Spinning the blogosphere

by Henry on September 18, 2004

The Washington Post hints as strongly as it can that the blogosphere’s counterattack against the Killian memos began at the White House.

In another development, the Los Angeles Times reported that an Atlanta lawyer with conservative Republican connections posted the first Web log entry questioning the authenticity of the CBS documents less than four hours after the initial broadcast on “60 Minutes.” The paper identified Harry W. MacDougald as the “Buckhead,” who became a hero of conservative Web sites after pointing out technical problems with the documents, such as fonts and proportionate spacing.
MacDougald declined to say how he learned about the problems with the documents so early. In addition to being released by CBS, copies of the documents were e-mailed by the White House to reporters as “60 Minutes” went on the air.

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know quite what happened, but it seems highly plausible to me that the White House is communicating with bloggers to spin the news. We already know that the White House’s Internet Director thinks that blogs are pretty important. Equally, I’d be very surprised if people in the Democratic party aren’t communicating with some bloggers in order to try to get their spin across (if they aren’t, they’re bad at their job). As Kieran said a couple of days ago, there is a mythology of the blogger that sees him (or more rarely, her) as a lone hero speaking truth to power (or the “New York Times” as the best local approximation). The reality is murkier. To the extent that blogs help set the agenda for the media, pols have an incentive to spin the blogs, just as they have good reason to spin reporters. Blogs aren’t critiquing the system from outside – they’re increasingly part of the system. Expect more of this over time, not less.

{ 105 comments }

1

Eric the Unread 09.18.04 at 3:51 pm

Who told you to post this?

2

Matthew Yglesias 09.18.04 at 4:02 pm

The people in question on the Democratic side would be Todd Webster in Tom Daschle’s office and Peter Daou on the Kerry campaign.

3

Zizka 09.18.04 at 4:43 pm

Based on my own experience as well as reports on Kos, Hesiod, and MyDD, the Democrats are very ginger and cautious about using blogs or surrogates of any kind. They are worried both about losing control of the message and about being embarassed by something that is said (as with the Kos mercenary incident.)

I did a lot of work on the Swiftboat-type stuff months before it became a big story. I would have been willing to make that a fulltime job in April, but no interest was shown by the Democrats.

There’s an enormous double standard. The Swiftboat book’s co-author’s anti-Catholic and other bigoted statements are not blamed on the Whitehouse, even though the direct and indirect WH connections are multiple. Likewise, the Republicans are workign closaely with the odious Conservative Citizens Council in the South, without repurcussions. Likewise Rev. Moon.

As my blog-partner Dave Johnson says, the Republicans always accuse the Democrats of what they are doing or are planning on doing. That way, the voters think “Both sides are equally bad”, which is what the Republicans want people to think.

The media and many mainstream Democrats have failed to understand what it is that we’re facing, and in particular the relentless intensity of our opponents’ ill-will. This was not especially prominent in the memo flap (unless the memos were Rove plants), but it’s relevant to the political blog war overall.

I am particularly annoyed by the steadfast determination of many more-or-less Democratic blogs not to become what they call “hacks”. (Example of “hack”: me.) They are compulsively open-minded and fair-minded and are careful to reserve judgment and meticolously critique all partisan statements by Democrats.

Examples of high-minded, intellectually rigorous Democratic sites: Crooked Timber, Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall, and probably Yglesias. DeLong and Krugman seem to have figured things out.

Fighting dirty is neither necessary nor sufficient for the Democrats to win, but the highminded statements seem to misunderstand what kind of fight we’re in.

Practically, we’ll be accused of everything bad whether we do it or not. It is not possible for us to be squeaky-clean enough to preclude attack. (Proof: Wellstone funeral — and of course, many liberals agree that the funeral WAS over the top!).

Idealistically, there is nothing we can do to make the net moral tone of the campaign worse. It’s a streetfight trending toward the gutter. I think that solidarity is appropriate and ethical punctiliousness and scruprlosity are not.

{Insert pro forma apology for forcibly expanding and enriching the topic here.}

4

A.R.Yngve 09.18.04 at 4:47 pm

So there is an international (yes, international) conspiracy of bloggers taking orders from the U.S. Government?

Well, isn’t that special.

I didn’t know I was part of a vast conspiracy. Does that mean I can have some bribes? Mr. Rove, I want my money right now!
;-P

Jokes aside, that must be the single most ridiculous thing I’ve heard about this whole affair.

How in the world would the U.S. Government exert control over millions of Internet users? By telepathy? Through an as-yet-undiscovered payola system? By asking real nice?

How exactly does George W. Bush tell me what to do? I’m not even a member of the Republican Party.

Look: if there had been an Internet during the Watergate scandal, bloggers would have been all over it.

I could elaborate, but I just received my new orders from the White House… “Direct attention away from Iraq and North Korea.” ;-P

-A.R.Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com

5

abb1 09.18.04 at 4:48 pm

…they’re increasingly part of the system…

Well, the blogspace is just a medium, like TV, radio, leaflet and so on. So, of course they (‘the system’) use it, why not – they use all media from yard signs to satellite TV, form snail-mail to singing telegram.

6

nnyhav 09.18.04 at 4:55 pm

“Rathergate” has turned into a most effective consolidation of political narrative:

* The key documents’ inauthenticity not only undermines critical examination of Bush’s NatGuard service, but also immunizes the SwiftBoatVets’ attacks by making them appear credible by contrast to payback in counterfeit scrip.
* Charges of liberal media bias are bolstered by CBS’ institutional defensiveness, which only serves to give the story legs, not incidentally simultaneously submerging and tarnishing other storylines before they’re even out of the chute. Anything CBS does now doesn’t undo the damage.
* Remember the Iran-Nigeria uranium communication? Forget it. The whole “We are being misled” storyline is reduced to a choice of misleaders.
* And then there’s the larger Iraq-Vietnam (dis)connect. It would seem Kerry chose the battleground without reconnoitering.

Karl Rove couldn’t have designed it any better — cf the older Rosenbaum piece.

7

abb1 09.18.04 at 5:16 pm

These damn decadent lesbian-rights liberals just don’t have our from-the-gut clarity, Comrade Zizka. Corrupt bourgeois intelligentsia – socially unattached and ideologically alien. Yup, fellow travellers and nothing more…

8

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.18.04 at 5:25 pm

It was White House spin that correctly identified the documents as forgeries? What a frightening use of spin!

9

nnyhav 09.18.04 at 5:42 pm

Bad last link above, sorry.

10

eudoxis 09.18.04 at 5:52 pm

The Washington Post hints as strongly as it can that the blogosphere’s counterattack against the Killian memos began at the White House.

Let’s assume it did. We may also reasonably assume the White House tries to counterattack all attacks on Bush.

I’m perplexed at the rest of post.

11

bob mcmanus 09.18.04 at 5:53 pm

zizka perhaps too modest or polite to link to this cogent analysis by Dave Johnson

Paranoia or True Perception?

yngve, y’all don’t seem to need orders to do your masters’ bidding in a coordinated fashion. Certainly not sheep, though rats trained by treats come to mind. Zizka, Jesse and Ezra at Pandagon seemed to have an epiphany during the memogate week. Beside the troll officially assigned to their site, they were amazed by the consistency and intensity of the right blogosphere, and I think now see the Vast Evil Right Wing Conspiracy.

Drum & Yglesias are in the process of being suborned by the Washington press establishment. We get to watch. Marshall is long lost. Mainstream media and the influences on it, the myth of objectivity, the rise of small media…these have complicated dynamics that are tough to judge from within.

abb1 has inspired me to make another visit to Marxist.org, and read Trotsky or somebody. I often feel there are useful Marxist tools that are underused by a left too many generations removed from union workers with baseball bats.

12

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.18.04 at 6:24 pm

Whoa. Upon reading the the LATimes story, I see this is much more frightening than originally portrayed. It appears that Mr. MacDougald is a conservative and a political activist!

Considering all of the liberal activists who were interested in disproving the document’s authenticity, it is a frightening coincidence that the person who first raised the issue was a conservative. If you ignore silly concepts like selection bias, that fact becomes almost worthy of a conspiracy theory.

I hate this kind of conspiracy theory though. I hate it because CBS could easily suggest or squash such a conspiracy theory by revealing who passed them the forged documents.

Now that the documents have been revealed as forgeries, they don’t have a journalistic responsibility to conceal the source. He burns you, you burn him.

But they won’t, because of one of the source is either:

A) Intimately tied to the Kerry campaign in a way that the liberal media would not want to admit.

B) So disreputable that the story ought not to have been hung on him.

C) Non-existant because CBS forged the memos.

In none of those cases will CBS reveal the source, because doing so is even more damaging to them than letting this play out.

If they were duped by a Republican source they would reveal it. “We were fooled by the E-vil Karl Rove. You can’t blame us, vote for Kerry.”

They look incompetent already since they passed on obvious forgeries as real despite the warnings of their experts. They look no more incompetent if that is tied to Republican shennanigans. Furthermore if it was a Republican source, they could make a story about Republicans trying to make the press look bad (the LATimes does so by promoting conspiracy-mogering from a conservative source questioning the authenticity of the documents so how much easier if the source of the documents was a conservative?).

