Balko Gets the MrBongo Treatment

There’s an amusing but annoying phenomenon whenever a blogger or journalist gets a reputation for reporting on certain issues. If one comes up and they don’t comment on it, their critics say “A ha! You didn’t cover story X, and that means (fill in the blank).” Balko is getting it right now for not writing about the Trayvon Martin case yet.

I’ve received quite a few emails, Tweets, and comments asking why I haven’t yet written on the Trayvon Martin case. These have ranged from polite inquiries as to what I think about the case, to not-so-subtle implications about what my “conspicuous silence” says about me, to demands that I drop everything and investigate, to a weird rush of emails a couple days ago screaming (as much as an email can scream) that I haven’t covered the case because Martin is black and I only care about the civil liberties of white people. Given the narrow time window in which that last batch of emails arrived, I’m fairly sure they all came from the same blog post or discussion board, though I wasn’t able (and didn’t put up much of an effort) to track down the source.

All of this rings similar to the accusations I started getting from people who didn’t think I was sufficiently angry about and/or devoted to covering the police abuses at the Occupy protests. The implication was that I simply don’t care when lefists get beaten by police. Which, if you’ll look through my archive, is just as absurd as suggesting I only care about white people.

It’s the same “argument” that my idiot troll mrbongo uses here routinely — “OMG, you didn’t write about (insert Muslim atrocity, usually in another country), which proves that you just don’t care about Muslim barbarism and just want to bash Christians.” But as with Balko, even a cursory glance at my writings over the years shows how moronic that claim is. And Balko explains why he hasn’t written about Martin yet:

(1) I’m working on a number of other projects that I can’t just drop in order to jump into another story, particularly since we have reason (4).

(2) I’m writing a book. This will leave considerably less time for me to opine, investigate, weigh in on crime stories in the news.

(3) Given points (1) and (2), I also do occasionally enjoy doing things that aren’t work-related.

(4) Lots of other people are doing a great job covering the story, including my HuffPost colleague Trymaine Lee, the guy responsible for bringing it to national attention.

(5) I don’t feel compelled to offer an opinion on every big story connected to my beat unless I have something useful to add to the conversation. Because I haven’t been doing any reporting on the Martin case, and because it doesn’t appear to involve any issues about which I have some specific expertise, I haven’t yet felt I’ve had anything useful to add.

(6) Somewhat related to the other points: I don’t like to comment on a story until I’m read up on it. There’s a hell of a lot of reading to stay on top of in this case. More every day. And again, I have other things going on. There are times when it’s just not possible to get caught up with a case in time to comment about it immediately.

None of which will stop the trolls from their saintly work, of course. I haven’t commented yet on the Trayvon Martin case either. You know why? Because I don’t really know much about it. I’ve been extremely busy all week getting ready for this long road trip and multiple events, so I haven’t had the chance to do any reading about it. I’ve seen isolated snippets of news reports, of course, but that’s about it.

Comments

  1. Mr Ed says

    Google RSS feed statistics shows that this blog averages over 63 posts a week. Given that volume of posts it would make sense that at least one post would have been on the 2011 Boston Red Sox season. Now I’m not saying you had anything to do with their October crash and burn but it is a safe bet that you are hiding something.

  2. daved says

    I haven’t commented yet on the Trayvon Martin case either. You know why? Because I don’t really know much about it.

    Ha! That just proves that you don’t care about black people any more than you care about Muslim atrocities committed in other countries!

    (So, do I have this troll thing down, or does it need work?)

  3. dingojack says

    I notice, Ed you haven’t commented on the death of the King of Tonga or the Queensland election results, which means you hate Tongans who live in Queensland, or Queenslanders who live in Tonga, or dead people in Queensland eletions (floods) … or sumpt’n
    (I really need to work on my troll-fu)
    :) Dingo

  4. jba55 says

    “I haven’t commented yet on the Trayvon Martin case either.”

