Wednesday, February 07, 2007

When attacked by swiftbloggers, you need to do the right thing. Fast. And you need to know what it is.

When they swiftboated John Kerry, it was a test of his leadership skills, and he failed. He needed to do the right thing, and do it quickly, but the moment passed.

When the rightwing spin machine threatens to turn into a whirlwind sweeping up the mainstream media in its wake, you can't just stand there. You have to act decisively and quickly. Sort of like a president in a crisis that won't wait. Instead, Kerry took too long to respond, seemingly thinking that nobody could possibly take these ridiculous charges seriously. They probably wouldn't have, if he had responded meaningfully when it counted. The slanderous canards of the right colored the master narrative of the mainstream media -- there's something not quite right about John Kerry.

Now that his former running mate, John Edwards, is getting swiftblogged, he seems to be falling into the same trap. All the day the headlines have been multiplying like a nasty virus replicating madly. Not a word from the candidate. Appearances take over and soon facts -- about Edwards, about his bloggers and about his critics -- won't matter. It will be too late.

This dispiriting saga has been playing out all day. As I write, there's still no rebuttal from the Edwards campaign to the Salon story saying they gave in to the attack by the rightwing noise machine and fired their two new blogging staffers.
The right-wing blogosphere has gotten its scalps -- John Edwards has fired the two controversial bloggers he recently hired to do liberal blogger outreach, Salon has learned.

The bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, formerly of Pandagon, and Melissa McEwan, of Shakespeare's Sister, had come under fire from right-wing bloggers for statements they had previously made on their respective blogs. A statement by the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, which called Marcotte and McEwan "anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots," and an accompanying article on the controversy in the New York Times this morning, put extra pressure on the campaign.
While there's some confusion as to whether they have actually been fired, at the very least, Amanda and Melissa have been left dangling in the wind for the better part of a day. Every moment that passes without Edwards making a statement implicitly validates the charges.

Meanwhile, the swiftbloggers have been going nuts. The Family Unit Functioning as a Wingnut Echo Chamber Tag Team was especially striking. Rick Moran gleefully posted "Crashing and Burning" on Rightwing Nuthouse:
My brother Terry (who has a new blog that you should bookmark immediately) gets it exactly right:

Questions: What, if anything, does it tell us about Edwards that he’s joined up with this blogger? Is Edwards’ association with a person who has written these things a legitimate issue for voters, as they wonder—among other things—whom he might appoint to high office if he’s elected? If a Republican candidate teamed up with a right-wing blogger who spewed this kind of venom, how would people react? Is the mere raising of this issue a kind of underhanded censorship, a way of ruling out of bounds some kinds of opinion? Are we all just going to have to get used to a more rough-and-tumble, profane, and even hate-filled public arena in the age of the blogosphere?

Like any good journalist, he is asking the right questions – and the questions sort of answer themselves, don’t they? (HT: Malkin)
Brother Terry Moran of ABC News chimed in on his blog, asking of Edwards in the spirit of disinterested inquiry "Does John Edwards Condone Hate Speech?"
At issue are Marcotte's comments on her own blog, Pandagon (, which has staked out a prominent place in the left-wing blogosphere. It's pretty strong stuff; her comments about other people's faiths could well be construed as hate speech.

Edwards Questions: What, if anything, does it tell us about Edwards that he's joined up with this blogger? Is Edwards' association with a person who has written these things a legitimate issue for voters, as they wonder--among other things--whom he might appoint to high office if he's elected? If a Republican candidate teamed up with a right-wing blogger who spewed this kind of venom, how would people react?
For this he gets paid the big bucks? If he's looking for some venom on the right, why doesn't he talk to Patrick Hynes, John McCain's blogger-consultant?

The longer there's no word from the Edwards camp, it's hard to avoid the cynical speculation that his people have been trying to broker a phony agreement whereby Edwards supports Amanda and Melissa's free speech rights 100%, while they say they're resigning to spare the campaign the "distraction." In any event, the longer this thing drags on, the more the outcome becomes a foregone conclusion. Not good.

Edwards is rapidly sinking deeper and deeper into a quagmire where there's no good alternative -- and where "do the right thing" becomes an oxymoron. Sound familiar?

FEB. 8 UPDATE: Above.


Dr Diablo said...

I read this feverish post upon arriving home from an all-you-can eat spaghetti dinner and immediately began to experience reflux. It sounded like a poltical crisis of major proportions had developed while I was obliviously and clumsily winding past around my fork.

I hastily checked, learning that more mysterious lights have appeared in the skies over Arizona, but there was no mention of any Edwards brouhaha. I checked Fox and came up empty. USA Today. Nope.

I am starting to picture the blogosphere as a sort of planet unto itself, with its own inhabitants and lingo. It has its own news, and stuff that causes pandemonium there may scarcely perturb the world out here. I gather that there is quite a clamor about this purely verbal "event," and that the charges and countercharges fill cyberspace like so many arrows.

Myself, I'm not going to give it another thought until it rates a headline from a major news outlet. Until then, it's just another installment in the endless Battle of the Blogs.

Madison Guy said...

Um, let's see -- try a search on Google News? It was in New York Times, Associated Press, picked up by numerous TV stations and newspapers, CNN. I think Fox had it too. Apparently you read it here first. Not sure whether that says more about Letter from Here or about your reading habits, but you're welcome tostay tuned.

Dr Diablo said...

I didn't claim that the story appeared nowhere; I assumed you got it from somewhere. I only observed that it didn't have nearly the impact on Earthlings that it did on the inhabitants of planet Blogos.

My post speaks volumes about my reading habits. I check three national news sites daily: CNN, Fox, and USA Today. I then apply a two-stage screen to a story to decide if I will pursue the details.

1) Is the story headlined on one of these sites? If no, it might be interesting or important, but it does not require my urgent attention. If yes, Go to 2.

2) Would this story make a plausible made-for-TV movie? If yes, read it; if no, forget it. The Love-Crazed Astronaut episode passes with flying colors. I'm sure negotiations for her story are already in process. The Edwards flap, which is a mere War of Words about Words, would have failed 2 if it hadn't been screened out by 1.

This system has served me well. I try to remember that Life is what occurs around me, not on the internet. By screening, I don't miss anything titillating or earth-shaking, but I still have time for other occupations, like reading books. I blew through page 37 of Gore Vidal's recent memoir this weekend, closing it for the final time on Sunday night. Vidal is a vain jackass, but he's funny. I give POINT TO POINT NAVIGATION 4 stars: Recommended.