With avengers like these…


Patterico covers what should be a blogosphere scandal but isn't, for some reason.

A few days ago, one of Patterico's regular commenters, Carlitos, informed him that a comment he had posted in a debate on abortion on the Liberal Avenger blog was altered (by someone with admin privileges) to include this lurid passage:

Still, there are some valid and acceptable reasons to have abortions—reasons I think we can all agree with. For example, when my sister and I were in Junior high school we used to experiment sexually—you know, the usual stuff that horny, young brothers and sisters do: rimming, finger-fucking, dry humping, etc. We practically spent the entire summer between 7th and 8th grade in bed—it was great. Of course, by the end of the summer my sister was pregnant. Given our age and maturity levels, we knew she had to get an abortion.

After Patterico emailed Liberal Avenger about this, the comment disappeared. However, a screenshot was preserved, and Patterico posted it on his blog on February 13 at 6:51 a.m.

Liberal Avenger responded (February 13, 11:03 a.m.):

I don't know what the big deal is. The comment appears to be gone. I never saw it. I have no reason to believe that it ever existed in the first place. Patterico's screenshot is meaningless as by its very existence it had to have been manipulated by Photoshop. I'm not saying that he made it up, but I'm saying that in order for somebody to take a screenshot and crop/reduce it to post on their blog it has to be pulled into Photoshop or another image editing practice. Once that happens, the content of that image belongs to Patterico—not me. I've learned this through the course of reading countless shrill wingnut blog posts about image manipulation over the past year.

He then concluded:

I'm closing this thread to commenting. Patterico—shame on you!

On Patterico's site, Liberal Avenger posted:

Yeah, I'm not too concerned about carlitos suing me because of something Patterico made up.

A few hours later, Patterico posted a full screenshot of the altered comment (which he had previously cropped for size).

Liberal Avenger then admitted in Patterico's thread that he had personally altered Carlito's comment, and offered a charming defense:

The comment in question as originally written by him was an elitist swipe at poor/minority women. It was yet another bogus collection of facts and innuendo to support the racist/classist opinion that most women seeking abortions use abortion as a casual means of birth control. His argument consisted of several variations on the old "the bitch had an abortion because she didn't want pregnancy to interfere with her fabulous ski vacation" canard.

In fact, Carlito had posted information from this birth control website about women's reasons for having abortions. He also says that he actually made fun of the "ski trip" rationale. But let's say, for argument's sake, that Carlito's comment was a collection of putrid ideological clichés. Does that make Liberal Avenger's "prank" okay? Would it be okay for, say, Jeff Goldstein to edit a comment by a poster spouting clichés about The Evil Patriarchy to include a lurid description of her secret fantasy of being dominated by a big, hairy, musclebound, hung-like-a-horse male chauvinist?

Liberal Avenger also now claims now claims that he was just kidding when he said that the edited comment may never have existed:

It's hilarious that they can't tell when they're being teased.

Well, if there was any humor in Avenger's "Patterico—shame on you!" February 13 post, I certainly didn't see it.

In a ghoulish twist, Patterico's follow-up post revealed that the rewritten comment was especially disturbing to Carlito because his only sister died several years ago. Admittedly, Liberal Avenger was unaware of this when he altered the comment.  However, he is aware of it now, and he has yet to offer an apology. Instead, he and his left-wing friends continue to treat this as a big joke on his blog, and he continues to tell Patterico and his commenters to "stop taking yourselves so seriously."

It's a shame, because I have encountered Liberal Avenger on Eric Muller's Is That Legal blog and elsewhere – he first came to my attention in debates over Michelle Malkin's odious book In Defense of Internment —and have generally found him to be a reasonable and interesting commenter.  I'm disappointed that he has both compromised his integrity, first with the alteration of Carlito's comment and then with the attempted cover-up, and played into the worst right-wing stereotypes of liberals as intolerant of conservative dissent. With avengers like these, liberals don't need enemies.

Liberal Avenger's "prank" is not only juvenile, unethical, and offensive; it is also dangerous to blog discourse. If people know that a blog administrator can tamper with comments at will, it could have a truly chilling effect on speech in the blogosphere. Any blogger, liberal or conservative, should take this very seriously indeed.

Extended version cross-posted at The Y Files.