

What I find funny now is that neither Brian nor Joe want to talk about the real issue here. The Jennifer Garrison ordeal and why on earth Brian would want to take the risk of appearing to provide cover for her. I think the gay issue is classic diversion and smells of the BS mentioned in rule number one above.

I knew Brian was gay from very early on working with him at PO. He never hid it. I was invited to his house and my family met he and his partner. It was, obviously, not an issue. I never heard Brian try to hide it either. If he was asked he’d be truthful. Mostly he would laugh it off as he tends to do with most things that might cause him some discomfort.

Would I have chosen to write about the Garrison story including the fact that Brian is gay? Probably not. Even though I think it relevant, I probably would choose not to publicly given our friendship. I did, however, call him and ask WTF about the whole deal. I got an answer. I accepted it as given.

My thoughts on the matter, however, are like many things I’ve seen Brian and PO do in recent years since my leaving. I shake my head and wonder why.

Why not come out harder against Marc Dann as a progressive organization when there was clear reason to do so and even after there was plenty of political cover as well. I took it up with Brian. Got an answer. Accepted it as such. Still was left shaking my head.

Why get your organization within ten foot pole’s length of Leo Jennings?

Why now appear to be giving cover to someone who is clearly not a progressive and has even used your sexual orientation as a blunt political instrument to get into office?

That’s the real question here. There was no “outing”, Hallett’s own column and Brian’s post confirm this. Yet that is really what they both want to focus on. Tim’s supposed vulgar and vitriolic “outing”. Brian had to know that this was not going to go over well among left leaning bloggers. He HAD to know he was walking into a shitstorm. There had to be some compelling reason for him to weather it. He also was probably somewhat certain given the context that someone may just begin talking about what he didn’t hide in political circles – his sexuality.

To think that a gay executive director of one of the biggest progressive organizations in the state could interview a known gay-baiting conservative Democrat, put his arm around her, welcome her into an office which normally fights tooth and nail against her kind, film it, put it online, and everyone would rally around her support of a bill that will never get past the Senate? This would be seen as a cause for celebration of Garrison “moving on gay rights” and not a cynical attempt to provide her cover for past gay-baiting discretions? There is a political tone deafness that is worrisome to me in all this.

It’s utter nonsense. I can’t imagine for a second that someone in that office didn’t advise against it. He would have had to drag me yelling and screaming to this one if I were there I can guaranteed you. It just doesn’t make any sense. Bloggers tend to sniff out things that don’t make any sense and they stay on it until the last bit of flesh is gnawed off that senseless bone.

Everyone involved in this story are no political rookies. You can’t look at the Garrison situation and not recognize political cover in a primary when you see it. For Brian not to recognize this basic fact and step once again into the fire of the liberal blogosphere is not surprising to me, really, given the history as I’ve outlined. The only question I’m left asking – once again – is why?

PS – To then write a blog post explaining the Hallett piece and include the photo of you with your arm around Jennifer? LOL. That’s just ASKING for a fight! It has a “nyah, nyah, fuck you guys I’ll do what I want” feel to it.