But if A, B, or C are true, CBS is proven to be much worse than merely incompetent. They are shown to be the direct extension of Democratic Party propaganda. Not so good for an allegedly nonpartisan journalistic entity.

13

Zizka 09.18.04 at 6:26 pm

I was going to respond personally to abb1 so as not to stink up the place, but he has a fake email. So I’ll be civil.

If you look at my post, you’ll see that it was quite a detailed, reasonable argument for partisanship.

If you look at abb1’s response, it was 28 words of heavily sarcastic, redbaiting cliches.

I am not a Stalinist, and neither is abb1, but his style of argumentation is Stalinist, and mine isn’t.

I am arguing for partisanship of the Harry Truman type, which many genteel liberals are unable to distinguish from Stalinist partisanship. Isn’t the problem theirs?

Academic disdain for practical politics and actually functioning democracy is part of the problem. The need to be superior and above the battle.

In other cases, careerist opportunism is a factor. You don’t want to end up writing for “The Progressive” or “The Nation” for 5 cents a word.

14

katherine 09.18.04 at 6:41 pm

Sebastian, the idea that the source is connected to the Kerry campaign relies on an assumption that the Kerry campaign is the DUMBEST EVER. It is not plausible. I assume it was Burkett. CBS has behaved very irresponsibly but these conspiracy theories are a lot less plausible than stuff I would get accused of wearing a tinfoil hat for suggesting. Every time you repeat them you lose a little credibility with me (and yes this is your former coblogger on the line).

There are blogs that are more fiercely liberal than Drum or Marshall or Yglesias without a hint of “hack”ery….Rivka of Respectful of Otters comes to mind, as does Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Not that I think Atrios and Kos are mere hacks or that Drum and Marshall are useful idiots or whatever–Drum, Marshall and Yglesias all pull their punches much, much less your average Op-Ed writer, and I prefer their sites to Atrios and Kos a lot of the time. Different people have different styles, and giving the Democrats a voice is one use for blogs but having BETTER press and commentary is another, perhaps more important, use.

I would like to see more coordination among Democratic blogs, but NOT for us to repeat what the Kerry campaign sends us. Frankly, the Democratic party is pretty lousy at message stuff. I just wish we’d focus on a limited number of stories we think are the most important and underreported instead of what “everyone’s talking about” at the moment. Repitition works, and the GOP does it 1000x times better.

The trouble with this administration is there’s usually 15 different outrages in your average week. It’s hard to know where to focus. But if there’s coordination I’d rather see in it the form of an informal editorial meeting, not recycling whichever DNC faxes.

15

Katherine 09.18.04 at 6:45 pm

Oh okay, I missed the part where you suggest that CBS may have forged them themselves. We’re offically from different planets and I will never taKe any accusation about liberal conspircxy theorists from you seriously again.

16

bob mcmanus 09.18.04 at 7:10 pm

“The crisis of imperialism, which is expressed in the colonial struggle, the arms race and atomic war as well as in the tendency towards slump, constantly produces cultural decay and breakdown. Movements of the extreme Right, like Fascism, are able to call upon depraved elements of the intelligentsia to mobilise petty bourgeois, lumpen proletarians and even numbers of industrial workers behind the most foul and hideous social programmes.” Hi, Sebastian!

“When Lenin says that the only weapon of the working class is organization, he means that whereas the rising bourgeoisie, for instance, developed its own economy, its art, its religion, its schools, its philosophy, and so on, as the expression and organization of its social consciousness, before the political overthrow of the feudal political system, the proletariat does not construct the institutions of capitalism…”

Cliff Slaughter, Labour Review, Britain, 1964

I knew I would find something useful. Of course the blogosphere is getting coopted.

Zizka, do you read Newberry at BOP? I am actually quite excited. This year will suck, but Sebastian and his ilk are like increasing the contradictions. The right think they can destroy the system and create the Libertarian Paradise, but I am now hoping to seem them all on a gallows in my lifetime. I have never been so hopeful.

17

abb1 09.18.04 at 7:26 pm

Zizka, all right, all right. I just wanted to use that lingo. I agree with you. I think the whole political scenery moved to far right that a large former center-right (liberal Republicans) group landed on the Democratic side of the field and they feel kinda lost in there.

Or we can call them ideologically alien fellow travellers – what’s the big deal? It sounds cool.

18

Zizka 09.18.04 at 7:30 pm

For the record, “lumpen” means “ragged” and not “lumpy”.

Oddly enough, Marx once did compare the German proletariat to potatoes in a sack, something like: “The mass of the German nation is formed by simple agglomeration, the way you form a sack of potatoes by putting potatoes in a sack”. And a sack of potatoes sounds **damn** lumpy to me.

BTW, poor Quayle was thinking of the plural form when he put the “e” at the end of “potato”. “Potatos” is not correct.

Also, Bob, the Party wants me to stay undercover. If you continue to break discipline this way, you may end up on a ride to the country, if you know what I mean. I have reason to suspect that young Sebastian here is not entirely to be trusted.

19

Sebastian Holslcaw 09.18.04 at 7:31 pm

C) Was included for completeness, not because I thought it particularly likely. Those are the three reasons why CBS would not reveal the source after having been burned. I can’t think of any other ones. I included it by contrast with CBS having no reason not to burn the source of the documents if the source were a Republican partisan.

And frankly you are way too dismissive about the Kerry campaign angle. If the source were Burkett, it would seem very odd that he had documents. He has been playing up his story for years and years and he never had such documemts. The sudden appearance of such documents in his possession should set off all sorts of alarm bells at CBS, and should have caused a very thourough investigation about where he got the documents. Such an investigation would have surely turned up the fact that the documents were forgeries.

“We’re offically from different planets and I will never taKe any accusation about liberal conspiracy theorists from you seriously again.”

Take a look at the main post on this thread. It is peddling a conspiracy theory about the White House right this very moment. If this post were set up in the format which caused you so much worry it would have noted something about possible White House responses:

A) MacDougald was a conservative who was attentive enough to detail to realize that something looked funny about the documents on his own. The White House had nothing to do with it.

B) The White House might have thought the documents were fake but worried about the fallout of being unable to prove it. As such someone informally mentioned their ideas to MacDougald knowing that if if there were any way to prove that they were fakes he would use the distributed knowledge of the blogoshpere to find it.

(Note that instead of taking this approach Henery assumes ‘spin’ and institutional capture.)

C) The White House didn’t like the documents and tried to spin concerns about them. They got lucky because the documents were actually fakes.

D) The White House faked the documents hoping that CBS would get burned.

So in a post alleging ‘spin’ (even though the ‘spin’ ended up being reality while the CBS documents are forgeries) and suggesting that blogs had become tools of the administration (once again remembering that they found the truth about the memos while CBS and its vaunted investigative service did not) I’m going to get slammed for outlining the major possibilities why CBS wouldn’t reveal the source and contrasting that with CBS’s interest in revealing the source if the source were a Republican?

That doesn’t make sense at all.

20

Another Damned Medievalist 09.18.04 at 7:31 pm

Last night on Bill Maher, P.J. O’Rourke said he thought it was probably Rove …

21

fyreflye 09.18.04 at 7:42 pm

“Karl Rove couldn’t have designed it any better”

If we could establish that Burkett has all along been a Republican provacateur it might then appear that he did.

Does it require possession of a tinfoil hat to suggestt this?

22

Zizka 09.18.04 at 7:49 pm

Could we establish a Godwin’s law for accusations of conspiracy-theorizing? Conspiracies are actually quite frequent in history.

Call it Zizka’s law. “Whoever first accuses his or her opponent of being a conspiracy theorist loses”. I can see this leading to some fun games of “conspiracy-theory chicken” as adversaries try to bait the opponent.

Oh wait, I’m a humorless Stalinist. Don’t tell anyone about my frivolity, Bob. I take back what I said about the rife in the country.

23

Gary Farber 09.18.04 at 7:50 pm

Zizka says: ” think that solidarity is appropriate and ethical punctiliousness and scruprlosity are not.”

By all means, let’s avoid ethical punctiliousness and scruprlosity. When is it ever time for such handicaps? What, after all, are we fighting for, if not the ends justifying the means?

24

Antoni Jaume 09.18.04 at 8:03 pm

“They got lucky because the documents were actually fakes.”

Is that true, or only a possibility?

dsw

25

Zizka 09.18.04 at 8:07 pm

Yes, Gary, like Truman and Stalin, I am planning to bludgeon millions of helpless peasants to death in the service of the greater good. You should thank God that you aren’t a helpless peasant, or I’d be bludgeoning you this very minute.

Liberals and Democrats seem intent on getting the Miss Congeniality ethics prize given to whomever finishes second in the two-man race. God forbid that we lose the race without at least getting that.

26

bob mcmanus 09.18.04 at 8:16 pm

As someone who lurks the right-center blogosphere (Hi, Farber!), it was immediately apparent Wednesday night that the attack wasn’t on the memos, or the content of the memos, or even Dan Rather. The right has asked that Bob Schiefer be banned from moderating debates, as he is unavoidably corrupted by the nature of his employer.

