Thursday, April 18, 2013

"MDGOP to Bloggers: Drop Dead"

Hey, MDGOP…was it something I said?

That’s what my first thought was when I read the party’s policy on credentialing bloggers interested in covering its spring convention this weekend (as reported by The Sun’s Michael Dresser).

The policy reminds me of that famous New York Daily News  headline regarding President Ford’s reaction to New York City’s insolvency in the 1970s: “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

According to the “MDGOP to Bloggers: Drop Dead” policy, the MDGOP is only allowing “credentialed members of the media” to cover the event, and “will not allow journalists to register as ‘media’ for the purpose of writing a personal online blog.”

Bloggers can still attend the floor festivities, of course…at a cost of $75. That’s about enough gas money to get David Ferguson back to South Carolina, if not back.

If such a policy existed during the previous party chairman’s race in 2010, then it was certainly not enforced. Back then I followed the chairman’s vote via Facebook dispatches sent from the convention from Red Maryland’s Mark Newgent. I followed up with Newgent, who stated he was unaware of any such policy being in force back then.

Clearly this policy, as communicated by MDGOP Executive Director David Ferguson, is a petulant response to the steady string of criticisms the party establishment has received from me and many other members of the blogosphere.

There is much diversity of opinion among bloggers, and we certainly don’t always agree on everything. But, independently we have criticized the recent missteps of the MDGOP and its interim chairman, Diana Waterman, with a high degree of unanimity.

This campaign to reform the way MDGOP does business has an “X-Men United” feel to it. Clearly the defenders of the status quo are feeling the pressure, as evidenced by some of their questionable crisis communications maneuvers. And that must have them collectively shaking in their boots.

It should also be noted that the MDGOP’s restrictive policy against bloggers bucks the trend evident among other conservative leaning organizations.

When I worked at the 2000 Republican Convention, space was reserved for bloggers to cover the convention proceedings for the first time ever. Since then, conservative organizations hosting events such as CPAC have largely integrated bloggers and traditional media into the same space (as fellow blogger Jeff Quinton reports).

Interestingly, in response to an inquiry from another blogger, Ferguson responded that only bloggers with “sponsoring media outlet like the Washington Post, Annapolis Capital, or WBAL” can be credentialed.

Does anyone else get the irony of a state GOP official extolling members of the alleged “liberal media” as examples of legitimate journalism? I’m not sure even Ferguson himself does.

In the end, I don’t think the MDGOP’s pathetic attempt at a crackdown on bloggers will have the intended chilling effect. We’re all going to be at the convention. We’re all going write what we would have written originally without paying David Ferguson $75.

The only difference is that, while our criticisms before were born of political disagreement, David Ferguson and his ham-handed policy has now interjected personal resentment among bloggers into the situation as well. He has also signaled definitively where his personal loyalties lie. If anyone other than Diana Waterman is elected chairman on Saturday, this stunt has likely sealed David Ferguson’s fate as far as keeping his job is concerned.

My late father used to say, “People would rather you urinate on their faces than ignore them.” The fact that the MDGOP has moved away from ignoring bloggers and towards a crude attempt at stifling and exclusion is an unmistakable sign of weakness on the part of the establishment and its defenders.  

Gandhi famously said, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

The MDGOP establishment can no longer afford to ignore its critics. And its clumsy foray into censorship demonstrates that it lacks the energy and ideas to defeat them.

3 comments:

  1. Well stated Rich. This policy is positively Soviet. The MDGOP thinks that if they can control the messenger they can control the message. The WaPo and The Sun will not be doing the MDGOP any favors in thier coverage. MDGOP continues to show it need a change at the top and why if things continue on thier present course the party is rushing to catch the next train to Whigville.

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  2. Kudos Richard! Any time the "establishment" is threatened, the long knives come out. A lot of us former diehards are really pissed with the status quo. Their actions "obviously" (a la RLE) have them worried.

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