(Update: Matt Stoller fills in the background on this story for those of you who don't know what I am talking about)
After reading blog comments of various stripes about the recent comments by Kos about the four American contractors/mercenaries, I find myself having several different thoughts, some in conflict with each other. In no particular order, here they are:
- This incident and the reporting on it obviously struck hard at a hot-button issue for Kos. Who amongst us does not have some particularly sensitive issue in our past that, when pressed, causes us to do and/or say something really stupid? I generally try to avoid psychoanalyzing anyone because I'm not a psychiatrist, I don't know Kos personally and he hasn't asked me to do so and I consider it wrong to engage in non-consensual psychoanalyzing. But I find myself sympathetic to his feelings on this matter since he obviously does have a history that leads him to view these contractors/mercenaries in a less than stellar light.
- Kos' comment was incredibly insensitive. He doesn't know very much about the people who were killed or their situation. He shouldn't let his prejudices about those kind of people get in the way of his judgment of what these particular people went through. If not them then think about their families having to live with the image of their loved ones charred remains hanging from a bridge.
- The reaction of the right side of the blogosphere appears to be as much about payback as it is shock over Kos' comment. Spare me the righteous indignation folks. I'm sure you have had moments where you said or did something foolish that you wish wouldn't become the defining moment of your public life.
- John Kerry's decision to de-link Kos from his web page also gives me conflicting thoughts. I don't believe it was done out of a desire to appease right-wing outrage and thus I don't agree with those who see it as an example of backbone transplant rejection. However, I think by taking this action the Kerry campaign has given the impression that it can be cowed into shunning one of its more powerful backers (think divide-and-conquer folks). But then maybe Kerry felt that the only way to express his real outrage at the comment in a meaningful way was to de-link Kos. In the end I don't consider it very smart politics, but it may have been a very human decision.
Also, in the end, I think to much can be read into this incident. As I said, people sometimes have bad days and end up saying something inappropriate that they later regret. I believe firmly that, in order to have a vibrant and open dialog about the future, it is necessary to let down some of our barriers and give people the luxury of doing something boneheaded. If there is one thing I agree with the right on it is the complaints about political correctness stifling discourse because sensitivity to offending people's feelings causes people to self-censor themselves. It would be a true tragedy if this situation were to result in Kos stifling his valuable insights.