Thursday, March 24, 2011

'Scuze me while I wave the bloody shirt...

Kids, if the headline baffles you, let me explain. "Waving the bloody shirt" is a phrase from post-Civil War politics. No, I'm not quite old enough to have heard the phrase used at that time, but I am old enough to recall when schools had mandatory American History classes which taught this stuff.

At any rate, I recently stumbled across this older post about the "whitey tape" rumor. Anyone remember that one? The story, now largely forgotten, was all the rage in blogworld for a while.

On the occasion of that post, I had spent about twelve hours trying to track down someone, anyone, who had attended a conference at which Michelle Obama allegedly made offensive remarks. The quest came up goose eggs. In all likelihood, she never made such remarks -- there or anywhere else.

As you may recall, the 2008 "whitey tape" rumor was publicized by Larry Johnson, who eventually proved himself to be something of a -- hmm. I'm looking for a word stronger than "jerk" but not quite as strong as "asshole." Any suggestions?

A later report held that the "whitey" story originated with David Brock of Media Matters. Brock never responded to inquiries as to any role he might (or might not) have played in the germination of this story.

The post you are reading right now isn't about the "whitey" rumor per se. What I find appalling, even at this late date, are the comments which my story attracted. Re-reading those messages brought back some unhappy memories.

A sampler:
What's up, you fucking bigot?
its okay if you can't abide progressives joey we can't abide you either
You have become a pathetic fucking tumor! Grab your Dixie Cup,and book a flight to Jonestown.
Those were just a few examples that I allowed through; there were many more. In a back-and-forth with another reader, I made brief reference to the large amount of unpublished material...
I mean, the sheer VOLUME of shit they send me is boggling. Only about a quarter of the commentary sent to this blog actually shows up on the page... But the stuff I delete is nuttier than a jar of Peter Pan. And it just keeps coming and coming!
I also wrote:
These comments (and I get many such) do much to explain why Hillary became the more popular candidate in the last third-or-so of the primary season -- why she won the popular vote, and why she stands a much better chance in the electoral college. The Obots simply don't know how sick they sound -- how repulsive they are to normal people.

I mean, earlier today I deleted a comment that was SO freaking bizarre as to be beyond imagination. This clown actually talked as though Obi is the Messiah. Literally: The Messiah. And he was praying for me to open my eyes and accept the new Christ.
Cut to: 2011.

Right now, nobody considers Obama the Messiah. Nearly everyone on the left is thoroughly pissed off at Obama -- and for good reason. A few left-ish writers have even had the courage to admit that guys like me were right all along, although most progs are haughty bastards who would rather poke out their own eyes with cuticle scissors than apologize about anything.

Perhaps, though, enough time has passed to allow us to address once more the oft-asked question:

What the hell happened in blog-land in 2008? Why did so many progressives go so freaking nuts?

As you ponder that poser, consider this piece on Jeffrey Feldman, who wrote (and for all I know, may still be writing) on the topic of the intemperate, eliminationist language employed by right-wingers. Feldman had a berth at Daily Kos, and his book received a blurb from Arianna Huffington. Throughout 2008, both of those sites had published an incessant barrage of invective from Obots. There were numerous examples of actual death threats against Hillary Clinton and those who supported her. (I've published the relevant cites in previous posts.) That stuff was barbaric. Downright unforgivable. The toxicity level of the chatter on Kos matched or exceeded that of any given right-wing site.

I wrote to Feldman, asking him to address the hypocrisy of his position. How could he write for Kos and castigate the right's uncivil behavior, at a time when the Kossacks had become more vile than the conservatives?

Any normal person, when confronting incontrovertible evidence, would have conceded a certain amount of territory. As in: "You have a point." That's all I wanted from Feldman: A simple, not-terribly-humiliating admission of the obvious. It's not as though I wanted the guy to choke to death on crow. He simply needed to recognize that a problem existed.

But no. Here's a summary of his response:
His reply astonished me. After giving me the standard cheerful thanks, he told me that any problems I had with Daily Kos or the Huffington Post should be discussed with Markos Moulitsas and Arianna Huffington.
In other words, he feels that he is not responsible for his chosen associations.

What the hell happened in 2008? Did the Earth pass through a cloud of gas which somehow affected all human reason? Was the dialogue in blogworld hijacked by opinion-manipulating software (the existence of which was recently confirmed)?

What hit us? How did the phenomenon of online Obamania come to pass?
You may be right...somewhat about Obama. He is a disappointment to the far left but he is and has been nothing but a Richie Daley Democrat.
Your idea that Mrs Obama said the 'whitey' thing was nothing short of made up. He, nor she, is a racist, nor are they liberals, they are just a whole lot better than mccain and the crazy Alaska chic.
This comment has been removed by the author.
This comment has been removed by the author.
ALWAYS, it's the anonymous comments!

