Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Astroturfing The Insubstantial

I just saw this on National Review.

When several liberal bloggers all choose to spotlight one particular news report by an Alaska CBS affiliate, one begins to wonder if we're seeing a coordinated message. Adding to Dean's observation, it sure is strange the way the liberal blogs all spotlight the same obscure story at the same time, huh?

I think it is significant because I've been thinking about the contrasting warfighting strategies of Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain. Astroturfing is nothing new and I suppose it is not unique to Mr. Obama's campaign. Francis Schaeffer once said that you shouldn't ascribe to a conspiracy the coordinated actions of a bunch of people who are all in lockstep as far as their worldviews are concerned. Thus, a few people can easily receive and forward the same choice tips that exactly fits their mental picture of the world.

Nevertheless, it appears that there are two or three channels of negative information coming from the Obama campaign about Mrs. Palin. The first is directly from the campaign and it mentions all the things a liberal Democrat would dislike about a conservative Republican. As such it's a fairly straightforward matter of attack and wholly cricket. But then there are the less-than-direct attacks which are troublesome. The rather childish, petulant insults like discussing Hillary with middle finger extended or referring to lipstick-wearing pigs are really beneficial for the window into Mr. Obama's character that they provide. I was upset yesterday, but today I'm grateful for this disclosure.

However, the astroturfing is troublesome. If you've a story you can't shop, or that would generate significant blowback, you can release it to your fellow-travelers and count on them to muddy the waters. Consider former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, who announced his opposition to Mrs. Palin on the basis of a demonstrably false story about book-banning in a public library. I think Mr. Koch should oppose Mrs. Palin according to his beliefs and values, but he ought not support his decision upon a falsehood. I don't think Mr. Koch even knew he was deceived until long after the fact.

We've got to have a grasp on reality if we're to function in this world. When lies are your stock-in-trade, I think it distances you from reality. This may yield some short-team pleasantness, but it can be long-term harmful. And if you overdose on lies, you have blowback that can kill you.

Now, it appears that the Obama campaign believes that one can make a negative impression about Mrs. Palin if a particular CBS affiliate's news story is aired, but they're afraid there's not enough substance to it. Fritz Mondale once said, "where's the beef," and the Obama team must not have sufficient faith in this line of attack to man up and put it out there directly. Mrs. Palin had no problem directly attacking Mr. Obama in her convention speech. Why are her Democrat opponents not similarly direct?

If you punch me in the nose, I'll hate you but I'll respect you. Conversely, if you try to stab me in the back, I'll both hate and disrespect you. Mr. Obama has never faced big-league pitching and it shows.

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