The attack is on the very concept of legitimate institutions that can moderate, referee, serve as platforms for dialogue between right and left. Not the value of a particular institution, but the idea that such a thing can exist. Zizka asks way too much of Drum and Yglesias in asking them to abandon the very legitimacy and idea of a center. This project of the Republican Party is of course also playing itself out in the blogosphere.

zizka makes fun of my wholly ignorant (and I mean that) references to Marxist analysis, but as I watch the bourgeoise consciously destroy the institutions created to protect it, i.e., big media and the welfare state, I do wonder if the language and methods of old liberal politics have any usefulness.

27

woodturtle 09.18.04 at 8:18 pm

abb1-

So “they” use singing telegrams? That is news to me, since I thought most of “they” were tone deaf and did not like music.

But on the other hand, no socialist realism type music either, that would be just as bad.

28

abb1 09.18.04 at 8:26 pm

Hey, what about Shostakovich?

29

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.18.04 at 8:26 pm

“The attack is on the very concept of legitimate institutions that can moderate, referee, serve as platforms for dialogue between right and left. Not the value of a particular institution, but the idea that such a thing can exist.”

I doubt it, but if that were true would you agree that CBS is giving an awfully good argument that they are not such a ‘legitimate’ institution by stonewalling instead of investigating when their error was pointed out?

30

Henry 09.18.04 at 8:30 pm

bq. The right think they can destroy the system and create the Libertarian Paradise, but I am now hoping to seem them all on a gallows in my lifetime. I have never been so hopeful.

Bob – I presume and hope for your sake that you’re trying to provoke an outraged reaction here from someone rather than make a serious claim – this is trolling in my book, and not compatible with the kinds of argument that I want to have in my comments section. You’re on your first warning. Feel free to express strong and vigorous opinions about me or whoever else – but saying that you want to string up everyone on the other half of the political spectrum is way beyond the kinds of argument I’m prepared to tolerate.

31

russkie 09.18.04 at 8:39 pm

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know quite what happened, but it seems highly plausible to me that the White House is communicating with bloggers to spin the news.

More fact-free innuendo…

At least these right wing blogs try to back themselves up with verifiable facts, links, and respect for their readers.

32

Brett Bellmore 09.18.04 at 8:39 pm

I’m not sure what you’re saying, Bob; Are you asserting that Bob Schiefer is the only reasonably objective choice for moderator available?

CBS, 60 Minutes, based a story on forged documents to attack one of the candidates in this election, and has stood by them long after any doubt they were forgeries was extinguished. OF COURSE anybody associated with 60 Minutes is out of the question as a choice for moderator.

Let’s go with Jim Lehrer, or maybe that guy who hosts CSPAN’s Washington Journal. But NOT somebody who’s in any way associated with partisan frauds.

33

Zizka 09.18.04 at 8:40 pm

I suppose this counts as a backdown from my previously-stated positions, but there are certain sorts of issues which only exist as foam or scum whipped up by political operatives during a political campaign. The memos flap and the swiftboat controversy are prime examples. What problem is there with treating these partisan footballs, at least, in a partisan way as partisan footballs, rather than pontificating gravely about ethics and truth?

It really wouldn’t bother me if some Democrats in the public eye were scrupulous centrists like Drum and Yglesias. It bothers me a lot that almost all of them are, and almost none of the Republicans are. David Brooks and Max Boot are the nominees from the Republican side, but they’re two guys and they’re often partisan hacks.

It also bothers me when Drum, Yglesias, and Marshall talk about how important it is to them not to be partisan hacks. The acceptance I’m asked to give to impartial centrists is not given by impartial centrists to me. A healthy political debate would have both kinds, I concede, but in the big media there are plenty of Matts and Kevins, but no Zizkas to speak of. (Kevin just the other day expressed a wish that the LA Times get rid of Robert Scheer, one of the very few strong partisans in the media. Brad DeLong went ballistic on Ehrenreich and similiarly stated the opinion that she shouldn’t be published in the Times. I’m not making this up.)

34

Zizka 09.18.04 at 8:49 pm

I think that Bob was trying to be funny, Henry. I also do not intend to bludgeon millions of peasants to death, nor would I bludgeon Farber to death if he were a peasant.

I did recently find out that my grandmother’s maiden name, “Knittle”, means “bludgeon” (probably cognate with “knout”). The family coat of arms has two bludgeons crossed against ashepherd’s crook or something. True fact. I’m not threatening anyone, though.

35

bob mcmanus 09.18.04 at 8:51 pm

I apologize to Henry for the violent metaphor, which is all it was intended to be.

In my defense I can only say that I take Krugman and Volcker seriously, in that we are likely to have an international monetary collapse, perhaps as soon as five years. That four of the major world leaders (Bush,Blair,Howard,Putin) are polarizing figures desperately trying to deceive their electorates. That solutions to the MiddleEast and Islamism seem absent among the best. That the election of Kerry is irrelevant.

In other words I do sincerely believe we are headed for a catastrophic transitional period. History informs my personal opinion as to how it will resolve itself.

36

Zizka 09.18.04 at 8:54 pm

Why don’t we just ask the Republicans who they want to moderate the debates? That way, we’ll be ethically unassailable.

37

Henry 09.18.04 at 9:17 pm

Bob – apology and explanation duly accepted.

38

BenA 09.18.04 at 9:20 pm

Amen to what zizka says above re: Drum, JMM etc.

This is not an argument against neutral journalistic referees (though for better or for worse I have a hard time seeing where they fit into today’s political culture) because neither Drum nor Josh Marshall presents himself as a neutral referee. Both openly present themselves as partisan, yet they behave in ways bizarrely harmful to their side. And nobody is calling on anyone to be dishonest. In the midst of the memo flap, Drum or JMM could have written (wholly truthfully) about how irrelevant the authenticity of these memos is to the core accusations about Bush’s TANG service. Instead, they spent a lot of time just criticizing the authenticity of the memos. I, for one, am happy to call them useful idiots.

39

BenA 09.18.04 at 9:24 pm

If the uncritical passing on of forged documents to the American public makes all the employees of a particulr media outlet unfit to moderate the debates, we need to look for a network or newspaper that never reported that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program.

40

bob mcmanus 09.18.04 at 9:32 pm

My own overwhelming preference would be no moderators at all, but simply timeclocks to ensure a conversation. One debate on foreign policy, one on domestic, let the candidates question each other. If there were to be the third “town forum”, the candidates themselves could point to members of the audience.

Why this is not conceivable is a interesting question.

41

self 09.18.04 at 9:49 pm

Maybe you should stop looking for big media to admit left of center voices in their networks and begin realigning yourself with less centrist interests. If you respect Ehrenreich’s views and are offended by the attacks from the center, you should take note that she was given a voice on counterpunch.org without any attempt to balance her with views from the right. Why would she be associated with “loons” like that ? Perhaps she feels they are not talking out of both sides of their mouths. Ray McGovern and Stephen Green post there as well so if anyone wants to suggest that maybe Ehrenreich is a “loon”, make it a blanket accusation for all their contributors.

As for the right-wing message machine, only the deluded could believe this influence from the major parties isn’t happening in the center as well (check the pre-nomination hand-wringing about Edwards on Pandagon, Digby, and Atrios sites). Surely attending the cocktail parties as mentioned on their sites isn’t just to talk about what books they’re reading. Only the degree and nature of influence is debatable.

I like the line about the left being too far removed from unions with baseball bats. Actually, the Democrats are still using the unions to subvert the left by falsely packing the Green’s nomination convention and suppress support for Nader. So you see, they still use the hardline tactics with the unions, they just direct them against the left rather than make any platform compromises. Gotta love those “progressive ideals” (an actual DNC theme)! Or is it compassionate progressivism, I can’t tell anymore.

42

BenA 09.18.04 at 10:03 pm

Actually, the Democrats are still using the unions to subvert the left by falsely packing the Green’s nomination convention and suppress support for Nader.

Any actual evidence for this oft-repeated claim, self? I was at the Green convention, and the only identified Democrat there (a would-be Kansas delegate) was denied a seat.

43

woodturtle 09.18.04 at 10:05 pm

abb1- “What about Shostakovich?”

Well, what about him? What do you think, Mr. Left-winger expert Guy?

I think he would work out fine, most of his music was not socialist realism in orientation, even if he may have been a socialist realist politically, but I don’t know what he was.

Does he have any good chorale type tunes adaptable to your cause? I’m thinking here of something that would have been useful when I was working at a Youth Conservation Corps camp one summer, the closest thing we have here to group youth activities they used to have in the Soviet Union. Would you have some type of tune that would inspire them to go out and work hard doing conservation work, and also inspire them to remain pure and not be tempted to sneak out at night and have sex on the mossy places? Man, that mossy place patrolling activities that we had to do got really old.

44

russkie 09.18.04 at 10:50 pm

Question to Bob M. etc.: If Drum is the scrupulous center, are you actually claiming that CBS is trying to get Kerry elected?