It was not my "idea" that Michelle Obama made the comment about "whitey," and that the exchange was captured on video. The story was taken quite seriously by the media at the time. The Obama campaign offered a denial which was phrased in such a way as to increase the perception that something real was behind the story. (They said that they had looked into the matter months before anyone else had ever heard of the story.)

The only thing that could be called my "idea" was this: When Johnson pinpointed a specific conference as the likely occasion for the outburst, it occurred to me that we didn't need a videotape. We just needed a recollection from someone who was there.

So I spent the day trying to contact the local reporters who covered the event.

I don't see how I did anything wrong in that.

As for the "better than McCain" argument: Actually, if McCain had been as good as his campaign rhetoric, he might have been marginally more progressive. At least he was talking about offering some relief to homeowners facing foreclosure.

More to the point: McCain's (likely) failure would not have tarnished the Democratic brand, as Obama's failure has done. Obama's predictably disastrous presidency has paved the way for a rebirth of hard-core libertarianism. Once the libertarians achieve power in both congress and the White House, I honestly fear that America will end.

Of course, you missed the main point of my post. Even though I repeated the topic sentence several times -- "What happened to us in 2008?" -- it seems to have eluded you.
Axelrod's astroturfing may be what drove the progosphere overboard in 2008. People were hired to spew anti-Clinton garbage, and some susceptible progressives followed along. Now the astroturfers are gone--and so is most of the incontinent rhetoric.

NB: The language may still be nasty at Democratic Underground, Buzzflash, and DailyKos. I wouldn't know because I never visit these places.

Have you noticed that pro-Obama (or former pro-Obama) types are now completely denying that there was anything wrong with the Obama primary campaign? I run into this everytime I confront Obamacrats with their role in destroying the Democratic Party and the nation. I can't tell if the little pr*cks are ignorant or lying.
As far as the word between "jerk" and "asshole," I think that would be "wanker" or possibly, to coin a phrase just for LJ, "spoogemeister."

As for what happened in 2008, I think it's a combination of:

1. Neo-liberal FAIL, in that there were and are reasons to honest reasons to regard the Clinton faction of the Ds with suspicion;

2. A virulent combination of hatred of women, self- and class-interest, and self-congratulatory "Hey! We voted for the black dude!" by the (predominantly male) "creative class" opinion leaders on line and in academia. (We notice that the female members of this cohort, Digby and Hamsher, simply stepped out of the way rather than call bullshit.) This led to (a) a win at-all-costs mentality, combined with (b) repression and doublethink regarding their own actions. The bright side here is that this class has rendered itself completely untrustworthy in the eye of anyone who pays attention.

3. Axelrod's campaign of paid trolls online.

4. Obama campaign worker training that emphasized personal conversion narratives rather than policy. This stuff really works; many Obama supporters seem almost to need deprogramming.

Now, why these tactics were so successful (the social basis of the Obama campaign) is another and deeper question.
The Astroturfers have been on leave for about 2 years. I have noticed a ramping up just lately. I think they had paid trolls with many different names and attacked anyone who,made good arguments. They were vile and vicious. I posted then on BuzzFlash often. The abuse was mind boggling , including one poster who threatened me physically after I had written a particularly good post. Whew... That brought out the knives and vitriol. I even wrote to the owner of the blog. By mistake I received the emails between the owners of the Blog. I was shocked at how they tried to get away from chastising the person who threatened me. Upon realizing that they were on that person's side, I removed my financial support and told them to go to hell. I then found out how much up the a** of Obama and the Chicago crooks the BuzzFlash crew was. Shameful, I must say. It really shook the foundations of my beliefs.
Lambert.... Your thoughts are spot on and very comprehensive. Impressive!
The answers are in your previous posts about Axlerod's businesses and what others above have written.

Think of Obama as a large boulder perched on a hill. Axlerod and his minions remove the duff holding it in place then give it a shove. Then, as it rolls, they give it an occasional tap to keep it on course. Gravity (O-bots) do the rest.

Interrupted for an aside. It looks like those PATCO guys were right all those years ago. There is a news item about the single ATC at Reagan being asleep on the midnight shift. How ironic.
I forgot to add:
After the "Whitey" tape was found to be non-existent I thought that it was a failed Psy-Op attempt possibly by L J himself.
The blogger boyz wanted to prove, by backing the half-black guy, that they weren't racists. Instead, by voting color over substance, they proved they are total racists. Of course, they've always been sexist, so attacking Hillary so crudely simply reinforced that prejudice. Jackasses, the lot of 'em. They got so played.
I'm not anonymous. I'm mjames.
Two things come to mind: First, many on the left thought that Obama's skin pigment meant he was a liberal. Which, of course, was stupid and a stereotype that backfired. And second, misogyny played a huge role. Josh Marshall, Markos, John Aravosis, etc. showed exactly how they feel about women. In fact I think they were thrilled to have an alternative--any alternative--to supporting a woman running for president.

