Controversial Blogging And Careers Don't Mix

by Conor Friedersdorf

James Joyner reports on the retirement of a pioneering blogger:

Power Line founder Paul Mirengoff has left the blog, after a controversial posting about the Tucson funeral service got him in hot water with his law firm. William Jacobson has the details but the short version is that Mirengoff took issue with a Yaqui Indian tribal prayer at the memorial service, contending that a Christian prayer would have been more appropriate given the victims and the audience.  This caused one of Mirengoff’s fellow partners at Akin Gump, who’s a member of the Yaqui tribe, to issue an outraged statement, which in turn caused the firm to demand Mirengoff take down the post and issue an apology.

Presumably, Mirengoff decided at this point that continuing to express controversial opinions on a personal blog wasn’t worth the risk to a highly successful and lucrative legal career.  (It should be noted that the Power Line gang posted under rather silly pseudonyms in the early years of the site, so one imagines they’d considered that previously.)

Although Power Line isn't my kind of blog, I think this is a shame, mostly because I want the blogosphere to remain a place that includes people whose primary career isn't journalism. Obviously I've got no objection to journalist bloggers. I am one. But we shouldn't have a monopoly on the public discourse.

And that is the likely result if controversial blogging, whether actually wrongheaded or not, causes people trouble at work. Personally, I disagree with Mirengoff's take on prayer at the memorial service, but the appropriate response to that is forcefully pointing out the error in his ways, not demanding that he remove the offending post. Hiding attitudes we dislike don't make them go away. In fact, only if people are willing to articulate offensive beliefs they actually hold can they be disabused of them. Admittedly, I have my own limits – that is to say, I can imagine extreme examples where I'd fire someone in an unrelated field for something the wrote on their blog. But I generally think it's best for us all if we can avoid that reaction, so I'm for erring on the side of maximal discourse. I'm not prepared to debate whether child rape is okay, or if Al Qaeda was justified in felling the Twin Towers. But the kind of prayer that should've been offered at a memorial service? That's the sort of thing Americans need to talk about if only because there's broad disagreement.