45

bob mcmanus 09.18.04 at 11:22 pm

“Question to Bob M. etc.: If Drum is the scrupulous center, are you actually claiming that CBS is trying to get Kerry elected?”

I don’t think I said this. I would say that Drum and most big media are desperately trying to play the role of the “scrupulous center” when that center no longer actually exists. Big Media is useful when there is an elite or general consensus, in that they can reinforce and support that consensus. They can drift right or left when ever the extremes get organized, in order to coopt and moderate the extremes.

Where is the center now? Pro-choice? A little bit pro-life? There is no longer enough national consensus to support a “mainstream” media. I don’t know that there is a political desire to reach that consensus.

As far as CBS’s objectivity, that is their, and it appears, your problem. If Fox were to endorse Bush tomorrow, it would not bother me a bit.

46

yabonn 09.18.04 at 11:52 pm

Pro zizka, mc manus, kinda :

– The political landscape in us is tilted to the right.
– There’s not that many “ethical” commenters on the right, and a plethora on the left.

Now there’s the debate that the left seems to be virtuously losing.

It may be a point, but maybe not one to raise against the virtue league. They’ll rightly respond that they like their freedom of spirit the way it is, and thankyouverymuch.

But that glorious individuality plays in a certain political environment, and one that is unbalanced to the right at that.

So one could propose to that left of center that premisse : “all my even handedness may be too a part of that tilted to the right political environment, and influenceing it in return”. I hasten to pour some troll repellant : i don’t mean that in a “complicit” or “cause” way, rather as in “i may be even handed in a different way if the political landscape wasn’t of the kind where the far left in unthinkable, and far right closing to the center.”

Is that premisse, and the fact the the present situation is anormal are accepted, then maybe we could see a more compact defence all around, and less people on the left out in the cold.

Btw, remember that “shrill” was real bad at some point? And see how now it’s the thing to be? Brad “Ph’nglui” Delong (and shrilllblog) is right on that. Now if only we could get him to go and hug noam chomsky, the left in the us would be saved.

47

A.R.Yngve 09.19.04 at 12:07 am

And so another election year passes.

-A.R.Yngve

48

Mary Garth 09.19.04 at 12:17 am

Zizka’s right. Fighting hard doesn’t necessarily mean fighting dirty.

It drives me nuts when people like Yglesias feel they need to APOLOGIZE for “hackery” whenever they say something partisan.

I’m as partisan as they come, and I don’t lie to win points for my side. We don’t need to.

There’s nothing unintellectual or to be looked down upon in being partisan. In fact, under the current circumstances, I believe that being a partisan Democrat is the only intellectually defensible position to have…

49

laura 09.19.04 at 12:22 am

wow, henry, the comments here have gone off into an entirely different neighborhood from your original post. I just wanted to say “nice post”. OK, that’s all. Continue the bludgeoning…

50

Zizka 09.19.04 at 12:31 am

I have tons more to say, but here are a few things from the eminently realistic and cntrist Max Weber, one of the founders of the doomed Weimar Republic. He had more respect for politics than you would know if you only had read “Science as Vocation”.

Pro forma apologies to all for hijacking the thread, but I have unbfinished business here at CT, and also I’m a Stalinist goon.

“In order to be a useful apparatus, a machine in the American sense–undisturbed either by the vanity of notables or pretensions to independent views–the following of such a leader must obey him blindly. Lincoln’s election was possible only through this character of party organization….

But the very petty-bourgeois hostility of all parties to leaders, the Social Democratic party certainly included, leaves the future formation of parties and all these chances still completely in the dark….
But even herewith the problem is not yet exhausted. No ethics in the world can dodge the fact that in numerous instances the attainment of ‘good’ ends is bound to the fact that one must be willing to pay the price of using morally dubious means or at least dangerous ones –and facing the possibility or even the probability of evil ramifications. From no ethics in the world can it be concluded when and to what extent the ethically good purpose ‘justifies’ the ethically dangerous means and ramifications….One cannot prescribe to anyone whether he should follow an ethic of absolute ends or an ethic of responsibility, or when the one and when the other…..
Now then, ladies and gentlemen, let us debate this matter once more ten years from now. Unfortunately, for a whole series of reasons, I fear that by then the period of reaction will have long since broken over us. It is very probable that little of what many of you, and (I candidly confess) I too, have wished and hoped for will be fulfilled; little-perhaps not exactly nothing, but what to us at least seems little.”

Politics as vocation

http://socialpolicy.ucc.ie/Weber_Politics_as_Vocation.htm

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Zizka 09.19.04 at 12:36 am

Mary Garth: I am not advocating the maximum of dirtiness. However, I think that between now and Nov. 3 we shouldn’t spend a lot of time wondering whether our adversaries’ accusations are true or not, or whether one of our allies has stepped a few inches over the line.

No, I wouldn’t call murdering the kullaks “stepping a few inches over the line”.

52

Henry 09.19.04 at 2:28 am

Yeah Zizka, ever since the last argument about this a few days ago, I’ve been thinking of doing a post called “blogging as a vocation” – the counter to “politics as a vocation” argument is the argument in “science as a vocation” that some forms of public discourse (academia) _require_ an even-handedness and willingness to come to grips with uncomfortable and awkward facts from the point of view of one’s party position. This is a website run by academics – I think we’ve got a pretty strong justification for blogging in a very different style than Daily Kos. I’ll go further – my personal opinion is that academics who blog without a minimal respect for intellectual honesty, and the possibility that they may sometimes have something to learn from their antagonists are betraying their professional vocation in a quite fundamental way. This doesn’t mean that they should limit themselves to the neutrality that they should show in the classroom – but when they publicly express their opinions on political matters, their arguments should be grounded in a recognizable version of the truth, and should be corrected if and when they prove to be wrong, regardless of the political consequences. Academics answer to different gods than politicians – and they’re jealous enough divinities. Further, _PAAV_ is based on a fundamentally Nietzchian perspective, which sits awkwardly with most of the comments made in this thread and others. Weber is saying, more or less that the true politician recognizes the essential arbitrariness and non-groundedness of his values, but nonetheless defends them to the hilt because this is his vocation – it’s a tragic and agonistic view of politics. What I’m getting from most of the commentators here is that extreme measures are appropriate b/c in the end of the day, we’re right and they’re wrong. That’s rather different, and rather more difficult to defend on the level of abstract theory. Finally, and this is more an aside than anything, Weber was hardly a centrist – he was a highly nationalist liberal – read some of his stuff on the Poles in Silesia for example.

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Chris Lawrence 09.19.04 at 9:43 am

Henry: “Buckhead” isn’t a blogger, so if bloggers were being “spun” by the White House, it was at best indirectly. And I treat allegations of “direct” spin by the White House of bloggers at about the same level as the (oft-heard about 18 months ago) theories that Atrios and Josh Marshall are given daily talking points by Sid Blumenthal (i.e. with a giant salt-lick).

I suspect the agenda-setting we do see in the political blogosphere is actually fairly decentralized, as we’d expect in a complex system, rather than relying on the relatively limited number of cues (prinicpally party figures and the New York Times and WaPo) that elite discourse has traditionally used in the United States.

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Gary Farber 09.19.04 at 11:15 am

“Yes, Gary, like Truman and Stalin, I am planning to bludgeon millions of helpless peasants to death in the service of the greater good.”

Thank heaven we have no excluded middle between this and our rejection of being ethical.

The simple fact is that you literally advocate being “unscrupulous,” Zizka. Good luck with that, but don’t expect my support, and if that makes me a lousy Democrat, I’ll try to live with myself. There’s losing an election, and there’s losing one’s soul, and I’ve made my choice.

And yet, this doesn’t make you a Stalinist. It also doesn’t make you Truman. Even Gore Vidal knew that.

55

Gary Farber 09.19.04 at 11:21 am

“Yes, Gary, like Truman and Stalin, I am planning to bludgeon millions of helpless peasants to death in the service of the greater good.”

Thank heaven we have no excluded middle between this and our rejection of being ethical.

The simple fact is that you literally advocate being “unscrupulous,” Zizka. Good luck with that, but don’t expect my support, and if that makes me a lousy Democrat, I’ll try to live with myself. There’s losing an election, and there’s losing one’s soul, and I’ve made my choice.

And yet, this doesn’t make you a Stalinist. It also doesn’t make you Truman. Even Gore Vidal knew that.

Let’s fight hard as Truman and more. Let’s fight to win. But the day my party ceases to stand up for “ethical punctiliousness and scruprlosity” is the day it’s not my party. Sell that slogan to someone else.

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Gary Farber 09.19.04 at 11:27 am

“‘Buckhead’ isn’t a blogger, so if bloggers were being “spun” by the White House, it was at best indirectly.”

The immense difference between posting to a conglomerative site such as the “Freepers” do, and a blog, isn’t quite so terribly vast as to be unimaginable and unspeakable.

57

Tagore Smith 09.19.04 at 12:02 pm

Oh, what utter bullshit. Flat out- CBS News tried to nail Bush with fake documents, and got caught. You’re supposed to be academics- you should see why fake documents are problematic- don’t equivocate.

There are lots of good reasons to slam Bush, but this isn’t one of them.

