The Fringe Festival

A group of conservative bloggers – not to mention folks like Sean Hannity – are upset over some nasty comments that were posted in the comments section of the liberal Huffington Post Web site in the wake of the bombing near Vice President Cheney. A number of commenters expressed their disappointment that Cheney hadn't been killed.

The dustup sheds a light on an unfortunate habit of partisans on both sides, who love to publicize nasty rhetoric in order to illustrate the wrong-headedness of their ideological opponents. You might call it the Ward Churchill strategy. Churchill, as you may know, is a (once) obscure professor who wrote a ridiculous essay comparing the victims of the September 11th attacks to Nazis. As I noted in CJR Daily in 2005, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly decided that the Churchill affair was a huge story – he covered it an astounding 25 times in a four-month period.

Churchill is the kind of guy who makes liberals look like wackos – just like the commenters who expressed sadness when the vice president wasn't killed. There is a reason partisans might want to think twice before employing the Ward Churchill strategy, however – a reason aside from the inherent intellectual dishonesty of shining a light on unimportant figures in order to push an agenda. There are Ward Churchills on both sides, after all, as a visit to the comments section of a site like Free Republic quickly reveals. And I'm not sure how getting into a your-freaks-are-worse-then-ours tit-for-tat benefits anyone in the long run.