The top of the list to the right of ACU-X Bloggers belongs to Bill Hobbs, a friend from ACU. Bill was a serious journalism person, I was a tourist drawing cartoons for the paper on occasion (and "borrowing" Letraset from Craig Leese on occasion -- if I see you I owe you $5, Craig). I appreciated Bill for many reasons, not the least of which was that as a skinny, too-tall freshman in the fall of 1986 still adjusting to life in West Texas, Bill was friendly and actually took the time to talk to a non-JMC major who happened to be spending long hours composing the student newspaper with him. Bill graduated about a year later, and moved to Nashville.
Well, come to find out when I belatedly discovered blogging and Instapundit, the Don Corleone of right-ish bloggers also knew of Bill Hobbs and featured him in his blogroll (for non-bloggers, a list of blogs you recommend). Come to find out that Bill was a freelance journalist now and a major blogger in Nashville and Tennessee. Kinda cool to make those connections.
Bill let his site lay fallow on January 10, 2006. He was employed by Belmont University in Nashville as a PR person, and decided that maintaining his busy blog was one of the things he could jettison, even though he had maintained it for four-plus years. I hadn't seen much from or about Bill, until I saw the sickening headline on Instapundit: BILL HOBBS HAS LOST HIS JOB FOR BLOGGING.
"Bummer" doesn't begin to cover it. A decent recitation of the events is available here, an even more detailed one is available here, the nut of the story is that Bill posted a cartoon on a blogpage he started, then immediately abandoned. Later, when he started a blog about the Tennessee Governor's race, the earlier blog was listed as one of his on his Blogger Profile and a former press aide for Al Gore, Mike Kopp, chose this abandoned article to use as a platform to attack the Bryson campaign, which apparently does not employ Bill Hobbs. Another blogger who works for 'Nashville Scene', an 'alternative weekly' like the 'Dallas Observer', used Kopp's blog to bash Bill yet again, and call out Belmont, a Baptist college, about its employ of this hateful, spiteful un-Christian person.
Well, Bill isn't hateful. He's not spiteful. He's not un-Christian. And for reasons that are not yet clear, he's no longer employed by Belmont University, as of today.
Why do I say all this?
1. I like Bill personally and wish him well. The chances of him reading this are slim, but if you do, get a tip jar up on your site somewhere and for you, one of my Blogfathers, I will brave the perils of PayPal and chip in.
2. Bill is an important blogger to me, and likely to a few folks in Tennesee, but it's not like this 'Bill' is Bill Frist. Why Nashville Scene needs to take time out of its day to confront Bill and Belmont about an abandoned blog is not clear to me, other than that Bill has an opinion about the TN governor's race that they don't agree with. Congrats, Nashville Scene. I'm betting this will backfire badly on you, but hey, you're old media so your life ain't so great to begin with. Glenn Reynolds refers to bloggers as 'a pack, not a herd'. I don't live in Nashville and don't have a dog in this hunt, but I wouldn't be surprised to see an organized pack of bloggers casting a gimlet eye at each and every one of your actions in the future. Don't think of it as vengance, think of it as proactive defense on the part of people who don't agree with you. You never can tell which blogger with a different opinion they'll target next.
3. It's unspeakably ironic that "freedom of the press" has been applied by the Nashville Scene in an effort to embarass Bill and Belmont. I don't know the terms of separation of Bill from Belmont. It's entirely possible he was dissatisfied for some reason and this is a good opportunity to leave, or he's falling on his sword to save the school bad press (this, specificially, is not working at the moment), or Belmont pulled the trigger itself. In any event, it's unfortunate that someone's opinion outside of work should impact their job in this way. And as for a "Well, we didn't want him to lose his job" defense, freedom entails responsibility as well. What exactly was the expectation of what would happen in regard to this incident?
4. Freedom of opinion from the political left is apparently limited to freedom to agree with the tenets of the left. You're not just wrong if you don't, you're a horrible, awful, evil person and you should be destroyed.
I have admired Bill and Glenn Reynolds' bravery in posting under their own names on widely read pages on the Internet. My security is largely in anonymity (and if you were wondering and feeling frisky, an alarm system, a concealed carry permit, semiautomatic weapons and personal alertness), that and I'm easily self-employable and a partner in my radiology group. Bill shows anyone who's a blogger the dangers of deeply-held expressed opinion if you don't work for yourself, or have tenure, like Professor Reynolds. Bill didn't get attacked by a newspaper over his cartoon, he was attacked because he was felt to be effective in getting out a message. To a certain extent, that's an honor.
Bill has a short post on his blog:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
- Romans 8:28 -
God Bless, Bill.
Check his blog more frequently, I am sure we haven't heard the last from him.
UPDATE: Lucas in the comments makes a pertinent point. Allow me revise and extend point 4:
4. Freedom of opinion from the political extremes is apparently limited to freedom to agree with the positions of the extremes. You're not just wrong if you don't, you're a horrible, awful, evil person and you should be destroyed. I tend to notice it more when it comes from the left, but from whatever direction it's generally unhelpful for political discourse to assume your opponent does not have the public interest at heart and is simply a bad person. Interpersonally, this behavior is a conversation-killer. Politically, this is part of the wedge driving the country into fractious groups.