    Which just proves that you are racist, age-ist, hoodie-ist and probably some other kind of -ist that I haven’t made up yet. How. Dare. You.

  5. southerngeologist says

    Fox News is not the only one reporting on the shooter being assaulted. It’s also been reported on by a local paper (Orlando Sentinel) and the New York Times.

    The guy who fills in for Rush Limbaugh when he’s out (I can’t be bothered to remember his name) gave the MrBongo treatment to ‘the feminists’ (he didn’t mention any specific names other than Hillary Clinton), for allegedly not discussing virginity exams going on in Egypt, and how those equate to rape, and are the real ‘war on women’ and aren’t being mentioned because Muslims are the evil-doers in this scenario. (You know, as opposed to the treatment of Sandra Fluke.) I found that example particularly dense given that the same argument could be made in regards to the bill in Virginia which demands that women be given an ultrasound by probe if they wish to have an abortion, which is something Rush has supported in the past.

  6. says

    The part about this line of “argument” that really confuses me is… So what?

    As in, what if Ed didn’t report on anti-Christian atrocities in Muslim countries? How would that invalidate the issues he does choose to highlight?

    Apparently, if you discuss ANYTHING, you have to discuss EVERYTHING, otherwise your opinion is irrelevant.

  7. imrryr says

    @danielkast – You also need to discuss how you are discussing EVERYTHING, otherwise you aren’t truly discussing EVERYTHING, and so on, and so on… :)

  8. abear says

    Big time journalists never let the excuse of not knowing anything about an incident to stop them from reporting on it.
    Quality reporting means you need to stop wasting time researching facts and start making up better facts.

  9. John Hinkle says

    So, why has MrBongo not shown up here to write something about Ed not writing something? Hmm? Perhaps it’s just not the write time.

  10. says

    “So, why has MrBongo not shown up here to write something about Ed not writing something? Hmm? Perhaps it’s just not the write time.”

    Because the only thing he likes better than beating his drum is beating his meat?

  11. johnrockoford says

    I do not agree.

    Since bloggers act as editorial aggregators, I consider the bloggers I follow on a regular basis to share my priorities and my news judgement. I don’t insist that they reflect my thoughts and sensibilities precisely, but I do expect a certain correspondence between what I consider important and what they consider important; that’s why I read ‘em! And I thought the Martin murder was extremely important when I first read about it, when only a couple of people where writing about it. Since then it has become an even more significant story since it involves a police force that’s incompetent at best and racist at worst, and has become a really, really big story since the right wing has unleashed a full-on defense of the killer for reasons that can only be cultural (there’s certainly no conservative rationale for defending anyone’s right to kill unarmed teens because they look suspicious. Or is there? Perhaps someone with more experience in covering culture wars can examine this interesting phenomenon). Check Slate for more.

    So forgive me if I think that it is within the bounds of propriety to question our host’s news judgement and priorities without being accused of being a troll. Moreover, I should be able to express bafflement that anyone would admit to not knowing much about this story and use that as an excuse for not having an opinion on it: I’d think that any educated person that’s sensitive to the state of racial politics in this country and the extremes the right wing will go to defend the indefensible would be more interested.

    I should make it clear that I’m implying nothing in terms of motivation; and anyone can write on whatever moves them and if I don’t like them any longer I can move on.

  12. says

    johnrockoford wrote:

    So forgive me if I think that it is within the bounds of propriety to question our host’s news judgement and priorities without being accused of being a troll.

    Yeah, what was I thinking? I should have just canceled my trips and stopped worrying about running the blog network and all that entails, and put off my visits with old friends allowed by taking a vacation between the events.

    Moreover, I should be able to express bafflement that anyone would admit to not knowing much about this story and use that as an excuse for not having an opinion on it: I’d think that any educated person that’s sensitive to the state of racial politics in this country and the extremes the right wing will go to defend the indefensible would be more interested.

