Recently, I was banned at commenting from Hit and Run. Their unwritten policy, it seems, is that lying is one thing, and calling a liar on his lie is another. All this began when veteran attorney and long-time Reason contributor Michael McMenamin wrote a dishonest column alleging that Judith Miller had been “tried, convicted and sentenced to prison based exclusively upon written evidence from witnesses whose identities and testimony were kept secret from her and her lawyers,”when in fact Miller is merely being held in civil contempt for her continued refusal to testify in the Plame affair, and can go free anytime merely by agreeing to obey the law she’s been flouting all along. On Wednesday, ReasonTMable journalist / legal eagle Julian Sanchez (yes, that Julian Sanchez, the same genius who thinks that denial of certiorari indicates disagreement on the merits and only “cryptoracists” care whether illegal aliens are called illegal aliens) posted a credulous link to McMenamin’s screed, throwing in a frivolous Sixth Amendment argument of his own. The next day, Tim “Buy a Fucking Ad Already” Cavanaugh, ever the classy guy in the bunch, threw in his own two cents, again recycling both McMenamin’s lie and Sanchez’s frivolous extension of the same.
In both threads, I referred to McMenamin’s lie as, well, a lie. While it is common for journalists like Sanchez and Cavanaugh to screw up basic legal principles in ways that just “happen” to favor whatever political agenda they support, I find it wholly implausible that any veteran attorney – let alone an AV-rated partner in a mid-sized firm who’s been practicing this area of law for decades, could honestly not know the difference between civil and criminal contempt, a distinction McMenamin ignored completely in his original article and later pooh-poohed as “a distinction without a difference” in an email to Cavanaugh that was reproduced in Sanchez’s thread.
Then, on Friday, I attempted to post a comment to another H&R poster’s entry, but was given an error message informing me I was not allowed to post comments. I sent an email to the blog administrator to find out what had happened, and was treated to the following email from Cavanaugh today:
We’re not here to give you a forum to call Reason contributors liars. If insults are in any way supported or warranted or even just entertainingly expressed, I give them a pass. Since yours isn’t, I don’t. Best of luck to you.
Just for the record, I don’t call people liars to be entertaining, and I don’t make a habit of calling them liars simply for being hopelessly wrong, even if they are wrong on something they really should have known better about. Cavanaugh and Sanchez should have known better than to write what they wrote, but I don’t think they did know any better, which is why I did refer to their comments as “ignorance” rather than “lies.” As to McMenamin, however, if there is an innocent explanation for a veteran attorney missing the distinction between civil and criminal contempt – stating blithely that “she’s still in jail” while neglecting to mention that she holds the keys to her own prison cell – I can’t imagine what that is.
UPDATE: Judging by the comments so far, it appears that the real news may be the fact that I bothered attempting a dialogue with these guys in the first place.