On a personal level, what happened in 2008 made me realize what a bunch of shallow phonies these lefty bloggers were. Even Digby, whom I had a huge amount of respect for, proved to be a useless wimp. I've never felt the same way about blogs. They did themselves in, as far as I'm concerned.
Back in 2008, my blog was defending CNN's coverage of Tibet. Some of the so-called Chinese netizens left comments on my blog. Your descriptions of nasty pro-Obama comments brought those repulsive comments mind. It's the only time my blog ever received actual hate comments. So I remember it.

The spring of 2008 saw the emergence of the so-called "Chinese netizens" campaign against CNN. I was suspicious of it from the beginning. At the time, it seemed to me that "netizens" was a very misleading term. I felt the "Chinese netizens" of 2008 were not a citzen's movement, but something manufactured by the CCP.

BTW, last week, while FDL was covering the pro-Manning rally it helped organize at Quantico, Twitter suddenly filled up with a lot hate-filled comments directed towards Jane Hamsher. From my perspective, that was suspicious.
If you're going to claim the moral high ground for your side perhaps you should avoid using childish taunts like "Obots".
Listen here, bobberino: After the first death threat, I pretty much stopped caring what the other side thought of me. And the moral high ground was mine permanently.
To me, it seems obvious that comment spamming and it's ilk were used in the 2008 election - and maybe before, to a lesser degree. After all, it wouldn't be prudent to roll out an untested tactic like that on a wide scale. If there wasn't a similar tactic used in '04 (the first election cycle with a strong internet component with the Dean campaign) then there almost certainly was in '06. Since it would have probably been on a more limited, pilot basis, it would be harder to detect.

The reason it seems obvious to me that this happened is simple: if you're basically waging total war in a presidential campaign, it would be foolish NOT to use such a tactic. Think of the return on investment - you could pay a half-dozen tech guys to do such a thing for months on end and it would hardly show up on the campaign's bookkeeping, compared to things like TV spots. That's not to say it's acceptable on an ethical level, but then... when have electoral politics cared about ethics, particularly on the presidential level? It's a winner-take-all contest, at least since 2000.

I have to agree that I'd rather McCain won '08, for the same reason you give: He's done more harm to the Democratic party and the philosophy it's *supposed* to represent than any Republican ever could.

Still, there is at least one good thing that's come from his presidency: the stark contrast of those who opposed policy "X" when it was a Bush policy, then supported when it became an Obama policy. Such people are without principle - they're "shirts v skins" partisans and would never have been so easily recognizable if it weren't for a DINO in the oval office.

Among the comments, I think Lambert is closest to the truth.

And for a middle-ground between "jerk" and "asshole" might I suggest "prick" "schmuck" or "turd". For British insults, I like "wanker" but prefer "ponce" (ever since I saw Sexy Beast). For a real put-down, I like "someone who was born from their mother's asshole" - a real piece of human shit (for when the time comes to describe such a person).

Poor Bobberino. Looks as though you may have struck a "Guilty vein" eh Joe?

As for Larry Johnson....Hmmmm.. What to call that peddler of poop? The names are legion brother Joe...LEGION!!!!!!!
It seems we could posit two theories: it was a spontaneous schism organically springing from how people naturally act according to the Dialectic, or, it was a manufactured schism, utilizing very sophisticated means of propaganda and agents provocateur, ala the COINTELPRO blueprint.

My view is that it is at least as likely this was deliberately done as that it happened naturally, even though people are ideologically blindly partisan enough (even in intra-party matters) to have created this spontaneously.

I agree with Lambert, but I would add incestuous amplification, fueled by misogyny and fear.

Seeing others be abusive allowed some people to let themselves loose, which in turn, made it appear acceptable to others. And some people find being abusive fun. It makes them feel powerful. So if they get a rush from doing it once, they rinse and repeat.

I didn't think liberals were like that, and was shocked by language on some favorite blogs I used to visit, but then, I don't consider people who behaved that way to be liberal.

I also think many were desperate to get "their guy" -- who many worshiped in a most unhealthy way -- elected, so desperate that they would do and say practically anything they thought would help. That's not what Democracy is supposed to be about, but there you have it.

I hope some are ashamed of themselves but I think most still rationalize their behavior.

What happened in 2008? I'm going to play the follow-the-money card. There was NetRoots ad money and lots of it in the Obama campaign budget and blog owners weren't about to give that up. We saw the same thing with the MSM--they smelled the ad money and tingles went up their legs.

As for the Whitey thing--you're probably right about it being a PsyOps thing. I think it got traction because it sounded like something Michelle would say.

@Bob: I use Obot all the time, not as an exercise in name-calling but as an accurate description of an otherwise incomprehensible set of behaviors.
By the way, Sophie -- I THINK this blog may have been the first place where the term "Obot" saw cyber-ink. I'm not sure, though.
“The Obots simply don't know how sick they sound -- how repulsive they are to normal people.”
“I use Obot all the time, not as an exercise in name-calling but as an accurate description of an otherwise incomprehensible set of behaviors.”
You either get it or you don’t. And I’m afraid on a page like this most of you won’t.
Bob (or should I say, Bobberino)
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