If you have some actual evidence that the Bushies set CBS up, bring it forward. Otherwise… I suggest you start digging into the Vince Foster case- you’re acting no better, now, than the weirdest of the weird on the right, in the 90s. Actually you are acting worse- they had a few shreds…

We all know what happened, OK? Your attempt to cloud the issue is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the right.

Partisanship can drive people to some weird extremes, but this is really beneath you. Or rather, beneath the respect that you have always been automatically afforded based on the positions you hold.

58

Henry 09.19.04 at 3:06 pm

Tagore

I don’t usually bother to respond to comments which are as appallingly dimwitted as yours, but since you’re attacking me and the rest of the CTites as academics, I’d ask you as politely as I can to please _read_ the post. Do it properly this time, and take some time to think about why you think that this post is an attack on the Bush administration, because it really says more about you than about me.

Chris – the point of the post isn’t that right wing bloggers are part of some vast conspiracy aiming from the White House – it’s that insofar as key bloggers are influential, we can expect figures in the White House and elsewhere to want to try to spin them, as they do everyday reporters. And there is some empirical evidence – look up early in the comments, before this degenerated into another argument altogether, and you’ll see Matt Yglesias telling us who on the Dem side is doing this consistently. If the White House isn’t doing this too, then the White House is a lot more politically incompetent than I think it is. Why _wouldn’t_ the pols want to spin bloggers? This doesn’t mean, of course, that the stories that come out of spin are wrong, but it does mean that the myth of the lone blogger standing up for the truth against the inimical forces of the system is increasingly nonsensical. As bloggers (or a few bloggers) get real power, they’re increasingly likely to get sucked into the system. That’s my point.

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nnyhav 09.19.04 at 3:33 pm

Henry — While academic objectivity can co-exist with partisan subjectivity, it’s reasonable to object that the former may be compromised when put into the service of the latter. Suggesting that astroturfing has mutated into some version of coordinated DDOS hacking seems awfully close to the (party) line. Next, it’ll be not just the bloggers but the ballot-empowered voters themselves implicated by letters to the editor, representatives, et al.

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Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez, known as "The Rat" 09.19.04 at 3:41 pm

How do those jackboots fit on you, Zizka?

61

yabonn 09.19.04 at 4:41 pm

Let’s fight to win. But the day my party ceases to stand up for “ethical punctiliousness and scruprlosity” is the day it’s not my party.

But the liberal label was used as a liability to be played against kerry. And moveon took a beating for that add. And kos was left in the cold for the mercenary thing. And the right, otoh, can get away with pretty much everything, beggining with their joke of a president.

Why?

In all punctiliousness and scruprlosity, part of the problem may lie in part in the way the political game is played, and that we may have here room for improvement. Maybe in more aggressivity conveying the message, maybe in trying to reach out more to people on the left that you may not agree totally with. It’s not about becoming lgf, it’s a matter of degree.

That’s something to ask to the politics and militants, about CT specific case, i think harry’s righ : agree or disagree, these are different gods.

62

Andreas Brecht 09.19.04 at 5:05 pm

First let me make two things clear:
1. I am a german citizen
2. neither GW Bush nor the RNC have ever contacted me or influenced me in any way.

I started following Rathergate right from the beginning. IMHO there can be no doubt whatsoever that Rather is either extremely incompetent or a forger.
In both cases he has to resign or be sacked ASAP.

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Henry 09.19.04 at 5:08 pm

nnyhav – you’re completely misunderstanding the post. See my comments directed at Chris above.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 09.19.04 at 5:39 pm

“Why wouldn’t the pols want to spin bloggers? This doesn’t mean, of course, that the stories that come out of spin are wrong, but it does mean that the myth of the lone blogger standing up for the truth against the inimical forces of the system is increasingly nonsensical.”

This is what doesn’t make sense to me. Why do you use the word ‘spin’ in the context of a situation where the a blatant and targeted falsehood was exposed. ‘Spin’ is typically used in a context where unpleasant truths are explained away or distracted from by propaganda or other forms of media misdirection. Why would you contort the idea to include a situation where documents were forged by someone to support a political hit piece, and where you presume (though neither prove nor proint to much useful evidence) that the White House clued some people in to investigate the matter, the matter was investigated, and the forgeries were revealed. Unless you want to classify all political communications as ‘spin’ (a definition which I suspect would make the term useless) I don’t see how this was a case of spin.

If you want to talk about spin, you could talk about CBS’s response to the revelations that their documents were forgeries. For example you could note that in the followup, 60 Minutes suggests that there were 1970s typewriters that could do the itty-bitty superscript, and typewriters that could type with proportional spacing and typewriters that could use Times New Roman, but they pointedly omit the sharing the facts that these features were not all found on a single typewriter and that the advanced typesetting machine that could do all of those cost thousands of 1970s dollars and wasn’t likely to be found in a National Guard branch office and even if it were it wouldn’t be used on a memo. That is spin.

Saying to someone that you aren’t sure documents are genuine, but don’t want to be caught up in a big mess if you can’t prove it, so maybe they could look into it further isn’t spin.

And we only have innuendo regarding even that occurring.

65

Henry 09.19.04 at 6:42 pm

Sebastian – I’m using the word spin to refer to the ways in which pols seek to make sure that the news is interpreted in a way that furthers their interests. That’s a standard usage – it doesn’t carry the connotations you suggest. Frankly, I’m getting pretty short-tempered here – it should be quite obvious from the post that I am not (a) sniping at the White House for seeking to spin events, or (b) commenting directly on the authenticity or otherwise of the documents. I’m talking about the ways in which bloggers are becoming like the mainstream media – because they have influence over the agenda, both Republicans _and_ Democrats will have an incentive to try to spin them. Indeed, you could even interpret it as a defence of the White House – to the extent that they are doing this, they are only doing what other political actors in their position would do (and what the Democrats appear to have been doing in other contexts). As with some of the above comments, your interpretation says a lot more about you than about the post. It’s pretty frustrating to me that it is impossible to make any substantive point with regard to the elections that isn’t immediately interpreted by one side or another as having partisan intent. You’ll also note that your attack on me is a little ironic in light of the fact that most of the criticisms of the post in this thread come from Democrats who are saying that the post isn’t partisan, and that it should be (or that CT more generally shouldn’t try to be impartial). The argument I’m making here stems directly from an argument made in the paper that Dan Drezner (no partisan Democrat he) and I have been writing (cf his recent post on the topic – as Dan says in a recent post, the only very interesting thing about this brouhaha from an academic point of view is what it says about the relationship between blogs and politics. Your argument that I should be attacking spin from CBS to be even-handed is fatuous – I’m not attacking spin, merely commenting on its existence and implications for blogs. That’s the point of the post – I’m sorry that you are too caught up in your own self-appointed role as rightist gadfly to get it.

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Danny 09.19.04 at 6:45 pm

Prf pstv #76,539 tht lfts hv lst thr mnds.

t s th grwn chldrn nd thr xtrm vrsn t rlty tht hs dstryd th lft.

Hnry, sn, stp dng whtvr t s y’r dng tht s csng ths hllcntns. Sr cnprcy thrs mght sth yr trbld mnd fr fw hrs r dys, bt wht y nd p wth wk r tw ltr s dpr psychss nd ncrsd sprtn frm rlty. t s’nt gd fr y r yr fmly r yr frnds.

dd’nt lv the lft. Th lft lft m.

67

nnyhav 09.19.04 at 6:51 pm

Just so we fully misunderstand one another …

The Washington Post hints as strongly as it can that the blogosphere’s counterattack against the Killian memos began at the White House. […] It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know quite what happened, but it seems highly plausible to me that the White House is communicating with bloggers to spin the news.

White House = Bush re-election campaign = RNC = Republican Party = Republican activists would appear to be the posited equivalence relation, with Bloggers a disjoint set. (The ‘equally’ disclaimer that follows seems to stop at the Democratic Party, oh sorry, people in the Democratic Party.) There are not only bloggers within both parties, but strongly motivated partisans at that; these bloggers have every incentive to influence media in a way they think accords with their party’s aims. That both Rep & Dem party machinery would be or become sensitive to this is unremarkable — in fact, it provides both with fine-tuned directed message-carrying capabilities (and at arms length, at that, though not forcibly as under 527 regs) — though media remains more than justifiably wary of blogs (as various news orgs deeply discounted being frontrun on this issue), so I suppose a lot of reverse English is requisite. And Drudge is so last administration. The hook for your piece sets a more ominous context.

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onethumb 09.19.04 at 6:54 pm

So zizka states that he has thrown fairness out the window because the ends justify the means. Based on his belief that whatever the Repubs are accusing the Dems of doing they are doing first.

Now, when someone posts that the Repubs are interested in the Blogosphere, and someone else posts that press flacks of Daschle and Kerry are in contact with some lefty blogs…therefore it is proof that the progressive elements of the blogosphere have to become partisan hacks. And justifies the Moonbattery that there really _is_ a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy by proposing a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. Sheesh.

