Joe the Plumber

May 29, 2014

Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is back. He wrote an open letter to the families of the Santa Barbara shooting victims, and was quoted within the past day or so thusly:

I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and a daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But:  as harsh as this sounds—your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.

This person, Joe Wurzelbacher, became famous in 2008 when he approached Senator John McCain during the Presidential campaign to complain that he would not be able to purchase a plumbing business if Senator Barack Obama won the election, or something like that. Senator McCain took up the cause, making Mr. Wurzelbacher famous. Senator McCain also lost the election, providing a laboratory to test the Wurzelbacher claim. (In fact, the notion of buying the business was, to put it mildly and charitably, “less than fully formed.”)

I’m the last person with any right to claim someone should not have his or her right to shout out in any fashion. And this guy—I hope everyone appreciates how hard it is not to use certain words in describing him—has every right to say whatever he wants to say. But do we, any of us, have to know what he says? Read about it? Even be aware of his existence?

Mr. Wurzelbacher is a freak show. His accomplishments are few. And when he gets quoted, he’s offering up a provocative statement, designed to get attention for himself and his particular brand of egomania.

So why does Mr. Wurzelbacher get quoted? Slow news day comes to mind quickly, but I think there’s something else going on here. I saw the quote at Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Salon, and maybe elsewhere. All are respectable—in my opinion—Left-leaning Internet enterprises. The editors at these sites were surely outraged, and they needed to express themselves. And what happens? The editors feel righteous for a little while, Mr. Wurzelbacher gets his moment in the sun, yet again, and the public square looks shabbier and shabbier.

SO IGNORE THE JERK! We deal with Mr. Wurzelbacher in the best way by simply ignoring him. It’s hard not to note his offenses and those of others like him. But, if we want to clean up the public square (and be rid of this man and his ilk), we can’t give him and others like him what they want. We can’t! Really, we can’t!!!

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