When you read a piece written on one of the multitude of blogs out there, do you ever stop to think about the author? For example, do you ask what motivated him or her to craft the article and what agenda he or she is trying to advance? Yes, when it comes to politics there are conservative blogs, liberal blogs, blogs that promote a grassroots or anti-establishment point of view, and those who seek to prop up certain elected politicians.
Last weekend I took a good bit of time to ponder this thought. Several months ago a candidate contacted me as he was considering hiring me for his campaign. After several abortive attempts I finally I spoke with his campaign manager just recently. Although I was told that they didn’t have the funds to make an offer at this time, I was informed that I could help them out by writing pieces on this website critical of their opponent. It was hinted that doing so might improve my chances of future employment. However, the more I thought about the matter, the more it disturbed me.
One of my primary motivations in writing The Virginia Conservative is to report on political events around the state (especially in the Shenandoah Valley), offer my thoughts about politicians, their staffers, and legislation, and do my small part to promote political dialogue as well as the ideals of liberty and limited government. The pieces I’ve written here I do so because I think they are important, because there is some matter that ought to be brought to public attention. Have my opinions shifted and changed with time and new information? Of course! If you scroll back, you can find writings from 2008. Who can honestly say that he or she has remained completely the same in an eight-year period? However, no one has ever paid me to write anything that you find on this website and all thoughts presented (unless otherwise indicated) are my own at the time that they were written.
In response to this recent suggestion from the campaign, I included this statement in the message I wrote the candidate:
…I was asked to write pieces on my website attacking one of your opponents. If I were to do so, I was told it could improve my chances of getting hired when money became available. Similarly the Stimpson campaign tried to funnel anonymous attack pieces through me in 2013, but I refused to do so. Although I have made quite a few enemies these last few years, I always try to write what is true and right, not simply what benefits my point of view. Given my limited experiences with [your opponent] in 2011, I believe it would be a terrible mistake for the voters of [your] district to choose him and I may write a piece to that effect on The Virginia Conservative. Nevertheless, I steadfastly refuse to become a political hack, degrading either my honor or my work to do the behind-the-scenes hatchet attacks of others…
I was later informed that this situation arose out of a misunderstanding. But it did get me thinking. Is this idea foreign to many political blogs? Are they merely fronts for various organizations, candidates, and politicians, willing to write whatever makes their clients look good (or calls their enemies into question)?
Let me expand on what I wrote concerning the Stimpson campaign. Back in 2013 the Susan Stimpson campaign for lieutenant governor contacted me prior to the Virginia Republican Convention. One of her staffers wanted me to write a piece critical of both Jeannemarie Davis and Pete Snyder, two of Stimpson’s opponents that year. As such, they provided me with information and quotes from a gathering elsewhere in the state. I did not personally attend this event, so the only material I had to work from was the information provided from the Stimpson campaign. First of all, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic to attack either Davis or Snyder. Both Jeannemarie Davis and Pete Snyder had taken time out of their campaign schedule to meet with me personally. Although the Stimpson campaign repeatedly suggested a similar face-to-face meeting, they never made good on this promise. However, in the interest of promoting dialogue, I agreed to write up a piece using the material that they sent me provided that I could mention that I had received this information from the Stimpson campaign. However, they didn’t want their opponents to know that their campaign was behind it and so declined. As a result, I decided not to run the story.
So are bloggers seen as mere mercenaries for hire these days? Given some of the seemingly baseless attacks from one of the larger Virginia blogs against a certain legislator, I sometimes have to wonder. Much like super PACs, do politicians and groups funnel money to bloggers to anonymously attack their foes? Has that become our reputation? If so, I would be ashamed to call myself a blogger. I would not want to associate with any writer or campaign that thinks that this kind of behavior is okay. Yes, I do have an agenda to promote dialogue and liberty, but I feel if others discovered that I were writing thinly veiled behind the scenes attacks (paid or even unpaid), it would completely obliterate my credibility and any chance of even an attempt at objectivity.
Perhaps I am wrong. After all, donations are few and far between and the costs of running The Virginia Conservative are higher than the monetary gains. Nevertheless, I hope my readers can rest assured that when they read an article on this site, it isn’t written because I am getting paid to promote a certain cause or candidate. I do it because I’m one of those people who believe in what they say and think that honor is worth more that the lure of a possible job. Revisiting 2013 once more, I’d like to believe that Ms. Davis and Mr. Snyder approached me because they considered me to be fair and objective, focusing on the issues we have in common, and not simply as someone who can be bought off to support a certain point of view.
So, what do you see as the reputation of bloggers?