I think zizka has missed the lesson of the New Media. If you lie you will be caught. If you are a partisan _shill_ you will be seen as such. Which is exactly what is happening to DeLong. He used to be looked at, by the righties, as a respected voice of the Democrats. Spin was understood. However, lately Brad has descended into pure political hackery and all he speaks to now is the hardcore left.

OTOH, if someone will pay bloggers to shill…….

69

geoffg 09.19.04 at 7:01 pm

After getting halfway through the comments, I have a question.

For those on the liberal side of the Rathergate issue, where is the moral outrage that CBS would willingly use forgeries in an attempt to sway a Presidential election in wartime.

This is treasonous behavior, by either side. I think a little introspection should produce an overwhelming anger at CBS – 56 Minutes – Dan Rather for having lost this election by their perfidy.

70

old maltese 09.19.04 at 7:31 pm

As Sebastian and others have said, it’s ridiculous without evidence to infer a causal connection from the White House to blogger Buckhead (probably not coincidentally the name of a fashionable neighborhood in Atlanta), who is an active Republican.

As somebody said regarding a wealthy Texas Republican’s being the initial big funder of the Swift Boat Veterans, ‘Who do you think would put up the nest egg, Jane Fonda?’

(Off-topic: today’s N.Y. Time’s ‘On Language’ piece by Wm. Safire explores the origin of the name ‘Swift Boat’.)

71

eudoxis 09.19.04 at 7:45 pm

Henry, perhaps some of the confusion is in using the Killian memo anecdote as an example. I suspect a lot of the effect you are noting is a result of the growth in size and participation of the blogosphere and is independent from actual information content.

72

Mark American 09.19.04 at 7:55 pm

I think we all agree that a travesty was perpetrated in the airing of these false documents, much like a travesty was perpetrated in the Florida elections 4 years ago when some news programs aired gore as having won the election (and that the polls were closed hours earlier) before the polls closed. In fact, certain news organizations promised they would not rush stories to ‘print’ and jeopardize the fair outcome of a presidential election again … and apparently lied.
I think dan rather is a puppet … he doesn’t perform the investigation any more that the president skulks down dark alleys in the middle east in search of terrorists. Now that we know he only reads what he’s handed, he might want to drop the ‘investigative’ from his title, or move to editorials, and the real culprit might be his producer who appears to have a history (not just with this case, but apparently her ‘cracking’ of the abu ghraib scandal consisted of being handed pictures and notes) of merely running with whatever she’s handed … not to mention not caring that a lot of innocent people have lost their heads, literally, because of her ineptitude.

73

Mark American 09.19.04 at 7:56 pm

I think we all agree that a travesty was perpetrated in the airing of these false documents, much like a travesty was perpetrated in the Florida elections 4 years ago when some news programs aired gore as having won the election (and that the polls were closed hours earlier) before the polls closed. In fact, certain news organizations promised they would not rush stories to ‘print’ and jeopardize the fair outcome of a presidential election again … and apparently lied.
I think dan rather is a puppet … he doesn’t perform the investigation any more that the president skulks down dark alleys in the middle east in search of terrorists. Now that we know he only reads what he’s handed, he might want to drop the ‘investigative’ from his title, or move to editorials, and the real culprit might be his producer who appears to have a history (not just with this case, but apparently her ‘cracking’ of the abu ghraib scandal consisted of being handed pictures and notes) of merely running with whatever she’s handed … not to mention not caring that a lot of innocent people have lost their heads, literally, because of her ineptitude.

74

Mark American 09.19.04 at 7:58 pm

Whoa! Sorry about that!

75

Zizka 09.19.04 at 8:11 pm

one-thumb: Republican partisan shills do not get caught. The Clinton impeachment was predominantly disinformation and fraud. It succeeded far beyond its merits, and there were no consequences for the perps, many of whom are still being well taken care of.

henry — one of the problems I’m talking about is that academics and media people have far too much influence in the Democratic party. They are a significant constituency and have influence beyond their numbers. If they are going to participate in the Democratic Party, and I think that should, they should take off their objectivity hats and put on their partisan hats, especially when dealing with fluffy ephemera tossed up in the heat of an election.

The model I see people following is something like “In a world of partisans, I will be a voice of reason”. When too much of the Democratic party lives by that nonpartisan rule, the party is weakened. The model I go by is “The Democratic party is at risk of becoming irrelevant, as Norquist and Rove intend”. The US is NOT swarming with mindless Democratic hacks. It’s swarming with Republicans and mindlessly open-minded liberals. The numbers really do not justify the idea that pure-of-heart objectivity is in short supply, and partisanship is in excess. You’re fighting the last war (e.g., the period Orwell describes when Labor was effectively allied to the USSR).

I didn’t post the Weber quote because I adore Weber. It was just to point out that others then Lenin practiced a politics of instrumental rationalism. I disagree that Weber was merely stating some sort of Nietzchean idea of existential political choice. He was also saying that once you decide to play, some of the things you will do will be morally impure. I’m pretty sure that I could find Isaiah Berlin or Karl Popper saying about the same; they were pretty realistic and vigorously rejected the idea of “soul-saving” politics which Farber affirms (as did Stirling Newberry elsewhere).

I’m pretty sure that Truman would have dealt with the memos about as I did. Point out that they’re true in substance, defer judgement on their validity and let the other side do the refutation, avoid overcommitting, and endeavor to keep them from becoming the main question. Truman really did have dirty hands, you know. So did Roosevelt. So did Lincoln. So did every political hero anyone has ever had.

“A liberal is someone who won’t even take his own side in a fight” — Robert Frost, paraphrase. Rightist thngs, of whom there are a few here, devoutly wish that the Democratic party will remain pure of heart. Kevin Drims thugs praise his openness from time to time, but mostly they stink up his comments threads relentlessly enough to make them useless useless as a forum for intelligent discussion. That has happened here too.

76

abb1 09.19.04 at 8:12 pm

woodturtle,
sorry, I missed your important question. No, I don’t think Shostakovich would work for your Youth Conservation Corps camp. Try this time-tested classic.

Mp3 here (Serbo-Croatian language version).

All natural ingridients, libido suppression guaranteed.

77

abb1 09.19.04 at 8:15 pm

Sorry, that’s ingredients

78

Sebastian Holsclaw 09.19.04 at 8:26 pm

“Your argument that I should be attacking spin from CBS to be even-handed is fatuous – I’m not attacking spin, merely commenting on its existence and implications for blogs.”

I wasn’t worried about even-handedness I was worried about using the word in its typical perjorative sense: “While traditional public relations relies more on creative presentation of the facts, “spin” often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics to sway audiences away from widespread (and often commonsense) perceptions.” Within the context of that meaning and the context of your hook story, the term makes much more sense in CBS’s manipulations–unless you would suggest that media institutions cannot or do not spin.

I’ve never heard it used in a purely neutral sense. I’m surprised to hear that the neutral sense is a common usage. I’ve heard the term hundreds of times and it has always been pejorative.

But I suppose you can spin the definition of the word any way you want. Much like politicians in a debate it lets you frame things in a way such that your opponents might look bad.

79

moneyrunner 09.19.04 at 8:47 pm

Ziska,

You may want to delete references to Lenin when communicating in an open forum like this one. While the slogan of the Party was Bread, Land and Peace, before that was able to be delivered we had the reality of famine, collectivization and the Gulag. I’m sure the unsophisticated proletariat of the Capitalist hegemony probably associate Lenin with the reality of the latter than the promise of the former.

80

Henry 09.19.04 at 9:01 pm

Sebastian – consider this my last response to you on this or anything else that you have to say – I don’t think it’s worth my time engaging in discussion with someone who persistently accuses me of bad faith. You’re not worth it.

Zizka – it may well be that you’re right that academics such as meself have too much influence in the Democratic party – but that doesn’t mean that academics should therefore become hacks. As stated, that’s incompatible with our responsibilities. On Weber, the Nietzchian influences are pretty obvious – the interpretation I’m giving is more or less standard. Which isn’t to say that other interpretations mightn’t apply, or that Weber was right – but when I say that Weber has a Nietzchian agonistic view of politics, I’m not coming out of outer space.

81

woodturtle 09.19.04 at 9:03 pm

abb1:

“Libido suppression guaranteed.”

Well, abb1, now we all know what it was you were thinking about at nature lovers socialist workers party youth camp. HaHa! Did it work for you? I’ll bet you could sing this song in your sleep, and probably did!

I downloaded the tune, not too bad, but the lyrics leave something for desire. There are some things that the U.S. Government would not approve of as suitable for its youth, and certain people with religious convictions might also have a problem. But it has excellent 4 part harmony, and I’m sure some successful adaptations can be made. Thanks for the suggestion.

82

Zizka 09.19.04 at 9:58 pm

I granted the Nietzschean aspect of Weber, or thought I did, but was just saying that Weber also quite correctly recognized that anyone in practical politics ends up doing things, even for idealistic ends, that would normally be regarded as somewhat dubious. I used Truman as an example because he really did have a shady aspect.

I really think that the Weimar analogy (implicit in the Weber citation) is on the money. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity”. I have never advocated that D’s try to match the viciousness of the R’s, but people have to recognize what kind of fight we’re in, and frankly calling fouls on our own team, above all on fairly trivial issues tossed up during the heat of the campaign, doesn’t make sense to me.