    I didn’t say I don’t have an opinion about it, I said I hadn’t taken the time to dig into the story so I would feel comfortable reaching some conclusions that I would be willing to offer in public. And because I haven’t had the time to do that, I don’t feel like I have anything interesting to add to the voluminous discussion going on over it. I am interested in it, of course, but I’m not willing to drop everything else to jump into it when thousands of others are already doing it.

  13. harold says

    Fox News is not the only one reporting on the shooter being assaulted. It’s also been reported on by a local paper (Orlando Sentinel) and the New York Times.

    You’ll also find this in numerous other places.

    Martin was suspended from school for having a plastic bag that is believed to have contained marijuana, Martin is six foot three, Martin was wearing a hoodie, Martin assaulted him, he claims Martin grabbed his gun, Martin’s mother is trying to trademark phrases involving “Trayvon”, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are ostensibly “involved”, Martin had a history of single incident of discipline for graffiti, etc.

    Some of this would be quite acceptable if it were coming from the defense during a trial.

    What is nightmarish about this case is that Zimmerman, in his car, followed an unarmed, walking Trayvon Martin, against advice of law enforcement, confronted Trayvon Martin, and ended up shooting Trayvon Martin.

    And there was no arrest or significant investigation.

    I find it unlikely, but in theory this could have been a bizarre case of partial self-defense, that is, simply because Zimmerman was acting out in a totally inappropriate and dangerous way does not logically eliminate the possibility that Trayvon Martin also acted in a totally inappropriate and dangerous way.

    Zimmerman may be mentally ill, as well.

    However, to simply write something like this off as “self defense” is outrageous, so-called “stand your ground” laws notwithstanding.

  14. johnrockoford says

    Ed Brayton wrote:

    Yeah, what was I thinking? I should have just canceled my trips and stopped worrying about running the blog network and all that entails, and put off my visits with old friends allowed by taking a vacation between the events.

    Come on Ed! That’s obviously not what I was saying. Yes, you have things to do, and a life to enjoy, and you’re very busy. I get it. But you didn’t stop reading and you didn’t stop paying attention to current events and you didn’t stop posting opinions in the last few weeks because you had lots of stuff to do. Of course not. What I’m stating quite clearly is that I think the Trayvon Martin story was more significant than the dozens of other items you used your limited time to comment on, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to try and inoculate yourself from criticism by preemptively applying the term “troll” to anyone who may disagree with your choice of subjects or priorities.

    I originally thought the Trayvon Martin story was significant as a testament to prevailing racism in police departments and stupid laws propagated by ALEC and the NRA. Right now it has become a way to really see the ugliness of the right wing mind and culture. We recently saw how ugly the right wingers are when it comes to women and sex and now we see their racism exposed. I suggest you follow this story more closely.

  15. says

    …and has become a really, really big story since the right wing has unleashed a full-on defense of the killer for reasons that can only be cultural (there’s certainly no conservative rationale for defending anyone’s right to kill unarmed teens because they look suspicious. Or is there?

    The conservative (in contemporary American parlance) impulse is to favor the powerful over the powerless, and to wallow in paranoia and disgust at the perceived criminality, indolence, and dangerousness of the lower classes. So naturally they tend to sympathize with the shooter and against the black kid, who was probably up to no good anyway because his kind always are.

    Of course, you cannot disentangle this psychological impulse from “culture”, given that in-group identity is central to their perception of who gets treated as a human being and who gets regarded as a cockroach. Try to imagine how different their reactions would be if the ethnicities of the two had been reversed. It’s no surprise that the attack on Martin consists almost entirely of painting him as a stereotypical dangerous black youth.

  16. says

    What I’m stating quite clearly is that I think the Trayvon Martin story was more significant than the dozens of other items you used your limited time to comment on, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to try and inoculate yourself from criticism by preemptively applying the term “troll” to anyone who may disagree with your choice of subjects or priorities.

