Lying or stupid? And does it really matter?

Yesterday, I linked to a NYT article that quoted Mayor Finch talking about his experiences running a blog. I thought it was about Quote of the Day speed, but it bothered me enough that I felt it was necessary to flesh it out a little bit. Here is the quote from the Times:

Bill Finch, the mayor of Bridgeport, Conn., said he was amazed at what people will say online. As a state senator, he had a Web site and was forced to shut down its blog because the discussions turned nasty, he said.

“I don’t know if there are a lot of mental issues out there, but there are a lot of angry people who don’t know how to behave themselves,” Mr. Finch said.

The operative part of that statement is apparently “he said.” Because I’m pretty well amazed at what people will say online (and to the New York Times) as well.

A brief recap: The controversy started in July 2006 when CTBlogger quoted then-Senator Finch’s office:

Received this from Bill Finch’s office:

Sen. Finch supports Joe Lieberman, believing that he is in lockstep with the democratic platform and the DLC 90% of the time, and that the 10% where Lieberman breaks from his party is on personal principle.

In fairness, the post was accompanied by an ethically unflattering picture of Senator Finch with felonious bribe taker Ernie Newton and admitted in-office cocaine user, questionable character witness, and general stand-up guy, Former Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi. In even more fairness, the picture was taken directly from Senator Finch’s website.

Senator Finch then digitally attacked CTBlogger:

While I believe that the internet is an amazing tool, I must admit it has it’s drawbacks. Recently, someone contacted my office to make an inquiry into a particular position of mine in one of the upcoming primaries. When my aide responded in a timely fashion, accurately stating my position, he was quoted on a blog as me.

It is this type of deceptive, irresponsible use of the internet that will prevent bloggers from being taken seriously when it comes to getting information out to the media.

See if you can spot the part of that statement that isn’t accurate… How about the main thrust? Senator Finch’s aide was not actually quoted as Senator Finch, but, accurately, as Senator Finch’s office.

CTBlogger responded, rightfully calling out Senator Finch for his … inaccuracy. He also sent his readers over to Senator Finch’s site to register their displeasure with the admonishment, “Please be polite when making your point.”

Senator Finch responded, in a way, by plunging his website down the memory hole.

I’m sure some of the comments he got on it were mean. I’m equally sure that the reason for the meanness was his, wholly baseless, claim that “this type of deceptive, irresponsible use of the internet that will prevent bloggers from being taken seriously.”

I’m more sure that the majority of the comments he got were more like this one, that survived the purge on MLN:

CTBlogger CLEARLY stated that the quote was from your office, not you directly, and he gave an exact, word-for-word quote from your staffer.

You have called CTBlogger deceptive and irresponsible. You owe him an apology.

If you have a problem with your staffers answering your email, you should take it up with your staffer.

CTBlogger made it very clear that your staffer provided the answer and quoted him/her accurately. You also admit that the answer is an accurate reflection of your positions. What is the problem?

I see nothing deceptive here. And it seems to me that what is “irresponsible” is your characterization of CTBlogger as deceptive.

It’s difficult not to conclude that what really bothered you was that CTBlogger included a picture of you with two politicians associated with scandals. However, that photo came directly from your own web site. If you don’t like it, you should take it down.

However, if your problem is really with what CTBlogger wrote, I’d urge you to re-read his post again and then offer him an apology. CTBlogger is scrupulously accurate, and it is clear that it is you who is being irresponsible here.

Its now pretty clear that Mayor Finch hasn’t let it go and is now retroactively diagnosing people offended by his duplicity as mentally ill (and yes, it would have been nice if the NYT had spent one second fact-checking this story before printing that quote. Maybe they were too busy painting a picture of the internet full of cheetos-eating freaks blogging from their parents’ basements. Ironically enough, I’m in my own basement as I write this, but fully dressed. In normal clothes).

He either doesn’t understand what happened or is still being dishonest about it two and a half years later.

Either way, its this type of deceptive, irresponsible use of the Internet/the New York Times/the English language that prevent politicians from being taken seriously.

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5 responses to “Lying or stupid? And does it really matter?

  1. Gabe & GC… well done both! What I don’t understand is why candor is so hard to come by?

    Also Gabe… in case you missed it… Moody’s has been largely discredited.

  2. AndersonScooper

    Gabe, I can’t believe you are taking the honorable Bill Finch to task.

    Do you get off on holding public officials accountable?

    Me, personally, I make it a habit of never, ever getting angry. No matter how much they lie, and even when they sell us voters out — usually in favor of raw cronyism.

  3. AndersonScooper

    Maybe Bill Finch never recovered from this:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/7/5/135416/7685

    When Markos Moulitsas called him a moron…

  4. AndersonScooper

    For the record, I say prayers for Bill Finch and the City of Bridgeport.

    Let Mayor Finch find his real soul, allow him a ten year run, and I’m not sure he doesn’t turn out to be a great mayor for the Park City….

    And I hope someday he returns to blogging.

  5. And I hope someday he returns to blogging.

    What’s ironic is that Finch was definitely one of the first state legislators to make an effort at embracing the net and the opportunities that came with it. I have no doubt that Finch was simply frustrated with watching so much of Lamont’s support spring up from blogs and shift the Democratic Party in a direction he wasn’t crazy about. As a fellow Liebercrat, I certainly was upset with the netroots at times during 2006.

    If I was advising Bill, I would tell him that he ought to apologize and do his best to return to the optimistic guy who recognized the power of the Internet and did everything to embrace it. He’d be a better Mayor for it… and if he hadn’t had this little feud with the blogs, there’s no way his 2007 race against an incompetent blowhard would’ve even been close.

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