I've been contemplating the Bill Hobbs story/situation (and here's John Spragens piece in the Scene that started this whole mess) for the better part of the morning for the following reasons:
1. I've known Bill Hobbs off and on (mostly off) for the better part of 20 years. We were briefly at ACU at the same time, and we've worked with/for each other on a few occasions in the '90s, he for me on some CitySearch profiles, me for he on a couple of magazine stories.
2. I consider Bill a friend, even though we clearly have differing political standpoints.
3. I'm employed (on an adjunct instructor basis) by Belmont University.
My personal bottom line is this: I'm saddened for Bill because I truly believe, deep down, he's a good guy. And from conversations I've had with others truly in the know, he was not fired, nor was he pressured to do so.
But in his role as an identified media/public relations operative for the university, he represented Belmont at all times. At ALL times. Especially in the "blogosphere" (a term I really hate), where he had become a public figure.
Many times, working journalists are asked by their employers not to take public roles with organizations, primarily as a way to avoid potential conflicts of interest for both the journalist and the organization. It's tough to bring the hammer down on, say, a charitable outfit accused of misappropriating funds when your star columnist sits on the board.
While this scenario doesn't *exactly* apply to Bill's situation, a variation on it does. Bill has made a name for himself as a proponent of blogging, and in that expertise had carved out a place for himself professionally working for Belmont, within the confines of billhobbs.com and increasingly within the workings of an active political campaign.
Thereby the conflict of interest.
I'm a writer. I've carved out my (albeit small) professional space in the publications and companies I work for (including Belmont Univeristy) via my writing. If I was found to be writing treatments for, say, hardcore snuff films, especially while on company time, chances are I'd be let go.
Please note that I'm not equating "hastily scribbled stick figure cartoon" with "treatment for hardcore snuff film." I'm equating "published item that could cause current employer public image damage, especially in light of current cultural situations" with same.
Where I'm really saddened in this situation is the now-commonplace radical division (ie. the finger-pointing and name-calling) this has enflamed. Especially in people who want to be engaged in public discourse. It doesn't surprise me, it just makes me sad.
Where I disagree with your assessment, Darren, is your point number four. In our current political/media/moral/business/ethical climate, you needn't put either the words "left" or "right" in your statement.
Both sides are equally fanatical in their hatred of the other side, oftentimes for the same reasons, and it's that zeal and that desire to outshout the other that marginalizes the conversation, fractures our collective spirit, leaves the underrepresented masses in the middle out of the discussion and allows the extreme fringes on both ends of the spectrum to control the debate.
But here's what I predict will happen: This will run hot for a few more days (if not hours), and it will die down as all of these kinds of "First Amendment martyrdom" situations do, most likely in time for the intense, world-changing discussion of who's baby will arrive first, TomKat's or BrAngelina's?
We're easily distracted that way, much like I've been easily distracted by this ultimately "non-story". And isn't *that* the real cause for sadness?