    You’re entitled to think that, certainly, but 1) Ed is talking in part about people who think the absence of a topic is somehow necessarily meaningful (like imputing racism for not having covered this specific case) and 2) you have some serious problems with narcissism if you think that it’s reasonable to criticize someone for not covering what you think is more important. If you think it’s so important, a) go read people who have covered it or b) write about it yourself. This is not a difficult concept.

  17. johnrockoford says

    TCC wrote:

    …you have some serious problems with narcissism if you think that it’s reasonable to criticize someone for not covering what you think is more important. If you think it’s so important, a) go read people who have covered it or b) write about it yourself. This is not a difficult concept.

    Fanboys are very much like the faithful, thoroughly disinterested in facts and obsessed with piety. Like TCC, who seems to think that I owe Ed my pious devotion because I read his blog. Why, I’m a narcissist, because how dare I, merely a lowly commenter, disagreeing with with Ed, a mighty blogger. It may not have occurred to TCC that thinking people will often disagree on many things. I owe piety to nobody.

    As I stated in the first paragraph of my first post, “anyone can write on whatever moves them and if I don’t like them any longer I can move on.” Indeed, not a difficult concept. Still, it’s almost beside the point since my criticism was not only on misplaced priorities but principally on how Ed preempted criticism by declaring that anyone taking him to task for misplaced priorities was a troll.

  18. says

    Fanboys are very much like the faithful, thoroughly disinterested in facts and obsessed with piety. Like TCC, who seems to think that I owe Ed my pious devotion because I read his blog.

    Which is why I said:

    You’re entitled to think that, certainly

    At which point you ignored my point about who Ed was targeting as “trolls”: maybe you’ve missed the threads that mrbongo has attempted to derail, but there is a history here that informs Ed’s position.

    And seriously, “fanboy”? Is that the best you’ve got to counter what I said? I don’t necessarily like everything that Ed posts (I’m not a fan of poker or sports in general, and there are subjects I don’t dislike but which I skim because I have minimal interest), but I’m not so hung up on my personal desires that I feel the need to dictate or criticize Ed’s topics of choice. If I don’t want to read something, I don’t read it; what I do want to read I read. You say you agree, yet here you are still whining about it. Move on already.

  19. says

    Hi. I like Ed’s and Balko’s blogs in large part because they write about causes of concern to civil libertarians that you don’t necessarily see trumpeted on the news, Twitter, talk shows, etc. There is little point in commenting on something everyone is talking about unless you have something new and different to say, the chance of which becomes increasingly unlikely as more people talk about it.

  20. harold says

    Obviously, I like this blog, and I have become a semi-frequent commenter.

    Ed reports a lot of valuable stuff from obscure far right sources that I might otherwise miss.

    I will admit, I do not perceive this blog as a comprehensive up to date news source. I sometimes see things blogged about here that I have been aware of for days or weeks before they make it to this blog.

    I have been following the Trayvon Martin case. Latest development – a homicide detective wanted to charge the shooter with manslaughter, but a prosecutor wouldn’t go for it.

  21. says

    johnrockoford wrote:

    So forgive me if I think that it is within the bounds of propriety to question our host’s news judgement and priorities without being accused of being a troll.

    Were you really under the impression that posts here are selected based on some objective, universal criteria for news priorities? And can you really not find an excess of spilled ink on this subject, given that thousands of writers and commenters are working over the same relatively small amount of information available on this story?

    Kudos to Ed for not being a herd nitwit who thinks he has to say something just because everyone else is in a fever about a particular story. I’d rather he comment only if and when he’s ready and able to say something he thinks is worth saying. I can’t imagine that any regular readers are here because we need Ed to discuss today’s cable news crawl or the front page.

  22. Michael Heath says

    Gretchen writes:

    Hi. I like Ed’s and Balko’s blogs in large part because they write about causes of concern to civil libertarians that you don’t necessarily see trumpeted on the news, Twitter, talk shows, etc. There is little point in commenting on something everyone is talking about unless you have something new and different to say, the chance of which becomes increasingly unlikely as more people talk about it.