Democrats and their equivalents elsewhere have too many sympathizers who have the habit of undercutting them for trivial reasons at key moments. A significant proportion of left intellectuals seem to think of their primary role as “keeping their own side honest”. (Motto: “I’d rather l;ose than win that way!”)

You need SOME of those people, but not proportionally as many as we’ve got. They really aren’t the saving remnant they think they are; they’re more like a roving pack of savage scrupulosity-raptors (someone please translate that into Latin for me).

Whenever this issue comes up (on DeLong, Drum, or here), a swarm of conservatives arrives to praise the “honest liberal” and accuse me of evildoing. Few or none of them have a history of demanding that their own friends follow the strict rules they want applied to us, mostly because if they tried to do that on conservative blogs they’s quickly be banned.

I am really only quite sensibly recommending quite ordinary democratic, Democratic partisanship. People have extrapolated wildly.

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Zizka 09.19.04 at 10:09 pm

I have never said that academics should be hacks. That’s the language of the people I oppose. I’ve said that they shouldn’t call fouls on their own team. There are lots of people available to do that! I have said that (within whatever limits they care to set) they should advocate for their own side. I have said that they should treat the chickenshit little issues that bob up during a political campaign as moves ion a political game, not as scientific hypotheses to be carefully tested.

I have to admit that I think that my reading of the contemporary situation is wildly different than most people here. I think that the Bush-Rove team is as big a threat to American democracy as has been seen since the Civil War, and I think that this fall Bush has a 50/50 chance of permanently crippling the Democratic party and remaking the US and the world according to his wishes. I also feel personally vulnerable, since my family and I live in the US and most of us have limited international mobility. I do suspect a bit of complacency.

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bob mcmanus 09.19.04 at 10:27 pm

zizka, in some ways I agree with you,in some not. Kerry with the present Republican Congress/Media is going to be a nightmare.

America is not going to turn into Guatemala. This too will pass, and I think the transition is only delayable, not avoidable. My own prediction is a lurch right, a major war with tens of millions dead, and then a big long lurch left, with possibly a world government that looks like Europe. The Right doesn’t want this, but they are controlled by their own internal contradictions.

Is the Europe of today, as compared to the Europe of 1900 adequate compensation for the horrors of WWI & WWII? Was the process avoidable, or predetermined?

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Henry 09.19.04 at 10:36 pm

Zizka – it seems to me that you are more or less asking us to be hacks. You’re asking us to treat the faults of our own side more leniently than the faults of the other. That’s a mild form of hackery, perhaps, but hackery nonetheless. I’ll agree that there’s a sound political logic to that – but it’s a logic that I can’t subscribe to – precisely on the grounds that Weber lays out (being committed to the social sciences means directly grappling with the facts that are uncomfortable for your own side). Now, I think that there is a compunction that some liberals (and I’m a lefty, not a liberal) feel to be fairer than fair, and harsher on their own side than their opponents. That’s a different matter altogether – and something that I can very happily agree is neither smart politically, nor in the end necessarily required by the academic ethos that I’m interested in.

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PeterBoston 09.19.04 at 11:01 pm

The implication of this post is that the non-anointed are incapable of developing a thought or coordinating with other human beings without direction from on high. I guess that would be the magical, omnipotent, omnipresent Karl Rove.

I suppose this is but another example of the self-delusion infecting the left and why the 2004 election is becoming a disaster for the Democrats.

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mk 09.19.04 at 11:03 pm

“Point out that they’re true in substance, defer judgement on their validity and let the other side do the refutation, avoid overcommitting, and endeavor to keep them from becoming the main question”

That’s terrible logic and terrible ethics. Like the NYT forever-infamous headline: “Fake but Accurate.”

As a conservative, I find it interesting reading an intelligent but misdirected thread about recent events from the other side. I think what’s happened in our current discourse is that we stray from the facts at the first emotional bait. Johnson said of Shakespeare that he couldn’t resist a quibble. Similarly, the left’s discourse seems so guided by anti-Bush sentiment, that it ignores the facts of the discourse.

For instance, the Swiftvets have contributed two facts that undermine Kerry’s claims about Vietnam: 1) that he was in Cambodia, and 2) it turns out that the first Purple Heart was “self-inflicted.” Note that the latter term has specific military application meaning a wound in the absence of enemy fire. The Kerry campaign has acknowledged these two items. Lay aside for the moment the magic hat and the CIA spook and the dog blown in the air from one boat to another. Kerry and the DNC made an error of epic proportions in casting Vietnam as their central metaphor.

Second, the media, whatever the left’s complaint, is so patently biased against the center-right that it’s become humorous. The CBS forgeries are case in a point, but there is also the Lewis Lapham howler, a terribly embarrassing error for someone of that stature at a publication of Harper’s stature. Or the AP story by Scott Lindlaw written under Tom Hay’s byline that the crowd booed Clinton’s surgery “and Bush did nothing to stop it.” That was a LIE. Tom Hays was hundreds of miles away. Lindlaw is a known Bush basher and made that up. The AP issued a full and formal retraction.

All the forgeries and propaganda from the “objective” media have been directed against Bush, is that a coincidence?

It would be best if we had a debate on the issues. What I want to know from Kerry, is what would he do about Iraq and terrorism? Just an honest but detailed answer would do. Then, let the chips fall where they may and let people decide. Enough smoke and fog. Let’s have an honest debate.

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Beldar 09.19.04 at 11:16 pm

Well damn, I guess I’m busted. The story will be out soon anyway, I guess. I’ve been promised a seat on the Supreme Court in a second Bush Administration for writing about Rathergate in BeldarBlog. And virgins — lots and lots of brown-eyed virgins. (I turned down Morgan Fairchild.) Yeah, that’s the ticket!

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Zizka 09.19.04 at 11:27 pm

MK: I’m afraid that you are in some alternate universe. The SBV controversy was 95% bogus and no conservatives that I know of cared. The Clinton impeachment was almost as bad and conservativbes were wetting themselves with delight. The major media promoted the Clinton scandals, treated the SBV’s far too respectfully, and gave Bush a free pass in 2000 while relaying stupid meaningless rumors about Gore.

Lapham is not a first-rank figure. The Lindlaw story was small potatoes and was quickly retracted. You seem to feel that that all plus the memos adds up to a powerful uindictment. Jesus.

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Zizka 09.19.04 at 11:42 pm

Weren’t politics and science alternate vocations for Weber? But a lot of academics do engage in politics, but continue to hold themselves and others to scientific standards.

Compare law and philosophy or history. A lawyer who is also a philosopher would be wrong to limit his arguments to those regarded as valid by historians and philosophers. He might even be disbarred for unprofessionally harming his client. IF a philosopher goes into legal advocacy, he has to take off his philosophy hat. (I’d be interested in seeing how Posner handles this, though to me he’s a pretty unappealling figure as either one. And Posner is no longer an advocate anyway).

When you and others call legitimate forms of political advocacy “hackery”, to me it betrays a weak committment to the democratic process. “Hackery” is functionally necessary for democracies to function at all, just as lawyers (“shysters”) are functionally necessary in a liberal society.

Liberals and radicals are often suspected of preferring government by experts rather than by democratic politics, and I think that there is some reason for this.

If there were a surplus of Democratic hacks and a paucity of objective intellectuals, I might speak differently. I think that the actuality is the opposite.

I also would not apply my loyalty principles to serious major issues. I am especially talking about the petty stuff that shows up in the heatof a campaign. I fully expect something damaging about Kerry to appear during the last week of the campaign, and I can tell you right now, without knowing whatit is, that I will deny and reject this information as effectively as I can. Am I correct in understanding that you will initiate a thoughtful discussion of the pros and cons?

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leaddog2 09.19.04 at 11:45 pm

Y cll th Prsdnt Htlr, crs r srvc ppl, brn r flg nd se Frgd dcmnts t try t stl nthr lctn?

D y wndr why lft-wng Dmcrts r dspsd by dcnt mrcns?

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Henry 09.20.04 at 12:08 am

We appear to have been LGFed – don’t feed the trolls. I’ll be disemvowelling them.

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Bernard Yomtov 09.20.04 at 3:13 am

You’re asking us to treat the faults of our own side more leniently than the faults of the other.

Henry,

If our side’s faults are less serious then that is surely appropriate.

Perhaps what you should do is weigh the consequences of the faults before deciding how to treat them. Sucking up oxygen to talk about memos lets Bush off the hook, at least for a little while, for vastly greater offenses against the truth.

You don’t have to pretend lies are true, but remember that resources, including especially time before the election, are finite, and should be used wisely.

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thedaddy 09.20.04 at 3:16 am

Ww!
Ths s th frst tm hv cm t ths st.
Y Dmcrts(?) t lst tht s wht thnk y gys (nd ldy) sm t b ( xcldng th dd sclst r Stlnst), rlly sm t b lsng t.
Y rlly dn’t gt t.
Wll hr t s in smpl lngg:
Th RPDTN hs bgn, t wll cnt nd wll gn spd — y dn’t hv nyplc t hd yr ls nymr.

