Web Smear

The Internet has been around a long time now – long enough to threaten the survival of many newspapers, including the Sun-Times – and yet, the traditional media still largely has a cornpoke view toward the dangfangled technology. And these are the people begging for your trust and patronage?

Consider the editorial “Web Enables Obama To Confront Rumors Head-On” in the Dim One today.

By that title, you’d think this would be a piece appreciating the use of the Web to combat scurrilous smears – a tool not available to, say, those smeared by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s; or to poor Edmund Muskie in 1968, who, like Hillary Clinton, never really cried; or to Nixon’s enemies in the 1970s and Michael Dukakis in the 1988 campaign and so on.

But no. This, instead, is another tired rant against the Internet. Let’s take a closer look at the complete lack of rational thinking emanating from the geniuses at the Sun-Times.

“For several weeks, a scurrilous rumor about Michelle Obama has wafted through the blogosphere with an awful stench.”

Note the correlation of the blogosphere with a place reeking of an awful stench. How does that explain Rush Limbaugh and Bob Beckel?

Maybe the Sun-Times ought to rail against the radiosphere and TVsphere.

“But you didn’t hear about it in this newspaper for the best of reasons: Not a shred of evidence said it was true.”

The Sun-Times no problem publishing a Christopher Hitchens column a few months ago, though, stating as fact that Bill Clinton was a rapist. (And where is the S-T’s outrage at WTTW for allowing a local author to state that Bill Clinton “is dating” on Chicago Tonight recently without proof?)

(And by the way, does this not qualify as the blogosphere?)

“In the responsible, established media world – too often dismissed as the clueless ‘mainstream media’ – actual facts still matter, while in the blogging world just about any unsubstantiated slur can make the rounds, from there to be picked up and amplified by talk radio.”

Facts matter? How does the Sun-Times explain Michael Sneed, then, whose accuracy is just approaching the Mendoza Line? (Twice in the 90s, Chicago magazine went so far as to annotate Sneed columns to prove how inaccurate she was and/or how often she reported as new material that had previously appeared elsewhere.)

Or how about Robert Novak? I’m still waiting for the corrections. And speaking of smears, does anyone edit Mary (Drudge) Mitchell’s column?

“But now that Barack Obama himself addressed the smear last week, let’s set the record straight: His wife never used the term ‘whitey’ to refer to white people in a speech from the pulpit at Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side. Internet rumormongers have promised to produce a video proving she did, but they have not.”

Internet rumormongers? Every single person on the planet has access to the Internet. So, in other words, “human” rumormongers. Just like those who still do things the old-fashioned way and whisper sweet-nothings in the ears of newspaper reporters; perhaps even sweet-nothings about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs!

“After months of trying to ignore such Swiftboating rumors, the Obama presidential campaign last week did an about-face and started confronting the rumors head-on. His campaign established a Web site, fightthesmears.com, to address every new whispered snicker. It’s a novel Internet strategy, not unlike his grass-roots fund-raising efforts, characteristic of the Obama campaign.”

The sad, sorry Swift Boat episode was far beyond rumors; it was part of conventional, mainstream political discourse, and I don’t remember the Sun-Times stepping in to call bullshit. Michael Dukakis and the Pledge of Allegiance, anyone?

And “a novel Internet strategy . . . characteristic of the Obama campaign”? Please! Sites like this have become de rigueur.

“Go to Google a few days from now and type in ‘Obama and whitey,’ or perhaps ‘Obama and Muslim.’ Obama’s response will start popping up, perhaps ahead of the smearmeisters.”

You mean the Web can be used to combat the Web? Wow, newspapers can’t do that!

“Too bad Sen. John Kerry had no such counterattack Web site in 2004 to quash those shameful attacks on his military record – the original Swift Boat rumors. And Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy, sure to be targets of more unfounded gossip as this presidential race charges on, might also be smart to create such a Web site.”

So, um, the Web is good? Back to where we started!

“The contemporary media landscape too often resembles a fairground of lies, distortion and deceit, though plenty of good information can be found, too – in the paper, on the radio, on cable or online.”

Unlike the historical media landscape, where legendary Sun-Times reporters just, you know, made it up.

“Just don’t be a chump. Consider the source.”

In print as well as online.


“The Fight The Smears site is a disappointment. It’s Web 1.0 at best,” says commenter Vail Beach at The Atlantic. “The media is falling all over itself praising Obama for doing this site, but will they actually ever use it? Not in its current form, I’ll wager. It’s just campaign talking points in another form.”


5 responses to “Web Smear

  1. reformislam

    Senator Obama is NOT a Dirty Muslim!

    “What you won’t hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge,” says Mr. Obama, while denouncing statements of him being a Muslim as a smear. Why is the presidential candidate who claims to be religiously inclusive is treating the word “Muslim” as an insult? Apparently, it is OK for Mr. Obama to be associated with terrorists like William Ayers or racists like Jeremiah Wright, but God forbid somebody would call him a Muslim! No, he won’t stand for that kind of smear! We admit that most terrorists are Muslims, but most Muslims are not terrorists and the statement on Mr. Obama’s website is insulting to hundreds of millions of people.

    How could a man who discards his family heritage in favor of political expediency be even considered for presidency of the United States? Where are all the so-called “Islamic civil rights groups” like CAIR, MPAC, ISNA, MAS, etc. who are quick to defend every Islamic terrorist, but are silent when Muslims in general are being denigrated? Would Mr. Obama have the same reaction if someone claimed that he was raised as a Jew? We sincerely doubt that.

    Muslims Against Sharia demand immediate removal of “SMEAR: Barack Obama is a Muslim” statement from the official Barack Obama’s website as well as an apology for giving the word “Muslim” a negative connotation.


  2. Mark Jeffries

    Oh, look–a Republican front group called “reformislam.”

    Guess you haven’t what your buddy Loofah Felafel says about you.

    And how many times do you have to be told that African-Americans aren’t racists because they haven’t oppressed a people for 400 years? And are you proud for supporting the illegal and immoral Vietnam war–and the illegal and immoral occupation in Iraq?

    Wingnut moron.

  3. Ed Muskie cried. I saw the tears. They were not melting snowflakes.

  4. divisionstreet

    From “The Story That Still Nags At Me,” by David Broder (www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1316/is_v19/ai_4696993/pg_1):

    “In retrospect, though, there were a few problems with the Muskie story. First, it is unclear whether Muskie did cry. He insists he never shed the tears we thought we saw. Melting snow from his hatless head filled his eyes, he said, and made him wipe his face. While admitting that exhaustion and emotion got the better of him that morning, the senator believes that he was damaged more by the press and television coverage of the event than by his own actions.”

  5. Newspapers should be looking at themselves rather than bashing bloggers.

    The Sago mine aftermath and the Katrina hype are just two examples of the bad coverage recently.

    And I agree that having a blog to respond to attacks can be a very good thing. Speaking of which:


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