    I think there’s another aspect at play that should be considered. That is the benefit of Ed’s having built a community of people who like to have a dialogue about certain topics. This dialogue frequently allows readers to discover far more about certain topics than if they weren’t part of a community like that which we enjoy here. We also benefit from getting a broader more nuanced perspective given the quality of many of the comment posts’ arguments about an issue.

    Given that the Trayvon Martin case is getting a lot of attention, I do want the perspective of this community along with the facts not easily found on our own. I don’t think it’s fair to expect Ed to opine on every relevant topic all the time for the very reasons he’s already pointed out. However, I would appreciate if he put up posts that provide a forum for discussion by his readers, where perhaps his own limitations at the time don’t allow much effort on his part to frame the debate. He probably benefits as well by what his readers post on the topic. I currently feel woefully unprepared to make confidently held conclusions on the Martin case partly because of the lack of input I depend on here, along with Andrew Sullivan also not posting much on that topic either. Mr. Sullivan’s value-add being different than Ed’s, where he’s a good aggregator of the better opinions being considered along with reporting the more popular opinions regardless of quality, on the net.

  23. sunsangnim says

    I have been following the Trayvon Martin case, and I think Zimmerman should be arrested. However, I probably don’t have all the facts in the case.

    I usually don’t follow sensational crime stories in the media for a couple reasons:

    1)In terms of how opinions are formed, I consider crime stories to be different than many other types of stories. For example, if you want to form an opinion about Paul Ryan’s budget plan, you can easily find out what’s in it. Maybe you have the technical knowledge to pull it apart, or maybe you trust certain economists to analyze it. There are unambiguous facts associated with the story, and you can evaluate them in light of your values (I want it to preserve Medicare and cut the deficit–it doesn’t do either). When it comes to crime stories, you generally don’t have all the information. There can be conflicting eyewitness testimony. There could be evidence that hasn’t been released to the media. Unless you’re on the jury, it’s hard to feel confident in your assessment of the story. Even then, it’s not always an easy judgement.

    2)Crime stories don’t always fit into a larger story. If I want to form an opinion on a topic, it’s helpful to see trends. If Ed comments on yet another case of the Obama administration violating the Constitution, I feel like I’m becoming informed on how my government works. That’s essential for a democracy. On the other hand, news stories about murder just don’t interest me. Murder always happens and sensational media coverage just gets annoying.

    That being said, the Trayvon Martin case does stand out, largely because of the Stand Your Ground law. This seems like something we can debate here.

  24. sunsangnim says

    Shorter version of my post: I like to learn stuff, so I read Ed’s blog. If I wanted overblown media coverage, I’d watch CNN.

  25. says

    Michael Heath “I currently feel woefully unprepared to make confidently held conclusions on the Martin case partly because of the lack of input I depend on here, along with Andrew Sullivan also not posting much on that topic either.”
    Sullivan hasn’t crunched the numbers, read anybody else’s analysis or, really, read the proposal at all, but he’s pleased as punch at Ryan’s “serious thinkers” plan to cut off Martin’s feet and give them to the Job Creators (and Corporate Citizens), temporarily slaking their hunger for human flesh and giving them the high protein energy they need to hollow out what’s left of the American Dream. This, he opines, will finally put the USA on a solid fiscal, um, footing.

  26. Doug Little says

    Ed reports a lot of valuable stuff from obscure far right sources that I might otherwise miss.

    Ain’t that the truth. I don’t know how he does it actually without exposing his frontal lobe from head-desking so much.

  27. Doug Little says

    I’d rather he comment only if and when he’s ready and able to say something he thinks is worth saying.

    Yeah, and the thought that Ed would be deliberately not covering a particular issue has never crossed my mind at least. Bottom line it’s his blog, his opinion, and his choice on what he blogs about.

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