Frst t ws tht lftwng phny hstrn Mchl Bllsls wrtng bt frrms n clnl dys, thn t ws tht thr lftwng phny hstrn Drs Krns Gdwn, thn Th NY Tms ( Jysn Blr nd Hwll Rns) thn tht gy frm S tdy, Nw C-BS nd tht ld fl Rather. Lrs ll–Thr s n plc t hd- t’s vr.

Nvmbr 3rd (n sprscrpt n ths typwrtr-srry) Krry nd th Dms wll b Cld (Frnch) Tst

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Harry 09.20.04 at 4:10 am

“Equally, I’d be very surprised if people in the Democratic party aren’t communicating with some bloggers in order to try to get their spin across…”

Y’d hv n nsd trck t knw, wldn’t y, Hnry? Hs nybdy frm th Dm stblshmnt bn fdng y tlkng pnts r dvc? f ys, d tll. f nt, thn ‘d sggst y’r thr prtsn t th pnt f nsnty r sffrng frm n xcssvly tght tnfl ht.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 09.20.04 at 6:41 am

“That’s the point of the post – I’m sorry that you are too caught up in your own self-appointed role as rightist gadfly to get it.”

Summing up your response, and then when I respond to that:

“I don’t think it’s worth my time engaging in discussion with someone who persistently accuses me of bad faith. You’re not worth it.”

Funny that someone approachs my arguments as bad faith and then accuses me of the same when I express completely unfeigned surprise that ‘spin’ allegedly has a completely common usage that is entirely non-pejorative. I would bet that the ratio of ‘spin’ usages as expressed in non-pejorative to perjorative terms is easily less than 1 to 50.

If you are going to use uncommon usages it helps to define them at the beginning unless you want people to be confused about what you mean. Spin is a very loaded word. It does not typically just “refer to the ways in which pols seek to make sure that the news is interpreted in a way that furthers their interests” in a neutral sense. The normal usage of the word is much more like:

“In public relations, spin is a usually pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one’s own favor of an event or situation that is designed to bring about the most positive result possible. While traditional public relations relies more on creative presentation of the facts, “spin” often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics to sway audiences away from widespread (and often commonsense) perceptions.” link

You seem to be spinning your definition of ‘spin’ to artificially make it appear that I am unfairly creating issues from your post, and I’m sure you will take offense at that interpretation just as you did before–because you know the actual definition of the word ‘spin’.

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DavidInnes 09.20.04 at 8:04 am

The assertion that the White House (or more generally, as in out years, the RNC) are spinning bloggers is ominous only to the extent that the bloggers in question don’t want to participate in the spin.

For at least the last eight years anyone who listens to conservative talk radio on cross-country trips will notice an astonishing consistency in subject matter day by day. Same with many conservative columnists.

The RNC has been very consistent about fax-broadcasting talking points to various like-minded media. The talking points are very consistent, very clever, and very specific. Since folks get the same paycheck (or ratings, or blog hits, or whatever) whether they riff off these talking points every day as they do if they bust a gut digging up original material, there’s little economic incentive to do original work.

In this context “spinning” bloggers is no more difficult, and no more ominous, than adding their names to an existing mailing lists. They get the message of the day and to the extent they?re because they?re ideologically committed to the advancement of their party, they repeat it.

The irony, of course, is that leftist bloggers are less comfortable with the RNC’s Soviet-style central planning apparatus, so DNC efforts to focus their messages aren’t nearly as effective.

I might add that, as a relatively conservative Proxmire/Jackson Democrat, this recent “conservative” tendency to march in lock-step with the sometimes startlingly radical RNC politburo is disquietingly reminiscent of the old Communists. I didn’t like it when the Russians did it. For the same reasons I detest it now that it’s happening here in America.

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Radioman 09.20.04 at 4:50 pm

Davidness. Apparently, you haven’t seen the DEAN for President blogs, that the DNC belittled, attacked and feared. So, therefore destroyed and discredited.
http://blog.deanforamerica.com/archives/002665.html
Then of course Dean attacked the DNC
http://www.etalkinghead.com/archives/deans-new-tv-ad-attacks-democrats-2004-01-13.html

The fractured left, couldn’t seem to get along with itself then.

And with a poster child like Kerry and a Cheerleader like RAthER… You’re still a fractured fairy tale.

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Radioman 09.20.04 at 5:33 pm

Davidness. Apparently, you haven’t seen the DEAN for President blogs, that the DNC belittled, attacked and feared. So, therefore destroyed and discredited.
http://blog.deanforamerica.com/archives/002665.html
Then of course Dean attacked the DNC
http://www.etalkinghead.com/archives/deans-new-tv-ad-attacks-democrats-2004-01-13.html

The fractured left, couldn’t seem to get along with itself then.

And with a poster child like Kerry and a Cheerleader like RAthER… You’re still a fractured fairy tale.

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abb1 09.20.04 at 8:54 pm

woodturtle,
re: lyrics leave something to desire

The orginal French text here.

I don’t know, I kinda like it. It has: “strike the iron while it’s hot”. It has cannibals and it has vultures. It’s very dramatic and solemn. It has probably been played in public more than any other song.

Yeah, that’s right. What the fuck is your problem?

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sagenz 09.20.04 at 9:45 pm

y gys r grt. rspnsbl fr blgfrkrry nd tht s ll y cn cm p wth. BS strtchd frm WP. g chck t hw tst krry s t trdsprts

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Steve 09.21.04 at 1:07 am

Logic test of the day: Can you tell what makes this post at Crooked Timber silly?

Time’s up! The answer is, if a bunch of bloggers point out that documents are forgeries, and the documents really are forgeries, then that is not “spinning.” That is pointing out a fact, which happens to be very embarrassing to CBS, and various other Democratic pundits who opined “Now we’re really going to getcha!” after the world-historically, catastrophically mean Republican convention, the nastiest since the Big Bang.

“Spin” is interpreting a fact in some more or less blatantly politicized way. You don’t have to spin “Rathergate” or whatever you want to call it. Perhaps you’d like “the recent alleged forgery event involving CBS” better. Even if it is true (and in fine tradition, Crooked Timber does not even offer a rumor, merely that “Buckhead” is a well known Republican) that someone at the White House tipped off some guy in Atlanta (why him? Oh, no doubt there’s some elaborate story for that. Stay tuned . . . ), so what? Is that what, cheating or something? It’s an outrage, I tell you, an outrage! The White House dares tell bloggers that documents are fogeries! What’s next? The Gestapo pounding on our doors in the middle of the night? Mind control? Flouridation?

You’ve got to admire the logic, though. CBS does an attack story based on phony documents, and liberal bloggers accuse the White House of conspiring to defend the President. Well, I’ve got to go now. I see a big W projected by searchlight up on the clouds, so it’s time to pick up my W-phone and get my secret instructions.

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woodturtle 09.21.04 at 4:30 am

abb1-

I don’t read French. Missed the vultures. No problem.

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mk 09.21.04 at 5:06 am

Ziska,

YOur comment “I’m afraid that you are in some alternate universe. The SBV controversy was 95% bogus and no conservatives that I know of cared.”

“Alternate universe?” You’ve godwined yourself and I guess I won that debate. Stick to the facts and try for once to leave the ad hominem rhetoric out. If Kerry asserts 3 purple, 1 silver, and one CIA guy, having two of those be definitive lies constitutes 33% lies. A second purple is under consideration as is the “V” ribbon superfluously stuck onto the silver.

Additionally, Kerry denied meeting twice with the NV and in fact, as his own bio shows, he did meet them a second time in Paris. Now, NONE of this would have been a matter of concern if the DNC didn’t make it the centerpiece of the campaign and we would be talking about issues like civilized people. But the DNC did and now his lies have caught up with him and we’re stuck in a mud fight. Really, recycling Bush’s Guard record TWO elections in a row is pitiful.

Secondly, Joe Lockhart admitted just today that he talked with Bill Burkett. Counting Cleland, that’s now two top Democratic players. It’s possible more may be revealed. The point is that a) they were forgeries, and b) that Kerry campaign staffers talked with Burkett BEFORE the story broke on 60. Read it at the CBS site.

When you’re wrong or caught lying, at least have the intellectual integrity to admit it. Don’t call your adversary names because it transparently reflects on you, even in a strongly partisan thread like this one.

Lastly, I’d still like to know: what will Kerry do about Iraq (details, please) and global terrorism? No one knows.

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Gary Farber 09.21.04 at 8:24 pm

“Democrats and their equivalents elsewhere have too many sympathizers who have the habit of undercutting them for trivial reasons at key moments. A significant proportion of left intellectuals seem to think of their primary role as “keeping their own side honest”. (Motto: “I’d rather l;ose than win that way!”)”

Without doubt, we need more fighters for dishonesty! It’s a winning tactic! Fight for lying! Fight to be scum! Go!

Wow. I’m going to switch parties if anyone convinces me that’s my party. Unbefuckingbelieavable. It’s hard to believe that anyone other than a Republican would argue that Democrats should lie.

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