In other news, criticizing Scott Sales is racist (sort of)

by Jay Stevens 

You may have seen the news: Rep. Ed Butcher (R-Winifred) made some inappropriate remarks in the legislature this week:

Republican Rep. Ed Butcher said he meant nothing derogatory when he referred to Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder and a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, as “Chief Windy Boy” before a House Agriculture Committee meeting Thursday. Butcher also later asked Windy Boy whether his large gavel qualified as a “war club.”

“The whole thing is absolutely absurd,” said Butcher, who also was criticized in 2001 for calling American Indian reservations “ghettos” and apologized in 2004 for referring to severely developmentally disabled students as “vegetables” at an education meeting.


Apologies were made, and it appears that the Winifred Representative is a moron, good for a snark or two.

And just when we think it’s over, we get stunts like this, where Butcher’s racist and ignorant remarks are contrasted with the left blogosphere’s dubbing of loose cannon and House Speaker, Scott Sales, “sideshow.”

There is a little something I would like to point out though. There are a number of blogs in Montana that refer to the Montana Speaker of the House Rep. Scott Sales, in a derogatory, name calling manner and they think that is fine and dandy while disparaging Ed Butcher for his name calling. I know, they will defend themselves by saying Rep. Ed Butcher’s comment is racist and theirs isn’t. I will admit that is true but name calling is not necessary. They should be able to get their point across without the use of prejudicial names if the point they are trying to make is strong enough.

You know, this type of thinking drives me crazy. How in the world could anyone compare calling Sales “sideshow” with Butcher’s remarks? It boggles the mind.

Yes, calling Scott Sales is juvenile, belittles the most powerful political member of the state’s lower legislative body, does not foster a climate of dialog and bipartisanship, etc & co, but — in my opinion — Sales has earned his nickname. In other words, Sales is “Sideshow,” not because he was born with an extra head or any other such accident of birth. No, Sales is a “sideshow” because of the things he’s said or done.

To compare “Sideshow” to Butcher’s remarks is…well…insulting. Butcher spoke from ignorance and made demeaning remarks based on Windy Boy’s race. It’s the worst form of thinking, really, to generalize character based on a person’s appearance or background, things they have no control over. It’s narrow-minded and lazy, at best.

It’d be bad enough were Butcher a blogger. But he’s a representative of Winifred’s citizens serving in the state legislature. His words and actions reflect on his constituents. When he says dumb things he makes all of Winifred look dumb. Besides displaying the lowest form of thinking, he’s also supposed to be more respectful of his fellow legislators than some partisan hack.

Ultimately, Sarpy Sam’s defense of Ed Butcher by saying, “well, golly, look at what the left bloggers are saying,” is absolutely, one-hundred-percent utter bullsh*t.

It’s a far too typical knee-jerk reaction when folks are called out for our worst impulses. It’s not honest. It’s — wait, what’s that term right-wing Christians invariably trot out? — moral relativism, at its worst.

You think an earned nickname should be held to the same standard as racism?

 (For more reasonable criticism of left blogosphere’s rants against Scott Sales, see Mike’s post on “Legislative Demonizing.” Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias counter the crit against left blogo tone, and Drum argues that bloggers should be considered “salty” or “colorful,” not hysterical or vulgar.)

  1. Yeah, Sideshow declared war on me. I mocked him.

    Who exactly is out-of-line here?

  2. You obviously misunderstood what I said. I do not and will not defend, as you claim, Butcher’s comment. It was wrong. I just point out all name calling is wrong by all and does not lead to open and honest discussions between people.

    I will say it again, all name calling is wrong. Excuses don’t cut it.

  3. What I don’t understand is how you start with Butcher and end up with us. Frankly such comparisons are less tasteful than our calling Scott Sales “Sideshow.”

    If you want to trumpet civility on the ‘Net, the worst way to do it is to compare percieved uncivil remarks of those you disagree with to racists’. That’s hyperbole and offensive.

  4. Tryn

    Guys, take it easy on Sam. I think what he was trying to say was along the right lines, just maybe not put in the most eloquent way possible.

    I have to agree that the ‘nicknames’, etc that are given to those who irritate bloggers can get somwhat annoying at times. I do not know Sales or anyone else in the political arena for that matter. Speaking as someone who only recently (in the last year) started even reading blogs, I can tell you that the namecalling can someimes detract from the wonderful and important points that bloggers are trying to make.

    The Montana bloggers that I read are some of the most thought provoking, intelligent people I’ve ever “met”. But sometimes the nicknames just muddy the waters and take away from the message.

  5. I agree. Thanks for dropping the sane comment. Like I said, I’m fine with reasonable crit — like Mike’s — it’s just that my panties always get knotted when my “colorful” (juvenile?) anctics are compared to racism. There’s a Hitler corollary here somewhere…

  6. Tryn


    I’ll accept that one since I AM a testy redhead —–just ask my husband :)

  7. This really is one of the most ludicrous moral equivocations I’ve ever read. I really wouldn’t have a problem with Butcher calling a colleague an idiot, provided there was a reason for Butcher’s words.

    The reference to Sales as Sideshow is to call attention to the fact that he’s not ready for prime time. It was funny. It stuck with me at least. So what?

    Finally, Sam, we’re not offering excuses. None of us have a problem with mild name-calling. We have a problem with racism. So we’re not making excuses. We’re providing explanations. Sorry our ethical codes differ and we distinguish between racism and name-calling.

  1. 1 On Mike Lange's outburst (parental discretion advised) « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] debate about civility here in the Montana blogosphere? You remember! First there was criticism of the left bloggers’ use of a nickname for the Montana Legislature’s Speaker of the House, in which our antics were compared to racism. […]

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