The gratuitous insinuations about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent health troubles — that they were elaborate excuses to avoid Congressional testimony on the Benghazi debacle and subsequent sturm and a little drang — provoked Kathleen Parker’s ire today. Straight-up nastiness from political enemies takes up way too much space in what most people consume as political news, Parker says. Even after the she’s-faking-it accusations died down after the note from Secretary Clinton’s doctor excused her absence, Parker is tired of the futile political ugliness.  

Does character assassination have an outsized place in our political dialogue?  What is its role, and what should be done, and to what degree is the whole situation aggravated by the anonymity of online commentary?  To find out, PostScript has consulted several anonymous experts in the field of anonymous Internet commentary.  

Among the 3,000 responses to Parker’s column, here’s what PostScript found:

Two commenters here engage the issue of timing:

Connecticut Yankee

And how long did it take Ms. Parker to write this? Where was she when the FOX news “commentators” were floating their theories?


Yankee: Ms. Parker frequently awaits developments, seeing how things play out a little before commenting. I see nothing untoward about this. Other commentators who jump the gun often regret it. In fact, this whole article is about jumping the gun. In the world of certain pundits, it is a way of saying, “No matter how the facts turn out, I hate you, will always hate you, and will never back down.” It’s pathological, but, hey it’s a free country.

DavidH3 suggests that, in this world of increased partisanship and the flavored news sources that Parker decries, it’s easier to identify fairness, rarely as it happens, when a commentator calls out his or her own side:

It’s remarkable that this column came from a (relatively) conservative columnist. Kathleen’s okay.

slatt321 says it isn’t character assassination to be skeptical of someone who’s lied in the past:

When Secretary Clinton was Candidate for President Clinton she was caught lying about being under fire in Tuzla. She was never under fire anywhere.  Show some forgiveness for those who may have been skeptical.

magsthecat1 takes it even further. “Clinton” as a name carries a LOT of baggage, such that some people will believe wild conspiracy theories, even a crazy one based on zero evidence other than a blanket distaste for all things Clinton:    

Most people call it schadenfreude. The Clintons have totally earned the disrespect. Both Bill and Hillary are devoid of ethics, morals and honor. Hillary is possibly the worst SOS in our history and allowed Americans to die on her watch while refusing help.
As for her “clot” — my guess it is from plastic surgery and a major face lift, and now is a convenient means to avoiding testifying and telling the truth about Benghazi. Standard operating procedure for the Clintons.  How quickly you all forget their previous [in]discretions.

chrisbrown12 thinks that while the blood clot findings might exonerate Clinton from charges of faking sickness, it isn’t good optics for her assumed next run at the presidency:

Hillary Clinton is not well enough to run for President and her health will not increase with age.

DouglasH agrees, and doesn’t think the earlier insinuations were untoward:

Without details, one can easily form opinions along political lines so I see no real problem with cynicism or skepticism in regard to Ms Clinton’s somewhat mysterious illness and subsequent concussion and blood clot. These are likely real things, not political dodges, but why must people be precluded from wondering about such coincidences?  
The fact that she had an illness that led to a fall that led to a concussion and also a blood clot on the brain makes one wonder about her future suitability to hold such high office as President (should she choose to run in 2016) and might cause concern about her ability to perform her current functions as Secretary of State. I see nothing inherently mean spirited in these speculations. And it certainly is not character assassination.

ecrutle thinks none of us needs to come to Hillary’s rescue:

It’s the kitchen, it’s hot, Hillary can handle the slings and barbs. In all the hyperbole regarding misogyny directed at Mrs. Clinton and Susan Rice, notice how the messengers overshadow the message? Benghazi never enjoyed the traction it deserves, and that’s just fine with this administration.

hinterlander, presumably named just for this comment, takes issue with Parker’s characterization of people in “the hinterlands” more likely to consume slanted news:

Hey, Parker,
Who in the hinterlands assigned you as spokesperson? The hinterlanders, recently portrayed in The Hunger Games, are not the dodoes you think we are. We supported Hillary through years of abuse from the GOP and the humiliation of her husband’s behavior. It was the hinterlanders who knew that playing at sex was not a constitutional crisis, and refused to allow the president to be impeached. The bi-coastal game of “gotcha” is not favored out here among the cows and the corn.  
I live in flyover country and keep up with the news via WP, NYT, Der Spiegel, Reuters, Al Jazeera and RTE daily, among other frequently. Get outta the beltway and discover America.  

It’s true that while the Internet might have nastied everything up, any hinterland with broadband now has more access to more news than ever before. It means any of us can compare the way the news is presented, and can be more aware of what we’re consuming and whom to trust.  Being aware that some media are trying to play us makes us way more cynical.  It warms PostScript’s shriveled black heart, then, to see something like this post from the Erik Wemple Blog, with a State Department spokesman extending the benefit of the doubt to a Fox commentator (quoted statement starts at “Justin.”)