In recent years both the right and the left have engaged in petty “gotcha” politics in which political operatives deliberately misrepresent themselves and goad their political opponents into making damaging statements that help these operatives score petty political victories.
While these tactics shed sunlight on the dark practices of bad people on both sides of the aisle, they are a disgusting and deceptive development in American democracy that threatens to divide the country further along political lines. They are unethical, misleading, and only lead to destruction.
Just ask NPR.
On the right, James O’Keefe struck again (he also posed as a pimp to expose ACORN) with his recent setup of Ronald Schiller. Mr. Schiller, a NPR fundraiser, made some questionable and politically charged comments during a conversation he had with O’Keefe’s undercover political operatives. These operatives deliberately misrepresented themselves as potential donors from a Muslim organization. The intent was to put NPR’s credibility in doubt by surfacing liberal bias at the publicly funded network. While they succeeded in this attempt, they did so by prodding Ronald Schiller to agree to their suggestive and anti-conservative statements. Now Vivian Schiller (no relation), NPR’s CEO, has resigned over the incident.
On the left, Ian Murphy, the editor of Buffalo Beast website, recently posed as billionaire David Koch in a call to Governor Walker. The call, which was an effort to discredit the governor, succeeded. In one particular moment of weakness, Murphy suggests that the governor plant “troublemakers” in the crowd of protestors, to which Governor Walker replied, “We thought about that. My only fear is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems.”
The problem with these tactics is that they start a destructive and unnecessary arms race between operatives on both the right and left, by encouraging both sides to outdo one another with further use of these underhanded tactics. In turn, this practice threatens to undermine the open and active debate that is part and parcel of our democratic system.
These tactics are crude, thuggish, and bad for our democracy and need to stop.