Friday, April 14, 2006

Liz Garrigan Is Full of Crap

I've had some time to think about a particular aspect of the Bill Hobbs story and the following occurred to me.

In the previous post, I blogged about the political ambush of blogger Bill Hobbs by a Democratic operative, Mike Kopp and his accomplice (or dupe), Nashville Scene writer John Spragens, who is shortly leaving the paper to take a job with a Democratic politician.

The editor of the Nashville Scene, Liz Garrigan, wrote a statement about the situation in which she claimed:
I would say first -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- that we didn't set out to hurt Hobbs professionally ....
Sorry, but I call bullshit on this statement. Garrigan is lying.

Thrice in his story, Spragens mentions Hobbs now former employer, Belmont University:
... [Hobbs] recently set up a successful group blog in support of Republican gubernatorial lamb-for-slaughter Jim Bryson and keeps a day job in the public relations department at Belmont University. Bryson and Belmont, it should be noted, are both faith-based institutions ....

[Kopp} then rhetorically challenged Bryson and Belmont to defend their affiliation with Hobbs ....

For starters, Hobbs has the right to free speech, and Kopp has the right to hold him accountable for that speech. (For that matter, so do Belmont, Bryson and the Nashville Scene.)
Why was Hobbs' employer even mentioned unless the intent was to create a connection between them? Spragens worked hard to whip up a froth of righteous Christian offense in his piece. To what end but to get people to react.

By mentioning Hobbs' employer in the deliberately inciting piece, Spragens should have known, as a trained journalist with a trained editor going over his piece, that he would cause at least some people to call the University to complain, thereby bringing the matter to their attention and forcing some action on their part. It's happened too many times in too many other contexts for a person like Spragens not to have known he would cause the same thing to happen here!

I will not accept that neither Spragens, Garrigan nor the editor responsible for vetting Spragens' column didn't at least foresee -- if not in fact expect -- Belmont to become aware of their piece.

There is also the matter of bringing in Belmont (three times, remember) and wondering what their reaction might be to Hobbs' post but not contacting them to find out. As I just said, anyone would reasonably expect Belmont to find out, and Spragens sure wanted to know ("... rhetorically challenged ... Belmont to defend their affiliation with Hobbs ...") what they might think as a "faith-based institution."

So, why didn't he exercise his journalistic duty and call them? There was clearly some line he saw here that he was uncomfortable (or afraid?) to cross. Or, knowing he was leading readers to this precipice, did he stop short fully expecting some reader to take another extra step or two for him?

The "story" (ie. Kopp's blog post that Spragens liberally borrowed from) had been out for a week already. It wasn't a secret, especially having been picked up by the high-profile blog Nashville is Talking immediately after being posted. Hobbs was certainly already aware of it, having responded on Kopp's blog. There was no "fatal surprise" to beware against. It was all out there. Why did Spragens hold back at that step?

Why did he feel the need to mention Belmont, but not Hobbs's home church, which Hobbs has mentioned in his blog before? Certainly, Hobbs' church would have been more germane to the point Spragens wants you to think he was making. But no, the point Spragens wanted to make was to draw a line between Hobbs and Belmont, hoping someone would do the dirty deed for him and complete the killing blow.

In comments following her statement post, Garrigan adds:
... Hobbs' employment should hinge only on his performance at the university -- and not on speech he made on his own time.
If that is true, then why even mention his employer? They could have just as easily said "Hobbs works in the PR department of a local university." But no, Spragens made the connection with the intent of provoking Belmont into having to respond.

Nor am I at all persuaded by the Scene's claims of innocent bystander reporter. The piece was larded with pointed description and inflammatory imagery. ("... Jesus sipping lemonade on the front porch while whipping an anguished bunch of black servants. 'Jesus Slays' ...") They want you to believe it's nothing to do with them, they just reported on it! As though the writing, printing and publishing of the story aren't acts themselves, the culmination of a long series of choices and decisions.

The Scene knew what it was doing and what would happen at every step. Garrigan's statement is ass-covering and misdirection, plain and simple.

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